The Land of Hakka Round Houses

Posted by Vancouver Opera On 10:29 AM
Something a bit different this week – a detour to a bit of Nixonian flotsam. My sister, who lives in China, sent me three pictures the other day that she took on a trip to an area a hundred or so miles from her home in Xiamen. She went to see the Roundhouses – also referred to as Hakka earth buildings - and took several pictures, among them three of an amusing sign placed on the hill above a village of roundhouses:

The second picture more clearly shows Nixon and Mao shaking hands during Nixon’s historic visit to China, both of them seeming to be very happy for the camera!

The close-up shows the Chinese and English text, which is self-explanatory:

I also made a trip to this region, my sister joining me for her second excursion. The Hakka earth houses are amazing structures, and now – mostly – protected by the government. According to my guidebook, Hakka earth buildings “guard people against danger, wind, earthquake, fire and damp” and “has rich Hakka cultural connotation.” It is warm in winter and cool in summer and the Hakkas live by clansman inside.” There are many different shapes, but the roundhouse seems prevalent.

Individual roundhouses accommodate up to a hundred families, housed in vertical units. The ground floor is the cooking area, the first floor is storage, and upper floors are for sleeping and defence.

The common area is used for community use including weddings, ceremonies, meetings, etc.

Many of the structures are still occupied, but I understand that a majority of residents are the young and the old, as the “in between” generation has in large part gone to the cities to work.

I do not pretend to be an expert on this or any other facet of China – by any means! – and my information may not be entirely correct. But when I saw those pictures from my sister of the roundhouses and Nixon – and the text talking about US intelligence believing these were missile sites – it brought back fond memories of my trip to the region and seemed quite appropriate as I am spending a lot of time these days thinking about Nixon in China!

~ James W. Wright, General Director

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