We’ve returned to Tianjin’s “south city” twice during the weekend following the first trip, chatted with more people, witnessed things disappear before our eyes, and spent some more time with Mr. Wu. We learned a little bit more, and noticed some things we missed the first time, like some of the artistry built into the old structures. Some of it disappeared over the weekend:
We’ve added tons more photos to the 南市 gallery – Jessica’s even in some! =)
We met an ancient couple living in a compound that used to have four different courtyards, each with 20 families. They were the only family left in their section. They said they’d lived there for over 50 years. On Friday the main gate was guarded by a pair of weather-worn stone lions, some interesting woodwork stretched over the doors – by Sunday these things were gone, along with their duck, duck pen, and neighbour’s houses:
On Friday they’d told me they’re not going, but I couldn’t tell if they meant immediately, or at all. We crawled around the compound a bit and found a few other families still there, and some old stonework that looked interesting. There were even some other Tianjin locals there, just trying to see the place before it was gone. They said it was one of the last of its kind in Tianjin.
From what people have told us, this area of the city grew up near the river where goods would come in. It was a major market area, incredibly dense, with all the best and the worst of the city crammed into a few square kilometers. Now, if you step out of the rubble and cross a few lanes of traffic, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a shiny new trendy shopping centre with Western fast-food restaurants, thumping bass, and expensive clothes.
Before I left on Friday, I couldn’t resist checking out the local public bath. One large room was full of beds, tables, and a few dozen naked, smoking men either sleeping or playing cards (pretty sure they weren’t sleeping and smoking at the same time). The back had a room with two hot-tub size pools and a wall of showers. They were all super friendly and didn’t seem to mind at all that a foreigner was having a little walk-through.
We’ve added many more photos to the 南市 gallery.