Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/T'ientsin

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T'IENTSIN is the largest commercial city in Chih-li, the metropolitan province of China. It is situated in 39°  7′  N. lat. and 117°  11′  E. long., at the junction of the Peiho and the Wan-ho, which is connected by the Grand Canal with the Yang-tsze-kiang. It is a prefectural city, and the residence of the viceroy of the province during a great portion of the year. The town is built on a vast alluvial plain, which extends from the mountains beyond Peking to the sea, and through which the Peiho runs a circuitous course, making the distance by water from T'ientsin to the coast about 70  miles, as against 35  miles by road. The soil of the surrounding country being strongly impregnated with soda and nitre is not fertile, but produces sorghum and other coarse grains. The city walls are well built, though not always kept in good order, and measure about three quarters of a mile each way. As in all Chinese cities, the more wealthy inhabitants live in the suburbs, but even their houses have a mean appearance, being built mainly of mud or dried bricks. The streets are for the most part unpaved, and in wet weather are little better than quagmires. Some improvements have, however, been made in this respect of late. The city has always been a great commercial depôt. In 1885 the foreign imports amounted to £3,226,972 and the exports to £980,852, and 375 foreign vessels of 279,829 tons visited the port, tea to the value of about £904,496 being landed for carriage overland, via Kalgan and Kiachta, to Siberia. During the winter the river is frozen, so that communication has to be carried on overland to Chin-kiang on the Yang-tsze-kiang, to which point also a line of telegraph (now extended to Peking) was opened in 1881. The principal articles of import are shirtings, drills, T-cloths, jeans and twills, opium, woollens, steel, lead, needles, Japanese sea-weed, and sugar; and of export, skins, beans and pease, straw braid, coal, dates, wool, tobacco, and rhubarb. The coal exported is brought from the Kaiping colliery to the east of T'ientsin; its output in 1885 was 181,039 tons, 54,976 tons more than in 1884. An experimental railway nearly two miles long has lately been constructed at T'ientsin.

In 1853 T'ientsin was besieged by an army of Taiping rebels, which had been detached from the main force at Nanking for the capture of Peking. The defences of T'ientsin, however, saved the capital, and the rebels were forced to retreat. Five years later Lord Elgin, accompanied by the representative of France, steamed up the Peiho, after having forced the barriers at Taku, and took peaceable possession of the town. Here the treaty of 1858 was signed. Two years later, in consequence of the treacherous attack made on the English plenipotentiary the preceding year at Taku, the city and suburbs were occupied by an allied English and French force, and were held for two years. The city was constituted an open port. On the establishment of Roman Catholic orphanages some years later the pretensions of the priests so irritated the people that on the occurrence of an epidemic in the schools they attacked the French and Russian establishments and murdered twenty of the foreign inmates, besides numbers of their native followers. The Chinese Government at once suppressed the riot, and sent a representative to Europe to apologize for the outbreak.}}