Tianjin: A city that paved and sold its soul
October 28, 2008
Tianjin’s recent history is volatile and bloody. The front of the Boxer Rebellion, the uprising against foreign influence in the country, the city’s legacy in the founding of modern China is strongly held. But the city itself, however, couldn’t be more fluid. More fervent to build a great modern urban destination that even Beijing, Tianjin has demolished and rebuilt its entirety, paving over the hutongs that once made a labyrinth of its streets, building highrises and hypermarkets to meet every demand of the wealthy. The city, like many other so-called second- and third-tier cities in China has positioned itself as a global center for international business. Whether the bid will be successful is anybody’s guess. The people of Tianjin, however, now have longer commutes, higher prices, and haze to rival the countries industrial centers. In one particularly vivid example of the demolition and construction cycle, pictures below show a former hutong (small residential alleyways that until recently comprised every city in China) broken down to bedrock, flattened into a million little fragments of bricks. Not to worry, though. Tianjin has built a model “Ancient Culture Street” to show what the old city would have looked like. Just as with the antique market, the street is bustling with tourists and locals hoping to get a glimpse of the past that isn’t very distant.