The Port of Tianjin lies at the head of the Hai River about 26 nautical miles inland from the Bohai Gulf off the Yellow Sea on China's east coast. About 160 kilometers southeast of Beijing, the Port of Tianjin is 225 nautical miles west across the Bohai Gulf from the Port of Dalian. It is also connected to the Yangtze River by the Grand Canal. As the commercial gateway to Beijing and a maritime center, the Port of Tianjin is a ethnically diverse and cosmopolitan city. In 2005, the Tianjin municipality was estimated to hold over 10.2 million people, making it the sixth largest city in the People's Republic of China.
The Port of Tianjin's manufacturing sector is the biggest and fastest-growing part of the city's economy. The Tianjin municipality is about 40% farmland, and rice, wheat, and maize are its most important crops. Fishing is also important to the local economy. The Port of Tianjin also has an important industrial sector dominated by petrochemical industries, car manufacturers, textiles, metalworking, and mechanical industries. The municipality has reserves of about one billion tons of petroleum. Salt and geothermal energy are also important natural resources, and it had the countries first discovered deposits of manganese and boron.
The Port of Tianjin was first used in during the Han Dynasty in the 1st Century BC. The harbor began to be developed during the Tang Dynasty that ruled from the early 7th Century to the early 10th Century AD. However, the area surrounding today's Port of Tianjin was marshy and poorly drained, so growth was slow.
During the Song Dynasty from the mid-10th Century until the early 12th Century, the early settlement of Sanchakou was constructed on the Hai River. Nearby Zhigu (called Haijin at the time) grew quickly as a commercial center and port, and it soon became important for the transfer, distribution, and storage of central and southern Chinese grains and foodstuffs.
The Mongol Yuan government that ruled from 1206 to 1368 recognized the importance of Haihjin as a shipping center and established offices to regulate navigation on the Hai. They created a customs post and further developed the existing warehouses and harbor facilities.
The modern Port of Tianjin began to develop during the Ming Dynasty that ruled from 1368 until 1644 when the Chinese capital was moved to Beijing. In 1404, the settlement of Haijin was fortified and named Tianjinwei. The Ming built a large military base and built a wall around the town. Becoming the major trade gateway to Beijing, the Port of Tianjin's economy prospered, and its population mushroomed with rural immigrants.
By the beginning of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in the mid-17th Century, the Port of Tianjin was an important economic center. Trade volume continued to increase as inland waterways improved and were rivers were linked by canals. The Port of Tianjin continued to thrive for many years.
In the mid-1800s, the local economy suffered when Western nations demanded commercial and diplomatic privileges from the Chinese government. The Second Opium War that lasted from 1856 until 1860 ended with authorization for British and French concessions in the Port of Tianjin. (At the turn of the century, additional concessions were granted to several other European powers and to Japan.) In 1860, conflicts bubbled over, and the British and French bombed the city. Anti-foreign sentiments continued to erupt through the latter half of the 19th Century until the Allies occupied the city in 1900 and destroyed the ancient city wall.
By 1900, over 200 thousand people lived in the Port of Tianjin. Half of the population lived in the old "Chinese" district, and their living conditions were far poorer than those in the European quarters in the southeast and on the river. Still, the Port of Tianjin continued to be a busy and important shipping center into the 20th Century.
The Port of Tianjin was made a special municipality by the early Republic of China , and it was under the direct administration of the national government. In 1935, the Japanese military attempted to extend their domination in North China, planning to administer their new territory from the Port of Tianjin. When the Sino-Japanese War began in 1937, the Japanese occupied Tianjin, and they blockaded the foreign concessions in 1939.
During China's Civil War of the late 1940s, the Port of Tianjin was held by the Nationalists until 1949 when the Communists took the city. Since then, it has been a vitally important trade and commercial center and the gateway to the capital of the People's Republic of China (Chinese). It was one of the cities that hosted the 2008 Olympic Games . Even though it is near and tied to the capital of Beijing, the Port of Tianjin has its own unique character.