Tianjin/Haihe, the past (600AD-1900AD)

There was a Chinese old saying – ‘先有三岔口,後有天津城’. In a geographical domain, Hai River (‘Haihe’) divides at its end into two. This saying is actually highlights the indispensable relations between ‘Haihe’ and Tianjin.

‘Haihe’ end was found the origin of the earliest residential clusters, boat piers and markets in Tianjin. It suggests that human activities were the most dynamic at this ends and the development of Tianjin rooted from there. It can be dated back to 600AD when fishing and salt-making were the common practice.(Fig. 1.1)

1280px-Tien_Tsin     Fig. 1.1 A panoramic view of  an old Tianjin port

In Yuen dynasty, ‘Haihe’ end has been developed into a main port for shipping goods both from and to the South.(Fig. 1.2) Starting from the 1400s (Ming dynasty), ‘Haihe’ end and its surrounding area has been given the name ‘Tianjin’ to celebrate the landing of the emperor from the water. Activities along the water were prevalent and most maps highlighted the important of the river. Temples were built along the river, but mainly at the ‘Haihe’ ends for safe cruise.


Fig. 1.2 City map of Tianjin in 1739

The oldest Tianjin was surrounded by city wall as it was also functioned as a fort for the emperor besides being a flourish port.(Fig. 1.3) The city wall was also recognized by its rectangular sharp as an ‘Abacus city’.(Fig. 1.4) The continual economic development had brought prosperity to Tianjin. Industries no longer limited to fishing and shipping.


Fig. 1.3 City map of Tianjin in 1846


Fig. 1.4  ‘Abacus city’ of Tianjin in Ming Dynasty

At that time, shops and ports were clustered organically and planning of the town was not well-defined, even though it had been populated by more than 200,000 people. The re-planning of ‘Haihe’ area was all catalyzed in the concession period.

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