Archive for the ‘Tianjin’ Category

Tianjin 2004

12 – 22 Jul 2004: Tianjin, China

This is probably my longest period away from home. For the next 45 days, I am leading a team on a project covering Tianjin, Nanjing to Qingdao. We will move in a convoy from one city to another, back to back, spending an average of two weeks at each location. Coming back to Tianjin gave us the heart-warming, home-like sentiment. The locals threw the warm welcome and made sure that all our needs were well taken care of. For me, it was a good opportunity to catch-up with my colleage – Zhang Ying.

Tianjin Nan Kai University

On the weekend, Martin proposed visiting the Nankai University (南开大学), a very famous public research campus outside Shanghai and Beijing. Its status is highly profiled as the “alma mater of former Chinese Premier and key historical figure Zhou Enlai (周恩来, 1898 – 1976)”. Tony’s interest to see the school because his mother had also attended her formal education here. As always, Zhang Ying kindly offered to show us the way.


This was the first time I entered into a university in China. I was impressed with the clean and neat campus and the quality of the students which I met.

Zhang Ying, Presilla, Kathy & Martin (behind)

Tianjin Restaurant

On this trip, I had lunch at the famous State-owned restaurant called Tianjin Restaurant (天津菜馆) located at the Nanshi Food Street (南市食品街). As expected, the service was horrific but its signature dishes were simply unforgettable. My favourite dish was a deep fried carp (unscaled) in sweet spicy sauce called Leaping Carp in the Net  (Zeng Peng Li Yu  or 罾蹦鲤鱼). According to the legend, this dish originated from the Tianyi Square Restaurant (天一坊饭庄) during the late Qing Dynasty. After the Power Allied Forces (八国联军) occupied Tianjin in 1900, a bunch of ruffians and hooligans came for free food at Tianyi. They mistakenly ordered a fried prawn dish as “Leaping Carp in the Net”. The waiter tried to correct the order but was rudely brushed aside. To avoid trouble, the chef deep-fried a live carp without removing the scales and poured sweet sour sauce (糖醋汁) over it for serving.

Other speciality from this restaurant were Eight Great Bowls (“Ba Da Wan” or 八大碗),  Yellow Crab and Shark Fin (“Xie Huang Yu Chi” or 蟹黄鱼翅) and Fried Shrimp (“Jian Peng Da Xia” or 煎烹大虾). At lunch, I caught sight of this exquisite Chinese paper cutting painting pasted on the window.


The team insisted that I took a picture with this God of Fortune (财神爷) as we passed by it at Drum Tower North Road (南开区鼓楼北街74号). The reason being my Chinese sounds alike the God of Fortune in Chinese.


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Tianjin 2001

3 – 21 Sep 2001: Tianjin, China

I will always remember that day. It was 12 of September 2001 and I was on a 3-weeks work assignment in Tianjin. As usual, I was having my same old breakfast at the Sheraton Tianjin Hotel when my boss Sandy called me. She sounded nervous over the phone. “Have you heard the news?” she asked excitedly. “There is an emergency in the States,” she explained, “someone drove two commercial airlines into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in the New York City! The building was crashed down and many, many people died!” At the same split second moment, I saw the scene which she described telecasted in CNN right in front of me! For unknown, I somehow broke into cold sweat…

This is my second trip to Tianjin (天津), China’s third largest city located in the southeast of Beijing. My last visit in 2000 was very brief and finally, this is a good chance to see the city.

Tianjin Tian Hou Palace

Standing at the center of Tianjin Ancient Cultural Street (天津古文化街) is the Tianhou Palace (天津天后宫). The temple was originally built in 1326, dedicated to the Goddess Tian Hou or commonly known as Mazu, a deity protecting seafarers and fishermen. Tian Hou was born as Lin Moniang (林默娘) in Fujian, China around 960. According to the legend, a junk sailing across the South China Sea on a clear day was suddenly caught in a tempest. Everybody thought they would not survive the storm until a young, attractive woman came forward and ordered the sea to calm down. Miraculously the storm died away and the sea became still.  As a Chinese trading port itself, it is natural that Tianjin adopts the same belief in praying to Tian Hou.  


It is said that this is one of three biggest Mazu Temples in China; the other two being the Fujian Mazu Temple and the Beigang Chaotian Temple in Taiwan.

Tianjin Ancient Cultural Street

The Tianjin Ancient Cultural Street has hundreds of stores selling a wide variety of folk handicrafts. The most well known vendors are the famous Yang Liuqing New Year Paintings (杨柳青年画) and the popular Zhang’s clay figurines (天津泥人张彩塑). The history of Yang Liuqing New Year Paintings started during the war-torn Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). There was a folk artist who took refuge in the town of Yangliuqing and etched pictures of door gods, kitchen gods and Zhong Kui to sell at festivals for a living. Soon, people in the same town followed suit and the town eventually became known as the home of New Year Pictures nationwide, where “each of its households was good at painting”. A Tianjin Yangliuqing Picture Workshop was set up here in 1958 to revive this art.

Tianjin Niren Zhang’s clay figurines are on display in many museums in China and around the world. The art of making painted clay figurines was created by Zhang Mingshan (张明山, 1826-1906) about 130 years ago. Zhang was so skillful and quick in making clay figures and his impromptu figurines were so life-like that he was given the nickname “Niren Zhang ” (“泥人张”). Naturally, I was tempted to bring a few home…

The street is also filled with many favorite places for sampling delicious Tianjin local snacks, such as Goubuli Steamed Buns (狗不理包子), Er’duoyan Fried Cake (耳朵眼炸糕, meaning “Ear-Hole Fried Cake”)and Eighteen Street’s Sasame Snacks (十八街麻花). Another place to indulge in these local delights is the Nanshi Food Street  (南市食品街).


In compared to Beijing, the Hutongs in Tianjin is relatively unheard of. Yet Tianjin has quite a few distinctive neighborhoods bearing the traditional Chinese “small alleyways” (胡同) in areas around the Drum Tower and the West Station. Obviously, I took the opportunity to peek into the life of the last remaining hutongs as they are swiftly diminishing with urbanization.

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21 – 22 Jun 2000: Tianjin, China

Tianjin (天津) is China’s third largest city, located 137 km southeast of Beijing. It was originally a developed trading centre called Zhigu (直沽), meaning “Straight Port”. In 1404,  the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Yongle (永乐) started to build fortifications and strategic military defences here, thus renaming the city as  Tianjin (天津), which means “Heavenly Ford”.

The outbreak of the second Opium war in 1858 resulted in the Treaty of Tianjin (天津条约), which forced the Chinese to open up Tianjin to become a treaty port. Many western powers rushed to establish their own concessions in Tianjin, propelling the city to be among the first few cities in North China exposed to western industrialization and modernization.


My first trip to Tianjin was so brief. One city scene which I vividly recalled was the hundreds of bicycles parking neatly by the roadside.

We stayed at Sheraton Tianjin Hotel. From the room, we can see the 368 m tall Tianjin Radio and TV Tower.

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