Hakka Semi-Circular Round Houses of Meizhou


Original Chinese Language Article By: www.//cxd987654321.blog.163.com

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

This article discusses the semi-circular Hakka round houses that exist in the Xingnan, and Meizhou areas of Guangdong province, as well as other places.  In 2012 we visited the Meizhou Hakka people and made a written and photographic record of their history and architecture.  Many people in China associate castle building with the West – but many do not realise that China’s Hakka people have built ‘castles’ (围屋 – Wei Wu) for centuries.  The Meizhou Hakka people said that during the Jin, Tang and Song Dynasties, their Central Plains Han Chinese ancestors were forced out of their homeland through famine and warfare, and into non-Han Southern China.  They took their distinctive Northern Chinese culture with them – which apparently included the ability to build rounded castles.  As the Southern Chinese generally rejected the presence of these migrants with the use of violence – the Central Plain Han Chinese built rounded structures as a means for self-defence.  Southern Chinese referred to these incomers as:

a) Hak-ji (客籍 – Ke Ji) or ‘Guest Residents

b) Hak-gar (客家 – Ke Jia) or ‘Guest Families’

c) Hak-hu (客户 – Ke Hu) or ‘Guest Households’

The Hakka round houses prevented attacks from local people arising out of territorial disputes, attacks arising from foreign invaders, and the danger associated with wild animals.  Despite many difficult times throughout history, the Hakka people permanently settled in Southern China and even integrated with a number of different ethnic groups. Like their Western counter-parts, Chinese-style Hakka castles developed through necessity to protect and secure families, clans and communities (as well as their possessions and animals) safely behind its walls.  As a consequence, the architecture of the Hakka round house has become recognised as a distinctive iconic structure.

Hakka round houses vary in size, but all are carefully built with virtue and respect, with their design premised upon the Daoist principles of feng shui and yin – yang balance.  Hakka round houses are often built at a foot of a mountain facing south.  They are rounded because they are based upon the spiralling shape of a dragon. The inner structure has around a dozen small rooms and a dozen large rooms, with a large Dragon Hall in the centre.  The structure is designed so as to fit exactly upon the cardinal points of the compass (the Chinese compass has ‘South’ at the top).   Every semi-circular round house must have a main gate and a semi-circular moat. There must be a body water at the open side, and the area must attract good light and be well ventilated. The view southward must be free of obscuring obstacles so that the approach of an armed force can be clearly observed. The Hakka armed forces were well trained and fast moving – this is why the south-facing wall around the moat area has a low wall to allow these forces to rapidly deploy on the plain in front of the round house, or retreat into the structure through special doorways (hidden) to the sides of the moat, that are then locked and blocked. Most of these semi-circular round houses have an outer moat for defence which is used to store fish, supply water for domestic use and feed animals – a separate drinking-well is situated in the fortified structure which is exclusively used only for human consumption. Hundreds of people could live safely and secure within these structures that even possessed martial arts training halls – so that the Hakka people could train in their warring arts without attracting unwanted attention from the surrounding non-Hakka population.

The Hakka people told us that when their Central Plains ancestors entered Southern China they brought advanced agriculture and architectural culture into the area, as well as their sophisticated spirituality and highly develop Northern martial prowess. For the spread of progressive Northern culture into the South, the Hakka people often paid a terrible price.  Although preserving an advanced Northern culture in the South, they were always out-numbered, and despite winning spectacular victories here and there, it was impossible to inflict a resoundiadvanced Hakka culture, ng defeat on the numerically superior Southern people. Therefore the Hakka had to resort to building round houses which they used as castles to preserve the Northern culture of their ancestors.  Generally speaking, it is believed that no Southern armed group ever managed to infiltrate these Hakka fortifications. These round Hakka structures can be found all over the Guangdong and Fujian provincial areas.  Inside the Hakka tended to marry only other Hakkas, and worship their ancestors in special halls. This bond between the Hakka and their Northern Chinese ancestors is considered a defining Hakka characteristic.  So much so that even when Hakka people moved out of China and into foreign lands, when they married non-Hakkas, these outside people were taken back to the old ancestral hall to ritualistically pay their respects to the Hakka ancestors of their spouse, and in so doing, become ‘Hakka’ themselves.  This cultural solidarity may well explain why wherever Hakka people have gone, they have brought success to their new countries. As China is affluent and peaceful today, the Hakka people are no longer under threat from attack.  They are now legally acknowledged as ‘Han’ people living in the south, and many younger Hakkas have moved out of the round houses, which are now mostly occupied by the elder generation.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2016.

Original Chinese Language Article:



说起城堡大家就会联想起国外高高的山崖上,用石头砌起高高围型建筑。城堡的主人是个怪异的贵族,手下有一大批佣人,阴森森地与外界隔绝。在电闪雷鸣的夜晚,古城堡的怪影会时时在你眼削滑过而消失在无影无踪的夜幕中。古城堡是私人庄园、是战争的堡垒,在我们心中留下了深深的烙印。然而大家却不知中国式的城堡却漫布在中国岭南一带,这就是客家人的围屋。这种中国式的城堡与国外城堡功能不尽相同,却极具中国特色,它是中国社会历史发展长河的缩影,它的家族性、半开放性、堡垒式防守性,给中国城堡涂上了神秘的东方色彩。战争、迁移 、领地、抗争等诸多因素造成了中国式城堡誔生发展。

中国式城堡—-半圆形围屋,主要分布在广东省的兴宁、梅县等地, 2012年我们去广东梅州桥乡村游玩,专程去参观当地的中国式城堡—-中国围龙屋。据当地人传说, 在两晋至唐宋时期,因战乱饥荒等原因,黄河流域的中原汉人被迫南迁,历经 五次大迁移,先后流落南方。由于平坦地区已有人居住,只好迁于山区或丘陵地带,故有“逢山必有客、无客不住山”之说。当地官员为这些移民登记户籍时,立为“客籍”,称为“客户”、“客家”,此为客家人称谓的由来。为防外敌及当地人因领地纷争及野兽侵扰,多数客家人来到岭南后聚族而居,形成了围龙屋、走马楼、五凤楼、士围楼、四角楼等,其中以围龙屋存世最多和最为著名,是客家建筑文化的集中体现。

围龙屋不论大小,大门前必有一块禾坪和一个半月形池塘,禾坪用于晒谷、乘凉和其它活动,池塘具有蓄水、养鱼、防火、防旱等作用。大门之内,分上中下三个大厅,左右分两厢或四厢,俗称横屋,一直向后延伸,在左右横屋的尽头,筑起围墙形的房屋,把正屋包围起来,小的十几间,大的二十几间,正中一间为“龙厅”,故名“围龙”屋。小围龙屋一般只有一至二条围龙,大型围龙屋则有四条五条甚至六条围龙,在兴宁花螺墩罗屋就有一座6围的围龙屋。在建筑上围屋的共同特点是以南北子午线为中轴,东西两边对称,前低后高,主次分明,坐落有序,布局规整,以屋前的池塘和正堂后的“围龙”组合成一个整体,里面以厅堂、天井为中心设立几十个或上百个生活单元,适合几十个人、一百多人或数百人同居一屋,讲究的还设有书房和练武厅,令人叹为观止。 围龙屋是典型的客家传统礼制和伦理观念以及风水和哲学思想的具现, 围龙屋前一般会有一个半圆形的水塘,使得总体看来如同一个太极的图案:陆上屋为阳,屋前水为阴。这也是客家文化中的风水理论的体现。围龙屋大多是延山坡而建,朝南,水源、采光通风极好,居高临下、视野开阔,一座围龙屋就是一个战斗堡垒,屋前有护城堡塘,屋旁有坚固的正门,禾坪前有防御的矮墙,左右横屋有可进可退的边门,进入围龙屋内,各个战斗单元,用门堵上后,就成了蓊中之鳖,围屋四周都用厚土墙打起,围屋还可以跟后山相联,用小门和地道与外界相通。为了防止四周被围困,土楼内的天井都储存有水源和延山而下的水源。我们参观了几座围屋后发现,围屋前的水塘旁都建有水井,让饮用水和生活用水分开。


中国式城堡—– 客家围屋,在中国也称为围龙屋、围屋、转龙屋、客家围龙屋,它是中华客家文化中著名的特色民居建筑。围屋始建于唐宋,兴盛于明清。狭义的围屋指的是围龙式的围屋,而广义的围屋可以指各式的客家围楼或围屋。广义上的围屋的外形基本分同心圆形、半圆形和方形三种,此外也有椭圆形状的。围屋结合了中原古朴遗风以及南部山区的文化特色,是中国五大民居特色建筑之一。只要在客家人聚居之处,都能够见到围龙屋的踪迹,包括中国大陆南部的广东省、福建省,台湾的屏东、云林、台中东势等等。近些年来,随着生活的定神富裕,在多数年轻人都搬到外面居住,传统的围屋因卫生等原因,剩下只是一些老年在居住,他们除了经济的原因外,更多是守着他们祖上的传统,守着他们的青春的记忆。

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s