If you were in an airplane passing by Fujian province in China, you would probably wonder what the many round-shaped structures were, standing in vast green fields.

UFOs?

Not quite.

They are actually magical tulou or “tall earthern structures”, which Fujian is known for.

At the recent Core of Maritime Silk Road: Refreshing Fujian tourism event, guests were shown the many sites and experiences the province had to offer visitors. One of them was the tulou.

Tulou are ancient dwelling places, built more than 1,000 years ago during China’s Song and Yuan dynasties. They are also known as “earthern dwellings” and “round stronghouses”. Constructed from compacted earth, mixed with stone, wood, bamboo and other materials, these ancient dwellings housed communities or groups of families, and were often likened to small fortified cities.

In the past, American satellites had mistaken them for missile silos!

In 2008, 46 Fujian tulou sites were listed as Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Fujian is also the birthplace and the core area of the Maritime Silk Road. The province is known as the “greenest in mainland China”, with 65.95% of the place covered by forests.

“You might think that Fujian is just like the rest of China. But, its close proximity to Taiwan as well as its shared common language of the Fujian dialect as well as Mandarin make its culture closer to the Taiwanese,” explained Fujian Provincial Tourism Development Commission deputy director Xiao Chang Pei.

According to Xiao, Malaysia has ranked Top 10 among the international tourists to Fujian for many years, and were first in 2016 and 2017. In the first half of this year, 173,800 Malaysian tourists visited Fujian, an 11.1% increase from the previous year.

“It’s not a one-sided thing. Malaysia is also a popular destination for tourists from Fujian. This is because it has a pleasant, sunny climate and attractions such as the tallest twin towers in the world, beautiful islands like Kapalai and Langkawi, the mysterious tropical rainforests in Borneo and many more,” said Xiao.

Xiao noted that a quaint way to remember what Fujian is known for is by the numbers “first, second, third” and “429”.

“Fujian’s forest coverage has ranked first for 41 consecutive years, resulting in an excellent quality of water, air, and environment for many years. Its coastline is nearly 4,000km and ranks second in all of China.

“And, the thermal springs in Fujian rank third throughout China,” Xiao explained.

The number 4 represents its four world heritage sites: Mount Wuyi, Fujian Tulou, Danxia landform in Taining and Gulangyu Island in Xiamen City. The number 2 represents the two global geoparks: Taining and Ningde. The number 9 represents its nine unique tourism resources (eight Ts and one M): Tea (Wuyi Rock tea and Jasmine tea), tulou, trees (forests), tide (coastal cities), temples, tie (of Maritime Silk Road), Taiwan, therma (hot springs) and multiculturalism.

Some other things that tourists to Fujian might find interesting are its specialty foods such as Minnan snacks, as well as unique customs like the Bo-Bing mooncake game, and the Tafu Chinese art of brush painting and blessing.

For more information, visit the official Fujian Tourism page (en.fjta.com) or head to the Apple Vacations website (applevacations.my).