Do You Know Qingdao? Green City in Eastern China with Amazing Culture, Landscape, Architecture and Beer

“Do you know Qingdao?” Ask this question to anyone in Germany, it would be met with blank looks. Asked if they know of the beer in green bottles, often served at Chinese restaurants, then their faces usually light up. Yes, that’s right: this is the beer that is brewed according to strict German purity laws, the Reinheitsgebot; and it actually comes from Qingdao. It was the Germans who established the brewery which has become the largest in the whole of China!

- Qingdao Beer Museum ©Xu Wenjia

More than ten years ago, Qingdao was my very first port of call on my visit to China. I did not know what I was going to expect there. Today, Qingdao has pretty much become my second home. In any case, I haven’t visited any other city outside of Germany more often than Qingdao. It keeps tempting me back, again and again. So, what is so charming about this city?

Firstly, it is the local people who live in this city. Though Germans, like other European powers, were in Qingdao as a military power––more about that in a moment––Germans are welcomed with open arms. The Chinese have a very friendly attitude towards Germans, something that is most noticeable in Qingdao. The people have high regard for the positive things that the Germans left behind, clearly outweighing those negative colonial experiences over a century ago. Qingdao people are very open and friendly people. The location probably has a lot to do with this: lying on the Yellow Sea with its long sand beaches and mild climate, not to mention the wide variety of sea food.

- Liuqing River in Qingdao ©Hao Cui

But the city, too, has its charm and appeal, something that lies, in large part, in its past. Going back 130 years in history allows us to discover more:

As a former colony of the German Reich from 1898-1914, the cityscape of Qingdao (or to give it its German spelling: Tsingtao) has been heavily influenced by Germany. Even today, visitors to Qingdao encounter architectural styles from Europe, most specifically from Germany. The layout of the city, its infrastructure and its port, which is gaining in international significance, date back to the last German Kaiser, whose ambitions for a world empire to rival the other European powers went unfulfilled. Though the era of Kaiser Wilhelm has long since gone, German city planning still lives on in its building and infrastructure: the harbour, the railway, schools, the brewery, barracks and living quarters for soldiers and civilians – and, not to forget, the sewerage system. It is said that Qingdao is one of the few cities in China with a functioning sewage system. Unfortunately, many old German buildings have been knocked down, making way for new builds. Yet this practice of demolishing German buildings has been halted. German traditions have received somewhat of a positive revival with many trying to preserve these old buildings. Visitors walking through the old part of the city with its tree-lined streets may well get the feeling of going back in time to the Gründerzeit, a period in German history which saw huge industrial and economic breakthroughs.

The old part of the city is demarked from the new city development, almost as if a line has been drawn to separate the old from the new. The outward growth of the modern city development, from west to east, is rather reminiscent of how tree rings expand outwards in tree trunks. It is, in this sense, that the literal name of Qingdao, meaning “green island”, somehow resonates with this development. Despite the city’s character and the Western-style office buildings, Qingdao has retained much of its greenery. This is all too clear to see from the Laoshan mountains. Located in the north-eastern part of the city, these mountains are, in fact, the source of the water used to make Qingdao beer. Laoshan offers spectacular, breath-taking scenery with its picturesque green slopes. On a clear day, it is possible to get a view of the open coastline. When fog descends on these mountains, though, it creates an almost mystical atmosphere around the waterfalls, the tea garden, the unique temples and also the birthplace of Taoism.


- Huashi Villa in Qingdao ©Wang Yang

But Qingdao itself is not an island; it is a part of the Shandong peninsula located between the Bohai Gulf and the Yellow Sea. Qingdao draws tourists to its shores, just like a tropical island would; it is, in other words, just as popular as a tourist destination. Tourists from the whole of China and the wider world come to enjoy the harbour atmosphere, rare sandy beaches, the popular seafront promenade, the maritime summer fresh air of this coastal city. Qingdao manages to create an atmosphere, one that is unique to the whole of China.

Anyone interested in culture will not be at a loss in Qingdao. Numerous museums, cultural and fruit blossom festivals as well as impressive ancient treasures from past dynasties await visitors to the city. Qingdao and its inhabitants know how to appreciate their ancient culture, preserving and building on its legacy.

Sport also plays a vital role in the city, too. Overlooking the coastal city, the scenic Laoshan mountains lend themselves to a variety of excursions. And ever since Qingdao hosted the Olympic sailing events in 2008, this sport, synonymous with this part of China, has become indispensable with the city, so much so that even avid sailing fans save up their money to come and visit. Qingdao maintains a strong relationship with the German city of Kiel, a former Olympic Games venue for the sailing events. The relationship seeks to develop sailing yet further in the future.


- Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center ©Hao Cui

Speaking to culinary tastes, Qingdao offers its visitors a rich variety of seafood, available locally, ranging from sautéed seashells to sea cucumbers to shrimps and fish, prepared in every conceivable way. A walk through the weekly market in the old part of the town is particularly rewarding with fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables. A real feast for the eyes!

Qingdao is one of the emerging economic centres in the eastern part of China with a population of about nine million people. The driving force behind this economic development is the thriving port and harbour, which has developed into an internationally important hub for foreign trade. In 2018, 18.2 million TEU (2014: 16.2 million TEU) containers were handled in the deep-sea port of Qingdao [1]. The port is set to be expanded to become the world’s largest port.

But Qingdao is more than just a port city: the 25 universities and 292 research establishments for engineering train individuals to enter the rapidly growing labour market [2]. Big companies like Haier and Hisense are based in Qingdao. Like many other international corporations, Volkswagen and Airbus are also represented in “City for Entrepreneurial Friendship”. Qingdao attaches great importance to a green economy. The “Sino-German Ecopark” was built and has been supported by the German government since 2011. This ecopark serves both as a support platform for German companies in China and also offers support in its capacity as an interdisciplinary start-up, research and innovation centre.

Constantly transforming and striving for greater potential, the city is experiencing all-round development in the areas of business, infrastructure, technology (including 3D printing), tourism, environmental protection and the service industry. It is a pilot city for technology innovation and has long been regarded as one of the most developed cities in China. Qingdao is one of the first so-called “opening cities” that builds and maintains cities and economic cooperation partnerships abroad, and, in the process, defines itself as a city that is guided by development, builds bridges and breaks new ground.

Source: CCTV English Youtube channel

Originally published in German by author Dr. Jens-Christian Posselt: Kennen Sie Qingdao? Die grüne Stadt im Osten Chinas begeistert mit Kultur, Landschaft, Architektur und Bier in HanBao. Das China-Magazin für Hamburg & Deutschland, Eds., Gesellschaft Deutsch-Chinesischer Verständigung (GDCV), Hamburg, Issue 3 (2017), pg. 60-62. Translated and adapted into English by John Goodyear

Dr. Jens-Christian Posselt, lawyer and business mediator, heads the Marketing and Acquisition Department at bdp Bormann Demant & Partner, Hamburg, Germany. Dr. Posselt has maintained close contacts with Qingdao for a number of years, making him a “representative for promoting trade and investment”. He is also a legal advisor to the Intellectual Property Office of Sino-German Ecopark and an arbitrator of the Qingdao Arbitration Commission. Dr. Posselt mainly advises on Sino-German corporate transactions as well as on setting up companies in both China and Germany.

[1] Cf.: Statistics taken from the Top 50 World Container Ports from the World Shipping Council website, in: http://www.worldshipping.org/about-the-industry/global-trade/top-50-world-container-ports [Accessed: 10 November 2019]

[2] Statistics sourced from German-language article citing official City of Qingdao statistics: Zhu, Yiling: Qingdao: eine weltoffene, moderne dynamische und zeitgeistige Stadt, in: https://www.presseportal.de/pm/130938/4286805, dated 3 June 2019 [Accessed: 10 November 2019]

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