FAQ for Tulou

1. What are tulou?
Fujian tulou (福建土楼) literally means “Fujian earthen buildings” are rural dwellings built by the Hakka people in the mountainous areas in south-west Fujian between the 15th and 20th centuries. The tulou are usually large, enclosed and multi-storied homes built with locally available materials (river stones, timber, bamboo etc.) and fortified with mud walls and most commonly circular or rectangular in configuration. Housing an entire clan of up to 800 inhabitants, the tulou functions as a self-contained village with courtyards, halls, grain stores, wells and living quarters within. They were also built for defense purposes around a central open courtyard with only one entrance and windows to the outside only above the first floor. The Fujian Tulou are mainly distributed in Nanjing County, Yongding County and Hua’an County, a region about 150 km across on the Fujian-Guangdong border about 3 hours’ drive from Xiamen. A total of 46 Fujian tulou sites were inscribed in 2008 by UNESCO as World Heritage Site.

2. Who are the Hakka?
The origin of the Hakka also known as Kejia (literally means “guest families”) remains obscure despite intensive research by historians and linguistics. But they are believed to have migrated from Northern China (Henan and Shanxi provinces) to Southern China over the past 1500 years, probably to escape warfare, famine or government prosecution. It is also believed there were at least 2-3 main migration; one in the early 4th century and another in the late 9th century. Their final migration in the 13th century during the fall of the Southern Song dynasty took them farther south to their present areas of concentration. Their worldwide population is about 80 million with a significant number in overseas locations as well: Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore etc. In Southern China, they are mainly found in Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangxi provinces. Some well-known Hakka are Sun Yat Seng, Deng Xiao Ping and Lee Kuan Yew.

3. What are some examples of traditional Hakka food?
Lei Cha (Thunder Tea Rice) – An assortment of tea leaves, herbs, seeds and nuts which are pounded into a fine powder and then mixed with rice, vegetables, tofu, pickled radish, etc. to be made into a rice dish.

Beef Meatball Soup – A simple, clear broth with vegetables and beef meatballs.

Mei Chay Kou Rou – Soya-braised pork belly stewed with preserved mustard green.

Suan Pan Zi – Literally means “Abacus beads”. Made from yam flour, minced pork, dried shrimps, and mushrooms and kneaded into the shape of abacus beads.

Dung Gong Yam Guk Gai – Salt baked chicken

Duck Stuffed with Rice – A whole de-boned duck stuffed with seasoned sticky rice.

Niang Dou Fu – Tofu stuffed with vegetables and minced pork and served either fried or steamed.

4. What is the approximate cost of a meal in Xiamen?
A simple meal costs about RMB 15-20 per pax while dining at a restaurant serving international cuisine will cost about RMB 50-75 per pax.

5. When is a good time to visit the tulou?
The tulou are good to visit all year around as the temperature in Yongding and Nanjing is mild throughout the year and not cold in winter. The annual average temperature hovers around 20 ℃. However the coastal city of Xiamen is subjected to heavy rains during the monsoon season from July to early September.

6. When is the peak holiday season?
There are two main peak holiday season: Chinese New Year (around January/February) and National Day (1-7 Oct) where travel resources (guide, vehicle, flight, etc.) can be super tight up to a week. Most places of interest will also be very crowded as people make use of the long public holidays to travel around. Early confirmation is highly recommended if you plan to travel during this period as travel resources and accommodation prices are appreciated. Other possible peak holiday seasons are New Year (30 Dec – 1 Jan), Qingming Festival (around first week of April), Labor Day (29 April – 1 May), Dragon Boat Festival (around June) and Mid-Autumn Festival (around September).

7. Which airlines fly to Xiamen?
SilkAir and Xiamen Airlines fly direct between Singapore and Xiamen. The flight time is about 4.5 hours. Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport (XMN) is about 15 min drive (10km) from Xiamen city. It is the fourth largest airport in China following Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and has direct flights to many domestic cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong etc.).

8. Where can I get local sim card in Xiamen?
Foreigner can purchase pre-paid sim card at Xiamen International Airport. There are two main telco are China Mobile and China Unicom; both have both have very good coverage (voice and data) in both urban and rural areas.  The cost of a Sim Card can be anywhere between RMB 150 to RMB 250 (SGD 30 – 50) depending on the data amount available.

9. Is it customary to tip while traveling in Fujian?
Tipping is not an established practice in China. You will not be expected to tip service staff who provide only one time short service like taxi driver, waiter, hotel porter etc. However as a token of appreciation, we do encourage you to tip service staffs like guide and driver who provide round the clock services especially for good services. A good ball park figure would be about RMB 80 -100 per day for a guide and RMB 60-80 per day for a driver for the whole group.

10. Is credit card acceptable in Fujian?
Major Credit cards like Visa, MasterCard and JCB are accepted in departmental stores and upscale restaurants in coastal cities like Xiamen but not in the tulou areas.

11. Is English widely spoken in Fujian?
English is not widely spoken in Fujian especially away from the coastal cities like Xiamen.

12. Do I need a Chinese tourist VISA to enter China?
Singaporeans do not require a visa for China for up to 15 days. For nationalities of other countries, please refer to the link here: https://www.visaforchina.org/SGP_EN/generalinformation/visaknowledge/258911.shtml

13. What type of power adaptors are used in China?
There are three types of plugs used in China: two flat pins (“Type A”, the most common); three-pronged angled pins (“Type I”) and two narrow round pins (“Type C”). Electricity is 220 volts, 50 Hz AC.