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A Date with China - Tianjin

By Bruce Connolly (

Updated: 2021-10-25


This is a city where one visit means many. A city with long, fond memories of watching its transformation over the years from my first visit in 1996. Then, like much of northern China, it was in early stages of development from a more traditional, industrial and port base into the centre of contemporary and indeed futuristic modernity.

A city of history where it's location put it historically at the centre of Beijing's domestic and international connectivity. The Grand Canal at Tianjin connected via the Haihe River to the Bohai Sea near Tanggu. A branch of the canal led from Tianjin north to Tongzhou in eastern Beijing.

The city also prospered as northern China's leading salt producer and distributer. It's geographical location was one factor during the later 19th and early 20th century growth of international concession areas. Although that foreign presence is now long gone, much of the architecture remains creating a growing asset for both domestic and international tourism.


The Haihe, was once busy with commercial, international boat traffic penetrating right upriver to the heart of the city. In recent years the waters and surrounding areas, have undergone major environmental and landscape transformation. Now the only boats plying its waters are carrying many tourists on popular day and evening cruises passing an increasingly striking skyline.

While the main urban core has much to offer, to see, there are historic canal towns nearby such as Yangliuqing with its narrow stone-paved lanes and grand Shi family former courtyard residence.


Tianjin Municipality occupies a large geographical area taking in extensive area of wetlands which in recent years have undergone careful management into well protected landscapes that increasingly attract large numbers of migratory birds.

Binhai New Area and particularly TEDA (Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area) has witnessed major investment in both high-tech industry and innovation. It includes Tianjin Port, one of the world's largest deep water container terminals and nearby 530 metre high CTF Finance Centre.


Binhai also boasts exciting ecological city developments incorporating futuristic visions for urban living alongside major constructions such as the inspiring National Oceanic Museum.

Tianjin, a city where architecturally east meets west, an increasingly modern, indeed futuristic city with a long and detailed history deserves visiting, not once but many times.

Although I have been frequently to Tianjin, I was glad to be a participant in a recent international study tour organised through China Daily. It was a delight to learn more of this city, one that has become a passion for me now over 25 years.

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