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There are four city-state municipalities in China; Beijing and Shanghai being the most important, followed by Chongqing and Tianjin. Tianjin is only about 70 miles from Beijing, and closer to the sea, so it acts as Beijing's port and conduit for much of its trade. It has also been occupied by no fewer than nine colonial powers during its history, much of the evidence of which remains today. It now has a population of around twelve million, more than that of London, but is much less spread out.

Technically I stayed in Tianjin, although I was located in Tanggu district, some 30 miles to the east. There was a light rail system which took me into southeast Tianjin, but at the time didn't connect to any other transit system, so it was taxi or shanks pony from there. Tianjin seemed to be somewhat overshadowed by the proximity of Beijing, and I didn't spend as much time in the city as I perhaps should have.

Tianjin TV Tower

Tianjin lays claim to one of the world's tallest free-standing structures, the Tianjin Radio and Television Tower, built in 1991. I went to visit on a weekend, and it was almost empty. The tip reaches 415 metres, equalling the height of the ex-World Trade Center in New York.

A view north fromt the Tianjin TV Tower towards the centre of town, if you can see it through the smog. Like everywhere in China, there is rapid development going on.


TV tower base

Looking down the concrete shaft over 250 metres to the base of the Tianjin TV Tower.

Tianjin's Olympic Stadium played host to some of the events of 2008, for which the new bullet train to Beijing was opened just in time.

Tianjin Olympic Stadium

Tianjin's Golden Street

Golden Street, the centre of Tianjin's consumer revolution. On a giant screen not far from here I watched the astronauts emerge live from their spacecraft, following the first ever Chinese spacewalk. The people on the street were very excited.

Inside one of Tianjin's many shopping centres, this one in the tall building with four turrets of the previous picture.

Shopping centre

Tianjin River

Looking up the Hai He river towards central Tianjin. Even one year later this view was hardly recognisable, with the 1000 foot towers that sprang up on the left bank.

Tianjin Railway Station which serves Beijing and Tanggu. Only half an hour to the capital by bullet train.

Tianjin Station

Tianjin mechanical clock

Strange mechanical clock by an old lifting bridge, which takes you from the station down to the street of old colonial banks.

One of the colonial banks of old Tianjin, watched over by a younger brother. Most of these banks are still in use, and to step inside was like going back in time.

Colonial bank street

The China House

The China House is one of the newer attractions in Tianjin, built by a local businessman who felt the inexplicable urge to spend $65 million on every plate he could get his hands on, and cover his house with them. It opened in 2007, and is well worth a look.

Close up of the China House, which really reminded me of Gaudi's Park Guell in Barcelona.

The China House

Inside the China House

Inside the China House is less ostentatious, but the themes of porcelain continue.

Vases and mortar form a fine garden wall for the China House.

China House vases

New Tianjin street

Much of Tianjin has been built recently, and is a pedestrian's nightmare of freeways and traffic. Towers are springing up, subways are being burrowed, and the rise of urban China is everywhere to see.

The Tianjin Museum, about the history of the city and its colonial past. Tianjin also has a Natural History Museum and a not-half-bad Science Museum.

Tianjin Museum

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2010