Tianjin is a costal city that blends Chinese tradition with Western colonial architecture. Its past is fused with the present.
Most visitors limit their Tianjin trips to the Yongle Bridge, the Eye of Tianjin, the Italian Style Street and St. Joseph’s Cathedral. But for Beijingers, none of these are particularly interesting.
Still, the city has a collection of special museums that offer interesting collections you would be hard-pressed to find in the capital.
Tianjin Postal Service Museum
Tianjin is the birthplace of the modern Chinese postal service. The city had the first stamps, the first postage forms, the first postage regulations and more. Many of these old objects have been brought together in the Tianjin Postal Service Museum.
The collection reaches back into the photos, relics and sculptures of the last dynasty to show how China’s postal services have evolved over the centuries.
While the number of items in its collections is small, most are rare pieces that cannot be seen anywhere else.
One of its most valuable exhibits is the original manuscript of “Proposed Stamps and Postcards for the Imperial Chinese Post,” a landmark work by Robert Alexis de Villard that set the form and printing process of the first Chinese stamps.
It also includes samples of the first “Da Long” stamp and “The King of Chinese Stamp” in its permanent collection.
The museum’s stamp collection is the dream of any amateur collector, and its gift shop sells some interesting hand drawn postcards.
Take Buses 13, 35, 96 or 97 to Chengde Dao Station
Free admission, Treasure Room tickets priced 5 yuan
(022) 2331 0386
Shoe Culture Museum
Most people put more attention on their clothes than their shoes, let alone caring which kind of shoes people wore in ancient times.
But for casual shoe lovers or people with a hardcore case of the Imelda Marcos Syndrome, the Chinese Shoe Culture Museum could be worth a stop.
The museum puts you on the trail of historic shoeprints as you follow footwear from the ancient past to the present. Each exhibit introduces a new footwear evolution and its social usage.
The custom-made shoes used for cheating on the imperial exam might be the coolest exhibit.
The museum also offers visitors a chance to make their own shoes with ancient tools. A custom pair of shoes could be a cool keepsake or interesting addition to your wardrobe.
Princess’s Residence Museum
This private museum grew out of the former residence of the Qing Princess Deling.
In 1904, the princess lived in the courtyard house to escape an unsatisfactory marriage. Although she left in 1905, this yard got its name from the noble’s brief stay.
The home has a number of artifacts that were used by the princess. A walk through the house can give you an idea what life as a Qing Dynasty noble might have been like.
The museum hosts daily reenactments of Deling’s imperial wedding ceremony.
Take Buses 15, 161, 168, 635, 657, 693, 840 or 855 to Gulou Station
(022) 2727 7755
Old City of Tianjin Museum
If you just want to learn more about Old Tianjin, it might be a good idea to pass up the crowded Tianjin Museum for the ancient photos and objects in this small museum.
The museum has a side role as a crosstalk comedy performance venue.
If you’ve been shopping on the nearby Gulou Commercial Street, a cup of tea and a show at this museum might be a great way to relax.
Take Buses 15, 161, 168, 635, 657, 693, 840, 855, 863 or 865
(022) 2728 3899
This hundred-year-old Western building is packed with broken china collected by Zhang Lianzhi.
The roof, walls, floors, and banisters all feature rare fragments.
The house sparkles under the reflection of sunshine. But if you are one of the millions of people who claim to suffer from Trypophobia, it might be best to steer clear. The uneven and pitted pottery fragments could give you nightmares.
(022) 2712 3366