Tianjin: the city with no past

Dear Reader,
Where were we? Oh yes! So my friends Riccio and Mr. Ames were spending the day in Tianjin, right?

It was a very hot day and we wished to avoid the crowds of Beijing and explore something new, different. Tianjin was our choice 🙂

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View of downtown Tianjin and the Haihe River.

Tianjin, the largest sea-coast city of northern China, is located in the northeastern area of Hebei Province and borders the Beijing municipality. As per population, Tianjin is among 4th or 5th place.

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This is the Tianjin Century Clock Tower,

Thing is, dear Reader, it also came as a big surprise. The reason why I wanted to go there was due its illustrious historical heritage… and somehow I found none of it.

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It was once known as city with historical significance until it was desecrated by foreign invaders long before the foundation of People’s Republic of China. In fact, the city has been home to Italians, Germans, French, British and Japanese among others. Their presence marked the city profoundly, in fact, we felt no air of “old” or “ancient”.

Can we blame only the imperialist forces? Not really. Let’s see what’s happening today.

Temples, century-old houses and street that could still smell of old trade are basically gone here.

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The fancy Italian Style Town where many Italians used to reside. Today is Italian looking and filled and with delicatessen little shops.

The reason is simple: China’s rapid economic development drives to build, modernise and emulate the Western cultures by clearing old city quarters to make room for banks, malls, office sky-scrapers, compounds.
This moves dramatically changed the history of the city. And it’s not just in Tianjin. If you go to Shanghai you can see the same cultural massacre taking place at rapid pace for the sake of modern development.

Some say it’s because Asian younger generation don’t seem to understand the significance of preservation, while others say that maybe it is because of a Buddhist belief that says that the world is in constant change and therefore they downgrade the notion of permanence. What do you think dear Reader? I ask this because I’m partly Italian so you can imagine what value “conservation” has for me.

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Still, historical sites aside, Tianjin is blessed with variety of attractions, Tianjin is a good place to explore. The top ten  attractions are Jinmen Shijing, are Gu Wenhua Jie, Dagu Emplacement, Huangyaguan Great Wall, Dule Temple, Haihe River, Water Park, Panshan Mountain, among others. And several natural scenes of beauty as well.

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Lady in Red of Tianjin

Dear Reader,

Riccio, Mr. Ames and I were tired of Beijing… We had seen the most important sites but crowds and heat truly took a toll on us. So one night Mr. Ames says “Beijing is not working for us, lets go to Tianjin for the day”. And so we did.
Thing is humidity and heat were everywhere but at least we escaped the unbearable crowds.
The humidity we found that day in Tianjin was truly appalling… just look at the air to have an idea of how thick humidity was that day in this port-town close to Beijing.

However, romance finds its way even in these conditions. We spotted several newlywed couples posing for pictures. Here is my favourite one, the lady dressed in red.

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What you see in the background is the Bei’an Bridge 北安桥, built in the 1970’s inspired by the Pont Alexandre III in Paris. At first glance, it would be easy to assume that it were left over from the colonial era, particularly as it is situated just meters from the old Italian Concession.

I’m glad she didn’t mind me and Riccio taking her photo from so close, they just looked so beautiful.

lady_red_wedding_tianjin_beijing_china_stanito_1As a side note: not much of the old town of Tianjin is left to see. More on Tianjin on my next post!

Photo of The Day: Sacred Mount Tai

Dear Reader,

Sacred Mount Tai in the Shandong region of China, one of the Five Great Mountains, has been a place of worship for at least 3,000 years and served as one of the most important ceremonial centers of China. It’s 1,545 meters high and is associated with sunrise, birth, and renewal, and is often regarded the foremost of the five.

It took me over 3 hours to go up the 1827 stone steps.

Mou

Photo of The Day: Saving poetry on stone

Dear Reader,

Saving poetry on stone is something you can easily find in China. These are golden writings that I found on Mt. Taishan, one of the Five sacred Mountains of China, near Qufu.

In ancient times, the first thing for an emperor to do when ascending to the throne was to climb Mt. Taishan and pray to heaven and earth or their ancestors. It is said that 72 emperors of different dynasties made pilgrimages here.
The temples and especially these writings carved in the stone are the testament of poets and scholars visits that came here to gain inspiration and save their poetry so that it could last ages.

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There are 22 temples, 97 ruins, 819 stone tablets, and 1,018 cliff-side and stone inscriptions located on this mountain. The golden one declares Mount Tai as the “Most Revered of the Five Sacred Mountains” on the “Sun Viewing Peak”. Allegedly written by a member of the Aisin Gioro clan and it is featured on the reverse side of the 5 yuan bill.

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Mt taishan red inscriptions Stanito

Finding Beijing Underground City… shut down.

Dear Reader,

Normally Stanito writes and thrills about places she has researched, seen, visited and actually entered. And it’s only because that makes sense 🙂 However, when she found herself looking for the famous Underground City together with her friends Riccio and Mr. Ames, she found not only that the place was intriguingly hidden but also shut down since 2008! The adventure is worth the writing as it took patience, some Mandarin knowledge and cool green tea to survive the pilgrinage along the streets of Beijing. China has many mysteries, luckily this one is strangely out in the open. It all happened in a super hot summer afternoon of August…

Continue reading “Finding Beijing Underground City… shut down.”

Stanito vs China Signs – Part 2

Dear reader,
As we were saying, China has a lot to offer. Apart from its obvious beauty, dramatic history, culture and landscapes, China is a trick that will intrigue even the best translators on earth. Walking down the streets or simply paying attention inside train stations you’ll find hilarious signs that will make you wonder “Is this on purpose?!” Definitely not. It might be due to excessive reliance on dictionaries, and here is the result: Continue reading “Stanito vs China Signs – Part 2”