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Tianjin, the place where the emperor crossed the river

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Terrence T. White ▼ | November 3, 2018
Asia   From an imperial port to port of the world

With more than 15 million citizens, Tianjin, a major port city in northeastern China, is a Beijing's gateway to the sea. It's also a Chinese city full of contrast, from European homes to modern skyscrapers.

TianjinTianjin, situated halfway from Beijing and the sea, was shared by no less than nine European countries: Italy, Germany, France, Russia, Great Britain, Austria, Japan and Belgium. No wonder then the imperial port kept the scent of Europe, while at the same time developing its own culture based on the Chinese background. The city is well-connected with the world and you can even stay without visa for up to 6 days if you are from France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the UK, Australia, Canada, or the U.S.

Tianjin downtownThe moment you come here, you can see Tianjin has well-planned transportation system, from the Binhai Airport, to Tianjin Metro - the world's shallowest Metro system, just three meters underground - to water routes and the biggest man-made port in China. And if you want to jump to Beijing from Jin - that's how locals call it - a bullet train will take you there in just 25 minutes. Tianjin is a true magnet for those who want to go to more than 300 foreign ports, and it certainly is the place where you can see and meet numerous ethnicities that take place in city's vibrant life and trade.

Clay Figure ZhangAnd where there are different ethnicities, there is trade, and where is trade there are souvenirs. Tianjin's pride in the painted Clay Figure Zhang named after Zhang Mingshan, a deft boy born in a poor family in Tianjin some 180 years ago. The figurines are not confined to one theme, they encompass folk tales, theater stories, Chinese customs, and they may even depict classical literature masterpieces. With bright colors and extremely well done, this figurines became loved worldwide. Today a single figurine can sell for over 10,000 dollars!

Tianjin Italian styleAnd while Zhang went into the world, the world came to Tianjin, all the way from Europe, Italy to be more specific. In Italian-style Tourist Area in the south of Hebei District there are a number of Italian buildings dating back the early 20th century. This is the cushy area in Asia and it was made as the largest cultural cooperation project between China and Italy. Some 5,000 tourists visit it every day so you can get the feeling of a busy Rome while being half a world away.

Binjiang Dao Business StreetSome things are common to all cities in China but one aspect of life you can't miss: trade. Tianjin has a range of shops, from small traditional stores to modern shopping malls with everything you have in mind and more. Binjiang Dao Business Street and Heping Lu Business Street are your destinations if you wanna shop and the names you want to remember are the most famous Quanye Chang, Isten Department Store, and Jinhui Shopping Square. Then, Joy City Shopping Mall is something where your kids may be playing all day on the playground or feeding fishes while you are shopping.

Tianjin street foodTired of shopping, you must eat something and Tianjin is well-known across China for its dining culture. Nanshi Food Street, as the name implies, is your primary destination. Traditional Tianjin food are admired but you can also find cross-cultural Chinese dishes that call all your senses to enjoy. What to eat? Without any doubt, Shiba Jie Fried Dough Twis, a sweet-smelling and crispy snack is No1, you can buy it and eat after several months, it will still be good. Goubuli Steamed Stuffed Bun, a 150 years old recipe, and 100 year Ear-hole Fried Cake completes the best list.

Ancient Cultural StreetChina is well-connected to its past and you can step into it if you visit Ancient Cultural Street in Nankai District. Around Temple of the Queen of Heaven the streets are full of Qing Dynasty style buildings, reminding us of life in the 17th, 18th and 19th century. It also hosts great restaurants with local cuisine and shops where you can find Weiji kites. If you admire architecture then its iconic up-scale Five Great Avenues area with all kinds of the architecture of Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain, is an absolute must see. Take a horse-drawn carriage and enjoy its charm.

Tianjin EyeAs a choice of romance and beautiful views there are Tianjin Eye, the only ferris wheel in the world built on a bridge, and Tianjin Radio and Television Tower that proudly stands above the city and so may you in a restaurant 248 meters above ground. Zhonghuan Cailian, translated as Charming Middle Beltway, with its high buildings, trees, flowers and parks gives a special glamor to Tianjin. Tianjin Museum is a must! It is as big as China! Whatever your tourist's desire, the chance is you will fulfill it in Tianjin, the place where the emperor crossed the river. And emperors know where to put their foot.

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