Tientsin - Encyclopedia

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TIENTSIN, the largest commercial city in Chih-li, the metropolitan province of China. Pop. (1907), about 750,000. It is situated at the junction of the Peiho and the Hun-ho, which is connected by the grand Canal with the Yangtsze-kiang. It is a prefectural city, and has, since the conclusion of the foreign treaties, become the residence of the viceroy of the province during a great portion of the year. The town is built on a vast alluvial plain, which extends from the mountains beyond Peking to the sea, and through which the Peiho runs a circuitous course, making the distance by water from Tientsin to the coast about 70 m. as against 30 m. by railway.

The appearance of the city has greatly changed since the Boxer rising in 1900. After that event the city walls, which measured about three quarters of a mile each way, were razed, wide streets were made, the course of the river straightened, electric lighting and tramways introduced and a good water service supplied. Among the public buildings are a university (in which instruction is given in western learning) and an arsenal. There are several cotton mills and important rice and salt markets. The city has always been a great commercial depot; a wharf nearly two miles long affords ample facilities for vessels able to cross the bar of the Peiho, over which there is a depth of water varying from 9 to 12 ft.

In 1907 the imports amounted to 79,500,000 taels (a tael in 1907 averaged 3s. 3d.); viz. foreign imports 61,200,000, native imports 18,317,000 taels; the exports in the same year amounted to 17,253,000. Valuable cargoes of tea are landed here for carriage overland, via Kalgan and Kiakhta, to Siberia. During the winter the river is frozen. The principal articles of import are shirtings, drills, jeans and twills, opium, woollens, steel, lead, needles, J apanese sea-weed and sugar; and of export, wool, skins, beans and pease, straw braid, coal, dates, tobacco and rhubarb. The coal exported is brought from the Kaiping colliery to the east of Tientsin; its output in 1885 was 181,039 tons and in 1904 28,956 tons.

The importance of Tientsin has been enhanced by the railways connecting it with Peking on the one hand and with Shanhai-kwan and Manchuria on the other. The British concession, in which the trade centres, is situated on the right bank of the river Peiho below the native city, and occupies some 200 acres. It is held on a lease in perpetuity granted by the Chinese government to the British Crown, which sublets plots to private owners in the same way as is done at Hankow. The local management is entrusted to a municipal council organized on lines similar to those which obtain at Shanghai. Besides the British concession the French, Germans, Russians, Japanese, Austrians, Italians and Belgians have separate settlements, five miles in all, the river front being governed by foreign powers.

In 1853 Tientsin was besieged by an army of T'aip'ing rebels, which had been detached from the main force at Nanking for the capture of Peking. The defences of Tientsin, however, saved the capital, and the rebels were forced to retreat. Five years later Lord Elgin, accompanied by the representative of France, steamed up the Peiho, after having forced the barriers at Taku, and took peaceable possession of the town. Here the treaty of 1858 was signed. But in 1860, in consequence of the treacherous attack made on the British plenipotentiary the preceding year at Taku, the city and suburbs were occupied by an allied British and French force, and were held for two years. The city was constituted an open port. On the establishment of Roman Catholic orphanages some years later the pretensions of the priests so irritated the people that on the occurrence of an epidemic in the schools in the year 1870 they attacked the French and Russian establishments and murdered twenty-one of the foreign inmates, besides numbers of their native followers. The Chinese government suppressed the riot, paid 80,000 in compensation and sent a representative to Europe to apologize for the outbreak.

During the period 1874-1894, when Li Hung-Chang was viceroy of Chih-li and ex officio superintendent of trade, he made Tientsin his headquarters and the centre of his experiments in military and naval education. As a consequence the city became the chief focus of enterprise and foreign progress. Having arrogated to himself the practical control of the foreign policy of the nation, Li's yamen became the scene of many important negotiations, and attracted distinguished visitors from all parts of the globe. The loss of prestige consequent on the Japanese War brought about the retirement of Li, and with it the political importance of Tientsin ceased. Both the foreign concessions and the native city suffered severely during the hostilities resulting from the Boxer movement in June - July, 1900. (See CHINA: History § D.)

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