Narrative 1: Old town VS Concessions

The first three narratives are about analyizing history context of our group’s study object: Material Construction Project for Tianjin Special Municipality city mad by Liang Sicheng and Zhang Rui, which will be called for short as the Liang Zhang Plan.


Ever since being opened by the aggressors in the Second Opium War, Tianjin had become crucial treaty port in the North China. Total nine countries demarcated their concessions in the city.  Because each country develops their concession with different planning strategies, it led to the “patchwork” feature of the city fabric due to regional segmentation. The split development gradually created the gap between two districts: one is the traditional district which centered by the old town and the other is the new district composed of the concessions.

The city planning afterwards, either by Yuan Shikai, Beiyang government or Liang Zhang, attempted to counterbalance the uneven development and to compete with the concessions in order to shift the city center back to non-concession area.

In 1901, Yuan Shikai was appointed successor of Zhili Governor at the end of Qing Dynasty. He launched westernization movement in Tianjin. In 1903, they formed the earliest district plan of the non-concession area of Tianjin, which is the Northeast side of the old town—Hebei New District. This actually brought up another reason why Yuan developed the Heibei New District: because the train station was located among several concessions, it’s very inconvenient for Chinese officials to travel, so they decided to build a new train station and incidentally develop this new district. But even though Yuan tried to compete with the concessions area by putting all the government departments and new schools in the new district, the business center of city inevitably moved to the concessions.

In the 1920 Beiyang government planning, they are also trying to develop a new area, which is the south area in this case. (The detail of this plan will be discussed further in the later blog.)

In the 1930 Liang Zhang Plan, although they planned the city as a whole rather than developing a new district only (because they believed in the concessions would be retrieved sooner or later), they planned the main axis of the city going cross the old town and non-concession area.


To sum up, during this period urban planning was being used as a tool by different regimes to claim governance over the district and to compete for the new city center. In other word, development of the non-concession area versus concession area represented the competition of the Chinese regimes versus aggressor’s regimes, not only in the sense of ability to develop, but also of political legitimacy.

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