Spring Festival vibes in the village: From rice to wine at Fujian fort
By Matthew Watson
03:30

‍The tulou in Yongding District, Longyan, Fujian Province, were built by the Hakka people, who are said to have migrated south from the Yellow River basin as early as the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). Built with earthen walls nearly five feet thick, elevated windows and heavy doors, they served as a line of defense against invaders.

A family feast in a tulou, Yongding District, Longyan, Fujian /CGTN Photo

A family feast in a tulou, Yongding District, Longyan, Fujian /CGTN Photo

While the outside was meant to keep danger at bay, the inside was a small city full of families. Thousands of these structures were built over centuries in Fujian Province and surrounding areas. Most are circular in shape and have multiple rings surrounding a central courtyard used for gatherings. Hundreds of years later, many of these architectural marvels are still inhabited by the descendants of the people who built them, and ancient traditions still have breath within the clay walls. 

Aerial shot of Zhencheng Lou, the "Prince of Tulou," Yongding District, Longyan, Fujian, January 22, 2019. /CGTN Photo

Aerial shot of Zhencheng Lou, the "Prince of Tulou," Yongding District, Longyan, Fujian, January 22, 2019. /CGTN Photo

With the Spring Festival just around the corner, I traveled to rural Fujian Province for a glimpse of the tulou, the Hakka and their rice wine. 

Zhencheng Lou, or the "Prince of Tulou," stands four stories high. The first floor holds shops and kitchens, the second is used for storage, while the third and fourth serve as living quarters.

Stepping inside, I was greeted by vibrant red lanterns hanging within the courtyard and outside of the residences, which are meant to bring good fortune to the people living there. The red couplets framing the doors declared messages of prosperity and hope ahead of the new year. 

Hanging red lanterns with Mr. Lin, Yongding District, Longyan, Fujian, January 22, 2019. /CGTN Photo

Hanging red lanterns with Mr. Lin, Yongding District, Longyan, Fujian, January 22, 2019. /CGTN Photo

In a nearby rectangular tulou, I received a crash course on the art of rice wine by Mrs. You, who comes from a long line of winemakers. The rice is first steamed in a wooden tub, then dumped onto a flat bamboo table to cool.

After cooling, it is placed in a large jar before three critical ingredients are added: water, rice soaked in 20 special ingredients (Hongqu) and white yeast (Baiqu). She expertly mixed the ingredients by hand, lifting from the bottom of the jar to the top, leaving no grain unturned.

Making rice wine with Mrs. You, Yongding District, Longyan, Fujian, January 22, 2019. /CGTN Photo

Making rice wine with Mrs. You, Yongding District, Longyan, Fujian, January 22, 2019. /CGTN Photo

The mixture will sit in a cool place to ferment for about a month before it is ready to drink. Surprisingly sweet with a golden color, the Hakka rice wine is as tasty as it is strong and is presented as a gift during the Spring Festival but is also poured during special dinners to welcome guests.

Sitting in the middle of a century-old tulou, I enjoyed a meal with a family that has lived there for generations. We toasted rice wine, laughed, smiled and wished each other a blessed and prosperous new year.