Tianjin, also known as the diamond of the Bohai Gulf and the gateway to the capital of the People's Republic of China, is one of the biggest industrial and port cities in China. The city has a long and illustrious history, and the marks that the past has imprinted upon the place can still be seen today, albeit in diminished, and diminishing, form. For the visitor today, this legacy can still be glimpsed, in the varied and beautiful architecture of the old concessionary areas, amongst the foibles and antiques to be found in the winding streets of the antique market, and with visits to the profusion of religious buildings that litter the city.
Notable history of the city began with the excavation of the Grand Canal in the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD). At this time, Tianjin was considered to be one of China's most important military fortresses. Any "aliens" would have to get through Tianjin for direct access to the capital, a mere 80km to the west. The city, starting in the mid-Tang (618-907 AD), also became known as the transportation route, via canal, of most food and silk from the north to the south. In 1860, after the First Opium War, Tianjin was further expanded as a business and communications center. By the end of the 19th century, it had grown into a bustling center with a population of approximately 300,000 citizens. As a result of the Peking Treaty signed in the wake of the Second Opium War, Tianjin became an open port for foreign trade with concession areas earmarked for foreign residents of various countries.
| Ancient Culture Street|
|After taking just a short walk southwest of the Notre Dame des Victoires, you will be confronted by a colorful arch, the entrance to the Ancient Culture Street (Gu wenhua jie). Like its counterpart in Beijing, the famous Liulichang, it reflects the authority's effort to recreate an ancient Chinese street of the 19th century in modern high-rise Tianjin. Although everything here is not real, you can still appreciate the protruding balconies and carved columns of the red and green wooden shops with their nicely tiled roofing. "Antiques" here are generally expensive, but if you are a connoisseur of bargaining, you can still find some good souvenirs at a reasonable price. Some good shops worthy of being mentioned include the Nirenzhang Clay Figurine Shop, Yangliuqing New Year Poster Shop and Tianyige Four Chinese Writing Tools Shop. |
Within the confines of the street is the Tianhuo Temple (Tianhou gong), paying tribute to the Goddess of the sea. The temple was apparently built in 1326 AD in deference to the heavenly Goddess and in hope of protection for Tianjin's oceangoing population. Since then the temple has been renovated a number of times. In 1984, it was turned into a museum displaying local customs, including some fine examples of the Tianjin clay works and woodblocks from the nearby village of Yangliuqing.
| Mt. Panshan|
|Located 12 kilometers northwest of Jixian, which is about 100 kilometers north of Tianjin, Mount Pan (Panshan) is covered with lavish plantations and has a rich historical heritage. Recently, the mountain has become the great escape for the city dwellers of Beijing and Tianjin. |
The natural scenery of the mountain is covered in rocks, streams, pine trees and vast greenness. More than 320 kinds of trees and shrubs have been found in the vicinity, these trees makes the mountain a natural botanical garden. The mountain itself has many sheer and shudderingly attractive precipices and grotesquely shaped rocks and boulders. Its main peak, Moon hanging Peak (Guayue feng), although only 864-meters above sea level, rises sharply. It is claimed that the peak of the mountain commands a view of the Great Wall on the west and Mount Tai on the east.This highest peak also has, situated on its summit, the Dingguang Stupa that is alleged to contain a tooth of Buddha.
Just like other famous mountains in China, the quiet Panshan Mountain is also inhabited by monks. They have been through their fair share of historical troubles and strife: in World War II the Japanese came through this area successfully burning its 70 temples. Today 72 temples of all sizes and Buddhism schools can be found here, both restored and new. The temples still boast many rich cultural relics.
| Great Wall at Huangya Pass|
|The Great Wall at Huangyaguan (Huangyaguan changcheng) geographically belongs to Ji County at the very northern tip of the Tianjin Municipality and is some 28km north of Jixian County Town. The pass, the only one of its kind in Ji County, contains the section of the the Great Wall that extends northward to Hebei Province. During the sunset, the pass looks even more imposing with the steep slopes on both sides. |
Even during the Qing Dynasty over two thousand ago, it was an important pass in northern China. In recent years, some new features have been added to the original construction, such as the Eight Diagrams Labyrinth (Bagua cheng), the Forest of Steles (Shike beilin), a museum (Bowuguan) and the Water Pass (Shui guan). The wall here has also been renovated recently, although its edges still show signs of decaying age. The most redeeming factor of this section is that it is less plagued by tourists than its Beijing counterparts.
| Temple of Solitary Joy|
|The Temple of Solitary Joy (Dule si) is located outside Jixian County to the north of Tianjin city, three hours away by bus. The temple was first built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) and renovated in the Liao Dynasty (916-1125 AD). Recent renovations have also been made. The temple is a nice days diversion which can be combined with a trip to the Huangya Pass or Mount Pan for an overnight stay; Both of these are located close or in Jixian city. |
Inside the grand (23 meters high) Guanyin Hall is a 16-meter-high statue of Guanyin, the largest existing terracotta figure in China. The statue stands in the center of the hall, towering upward through the second and third stories until almost reaching the octagonal ceiling. In order to represent Guanyin's mighty powers,ten small Guanyin heads were added to the sculpture, so that this statue is also known as the Eleven-Faced Guanyin. The Guanyin and other clay sculptures in the temple were carved in the Liao dynasty, about 1000 years ago when Chinese Buddhism reached its peak.
Besides the clay sculptures, the three-storey Guanyin Hall is a wonder, it is the oldest existing wooden pavilion of its kind in China. The fresco in the temple which is 45m by 3m is also a wonderful piece of art. The temple also houses a Buddha from the Liao Dynasty and various murals from the Ming Dynasty.
| Grand Mercy Monastery|
|Tianjin's famous Buddhist Grand Mercy Monastery (Dabeiyuan) is located beside the Haihe river on Tianwei Lu. The temple belongs to the Buddhism Zen school, it is one of the biggest and best preserved Zen Temples in northern China. The temple comprises of two parts, the old Temple in the west courtyard and the new Temple in the east courtyard. The original structure was built in 1669 during the Qing Dynasty. The new wing of the temple was added to the old temple in 1940, although much of the temples buildings were restored after the Tangshan earthquake in 1976. However, the gold-gilded Sykiamuni statue in the hall of the new temple was an antique of the Ming Dynasty and is beautiful to behold. The temple is also famous for a series of Buddhist carvings.|