Ina: the 19th century the volume of trade passing through 'Tianjin attracted the attention of the sea-faring Western powers, and in 1856 the French and the British used a minor incident as an excuse to send in gunboats to attack its forts. They forced the Chinese to sign the Treaty of 1 ianjin, which opened the port up to foreign. trade and allowed the Europeans to sell opium.
European powers and the Japanese set up their own enclaves, all adjacent to one another along the banks of the Hai River, -where they built housing, schools, barracks and hospitals in their own architectural styles.
This jumble of colonial architecture provides the most interesting feature of Tianjin today. In a short stroll, the visitor can take in. ikai Church, built by trench Catholics in. 1916, Bavarian villas and colonnaded British mansions. A lot of the old. buildings have disappeared, but most of the surviv=ing ones are clustered in a grid of streets on tl-ie south. side of the river. The district is centred on a roundabout known. as Zhongshan Park, which also marks the boundary of the main shopping area.
There is plenty to buy in Tianjin.Indeed, some local shoppers come here for the day from Beijing, though few stay the night due to the dearth of low-price hotel accommodation. Fleping Lu and Binjiang Dao are the two busiest shopping streets, with department stores and. a bustling street market, although as the streets are closed to traffic they have a laid-back feel. Local specialities include rugs and carpets.
Tianjin has two antiques markets. Tianjin Antique Market is located between the old town. and I-lai River. 'This enclosed market contains many shops selling a variety of goods including paintings, lade, chinaware and furniture. The antique market on Shenyang L u was originally a second-hand goods exchange but it has evolved into probably the largest antique market in China.
Equally popular is Ancient Culture Street, an interesting if somewhat tacky recreation. of a 19th-century shopping street. It is located at the north-west corner of the old Tianjin city. Another attraction is Dabei Monastery, built in 1669 in the early Qing dynasty and expanded in 1940. It contains more than 100 statues of the Buddha. Rival religions are represented in the city by the austere Notre Dame des Victoires cathedral and the more exuberant Catholic Church (both. open on Sunday only), and the Grand Mosque, which has some fine Wood carving.
Tianjin History Museum, in Hedong district, includes 400 items classified as state treasures. The Earthquake Memorial pays tribute to the 250,000 people who died in 1.976, when an earthquake measuring eight on the Richter scale levelledthe nearby town of Tangshan. Tianjin itself was badly affected, and. was closed to tourists for two years afterwards. There are a couple of pleasant parks, and you can go to the top of the television tower for a panorama of the city.
Tianjin cuisine includes seafood such as crab, prawns, cuttlefish soup and fried carp, but the city has a huge variety of restaurants. Local specialities include 'gui faxiang', a deepfried twist of dough, and 'erduoyan', fried cake. The best place to go is Nanshi Food Street, just west of the centre, a two-storey mall with more than 100 outlets, ranging from cheap snack stalls to .gourmet banqueting halls. One block north of here is the Qt.ianjude, a branch of the famous Beijing roast duck restaurant.
The best steamed dumpling shop is reputed to be at Goubuli at Shandong Dao, an institution which. has been on this site for a century. Kiesslings Bauhaus, built in the Austrian concession in 1911, is now a German restaurant, popular with both expatriates and. locals. For those n ho are less adventurous, the usual range of Western-style fast-food outlets is available, along with restaurants at the Sheraton, Holiday Inn and Hyatt Hotels.
Outside the city centre
Tanggu port was built 50 km. downstream from the city when heavy silting began blocking the I-lai. River in. the early part of this century. "Today it's a bustling working 1port- and not usually a destination for the casual visitor. One attraction is Dagukuo Fort, built during the Ming dynasty to protect Tianjin from foreign invaders.
Jixian, located 125 km from Tianjin city centre, contains the 1.000-year-old Avalokitesvara Pavilion. It houses an impressive 16-metre-high terracotta statue of a bodhisattva with 10 heads, as well as 'Fling dynasty murals.
North-west of Jixian are the Panshan hills, an attractive area dotted with trees, streams, temples and pavilions. At the northern tip of Tianjin municipality, near Hebei province, is Huangyanguan (Yellow Cliff Pass) where a 41 km section of the Great Wall can be viewed.
Port slips in the national rankings
Tianjin has fallen to fourth position in. the China container port league with a 1997 throughput of 840,000 teu, around 50,000 teu less than Qingdao, after having been in third place for the last tour years. But the fall had been expected by port officials in the light of increased port and infrastructural investment further south_ in Shenzhen, and the greater importance of Qingdao on the mainhaul container trade map, particularly in the trans-Pacific and Asia-Europe lanes.
In terms of total. seaborne cargo throughput, Tianjin. is in sixth place just ahead of Qingdao, handling around 62m tonnes of cargo in 1990, compared with Qingdao's 60m tonnes. Figures for 1997 should be made available shortly.
Tianjin is one of the few. China ports with. a 'near balance' in imports and exports of containerised cargoes; and. of the 800,000 teu total throughput, 52 per cent is reckoned as being import cargo.
Tianjin's largest carrier in terms of container-throughput is Cosco. The line hasrecently dropped Tianjin on. its Asia-Europe loop, but has reconfirmed. its commitment on the transpacific trades by including a stop on the North East Asia service, which deploys six vessels up to 3,500 teu capacity. Additionally, in recent creeks Japan's K Line, the country's third largest carrier, has started a space allocation on the Cosco service over Tianjin.
Two of the world's largest carriers, Maersk and Sea-Land, continue to move containers over the Tianjin. terminals on intra-Asian trade lanes, and for transhipment purposes to and from other ports on the China coastline.
`Perfect for transhipment'
In recent months, Sea-Land has taken up a 24.5 per cent holding in the operation of part of the port's Eastern Container Terminals. Majority shareholder in the joint venture is Tianjin Harbour Bureau with 51 per cent. The remaining stake is held by property development group, New World Infrastructure.
In line with its global bid to extend operational potential in container terminals, Hutchison International Port
Holdings has held recent talks with harbour bureau officials, on the setting up of a further joint venture in the port. The outcome is still uncertain, but there are positive indications from the port that Hutchison's interest centres on Tianjin Harbour Container Terminal.
Compared with other ports in north-ern China, '1 ianjin's role as a handler of containerised cargoes probably relates more to the local trade lanes and the intra-Asian market. Port officials are aware of the growing importance of other northern ports such as Dalian and Qingdao and the inclusion of these locations on the sailing schedules formed under the new alliances, including the New World and Grand. In capacity terms, these two groupings control around 55 per cent of the total seagoing slot space available on the major east-west trade lanes.
Cosco, for example, moves cargo through the port on the shorthaul routes to japan and South Korea, as well as the mainhaul trade lanes. Cosco sources in Shanghai confirm that they see Tianjin as the 'perfect transhipment port, and the ideal centre tor movement of goods on the local Asian services'.