Photos from a Saturday bike trip around Tianjin

Photos from this weekend: what’s left of the hutongs, the marriage market, inside a shuttered 100-year-old church building, the headless statue museum-restaurant (the 70’s were rough), and some neighbourhood shots. I didn’t take half these photos. Click them to see a bigger size.

Tianjin’s Marriage Market
I have to do an article on this marriage market! It’s just too awesome, and the people — hordes of parents and grandparents trying to arrange blind dates for their unmarried children — are super friendly and talkative. Some translations of the banners and signs that were hung around:

  • “Hand-in-Hand Marriage Introductions” (手牵手婚介) — a banner on a matchmaking company’s booth
  • “Help each other attack marriage” (互助征婚). “Attack” as in “tackle the problem”… I think… maybe “help each other request marriage”… I don’t know.
  • “Matrimony Information Exchange Station” (婚姻信息交流站) — includes a “Man department” (男区) and a “Woman department” (女区).

Many people advertise their child’s stats right on their shirt. The man in red has a daughter, the man in blue has a son:
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People also advertise from their bike baskets, or hang their child’s stats on lines in the “Matrimony Info Exchange Station.” Jessica interprets some details on an eligible bachelor for Nadina:
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These two guys are perusing in the woman department:

Inside the crumbling “Purple Bamboo Forest” church
We finally got inside the long-shuttered Zǐzhúlín jiàotáng (紫竹林教堂) (photo gallery); workers were inside when we arrived. Neither the workers nor the residents knew what was to become of it.
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Headless statue museum-restaurant
Finally returned to the headless statue restaurant — I don’t know what its real name is. It’s a museum-restaurant hybrid, full of “cultural relics,” which in this case means old statues, most of which were decapitated during the Cultural Revolution. I asked one of the attendants why they had no heads, just to see how she’d respond. She tactfully replied that there were some political movements in which people removed the heads. Points for being straight with the foreigner.

Nanshi during the Olympics
Since we were already in the area showing Nadina the town on a Saturday bike tour, we pedaled through what’s left of Nanshi, the hutongs that they kicked everyone out of for the Olympics.
They didn’t have time to flatten it completely before the Games, so they’ve built a massive wall around it. If you were looking at it, you’d just assume that behind the conspicuously high, long, connected billboards was a regular construction site. You can freely go in, but finding entrance points was a little tricky.

Inside was like a ghost town, only more depressing because there were more people still there than I expected. A few squatter’s shacks have been set up, some with brightly coloured flags flying from the roof, and there were still small children running around playing, so I wonder if some families are refusing to leave. There was still, to my surprise, remnants of one of the larger street markets selling vegetables. The key maker (photo) was still there, although the bathhouse (photo) across the street from him is nothing but the front wall. The tea house (photo) is gone. The vendor who originally helped me find Mr. Wu on my first return trip was still there in the same place with her cart, but she said she’s already moved out and just comes in to do business (I have no idea why). Two-thirds of Mr. Wu’s building is demolished. Mostly only some of the larger apartment buildings remain untoppled.
Scavengers were picking through the vast lots of rubble; one guy had a metal detector. The wall curved out of sight; it looked bigger from the inside.

Other places
We biked all over. There were lots of swimmers in the river (I want to swim so bad, but I would need a really good excuse to justify exposing myself to that “water”). The “Tianjin Incident” church (building) still isn’t open for viewing; the church (people) meet next door in a metal shed that’s decorated with spray-painted angels and Santa Claus with his sleigh and reindeer. I don’t know what that’s about, and I’m afraid to find out.
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I had to walk to borrow a bike for this trip; it was a gorgeous afternoon so here’s some photos from our neighbourhood:
dscn8429luvers.JPG copy-of-dscn8435fishing.JPG copy-of-dscn8423sanma.JPG copy-of-dscn8432odd.JPG The three-wheel truck is called a “three horse” (三马 / sān mÇŽ). This one is parked at a neighbouring stairwell. On nice days, people often take their birds to the park, put them in trees or on that grass, and sit and watch them.

7 thoughts on “Photos from a Saturday bike trip around Tianjin”

  1. You’ve managed to make Tianjin interesting. I go there all the time, but had never visited the marriage market or that church…will have to give ole TJ a second look ;)

  2. Hey, how’s you guys mandurin comin’, do you think you could add a friend of mine to the marriage market. His name is Lex Hunt. Description goes…Tall Dark and handsome Aramark Assistant Director at ACU. Blue Eyes, very business savey. 29 years old. I’m kidding

  3. whew I finally arrived into Tianjin, and got internet! I haven’t had time to explore it, so my experience right now is sooo different from yours, to me its like the ratio to foreigners is pretty much 1:1 million, and since I can’t speak Chinese and nobody can speak English I feel pretty isolated right now.

    I have posted some of my experiences on my blog:

  4. haha, yes, Tianjin, city of magic and wonder… you know, I need to come up with a marketing slogan for Tianjin. Maybe we should have a contest.

    Sean – it doesn’t matter what he looks like. If he’s an American, we can hook him fast.

    Kiryu – welcome to Tianjin! Where are you exactly? If you aren’t way out on the edge of town, then a bike can get you almost anywhere you want to go. You can see more stuff you might want to check out one day in our Tianjin category. The photo galleries in the right sidebar are also mostly of Tianjin. If you see anything interesting, just let us know and I can tell you how to get there. Your arrival blog post made me laugh because it reminded me a lot of our first experiences here.

    Tim – Tianjin is still a little old school, but it has a lot of important Chinese history from the 2nd Opium War, and a lot of interesting people with stories to tell. Since it’s not a major foreigner-magnet like Beijing and Shanghai (though there are some foreign ghettos), foreigners still retain a little of that ‘specialness’ that we all love and hate.

  5. Joel: Thanks!
    I live near TuSheng and NanLou Subway stations.
    I have finished my Introductory Teaching ESL classes, so I have like nothing else to do but explore until Sept 1, taking baby steps though, from Tusheng, to NanLou, to Xia Wang Fang, to Xiao Bi lo… haven’t gone further than that though.

    oh and if you know a good place to eat near those, and that has PICTURES that I can point at.. well that would be great.

    I have gotten to my surroundings, all the screaming and yelling doesn’t bother me that much ^__^

  6. One of the best things they gave us when we arrived was a card with your address on it in characters and in pinyin. That way if you’re lost you can just show it to a taxi driver.

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