Case of survey

Zhenchenglou (Inspiring Succes Building)

Hongkeng village, Yongding county, Fujian

Jens Aaberg-Jørgensen

Originally published in Danish in ARKITEKTEN  no. 28, November 2000, pp. 2–9. 
Text and illustrations have been updated for the web edition. (JAA-J, 2003-04).



The inner 


Map of Hongkeng
Watch with 'viewer'*)

Plans - facades - sections of Zhenchenglou


Ground floor plan

Watch with 'viewer'*):
Upper floor plan

Watch with 'viewer'*):
Roof plan

Watch with 'viewer'*):


Survey (section)


Facade and 
main section

Watch with 'viewer'*):


Section and inner facade

Watch with 'viewer'*):

In 1997 I visited approximately 25 tulou, some circular and some rectangular.

In Hongkeng village I visited Zhenchenglou, the circular tulou illustrated here.

Zhenchenglou was build in 1912 and is a four story tulou with windows only in the two upper levels. It has three entrances the main portal (heaven, tian) and the two secundary 
portals: the western (Earth, di) and the eastern (man, ren).

It was planned to express the Eight Trigrams, or Bagua, (Yi jing) believed to have great symbolic power in Chinese culture and that is used in properly siting a dwelling. 
Ronald G. Knapp: "China's Old Dwelling", Honolulu 2000, p. 269.

The outer ring of Zhenchenglou is divided into these eight parts seperated by eight fire walls in stone and earth (see below). 
The three entrances are placed in each one of these parts heading south, west and east, and are relatively non-private.  The ancestral altar or altar is heading north in a fourth part. The other four parts are all family units each with its minor courtyard and separated from the less private zones 

Main entrance
Ancestral altar

Family unit

Zoning of the Zhenchenglou


In the inner ring we find a guest wing surrounding the hall.

Inner ring with hall

The hall

The guest wing

The clan's wealth is evident in the use of exclusive materials and details, some of which appear to be unique: Zhenchenglou is atypical in that the ancestral altar has a more private status, set back and situated on the periphery. Placed in the centre is a grand hall for representational purposes, surrounded by a two-storey circular guest wing, built in fired, unrendered (i.e. not plastered) brick and with a cast iron railing running along the first floor.
The building contains two fire-retarding elements: the eight fire walls mentioned above, faced with brick on the open courtyard side and with clay or earth towards the outer wall, and a tiled floor on the top level, which also acts as a sound absorber between floors. 

Gate from inside

Fire wall / tiled floor 

Roof construction
The other unusual characteristic is the subdivision of the main courtyard into four minor courtyards, so that families are more segregated than usual (mentioned above). The partitions are used as pens for rabbits, chickens, geese and pigs. Outside the tulou are other buildings, originally built as granaries but now in use as homes.The Zhenchenglou was built because another of the clan's tulou, Fuyulou, (see below) which lies upriver (see the map of Hongkeng in the section 'Hongkeng - a village in  Fujian') had become too small. 
, which dates from 1882, is also of great beauty and elegantly decorated, and still inhabited. Of all the tulou I have visited, Zhenchenglou and Fuyulou manifested the greatest signs of the inhabitants’ affluence. 


Fuyulou, Hongkeng village  
Rushenglou, Hongkeng village    

Across the river lies the smallest circular tulou, Rushenglou , which has an outer circumference of only 17 metres).

(Fuyulou and Rushenglou, see also the section 'Hongkeng - a village in Fujian')