Tianjin/Personal Experience

Tianjin/Personal Experience



The post below is part of my  second reading response. Since Tianjin is my home town, I would like to share my personal living experience in this city.

My Accumulating City Images of Tianjin

I choose my hometown Tianjin as research city for blog project for two reasons. First, from < The Image of The City>, I realized that my own city images of Tianjin could be useful source. Second, I have never paid effort to learn my hometown at a city scale and this is the chance to make up. I am the one who know best about my city images of Tianjin but not the one who know best of Tianjin. Although this is the second reading response, I would like it to be a start of our blog research to share my own learning process of Tianjin with you.

My city images about Tianjin are not all generated at one time. They are gradually accumulated and refreshed during my first seventeen years in Tianjin. The first fact I want to stress is that: during the process of growing up, the speed of accumulation and refreshing of images was accelerated because of (1) the increasing ability of wandering in the city (2) the changing of transportations for shuttling in the city (3) the changing of life activities during growing up (4) the development of this city.

I believe that the first group of city images of most people should be their perception of the buildings they live in and surrounding environment. At this stage, not so much people have the understanding of ‘CITY’. So my first group images were about the apartment I lived in that belongs to national government agency. This group images don’t have a lot of sense of city; they are specialized by specific environment. When I was old enough to join the playing activities with neighbours, accumulating of second group of images started. Images of red and yellow signboards of restaurants, old type grocery stores, yellow vans passing by and curtains with traditional patterns hanging on road sent hints of identity of Tianjin. For young children, street is the boundary of their activity area. After entering into primary school, two half hour travels on road became a part of my life. The third group of images including all the things I observed on the back seat of my father’s bicycle. Different from the first and second group, third group of images become more dynamic and it was the first time I spent long time in buildings that are not for dwelling. Because of the location of my primary school, I passed lots of architecture of Europe style in concession. This was the time when I realized that city is composed of multiple types of architecture.

My images and understanding of the city I living in were all fragments until one day: my parents asked me to remember the way from our home to my school and guide them. This was most significant point where I transformed my separated images into a film contained a series of images. I must try to remember landmarks and orientation in sequence. Since then, my city experience involved irregular linear streets and landmarks. I could recognize a few high-rise buildings at that time, which are completely submerged in this metropolitan by now. Four years later, my mother drove me to school. Because of the limitation of vehicle speed and traffic jam, the city images were linked to speed. I paid visit to more and more sites frequently, the perception of districts occurred to me. The fourth group images were always subdivided by districts. Huge crowds and traffic jam on Nanjing Road in Heping District, high-speed vehicles along river back in Hexi District, narrow roads with stalls on ground in Hebei District and so on. Identities of districts were overlaying on the identity of Tianjin.

At the time of my secondary school period, the public transportation network of Tianjin became mature. I do not need to relay on my parent to travel in this city as before. More new areas become reachable for me via subway. More and more of my city images are attached on the subway network. I was considering the ends of subway lines the boundaries of this city and the stations with huge crowds especially transfer station the joints of this city. The city images about one city’s public transportation are universally considered as part of the city’s identity. The character of subway in Tianjin is different from those of Beijing, Shanghai or other metropolitans.

I can never say that my city images of Tianjin are Tianjin itself. The way that depicts a city with images from a native habitant may not be the most objective method, but must be the most honest method.

2 Comments on “Tianjin/Personal Experience

  1. These reflections are very wonderfully crafted. It would have been great if they are accompanied by a diverse range of photographs taken throughout your time in Tianjin. If they’re not autobiographical, you are also free to identify similar historical photographs by other who share the same precious memories. It is important that these ideas can relate to the broader Hai River research you are working on. For example, are the four groups of documentation somehow dependent on the river, or the aspect of transportation? I would like to see a greater link to historical documentation, to support your narrative. Can these recollections be wrapped around an urban vision or plan from the government from a particular period? Limit the research time frame to 5 to 10 years, so your team and you can go in depth more. Identify the key protagonist in the historical narrative.

  2. I agree that the post is missing photos. I understand that the post is intended as a starting point so I look forward to seeing the relationship to future research. How do your childhood memories of the city compare to the present reality? I think looking for dissonance between your subjective observations and objective data will help drive your curiosity.

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