Friday, August 31, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Missile launcher

           I traveled frequently for work to China. Sometime I stayed over the weekend where I had some team building exercise outing with my team members or just an leisure outing The most memorable outing was to Yongding County (永定县in Fujian Prefecture where the main attraction is the Hakka Tulou (土楼  - earthen house).         
        Yongding is about 4 hours west of Xiamen, close to the Guangdong border. The 4 of us - Zhang, Jackie, See and I, hired a rented car together with a driver and we took off after lunch on Friday from Xiamen. The road zigzagged through the mountainous terrain and I counted we went through 6 or 7 tunnels. Finally we arrived at Yongding around 7 pm. We checked in a spartan hotel and had dinner in the hotel itself. We had genuine Hakka dishes from the countryside - pork meat with preserved mustard green (梅菜扣肉), fried fresh green mustard (菜心), free range chicken in soy sauce (土鸡), bamboo shoots (竹笋),mushroom (香菇) and chicken soup, all dishes cooked in rural Hakka kampung (village) style. The taste were similar to one would we normally had in our kampung back home. 
The round and square Tulou of 
Yongding, Fujian
         The next morning we woke up earlier, raring to go on visiting Yongding famed Tulou - the Zhenchenglou Tulou. Zhenchenglou Tulou is a unique and mysterious Hakka architecture with a thick earth wall enclosure. It is a round enclosed building with a very thick earth wall which is up to 6 feet thick with wooden skeletons and some 4 stories high. It was said to house up to 80 families. It only has one entrance, guarded by 4-5 inch thick wooden doors reinforced with an outer shell of iron plate. The top level of these earth building have gun holes for defense against bandits. The open court yard in the center of the Tulou was where the main activities took place. It served as a common area for meetings, prayers, opera shows and merry making during marriages and Chinese New Year. The ground floor were typically for reared animals like pigs and chickens, 1st floor served as kitchens and bathrooms while 3rd floor and 4th floor were bedrooms. There were 2 wells dug in the Tulou itself, the yang well and the ying well, but they were now sealed off, worried that kids may fell in and drown. We also toured some other shape of Tulou around - the square ones and the hexagon ones, all similar layout but the shape was due to the fengshui belief of the Tulou  matriarch. What I find it amazing about these Tulou is the fact that in spite of the earth wall, some of them are more than 700 years old, surviving through centuries of natural elements, including earth quakes, yet still standing solid. 
Outside a Tulou in Nanjing country, Fujian 
Province on a team building trip with China
fellow colleagues
        On another trip we went to another Tulou with my China team members and American boss, we visited the Tulou in Nanjing county, Fujian, as a team building trip. As I had visited Tulou before, this trip was not an eye opener anymore. However the most memorable moment was when the Tulou tour guide related to us a great story about Tulou. Here is her story - "In the 1960s, it was said that when American satellite took pictures of China’s southern territory from outer space, the working staff were amazed to find there were many disturbing unidentified large buildings, some were round, some were square and some hexagon. The structures ran into thousands.The American thought they were missile-launch bases; they had unexpectedly found China was so strong in military power! The rumor was so strong that it lingered on through the US-Russia cold war period. Only after the establishment of Sino-USA diplomatic relations that the American knew that these “missile launch bases” were actually human dwellings known as Tulou Buildings after tourists and delegates toured the areas and send back photographs to Pentagon. I do not believe her story, but if it was, it will be a fun misread. I guess she used the story to impress tourists. 
          Now that we have Google satellite technology, I ran through the Tulou picture again. Yes, I can see why imagination ran wild back in the 60s. The satellite image (in black and white then) did showed rocket launching pads all over interior China!  
Tulou in Yongding in this Google 
Satellite picture looks like 
Silkworm missile launching pads

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