So my main reason of going to Xiamen was to see the Hakka Tulou buildings, the Kinmen visa run was a side benefit of being down there. So, what are the Hakka Tulou? Well, wikipedia describes it best.
"A tulou is usually a large, enclosed and fortified earth building, rectangular or circular in configuration, with very thick load-bearing rammed earth walls between three and five stories high and housing up to 80 families. Smaller interior buildings are often enclosed by these huge peripheral walls which can contain halls, storehouses, wells and living areas, the whole structure resembling a small fortified city. The fortified outer structures are formed by compacting earth, mixed with stone, bamboo, wood and other readily-available materials, to form walls up to 6 feet (1.8 m) thick. Branches, strips of wood and bamboo chips are often laid in the wall as additional reinforcement. The end result is a well-lit, well-ventilated, windproof and earthquake-proof building that is warm in winter and cool in summer. Tulous usually have only one main gate, guarded by 4–5-inch-thick (100–130 mm) wooden doors reinforced with an outer shell of iron plate. The top level of these earth buildings has gun holes for defensive purposes." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fujian_Tulou)
So, that's the technical description, lets see some pics, shall we?
The famous Tianluokeng tulou cluster (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianluokeng_tulou_cluster) shot from above.
Yuchanglou! It is one of the oldest and tallest tulou in China. Yuchanglou has been nicknamed the "zigzag building", because the vertical wooden post structure is not straight and perpendicular, but zigzags left and right. It was built that way due to an error measuring the building materials. But in spite of this apparent infirmity, this tall tulou withstood 700 hundred years of natural elements and social turmoil. Yuchanglou's outer ring is 36 m in diameter and boasts five stories, with 50 rooms on each floor.Each of the 25 kitchens on the ground floor at the back half of the circle has a private water well beside its stove. This is the only tulou in all Fujian with such convenient water supply
A stairway up. there were various stairs leading to different sections of the Tulou. Not meant for tourists to climb, I played "ignorant American" and climbed the whole way up. "whoops, I didn't know we weren't supposed to :P"
Outside Chengqilou. Nicknamed "the king of tulou", of Gaobei Tulou cluster at Gaotou village of Yongding County was built in 1709. Inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site 1113-003 in 2008. It is massive rotunda tulou with four concentric rings surrounding an ancestral hall at the center, the outer ring is 62.6 meters in diameter and four storeys tall, 288 rooms, with 72 rooms on each level, circular corridor on 2nd to 4th floor, with four sets of staircases at cardinal points connecting ground to top floors. A big roof extending out ward covers the main ring. The ground floor rooms are kitchens for family branches, the second level rooms are grain storage rooms, and the 3rd and 4th floor rooms are living quarters and bedrooms. The second ring of 80 rooms is two storeys high, with 40 rooms on each level, the third ring served as community library, one storey with 32 rooms; there are 370 rooms in all. The 4th ring is a circular covered corridor surrounding the ancestral hall. If a person stayed for one night in each room, it would take him more than a year to go through all the rooms. The ancestral hall is at the center. Chengqilou has two main gates and two side gates. 15th generation Jiang clan with 57 families and 300 people live here. At its heyday, there were more than 80 family branches lived in Chengqilou.
Chengqilou from a different angle. I didn't know how famous it was, otherwise I would have totally gone in and peeked around. I was on a tour bus where no one spoke english AT ALL! so when we got here I didn't know what they were saying and it cost to go in so I figured, fuck it. Wish I had gone in now after doing some research. Oh well.