Matt he Jian de Yingwen de changke: Women xihuan Tianjin

Ninmen Hao,

Welcome to class seven. Today we will talk about your hometown Tianjin, Tianjinese people, culture, and places.

We will consider the following and some further questions:

What do you love about Tianjin?

When do you like it best (which season)?

What do other Chinese think of Tianjin and its people?

What is Tianjin famous for?

What are Tianjinese famous for?

Who are the most famous Tianjinese? What did they do?

What are some of the sayings about Tianjin and its people?

First though, let me tell you the little I have learned about Tianjin. If (when!) I get something wrong, please tell me.

A little Tianjinese history

For today’s class, I studied a little Tianjinese history, and learned that its settlement dates back to around 340bc. Historians tell several stories about the origins of the city’s name “Heavenly Ford’. In a poetic account, the name is an homage to the patriotic Chu poet Qu Yuan, whose “Li Sao” includes the verse “…departing from the Ford of Heaven at dawn…”.

Tianjin’s location at a crossing where the rivers meet the sea is key to its importance: the opening of the Grand Canal during the Sui dynasty (581-618) prompted the development of a trading center here, linking Tianjin to the domestic trades of grains and silk, the flow of people and cultural exchange. From the time of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), Tianjin also became a town of great military significance, and was subsequently established as a city fortress in 1404.

In the second half of the 19th century, Tianjin became the most important commercial city in northern China, having been opened as a treaty port by the Treaty of Beijing at the end of the Second Opium War (1856-60).

tijian conceding concessions
Palais concédé aux missionnaires français à Tien-Tsin,Tianjin, Chine. Gravure de Lancelot dans “Le Tour du Monde, Nouveau journal des Voyages”, sous la direction de Edouard Charton, Paris, 1864. • Crédits :©Selva/Leemage - AFP

After the Treaty, the end of the first Sino-Japanese war, and the Boxer Rebellion (1898-1900) resulted in more concessions to European powers.

The Boxer Rebellion, in which the Boxers fought the Eight Allied Nations (UK, France, Japan, Germany, Russia, Hungary, Italy and the United States) is celebrated with the Museum at Luzu Tang (originally a Daoist temple, built in 1719). The Zhili Province Boxer chiefs, namely Liu Chengxiang, Cao Futian and Zheng Decheng were revolutionary heroes.

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Zheng Decheng,  Siege at Dong Jiao Min Lane, Cao Futian

The Museum Manager told one blog writer:

At the temple’s main entrance … the Boxer chiefs burned charms. Followers would drink the charmed ashes mixed in strong wine to summon ancient heroes and gods (to possess their bodies, making them impervious to barbarian bullets.

Tianjin Museum diorama of Boxer Rebellion;  Front Gate, Boxer Rebellion Museum; Lin Hei’ er, leader of the Red Lanterns

The Red Lanterns originated in Tianjin and became a nation-wide symbol of revolt and mystic power. The women of the Red Lantern became the Boxer’s arsonists and propagandists, shouting slogans and drawing thousands of onlookers.

Their leader was Lin Hei’er, known as Yellow Lotus Holy Mother of the Yihetuan. Lin Hei’er is described as having been a prostitute and­ acrobat with knowledge of the martial arts who became a member of the Yihetuan (?) after her husband died, having been violently beaten by foreigners. Lin Hei’er led large attacks against the foreigners and was eventually captured after the fall of Tianjin.

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Lin Hei’er, images

This time of violent conflict may have left positive and negative legacies. Reflecting  on the Concession period (1860s-1945), one foreign observer commented that:

Although the official story at the Museum of Tianjin is one of imperialism and abuse, the city takes a certain pride in its European heritage. Because of it, Tianjin – like Shanghai is a modern Chinese city, like New York or Melbourne …

During the time of the concessions, Tianjin became the second-largest industrial and commercial city in China after Shanghai, the largest financial and trade centre in the north, as well as one of the key commercial centres in Asia.Tianjin also took the lead in China in military modernization, the construction of railroads, telegraph, telephone, post, mining, modern education and legal systems.

The Second World War saw the Japanese defeated, and the concessions returned to Chinese rule. From 1949, Tianjin came under Communist Party rule, and 2019 will be the 70 year anniversary. During the Reform era, Tianjin has grown and developed. It is once again one of the economic powerhouses of China, an industrial and trading hub whose harbour is one of the largest and busiest in the world.

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Tianjin port

Pause for reflection

What do you think?

Is Tianjinese history important?

What about the Concession period and the Boxer Rebellion?

Are they still important? Were the Boxers and the Red Lanterns heroic?

What are some of the legacies of those histories?

How important is Tianjin now? Is it changing? How and why?

Some of Tianjin’s many attractions

As well as Luzu Tang (Boxer Rebellion Museum), Tianjin’s many famous attractions  include Guwenhua Jie (the Ancient Culture Street),  (the Temple of Great Compassion, a Zen Buddhist Temple), and the Temple dedicated to the Goddess Mazi.

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Tianjin has some beautiful parks including Tianjin Water Park, Trash Mountain (or Hill Park) (Nancuiping Park) Changhong Eco-ParkÂ, and Tianjin Zoo.

Tianjin People’s Park and Water Park

Some would say that Tianjin is particularly beautiful in Spring, not least because of the many kinds of beautiful flowers.

Magnolia, cherry blossom, and peony in Tianjin

However, others may argue that summer, autumn or even winter is their favourite season in Tianjin.

Panshan, Water Park, and Ancient Culture Street in the snow

Regardless of the season, Tianjin’s Hai He is pleasant to walk along.  As you told me in an earlier class, some like it for swimming.

hai he swimmers

In the winter some people like to use it for skating or ice-fishing


Others say that it looks especially good at night when the city lights up.

Tianjin de Hai He: twilight, dusk, night.

Pause for reflection

What do you love about Tianjin’s natural environment (its parks, its rivers)?

Which places do you love the best?

When do you like it best (which season)?

Which time of day do you like to visit natural beauty spots in Tianjin?

Which Tianjin attractions do you like and why do you like them?  Where would you take a visiting guest?

Tianjin culture and sports

Tianjin is also famous for its art and culture, including cross-talk.


Recently, as well, Tianjin hosted the National Games.

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Pause for reflection

What do you love about Tianjin?

Which cultural activities do you like?

What sports activities do you like?

What do other Chinese think of Tianjin and its people?

What is Tianjin famous for?

Who are the most famous Tianjinese?

What did they do?

What are some of the sayings about Tianjin and its people?

Tianjinese problems

Finally, people might say that as well as many attractions and strengths, Tianjin also has its problems.

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Pause for reflection

What are some of the main problems in Tianjin?

Why do they happen?

What can be done about them?

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