The formation of Tianjin has undergone a long period of time. The name of Tianjin, first emerged during the early period of Emperor Yongle of China's Ming Dynasty, means a ferry crossing where the Son of Heaven has passed. In the second year of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1404), Tianjin started building fortifications and defenses as a strategic military place. In 1860 Tianjin was turned into an open port. For years its industrial production and port trade volume were only second to Shanghai, becoming the second largest commercial city in China and the biggest financial and trading center in north China. After the founding of the People's Republic of China Tianjin was turned into a municipality directly under the central authorities.

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Local Culture

Folk Art
  • Yangliuqing New Year Pictures
    Yangliuqing New Year Pictures, one of the three famous traditional New Year Pictures in China, is named after its manufacturing place, Yangliuqing Town in the western suburbs of Tianjin in early 17th century. Adopting block print and colored hand drawing techniques, that is printing with woodblocks before painting, Yangliuqing New Year Pictures are an combination of the highest wood engraving attainments with unique characteristics of Chinese brush painting. Yangliuqing New Year Pictures, using both symbolism and realism, have a wide range of subjects including realities, local customs and historical stories. It is a popular folk art liked by the masses of people.

  • Zhang's Painted Clay Figurines
    Located in Ancient Culture Street in Nankai District is a craftsman's shop best known for its fine specimens of clay figurines. As early as in the Qing Dynasty, Tianjin had already established it self as a place well known for its clay figurines. Particularly, Zhang's Painted Clay Figurines, a school of figurine-making in its own right, has contributed greatly to this reputation. The brilliant workmanship as shown in the clay figurines has long been so widely recognised that Zhang's Painted Clay Figurines has become a household name that stands for the Zhang remarkable styleof figurine-making. Its founder, Zhang Mingshan, learned the trade in early childhood from his father, and elevated clay figurine making from a mere skill to a form of art. Thereafter, the craft has been handed down through generations of Zhang's family. Yet in every generation there has been a propensity added to the development of Zhang's figurine making tradition. Today, Zhang Naiying, the fifth-generation of the Zhang family, has carried out the tradition, The Zhang's Clay Figurine Shop in the Ancient Culture Street draws clients like a magnet.

  • Wei's Kites
    Wei Yuantai, a kite-making master who has been in the trade for 70 years, has contributed greatly to the development of the handicraft. He has improved the conventional designs and created foldable kites.   Wei's kites display lifelike imitation of the subjects, good choice of colours and fine workmanship. Moreover, they are made of high quality materials such as silk and satin for the sail, and fine, long and flexible bamboo strips for the frame.
Opera & Drama
  • Peking Opera
    The Peking Opera group in Tianjin has been augmented, the opera lists have been added, and the opera stage has taken on a prosperous outlook. "Burning the Wanghai (overseeing the sea) Building" and "the No.6 Door" produced by the Tianjin Peking Opera Troupe once made a sensation throughout the country. Now, Tianjin has such opera communities as Tianjin Peking Opera Troupe, the Third Tianjin Peking Opera Troupe and Tianjin Youth Peking Opera Troupe as well as an Peking Opera Art Exchange Assistant Center. Tianjin people are fond of Peking Opera.
  • Ping Opera
    Ping Opera grew out of Lianhualao, which was popular in Eastern Hebei Province and became popular in Tianjin in Guangxu Period, Qing Dynasty. In 1915, a Lianhualao troupe led by Cheng Zhaocai and Yue Mingzhu came to Tianjin and won success at their first performance in Yanle Teahouse (now Hongqi Theater). This opera originated from people and from its tune to content all cater to the taste of Tianjin citizens, so it developed quickly here and Tianjin became its sourceland. When Ping Opera became prosperous in Tianjin, the Kun Storytelling Houses around Houjiahou, Nanshi and Hebei Avenue all invited Ping actors and actresses to perform there. In this way, Ping Opera became even more popular. From 1915 to 1930's, the Ping troupes in Tianjin amounted to dozens and its climax came. A group of out standing Ping actresses including Liu Cuixia, Bai Yushuang, Ai Lianjun, Hua Yulan, etc. emerged. It plays an important role in the development of Chinese Ping Opera.

    After 1949, Tianjin Ping Opera Stage took on a new look and many new plays welcomed by the masses emerged, such as "Liu Qiao'er", "Liu Hulan", "Sister-in-law Xianglin", etc. In 1953, Tianjin Ping Opera Troupe was established. In 1958, Tianjin Ping Opera Institute was set up. At the same time, some traditional plays appeared again on the stage after renovation. After 1979, some new plays such as "Two Chaste Girls", "Regret in Dagu", and the prize-winning "Willow in the South of the Village". There are now Tianjin Ping Opera Institute (governing two troupes), Jixian County Ping Opera Troupe, Baodi County Ping Opera Troupe, Jinghai County Ping Opera Troupe, Ninghe County Ping Opera Troupe and Hangu Ping Opera Troupe, altogether 7 troupes. Now, Ping Opera is still very popular in Tianjin.
  • Hebei Bangzi
    Developed from shanshaan Bangzi, Hebei Bangzi performance appeared in Tianjin in Daoguang Period, Qing Dynasty and was called "Qinqiang Opera" then. It developed quickly in Tianjin and gradually forms the "Wei Bangzi"(Tianjin wei) style, represented by He Jingyun (He Dazi), Wei Liansheng (Yuan Yuanhong) and actresses Xiao Xiangshui, Jin Gangzuan. At that time, on Tianjin opera stage, Hebei Bangzi Became fashionable for a time. Even Peking Opera was inferior by comparison. After the actresses gained fame in Tianjin, they had influence on a generation. Large numbers of talented actors and actresses came forth and became famous all over the country. Other cities came here to invite actresses. Tianjin Hebei Bangzi actresses have been to lots of places, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hebei, Northeast, Jiangsu, Shangdong, Xinjiang and even Kulun (People's Republic of Mongolia now). From 1930's and 1940's, Hebei Bangzi declined gradually.

    After 1949, Hebei Bangzi was revived. Wang Qinglin (Yin Dazi), Han Junqing, Liang Ruilan, Ge Wenjuan, Jin Baohuan and Wang Yuqing was active on stage again. In 1950's and 1960's, Hebei Bangzi was flourishing and developing. Not only Tianjin Hebei Bangzi Troupe and Tianjin Xiao Bai Hua a Troupe were established, but lots of outstanding plays were written or recovered, for example, "Qin Xianglian", "Xun Guanniang", "Colorful Bridge". Tianjin Xiao Bai Hua Troupe was fairly famous around the country then. Now there are No.1 Hebei Bangzi Troupe, Bai Hua Troupe, Youth Bangzi Troupe of Hexi District and Wuqing County Bangzi Troupe in Tianjin.
  • Modern Drama
    Tianjin is the cradle of North China modern drama, and the birthplace of Li Shutong (Rabbi Hongyi), the one who laid the foundation of Chinese modern drama. In 1908, the forerunners of Chinese modern drama, Wang Zhongsheng and Liu Yizhou, led "Chunyang Troupe" from Shanghai to perform in Tianjin. This was the earliest modern drama performed here. The center of early Chinese modern drama activity was Tianjin Nankai Middle School. Then Yan Fansun and Zhang Boling both advocated modern drama and set up "Nankai New Troupe". Zhou Enlai was a cadreman there. He has joined in the writing, directing, playing of modern drama, and has published related theoretical articles. Many talented people emerged due to the active modern drama activity there. Cao Yu, Huang Zuolin, Xie Tian, Shi Hui, etc. All have benefited from the nurturing of Tianjin modern drama activity. In 1930's and 1940's, many troupes came to perform and made Tianjin modern drama stage prosperous again. After the victory of the war against Japanese, some troupes with progressive tendencies often came to Tianjin to perform progressive modern dramas, such as "Kong Que Dan" and "Hu Fu" written by Guo Moruo, "Wen Tianxiang" Written by Wu Zuguang, "Sheng Guan Tu" written by Chen Baichen, etc.

    After 1949, some theatre troupes brought new theatrical performance, they put on operas like "Our Own Army and the Civilians", Which brought new tendencies to the stage. In the 1950's and 1960's, Tianjin modern drama became more flourishing. In 1951, the people's Arts Theatre of Tianjin was set up, writers and artists of this arts theatre wrote and performed a lot of excellent plays, such as "Family", "Thunderstorm", "Chai Tou Feng", "Flying Snowflakes Welcome the Spring", etc. And they also cultivated a lot of good actors. After the 1980's, the People's Arts Theatre of Tianjin again wrote and performed some influencing plays, which was contributive to the flourishing modern drama stage and movie and TV screen of Tianjin.
Quyi Ballard
  • Acrobatics
    Soul-stirring acrobatic show is an art loved by friends from all countries. Tianjin Acrobatics Troupe is one of the famous Chinese troupes of the kind. The programs offered by the troupe are original in conception. Their skills are superb, winning many awards at domestic and foreign competitions.
  • Xiang Sheng
    Xiang Sheng is a form of art performance with a long history, a wide circulation and a solid masses base. Although the Xiang Sheng artists regarded Dongfang Shuo in Han Dynasty as the founder of the art of Xiang Sheng, but it was in Tong Guang Years of Qing Dynasty when this art actually came into being and developed. In early years, there were No-fearing Poor (Zhu Shaowen), Wan Renmi and Li Dexi, etc. performing at the Sky Bridge in Beijing. And they contributed much to the creation and development of the art of Xiang Sheng. They have created many new stories in their practical performances, which greatly enriched the contents of the art of Xiang Sheng. Although the art of xiang Sheng originated in Beijing, but, as a port city, Tianjin is very close to Beijing, and it has become a must place for many players of the art of Xiang Sheng. And there appears appears a trend that any of the new stories should obtain the approval from audiences in the City of Tianjin at first before it is going to be showed in Beijing.

    Many of the Xiang Sheng performers have played in Tianjin for several years, and after they achieved fame, they will be shown before the audiences throughout the country, such as Hou Baolin, Zhang Shouchen, Guo Rongqi. The oldest artist in the current circle of the art of Xiang Sheng is Ma Sanli, who became famous first in Tianjin, too. Apart from them, Chang Lian'an, Chang Baokun, Chang Baoting, Bai Quanfu, Su Wenmao, Gao Yingpei and Fan Zhenyu, etc. are all in the same case. Although Tianjin is not the home of the art of Xiang Sheng, it is real rich soil, on which the art of Xiang Sheng is growing and developing. The citizens of Tianjin love the art pattern of Xiang Sheng, and the performances of Xiang Sheng have brought much more pleasure and laughters to them.
  • Tianjin Kuaiban
    The Tianjin Kuaiban was a new tune that came into being in the 50s and it is created and developed by the masses. Such Kuaiban is performed in the dialect of Tianjin. And it uses Shu Laibao's counting and singing, and Kuaiban Shu's tempo board in its patterns. And it is also accompanied with Tune of "Shu zi" in Tianjin shi Tune. It is played with a 3-chord Guitar and is very unique. The style of Tianjin Kuaiban is very strong, straightforward, bright and humorous, full of strong and deep flavor of real life and local society. It is very much loved by the people in Tianjin, and by the people in other provinces and cities, as well.
  • Xicheng Ban
    Xicheng Ban is a native tune that grew up in Tianjin and its language is just the dialect of local Tianjin. Both its speech and singing are rich in local flavor. The voice of Xicheng Ban is generous, moving, tragic and encouraging. And its method of singing and its tune are very close to speech and its contents fairly clearly reflect the life and feelings of the people at that time. So, it was very popular with the people of Tianjin. In those years, there was to vacancy while a Xicheng Ban was being performed in a teahouse. In early years of Min Guo, Bao he Xuan Tea House and Hairui Tea House in the north of Tianjin were special places for the show of Xicheng Ban. And at present, there is almost no one who can sing the tune. It almost disappears and this is a real pity.
  • Tianjin Shi Tune
    The Shi Tune of Tianjin, a unique tune to Tianjin, originated in late Ming and early Qing Dynasty. There were already professional artists singing in Tianjin Shi Tune in 1900. The singing voices of this type of tune include folk tunes such as the Kaoshan Tune, the Mandarin Duck Tune, Jiaopi Tune, etc. It is said that the Kaoshan. Tune is a minor tune sung by shoe makers at rest sitting back to a wall; the Mandarin Duck Tune is sung by males and females in love; and the Jiaopi Tune (the man-power tricycle drivers were called Jiaopi in Tianjin) is sung by Jiaopi while they were waiting for customers. Such minor tunes came into being from among the people. They are full of local flavors with bright tones and popular words and simple and kind feelings. They are very suitable for folks in Tianjin, so they could be regularly heard throughout streets and lanes after work and dining time. After professional singers came into being, such folk minor tunes are processed, modified and innovated and are made into a very popular type of tune named as Tianjin Shi Tune, which could reflect the spirit of the time and the life of the people. The famous singers of the Tianjin Shi Tune includes Zhao Baocui, Zhou cuizhi, Tan Junying, etc. And the outstanding ones are Qin Cuihong (with a nickname as Bang Zi Mian), Gao Wugu, Zhao Xiaofu, etc. Since the 50s, there was Wang Yubao rising up, singing new songs reflecting the new times, whose voice is high and bright, and there was no one who can be of her equal. And later, there appeared some more outstanding successors and they made the tune go on to be in existence until now.
  • Xihe Da Gu
    It was fairly early when the Xihe Da Gu introduced into Tianjin, with the school of Hao Min occupying the prevailing advantages, so that there was even a view point that Tianjin Xihe Da Gu was a hereditary treasure of the Hao's families. Because most of the singings of Tianjin Xihe Da Gu were "Man Zi Stories", such as "Yang Family Soldiers" and "Shi Sir Case", etc., it attracts a lot of audiences. In the 20s and 30s, there were fixed audiences on Dongxing Market, Hebei bird Market, Didao Wai and New Road to enjoying Xihe Da Gu. The song of "Tongue Twisting" sung by the actress Ma Zengfen in 1936 was very popular throughout Tianjin, and was followed by all the citizens, even by women and children. It is very similar to the current popular songs that are followed by all people. It can be imagined that there should have been a wide star-pursuing group for the Xihe Da Gu at that moment.
  • Jingdong Da Gu
    Jingdong Da Gu is originated from Xianghe in the east of Beijing and Bao Di area, its performance is very simple, most of the arias are "Man Zi Huo". Jingdong Da Gu became flourishing after Liu Wenbin performed it in Tianjin. Liu Wenbin's voice was loud and clear, his pronunciation was distinct, his performance is simple and fine and very charming. And the son of Liu Wenbin inherits his art cause. And Hao Debao, actress Wang Yunqiu and the amateur actress Dong xiangkun have all acquired the inner contents of Liu and their singings are very lively and charming, and very popular among audiences.
  • Mei Hua Da Gu
    Mei Hua Da Gu was originated in Beijing, it was also called Qing Kou Da Gu. In the past, Mei Hua Da Gu was a melody often performed by the Manchurian of Beijing. Famous actors include zhong Wanqi, Jin Xiaoshan, etc. and afterwards, Cao Baolu, Wang Ziyu, etc. Later, Jin Wanchang made some innovations, which gave new vitality to this sort of Quyi. After innovated by Jin Wanchang, Mei Hua Da Gu was very vivid and absorbing and was loved by the audience deeply, and it gradually become the orthodox school. The actors of Tianjin Mei Hua Da Gu included Qiu Yushan, Zhou Zichen and string musician Lu Chengke. All of them recruited many female apprentices. The actresses that became famous later included Hua Sibao, Hua Wubao, Hua Xiaobao (Shi Wenxiu), Hua lianbao, Hua Yunbao, Hua Yinbao, Zhou Wenru, etc. Mei Hua Da Gu has another form of performance, that is Han Deng Da Gu which was resumed recently. When performing Han Deng Da Gu, the actor hold a dragonheadshaped lampstand in the mouth. He cannot open mouth while singing, and the tune is pronounced by the throat and tongue, so the aria should not belong, and it lays much importance on other performance like the drug beating, etc.
  • Jing Yun Da Gu
    Jing Yun Da Gu is a major type of Tianjin Quyi. Jing Yun Da Gu is also called Xiao Kou Da Gu, it was originated from Qie Da Gu, which was innovated by Zhong Wanqi, Yu Dekui, etc. They changed the libretto into dialect of Beijing and renewed the tune, turned it into jingyin Da Gu. After a series of reforms, it was finally named Jing Yun Da Gu. Since the 1920's and 1930's, actors and actresses have been emerging in large numbers, which further determined the position of Jing Yun Da Gu in Chinese folk art forms and formed three major schools represented by Liu Quanbao, Bai Yunpeng and Zhang Xiaoxuan respectively. Liu Quanbao was once the apprentice of Wang Qinghong, an famous old act or of Tianjin. Plus his talent and diligence, he became a great master of Jing Yun Da Gu for his generation, and he was also called "King of Da Gu". His fame has been famous in folk art field for 50 years. Bai Yunpeng usually perform stories of juniors, he was wellknown for his gentle, witty and feeble voice, which formed his unique style. Zhang Xiaoxuan's style is straight for ward and calm, full of strength, like the water of Yangze River Which rushes out for one thousand miles. In the end of his aria, he stops suddenly, and the audience feel that his voice is still lingering and will never fade away.

    This was his unique style. Afterwards, Xiao Caiwu (Luo Yusheng) emerges. Considering her own characteristics and combining the strong points of Liu and Bai, she created her own artistic style. Especially her distinct pronunciation and clear tune in low voice was something that common actresses cannot perform. And because of this, she became the Queen of Da Gu and has been the ace actress in the Quyi field of Tianjin for more than 30 or 40 years. Luo Yusheng is currently the chairwoman of China Quyi Artist Association. She still performs on the stage occasionally. In addition, there were amateur performers in Tianjin in those days, among them, the most famous are Li shiru and Feng Zhibin.
Festival Celebrations
  • Folklore Tour Week Marking the Birthday of Heavenly Empress
    Every year, around the 23rd of the third lunar month, the folklore tour week is held at the Heavenly Empress Palace (Tianhou Palace) in the Ancient Culture Street to mark the birthday of Heavenly Empress (or called Mazu). On the occasion, solemn sacrificial rites are held in addition to the performances of dragon lanterns, liondancing, stilts and dry boats, attracting numerous tourists and pilgrims.
  • Chinese Rose Festival in Tianjin
    Chinese rose is rated as the city flower. Every mid-May, Chinese rose is in full bloom. By the time, all roads and parks in Tianjin are dressed up with millions of Chinese roses. Tourists in Tianjin also can enjoy various flower exhibitions, operas and performances, and join recreations in parks.
  • Tianjin Yuyang Golden Autumn Mountain Tour Festival
    Located in the mountainous area in the northern of Tianjin, Jixian County, known as Yuyang in ancient times, has green mountains and clear rivers, with many historical sites. From the late September to early October, when the late autumn tourist season comes, the Yuyang Golden Autumn Mountain Tour Festival will be held here for one week. By the time, domestic and foreign tourists can join grand open-air gala celebrations held on the Huangyaguan Pass of the Great Wall, or participate in the competition of mounting the Great Wall. In the scenic Panshan Mountain, there are mountain-or rock-climbing competitions, and high-altitude stunt and folk theatrics performances. Tourists can also join the tourist program of "becoming a mountain folk one day" by picking mountain fruits and visiting mountainous villagers.
  • Tianjin Beitang Sea Fair
    Beitang is a famous fishing dock and an outlet to the sea. It has rich marine products, full of strong fishing color. Beitang seafood enjoys a high reputation in the Beijing-Tianjin area. In early October when the autumn tides rise in the Bohai Sea, it is a good season to catch fatty fish and pawns. The Sea Fair will be held in Beitang annually. Local fishermen celebrate the fishing harvest in their traditional ways, such as torch running, lighting lanterns on the water, setting-off basket lanterns, stilts, dragon dancing. There is also a Beitang Finishing Fire Night sponsored by concerned cultural departments. Tourists can join the program of "being a fisher folk for one day". They can go fishing to the sea with a fishing boat, becoming a guest in a fisherman's family. They will be treated with different kinds of seafood.
  • Flower Fair
    Tianjin Folk Flower Fair has a long history, offering varieties of performance such as dragon lantern fair, lion-dancing fair, Shaolin martial fair, stilts, dry boats. Whenever traditional festivals come (for example, Lantern Festival which falls on the night of the 15th of the 1st lunar month, and the Birthday of Heavenly Empress which falls on March 23), various folk performances are held at Heavenly Empress Palace Square in the Ancient Culture Street and various district and county cultural and recreation squares.

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