The View from Inside a Hakka Round House


Original Chinese Language Article By:

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Hakka earthen-built structures are unique not only in Asia, but are also acknowledged as an outstanding example of world architecture.  It is an unusual construction skill, in that it developed entirely amongst ordinary (Hakka) people at village level.  The design of the Hakka buildings are perfectly balanced, compact, and yet spacious.  In fact the Hakka building ability is an important part of China’s ancient construction tradition in general.

Hakka building construction involves buildings that are both round and square in design, but in Yongqing County, south-west Fujian province, the Hakka buildings are exclusively 360 degrees round in structure, up to 4000 square meters in size, and more than 10 meters high at the outer wall.  The Hakka people developed a highly efficient and outstanding method for designing, building and decorating very large communal buildings using all natural materials.  The Hakka round house is the most well-known example of Hakka architecture and is often considered the first such structure to appear under the divine sky.  Its structure has been likened to a mushroom sprouting out of the earth, or a UFO landing from the sky.

The Hakka round house often contains an entire community.  In the past, many Hakka generations were born, lived and died living exclusively within these structures.  Hakka people were married and raised children without recourse to travelling elsewhere, or seeking assistance from external sources – the Hakka round houses were entirely self-sufficient.  The Hakka round houses contain ample numbers of bedrooms, dining rooms, kitchens, store rooms, a large number of rooms for various uses, an ancestral hall, water wells, ventilation, an inner courtyard, perhaps as many as five storeys, numerous bathrooms, plumbing, and even mills and various other agricultural facilities.  The Hakka people exclusively used compressed (or ‘stamped’) earth to make the bricks.  The wall at ground level was dug 1.5m into the ground, and was 3m thick.  As the wall got higher, the thickness of the structure decreased, with the top most section measuring only 0.9m in width.  Logs act as internal supports for the entire stricture, with planks of wood being laid to form walkways and partitions (forming strong walls) for the many rooms.  There was a single, internal spiralling staircase that started at ground level and worked its way up to the top most section.  The earthen structure is a very good defence against enemy attack because it was difficult to burn and due to the thickness of the wall it was virtually impossible for an enemy using ancient technology to breach.  In the summer the earthen structure was cool, and in the winter it worked to retain the heat.

Prevailing conditions in the South of China meant that the Hakka people often kept themselves to themselves.  They developed a very self-contained culture that was reliant upon a strong village defence and good architecture.  It is thought that the Hakka qualities of being hard-working, clever, trustworthy, hospitable and strong, led to the ingenious design of the round house.  In fact, in China today the Hakka people are very well known and greatly respect – and this explains why any people are attracted as tourists to pay a visit to these remarkable structures.

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

Original Chinese Language Article:








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