From Asylums to Housing: A Vernacular Architectural Adaptation in Southeastern China

Nov 16 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Zheng Jing (Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, Wuhan University; HYI Visiting Scholar 2018-19)
Chair/discussant: Michael Szonyi (Frank Wen-Hsiung Wu Memorial Professor of Chinese History, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

During the turbulent period of rebellions or dynasty transitions, rural militarized communities constructed numerous fortresses for self-defense across China. Most of these structures were only occupied as temporary asylums and were abandoned after. In southeast China, however, an architecture type called Tulou developed into a dominant housing tradition that lasted for centuries. Tulou, literally “earthen building,” refers to large-scale enclosed multi-story buildings, usually with rectangular or circular floor plans. Interestingly, unlike other traditions that were suppressed during the People’s Commune Period, Tulou reached its construction peak. This talk will trace the evolvement of Tulou as a vernacular architectural tradition and explores how militarization merged into community life through architecture.