I will admit right off the bat that Tianjin was not the most exciting place I went on my trip to China. But it’s a major city just a short high-speed train ride from Beijing, so how could I resist spending a day there? Tianjin (formerly known as Tientsin) is not particularly well known, possibly because it’s overshadowed by adjoining Beijing. You may have heard of it in August 2015, 3 months before my trip, when large explosions in the port area killed 173 people. (This was nowhere near the parts of Tianjin I visited.) Nonetheless, it’s an important city to China. It is one of 4 Chinese cities that are not part of any province, similar to how Washington, D.C., or Berlin are not part of any state. Like Washington, these 4 cities are controlled by the national government. The 4 cities are Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and Chongqing (historically part of Sichuan). These 4 cities plus Guangzhou are designated as China’s 5 national central cities, critical to China’s modernization and urbanization.