TIENTSIN THE FOREIGN SETTLEMENT Journey from Shan-hai-kwan—Arrival at Tientsin—The Foreign Settlement—The Pei-ho—A Chinese Dinner.
The journey by rail from Shan-hai-kwan to Tientsin takes the traveller through very varied scenery, great mountain ranges lying to the north, while to the south he is for a good distance within sight of the sea. We crossed wide rivers winding down from mountain to sea, and passed various towns, gradually coming to the flat land, which has the appearance of great stretches of mud ; thereby we knew we were ap proaching the Pei-ho (" ho " means river) and Tientsin. Now I felt I was once more back in the Western world. Tientsin has a busy station, and, save for the coolies, the crowd is mostly foreign. The baggage had to pass the Customs, but that was quite a formal matter ; and soon I was speeding along in a ricksha to my nephew's house, where I was to stay a few days before leaving for Peking.
I have mentioned that one of my chief objects in North China was to get into some of the Imperial Palaces, none of which had ever been, to my knowledge, painted by a Western artist. I was told that the old palace at Jehol was very fine, and therefore sent on my introduc tions to our Minister at Peking, Sir John Jordan, asking him to send through the proper channel my application for such permission. In Tientsin I was introduced to a gentleman who was shortly going to Jehol for mission work ; as he spoke Chinese and knew the country, I was glad to avail myself of such an excellent chance of travel ling in company, and some of my time in Tientsin I occupied in preparing for the journey.
Tientsin as it was before the Boxer troubles of 1900 no longer exists ; the old native city was demolished and its walls levelled, and in its place was built, under supervision of foreign engineers, a modern town for the Chinese. This is quite apart from the various foreign settlements ; and I should think the native who lives and has his business there must have benefited greatly under the new order of things, as well as the foreigner who has to visit the native quarter, which, compared with the old native cities, is clean and decent, if not quite so picturesque. The Chinese, however, have their
signs and open shop-fronts and carved woodwork, which, even when new, must soon make a street picturesque and give it a character seen nowhere else.
The foreign settlements are large, with fine buildings and wide streets, and are more distinctly separated than in any other treaty port I have seen. They seem to vie with each other in progress.
I naturally 5,aw more of the British section, where, with the Gordon Hall — one of the strongholds during the siege — and the up-to-date hotels, fine club, public gardens, great hongs, well-kept and busy streets, there was every sign of solid progress and prosperity, although there may be just now a commercial cloud over this and other commercial centres in the Far East. America's financial panic of 1907 had far-reaching consequences.
The life of the foreigner in Tientsin is much the same as in Shanghai or other treaty ports, but Tientsin has a very bracing dry climate. The heat, very great for a month or two in the summer, is dry. I have heard that this has a bad effect on the nervous system of a few people, but I venture to say that this is probably the healthiest treaty port in China.
Tientsin has a fine racecourse some little way outside the settlement, and the bi-annual races are great events and, as at Shanghai and Hong Kong, entirely amateur.
On the Pei-ho is the usual busy life of a Chinese river, having boats of all kinds and sizes—the native for the inland traffic, of which Tientsin is the focus for a wide area, and the great foreign steamships which ply from here, not only to other Chinese ports, but all over the world. This being the collecting place for products of North China and Mongolia, from whence comes a great quantity of wool, skins, furs, &c., traffic flows in from all directions, and is shipped to the great 'Western markets ; and you and I may sit comfortably in our homes in Britain, our feet resting on carpets made of wool from Tientsin, and our boots the product of skins from the district, and our womenfolk dressed in luxurious furs brought from far Mongolia on camel-back.