Without profound historical and cultural background, a city is pale as well even though it possess many newly-built buildings. Old buildings and old houses themselves are living urban culture. “Old houses”have their own “life and death”, as well as their own “spirit and soul”.
As a city with memory, the national historical and cultural renowned city Tianjin has long been known as Exhibition of the World's Architecture. It is rare in China and even the world to preserve so many national old buildings and western-style buildings. As a tangible cultural form, architecture carries and continues the history of a city. Tianjin possess a good number of historic buildings with great values. Thousands of western-style houses leaved by the nine countries are merged with the existing traditional buildings in all generations, which is a precious historical and cultural heritage and non-renewable urban resources. Now Tianjin has 872 historic buildings that covers 1.56 million square meters in the style of British, French, American, Russian, Italian, Australian, Belgian or German, etc.
The construction in Tianjin has its unique characteristic, and all sorts of buildings are relatively centralized in blocks. There are both richly-ornamented and elegant old buildings, as well as many novel and chic western-style buildings, which is colorful in architectural style and various in architectural art. Multiple styles coexist including Mediaeval-style of Britain, Gothic-style of Germany, Roman-style of France, Classical-style of Russia, and Athenian-style of Greece, etc. The Chinese and Western styles complement each other perfectly. People in Tianjin usually refer those western buildings as “small western-style villas”. However, built in this land, they were implanted with more or less traditional Chinese appeal, even though the small western-style villas had exotic atmosphere. The well-preserved buildings have witnessed the day-to-day change and development of Tianjin. Here, we selected a few iconic and representative style construction to induce the vast travel enthusiasts and those full of curiosity about Tianjin, the charming ancient city, to appreciate it carefully and explore it deeply.
The constructions on Jiefang Road are essence of Tianjin. The western style buildings on the both sides of street are full of distinctive exotic flavor. Walking on the street, the exotic building comes into the view one after one, making the tourists feel like standing on the foreign land. The grand building group is luxury and splendid. Its European-style contrast sharply with graceful and restrained Haihe River. The two rows of buildings would not be less attractive than Shanghai's Bund area. The only difference between the two lies in one is along the street while another is along the river. Instead, it reflects the understated elegance of Tianjin.
Jiefang Bridge is located at the north end of Finance Street. The bridge crosses over Haihe River. It was initially built in 1902, and took four years for rebuilt since 1927. Then it was named “International Bridge”.
The bridge is divided into three spans. The middle span is vertical rotating movable stride with gears. The length of middle span is 46.94 meters and the breadth is 19.5 meters. The other two spans are more than 24 meters long, and the central part is 7.21 meter high. It is fair to say that Jiefang Bridge is the most expensive bridge in modern history of China with two million liang silver invested.
There are several retractable iron bridges over Haihe River, while Jiefang Bridge is the largest one and of highest level. It is said that Jiefang Bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel, a remarkable French master architect.
On July 22, 2008, Jiefang Bridge took on an entirely new look after improvement and restoration according to its original appearance. After 33 years, Jiefang Bridge came into service once again, and added new scenery to Haihe River. Even the designer of the bridge is still a mystery, it can never shake Jiefang Bridge’s role as the most representative landmark of Tianjin.
Tianjin Quanye Chang is located in the central business district at Shunjiang Road, Heping District, Tianjin. It was a seven-story building built in 1928. The height of the building is 33 meters, while the construction area 24000 square meters, and the business area 17300 square meters. It used to be the largest market in Tianjin, as well as a large-scale commercial and trade zone with business and entertainment industry in one. It is the representative of Tianjin commerce.
It owes the establishment of the building to Gao Xingqiao, who was the manager of Jingxing coal mine then. It was him that raised funds and employeed Abre, French engineer of Yonghe Company designed the building. So it smacks obvious eclecticism flavor. The horizontal inscribed board was written by the modern great calligrapher Hua Shikui, who had been the senior officer in late Qing Dynasty. The board was later listed as the famous board in China by related authorities. It is the fishing touch of the construction culture of Quanye Chang.
The main building is of five-story, and the corner partial building is seven floors, which are reinforced concrete frame structure. Above the seventh floor, there is a soaring tower, comprises a two-story hexagonal base, a two-story round body and a domal structure top. The tower is decorated with flagpole and lightning conductor. The whole building is majestic and splendid. It is not only a shopping market, but also a large-scale entertainment venue. At that time, the market had “Eight Great Entertainment Venues in Tianjin”, namely, Tian Gong Cinema, Tianhuajing Theater, Tianle Theater, Tiansheng Theater, Grand View Garden, Tianwei Ball Club, Tianlu Teahouse, Roof Park and Tianwaitian. There were always performance of Peking Opera stars at Tianhuajing Theater, which had attracted lots spectators. The market of this kind was the only and first in north China.
Tianjin Quanye Chang is one of the most excellent modern construction, as well as an important historical and cultural heritage in Tianjin and China. Quanye Chang plays a quite important role in the development history of Tianjin history, culture and construction.
Along with the other ancient and modern buildings, Quanye Chang fully demonstrates the continuity of the arts and skills of construction in Tianjin and China. So it is also a vivid teaching materials for patriotism, socialism, national and revolutionary tradition.
Some say, there is a Great World in Shanghai, and a Quanye Chang in Tianjin, if you fail visiting these two place, you can never say you have been Shanghai and Tianjin. Quanye Chang has been the landmark and symbol of Tianjin, it is a distinctive representative of Tianjin construction culture.
The former site of Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Tianjin Branch
The building of HSBC Tianjin branch is an important construction of concession era in Tianjin. It is located at No.84 Jiefang North Road. HSBC is a British capital bank. The building is designed by Burnet, a Scottish architect of British Dowa engineer department, and built in 1924.
The building is divided into main building and back building. The main building is a three-story steel-concrete structure of western classical revival. The total area is 440 square meters, and the construction area 5539 square meters. There are 98 rooms. The building is based on stone, built with high steps, and decorated with granite on the outer walls. In the front and two sides of the building, there are 12 huge Ionic peristeles, which manifest the majestic and lofty features of ancient Rome pillar. Each entrance is equipped with a carving copper door.
The hall on the first floor is for business. There are 16 marble columns steeled symmetrically. Outside the counter, the hall is decorated with marble floor, while inside the counter is wood floor. All these decoration was done by American Kennedy company.
Business hall adopts cross beam, and paved with ferroglass, which ensured the better lighting performance. The roof of hall is arch and order structure.The back building is a accessory occupancy, which is of western classical style. Now it is Bank of China, Tianjin Branch.
HSBC aims to provide financing and settlement service for companies engaged in trading with China. It was founded in Hong Kong in 1864, and started business in 1865. Then HSBA set up branches in the mainland cities, such as Tianjin.
The main business of HSBC in old China are international exchange, note issue, loans and deposits, handling and lending Old Chinese government’s foreign debt, and management of Old China’s customs, salt industry, and tax revenue.
Taku Forts or Dagu Forts, also called “the Screen of Tianjin”, are located at the Hai River estuary, East Taku Street, Tanggu District, Tianjin municipality. They were first built on both sides of Hai River. Since Dagukou is the entrance of Beijing and Tianjin, it was from the middle of Ming dynasty that ports were built here. In the 21st year of Qing Jiaqing Emperor’s reign in 1816, two more ports were rebuilt on both banks of Hai River estuary, named “South Port” and “North Port” respectively. In the 21st year of Qing Daoguang in 1841, another one was added in the north and two in the south. In the 8th year of Qing Xianfeng in 1858, Imperial Commissioner Sengge Rinchen carried out a comprehensive renovation of the forts and continued to construct them into a complete defense system with five separate ports, called "Wēi" (Might),"Zhèn"( Thunder) , "Hǎi"( sea), "Mén"( gate) and "Gāo" (high). Later, the sixth called the “Shitoufeng” Fort and 25 small batteries were built on the northern shore. All these ports were constructed of wood and brick with an external curtain of concrete in the shape of square and round, around 10 to 17 meters (33 t0 49 feet) high on average. Surrounded by retaining walls, they served as an immense defense system on both sides of Hai River estuary.
After the outbreak of the Second Opium War, foreign invaders drove their warships to Dagukou, threatening the capital of Qing dynasty. On June 25th, 1859, the defending troops headed by Commander-in-chief Shi Rongchun had wounded or sunk over ten enemy ships after fighting for a day and night bravely. The British fleet Admiral James Hope was also injured severely. In 1990, when the Eight-Nation Alliance Forces invaded China by Dagukou, the Forts soldiers and Boxers resisted foreign invaders shoulder to shoulder. However, the Forts were lost and the defending General Luo Rongguang sacrificed himself for they were outnumbered. In 1901, according to the treaty of “Boxer Protocol”, the imperialist powers dismantled most of the Forts forcibly to benefit their invading against China. At last, only the “Wei” Fort on the southern bank and “Hai” Fort on the northern bank remained. The so-called “Humen in the south and Dagu in the north” are two critical costal defense barriers in the recent history of China. Later the Taku Ports site was listed as a Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level. Besides, it was also evaluated as one of the “Top Ten Scenic Spots in Tianjin” with the name of “Haimengusai”. The remaining “Wei” Fort site has been repaired and opened to the public, which is also a base for patriotism education in Tianjin.