The Grand Tour II-7: Turquoise Isle / Grüne Insel… Tsingtao (青島)

The German Governor's Residence, built in 1903 for an astronomical sum.  Today, it channels a Bavarian castle.

The German Governor’s Residence, built in 1903 for an astronomical sum. Today, it channels a Bavarian castle.

Tsingtao (known as “Qingdao” today) is a rarity in the history of colonialism – in that it was a German colony. The Germans came late in the colonial game (in the 1890s); and they established a scattering of colonies in far-flung corners of the world – German East Africa; German New Guinea (Kaiser Wilhelmsland) – which they lost within decades in the aftermath of World War I.

Qingdao is the most representative, and best preserved of all the German colonies; the German legacy in the rest hasn’t survived well. The city wasn’t a Treaty Port, but a Concession – a full-fledged colony – in the same way Hong Kong was. And it was Imperial Germany’s most-prized colony in the East.

The coat of arms of Imperial Germany, in the former Tsingtao Club (1910) on Friedrichstrasse (today's waterfront Zhongshan Road).

The coat of arms of Imperial Germany, in the former Tsingtao Club (1910) on Friedrichstrasse (today’s waterfront Zhongshan Road).

The Kiautschou 膠州Peninsula in northern China was ceded to Imperial Germany in 1898 on similar terms as Hong Kong – which is to say, in perpetuity. Tsingtao was the administrative capital of the concession – a port occupying a perfect harbour in Kiautschou Bay.

Unfortunately, due to World War I, the Germans would only hold it for a mere 16 years. In 1914, when WWI broke out, the Japanese Allied Forces over-ran the colony and took it for themselves, holding it till 1922.

Channelling a wintry scene in Munich - the German Protestant Church, built in 1910 in a German Classical style.

Channelling a wintry scene in Munich – the German Protestant Church, built in 1910 in a German Classical style.

Just off the Tsingtao waterfront stands wonderful examples of German-era colonial architecture, including this: the surreal Kiautschou Hotel, built in 1906.

Just off the Tsingtao waterfront stands wonderful examples of German-era colonial architecture, including this: the surreal Kiautschou Hotel, built in 1906.

Beach houses in Tsingtao's northern suburbs channel beach resorts in Schleswig Holstein.

Beach houses in Tsingtao’s northern suburbs channel beach resorts in Schleswig Holstein.

Tsingtao has some of the loveliest beaches in China, all of which are immensely popular with the locals.

Tsingtao has some of the loveliest beaches in China, all of which are immensely popular with the locals.

Despite the very short time the Germans held Tsingtao, they invested heavily, extensively and swiftly in their colony. Even today, much of the old town and its oldest suburbs (like the Badaguan villa district) still boasts extensive tracts of German-era architecture, as well as quaint little beaches, complete with beach huts, reminiscent of North Sea beach resorts.

And there’s almost no need to mention the city’s most iconic export – Tsingtao Beer – which owes its existence to the Germans. In fact, the Tsingtao Brewery still stands where it was established by the Germans, a hundred years ago.

The city's most famous export - Tsingtao Beer.

The city’s most famous export – Tsingtao Beer.

The Tsingtao Brewery, established in 1903 and still standing.

The Tsingtao Brewery, established in 1903 and still standing.

Qingdao is known for its amazing seafood, which all goes very well with Tsingtao Beer.

Qingdao is known for its amazing seafood, which all goes very well with Tsingtao Beer.

The city was actually held longer by the Japanese, who occupied the city twice – 1914 – 1922, and again from 1938 – 1949, when Mao’s Communist forces wrested the city from the Japanese.

The Japanese built a “New City” adjacent and further inland from the German Old Town. They kept much of the German architecture in the Old Town, adapting many of the buildings for their own use.

The “New City” they would build in the mixed Japanese-European style that characterized Showa Japan and much of Japan’s other colonies. Today, much of that “New City” has been restored by city authorities and rather misleadingly marketed as a “Traditional German Town.”

Entrance to the "New City" the Japanese built when they took over in the mid-1910s.  It is today restored and misleadingly branded as "German Architecture Street."

Entrance to the “New City” the Japanese built when they took over in the mid-1910s. It is today restored and misleadingly branded as “German Architecture Street.”

It ain't German, folks; it's Japanese.

It ain’t German, folks; it’s Japanese.

This month’s installment of the Grand Tour pays homage to this sliver of Imperial Germany in East, still impossibly clinging on to its existence.

St Michael's Cathedral on the former Bremen Street was completed in 1934.  It is one of Qingdao's most iconic landmarks.

St Michael’s Cathedral on the former Bremen Street was completed in 1934. It is one of Qingdao’s most iconic landmarks.

Qingdao's other iconic landmark is the Zhanqiao Pier, which features on the label of every Tsingtao Beer bottle and is widely considered the city's official symbol.  This is the view from my balcony at the Hotel Prinz Heinrich (today's Zhanqiao Prince Hotel).

Qingdao’s other iconic landmark is the Zhanqiao Pier, which features on the label of every Tsingtao Beer bottle and is widely considered the city’s official symbol. This is the view from my balcony at the Hotel Prinz Heinrich (today’s Zhanqiao Prince Hotel).

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About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, China, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Landmarks & History, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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