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A Brief Introduction to the Tianjin Museum of Modern History
Tianjin is one of the Chinese municipalities directly under the administration of the Central Government. As the largest industrial and commercial city as well as the largest coastal open city in northern China, it has long enjoyed the reputation as the "Pearl on the Bohai Sea". Located in the northeastern part of the North China plain.
Tianjin is 120 km east of Beijing and covers an area of 11,919.7 sq km. By the end of 1995, Tianjin had had 9.4183 million permanent residents. The whole of Tianjin is divided into 13 districts and five counties. Tianjin as a city has a long history. When the Great Canal was opened in around the year of 610 in the Sui Dynasty (581-618), Tianjin became a major hub of transportation linking the river and sea in North China. In 1404 of the Yongle Period of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Tianjin became to be built as a city called "Tianjinwei". After the 17th century, the scope of urban areas in Tianjin expanded continuously along with further economic and social development in the area. In the middle of the 19th century, troops of the Western imperialist powers landed at Tianjin and marched on Beijing, forcing the corrupt Qing Dynasty government to declare Tianjin as an open trading port in 1860. From then to 1943, the city was largely under the control of nine foreign countries. In 1986, it was opened as a trading port for foreign commercial operations. Since then, its industrial production and foreign trade have developed rapidly, and Tianjin has been able to become China's second largest industrial and commercial city next only to Shanghai and also an economic hub in North China.
Tianjin is rich in natural resources. It has two priority oil and natural gas fields of the State -- the Bohai Sea Oil and Natural Gas Field and the Dagang Oil and Natural Gas Field which produce more than 5 million tons of crude oil and 650 million cu m of natural gas annually. With a coastline of more than 130 km, it produces a quarter of China's sal annually. Under the ground of 72 sq km of Tianjin is a vast deposit of coal with reserves estimated at 680 million tons, with a coal-containing layer of 530 m in thickness. In an area of hundreds of square kilometers, there exists a source of terrestrial heat that can be developed and utilized, with a total deposit of hot spring of 110.3 billion cu m, whose temperatures range between 30 and 90 degree centigrade. This geothermal source has been the largest medium- and low temperature geothermal field ever discovered in China. Tianjin has 20 types of verified minerals, including manganese, gold, tungsten, molybdenum and copper. Most of these minerals are worth exploitation. Tianjin covers a total area of land of 1.19197 million ha, including 495,530 ha of cultivated land. Between the city proper and the coastal zone, there exists a barren land area of nearly 200 sq km, where transport conditions are good and development costs are low. Tianjin has a solid industrial foundation and a strongscientific-technological and educational force. It has a whole range of industrial sectors, which meet high technical standards and have a large capacity for coordination. The city has well established its four priority mainstay industrial sectors - the automobile and machinery equipment industries, electronics and micro-electronic telecommunications equipment industries, marine chemical and petrochemical industries and quality steel pipe and steel products industries. Tianjin is the birthplace of China's marine chemical industry. As a car production base designated by the State, it is capable of building 150,000 Charaade cars annually. It has an extra-large enterprises of the iron and steel industry, the Tianjin Steel Pipe Corporation which is capable of producing 600,000 tons of steel and 500,000 tons of seamless steel pipes annually.
As one of the major Chinese cities where scientific and technological personnel are concentrated, Tianjin has a number of universities and colleges, including Nankai University, Tianjin University and Tianjin Medical University; more than 900 scientific research and technological development institutions; and more than 600,000 scientific and technological personnel of various specialties, including more than 300,000 professionals of natural sciences. Among every 10,000 people in Tianjin, 637 are scientific and technological personnel. This powerful team of scientific and technological personnel score more than 1,000 outstanding findings in scientific and technological development annually, one third of which meet advanced domestic and international standards. In 1988, Tianjin established a zone of new technology industries, which was then designated by the Chinese Government as a national development Zone for high and new technology industries. Now, the zone has more than 2,200 enterprises, which generate 6.194 billion yuan (Renminbi) of revenue from scientific technological development, industrial production and trade annually. The city's 25 colleges and universities have 68,100 students and its 144 adult colleges and universities have 59,400 students. The 75 secondary technical schools in the city have 59,700 students and the 672 high schools have a total of 410,400 students. A total of 18 districts and counties of Tianjin have basically made the nine-year compulsory education universal and have also basically eliminated illiteracy among youths and middle-aged people. With complete infrastructure, the Port of Tianjin is the largest comprehensive trading port in northern China, with a total area of 200 sq km and more than 140 berths of various types. Its capacity to handle container transportation is the largest in China. As the largest air cargo transportation center in North China, Tianjin Airport can handle the takeoff and landing of various types of jumbo passenger and cargo planes. In 1995, it was upgraded to become an international airport. Tianjin is where the Beijing-Harbin Railway and the Beijing-Shanghai Railway meet, which are two of the largest trunk railway lines in China. The Beijing-Kowloon Railway and the Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway run through Tianjin. Tianjin has a complete highway network leading to all directions, including the urban highway networks of three ring roads and 14 radius trunk roads. The Beijing-Tianjin-Tangshan Expressway directly links the Port of Tianjin and the Tianjin International Airport to Beijing.
Tianjin has a relatively developed sector of telecommunications, with the capacity of program-controlled telephones reaching 1.5 million lines. The whole city has 1.352 million telephone sets, capable of directly dialing to more than 1,700 cities in China as well as to more than 260 countries and regions. The newly established satellite telecommunications ground stations are capable of directly linking to telecommunications satellites over the Pacific and Indian oceans. The city's generating capacity in Tianjin has reached more than 3.4 million kw, with power output of 12.2 billion kw annually. The total capacity of tap water supply a day in Tianjin has reached 2.25 million tons, including 1.65 million tons supplied to the urban areas. Approximately 90.8% of the homes in urban areas of Tianjin have access to the supply of gas. As a member of the first group of major Chinese cities open to the outside world, Tianjin has improved its investment environment and has become a hot spot attracting foreign investment. Many first rate international financial groups and giant companies have a good prospect of investing in Tianjin. In particular, a large number of overseas companies, including Motorola, Otis and Mobil of the U.S., NEC, Honda and Yamaha of Japan, Siemens, Henkel and Volkswagen of Germany, Samsang Electronics and Daewoo Electronics of the Republic of Korea, Shell of Britain, Remy Martin of France, Nestle of Switzerland, Zanussi of Italy, Novo Nordisk of Denmark, Chiatai Group of Thailand, and Kerry and Shun Tak of Hong Kong, have established enterprises in Tianjin. By the end of 1995, the government had approved 9,410 foreign-funded enterprises in Tianjin, with the agreed investment reaching U.S. $11.705 billion and the actual investment totaling U.S. $7.903 billion. In the course of opening to the outside world, the Coastal New Development Zone has been the most vigorously developed zone in the city. With an area of more than 300 sq km, the Coastal New Development Zone is located between downtown Tianjin and the Port of Tianjin, and is rich in petroleum, natural gas and crude salt. In the vicinity of this zone are the urban infrastructure at Tanggu, Hangu and Dagang Districts as well as industries bases with petrochemical and marine chemical industries as their mainstay. In 1995, the GDP generated by the Coastal New Development Zone reached 24.164 billion yuan (Renminbi).
Established in late 1984, the Tianjin Economic and Technological Development Zone with an area of 33 sq km has more than 6,000 Sino-foreign joint ventures, Sino-foreign cooperative ventures and wholly foreign-funded enterprises as well as Chinese-financed businesses. When Deng Xiaoping inspected the zone, he wrote an inscription: This development zone is highly hopeful. As a matter of fact, the Tianjin Economic and Technological Development Zone has the largest international trade window in northern China - the Bonded Area of the Port of Tianjin. As the first bonded area approved by the Chinese Government, it has more than 2,700 Sino-foreign joint ventures, Sino-foreign cooperative ventures and wholly foreign-funded enterprises, with the agreed investment reaching U.S. $2.1 billion. The GDP generated by the area and the exports from it both increase at an annual rate of 50%.
City of Reminiscence
Tianjin has a subtle charm that is perhaps obscured by the nearby capital, Beijing, just 120 km away.
It has few skyscrapers, its buildings mainly low and close together. Residents thus live in close but comfortable proximity. Neighbors trust and support one another, and any disagreements that occur are so unavoidably public, they simply add more color to the fabric of daily life.
Tianjin does not, either, have many straight, wide roads. Its thoroughfares generally outline the exterior walls of residential neighborhoods before zigzagging off into a green vista.
Its relatively slow development and absence of a transient population have enabled Tianjin to preserve its northern agricultural civilization. It is one of the few large cities where setting off firecrackers is allowed on holidays and festivals. At Spring Festival, when people from other cities take tours to other parts of China or even overseas, the home-loving people of Tianjin celebrate in the traditional way by holding family reunions, and decorating their houses with New Year pictures or papercuts. Tianjin people are very conscious of etiquette and rituals, particularly those relating to funerals and weddings. To outsiders this may seem incongruous in such a modern city.
People in Tianjin have simple tastes. Local residents care little for national TV programs and broadsheet newspapers. All the information they need is in the local newspaper -- Jin Wan Bao (Evening News). At noon, when citizens generally take a break, everyone in view -- street vendors, shoppers, and taxi drivers -- bury their heads in the Jin Wan Bao. Tianjin's mass media is less developed than in other cities of a similar size and scale, so its people take a greater interest in the more localized items found in the Evening News.
Tianjin citizens retain their inherent characteristics of straightforwardness and unsophisticatedness. They are talkative, warm-hearted, and sincere. If you should take a taxi in Tianjin, the driver will immediately make you his friend. If you are from another city he will, in the local vernacular, tell you all about the local scenery, folklore and customs. You may respond or simply listen. Either way he will carry on his commentary until you reach your destination.
Women are generally considered the barometer of fashion in a city, like plants that bloom in celebration of the four seasons. Tianjin women are not, however, overly fashion conscious, but their qualities are much appreciated by their men. They are good housekeepers and considerate wives, but by no means mild or timid. The innate candour of the Tianjin people is plain to see in them, particularly in family matters.
The men of Tianjin are noted for their wit, humor, and capacity for satire, able to maintain a line of repartee, deadpan, while friends and observers split their sides. Jokes widely told across China often originate in Tianjin, and the city is also famous for the performance art of xiangsheng, or crosstalk.
Tianjin most resembles a modern metropolis at night, when its busy streets are illuminated by neon lights, and its nightclubs, bars and restaurants heave. Then there are its many teahouses, where quyi -- the folk performance art consisting of ballad singing and comic dialogues, including crosstalk -- may be enjoyed. Tianjin is home to quyi, and the city has produced many quyi masters, such as celebrated crosstalker Ma Sanli and ballad singer Luo Yusheng. Ma Sanli once performed at the Yanle Teahouse at 66 Rongji Street, Heping District.
Teahouses in Tianjin generally look a little run-down. Admission is about six yuan, inclusive of a bottomless cup of tea. They are permeated with the smell of tea, tangerine peel and smoke, and resound with cracking nutshells, pouring and drinking of tea, and chatter. Such sights and scenes are rare in other large cities.
Tianjin's history is short by Chinese standards -- a mere 600 years. It used to be a military fortress, and in peacetime became an agricultural town. Its military men thus became farmers. Tianjin's economy remained agricultural for over 200 years until the 1860s, when the city was made a treaty port after China's defeat by the British-French allied forces. It later developed a navigation economy and became a trading center in northern China, to which merchants from across the country travelled.
The last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Aisin-gioro Pu Yi, took shelter in its foreign concessions on the downfall of the Qing Dynasty. That particular period of history left Tianjin a legacy of 1,000 or so houses in Western style, built a few dozen to a hundred years ago. They are located mainly on Chengdu, Chongqing, Changde, Dali, Munan and Machang roads, and are in British, French, German, Russian and Italian architectural styles. These houses also served as residences to the deposed imperial family and nobility of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the president and high-ranking officials of the Northern Warlords Period (1912-1927), as well as rich merchants and social celebrities. Today these areas are the quietest places in the city, best seen at dusk, when their walls are tinged scarlet by the glow of sunset.
Yangliuqing New Year Pictures: This art originated during the Ming Dynasty in the 1,000-year-old town of Yangliuqing in Tianjin's western suburbs. The Yangliuqing Museum is located in the Shi Family Mansion, one of Tianjin's eight most famous households of the late Qing Dynasty, and the city's largest and best-preserved ancient residences. The museum has a rich collection of folk arts and exhibits, such as Yangliuqing New Year pictures and an account of their history, brick carvings, and folklore artifacts. The mansion itself is a museum exhibit.
Ancient Cultural Street: Located in the northeastern corner of the old city (in present-day Nankai District), this Qing-style street extends for 580 meters, with the Heavenly Queen's Palace at its center. It is lined with shops dealing in old and ancient books, antiques, traditional arts and handicrafts, and folklore crafts. Celebrated ancient purveyors of Tianjin arts such as Yangliuqing New Year pictures, colored clay figurines of the Zhang Family, Wei Family kites, and Liu Family seals, had shops on this street. It bears similarity to Beijing's Liulichang, and is a popular place for local citizens to take a walk during the Spring Festival.
Xikai Cathedral: Also known as the French Cathedral, this building is on Binjiang Road in Heping District. It is 45 meters tall and is both a cathedral, built in 1914 and a church, built three years later. It covers an area of 1,585 square meters. Xikai Cathedral is the largest church in Tianjin and has been recently refurbished.
Mount Pan: This is the best-known scenic area in Tianjin and features tranquil gullies, grotesquely-shaped rocks, fragrant pines, clear springs, verdant woods, and ancient temples and pagodas. Recommended places to visit are the Tiancheng (Heavenly City) Temple, the Wansong (Ten Thousand Pines) Temple, the Yunzhao (Cloud Shrouded) Temple, the Wanfo (Ten Thousand Buddha) Cave, and the Guayue (Hanging Moon) Peak.
Transportation: Take a bus to Xinglong from the long-distance bus station in the northeastern corner of the city proper, and get off at Jixian County.
Erdouyan (ear hole) deep-fried glutinous rice flour cake, Goubuli (dogs ignore) steamed stuffed bun, and Guifaxiang deep-fried dough twists are the three famous Tianjin snacks. The Guifaxiang Shibajie Dough Twist Main Shop at 566 Dagu South Road in Hexi District has its shop on the street with a kitchen at the rear. Fresh, deep-fried dough twists can be bought here. Nanshi Food Street, where there are over 100 shops trading in delicacies from across the country, is also a recommended gastronomic wander.
As regards the culinary, Tianjin is best known for its baked corn flour biscuits and stewed small fish. This is made by first molding a mixture of corn flour and warm water into palm-size biscuits, and sticking them to the inner side of a wok to bake, then deep-frying Crucian carps, removing them to a pot when they turn brown, and adding water, scallions, ginger, garlic, aniseed, cooking sherry, vinegar, soy source, sugar and salt. The mixture is stewed until the fish is tender, then sprinkled with sesame oil and served. The biscuits and stewed fish go deliciously together.
Pingshan Road is the place to go for cheap, quality garments that have been wholesaled from Guangzhou. Unusual styles and reasonable prices make these garments very popular.
Shenyang Road is site of one of the country's three largest antique markets, where all the folklore arts of Tianjin are available. Care should be taken, however, when actually making a purchase.