Tianjin, China, is an old city. It was once known as Zhigu (Straight Port), and has existed almost as long as China has. It gained its name (The Heavenly Ford) when it became a main trading port in 1404, after the Emperor opened the Grand Canal of China to that point.
As such it has thousands of years worth of historical sites, ancient buildings and temples. When you plan your trip to Tianjin, there are some places that are worth seeing along the way.
Dule Temple, about ninety minutes’ drive from Tianjin, has been standing for more than a thousand years. The structure has survived 28 earthquakes in its long life, and is dedicated to Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of mercy.
The temple is a beautiful example of ancient architecture, and its central hall contains a 52-foot ceramic statue of Guanyin which was erected in the Liao Dynasty, somewhere between 916 AD and 1125 AD.
The annexes are dedicated to other, more minor gods. The temple is one of the oldest surviving wooden buildings in China. Admission is free and it is open daily between dawn and dusk.
Great Wall of China
The Huangya Pass section of the Great Wall of China passes at the northern tip of Tianjin. The Great Wall of China, not only an architectural marvel, is one of the only human-built structures visible from space.
The original construction of the Great Wall of China dates back to 556 AD, but large portions were reconstructed under the Ming Dynasty. The 25-mile stretch of wall at Huangya is just such a portion.
There is also a museum on-site, dedicated to the history of the Great Wall. Access to the Great Wall is free, but the museum charges for access. Both are open daily.
Ancient Culture Street
The Ancient Culture Street in Tianjin is a street, lined with shops and temples, in the ancient Chinese style. The area is quite touristy but in walking down this street you can really get a sense of what the city looked like five hundred or even a thousand years ago.
Most items sold on the street are simple souvenirs, but there are also several artisan shops along the way that sell high-quality art pieces in the traditional style. The street itself is open around the clock but the shops lining it keep their own hours.
The Temple of Great Compassion
Located in the Heibei district of Tianjin and accessible by the main train station is the Buddhist Temple of Great Compassion. Built circa 1650 AD, the temple once held the skull of the monk Xuenzang, though in the 1950s it was donated to the Patna museum in India.
The temple and monastery complex is still active today, and retains much of its original architecture and sculpture. The temple is open every day from 9 AM to 4:30 PM and access is free.
Tianjin is a phenomenal place to explore China’s history. Though often overshadowed by its more popular neighbor, Beijing, Tianjin is less crowded, more traditional and less tourist-oriented than the more popular cities, making for a more authentic experience.