Astor Hotel in Tianjin - China's oldest hotel is vibrant with history and elegance

Updated: 2012-02-17
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The Astor Hotel in Tianjin


The Astor Hotel in Tianjin, China is the only hotel which has its own museum to tell the story of its illustrious history. The hotel is arguably China’s oldest hotel.

The Astor Hotel reopened in August 2010, after an 18-month makeover by award-winning designer Alexandra Champalimaud. This hotel is a 149-year old landmark in central Tianjin, and now is under the Starwood hotel and resort management group - the first Luxury Collection Hotel in China, was built by British Methodist missionary John Innocent in 1863.

The Astor Hotel has hosted many global leaders and landmark events. In 1879, Ulysses S. Grant, Union army general and 18th president of the United States met Li Hongzhang a leading statesman of China at the Astor Hotel. For a few years, Dr. Sun Yat Sen presided over China from the Astor Hotel. Herbert Hoover lived in Tianjin before he became the 31st president of the United States and on July 30, 1900, Mr. Hoover was in the Astor Hotel to sign a major contract for his company. The last Emperor Pu Yi and Empress Wan Rong used to dance in the Astor ballroom.

The Astor Hotel features 152 elegantly appointed rooms and suites in both Victorian and modern elegance. Guestrooms in the heritage Astor Wing yield gorgeous views over Victoria Park, opened on Queen Victoria’s 50th birthday. Murano glass chandeliers, floor-length silk draperies, a four poster canopy bed and original doors and paneling highlight the period charm of these rooms. Hai River Wing rooms facing River and the Astor has it own Pier as well.

The Astor Hotel sits on top of the Astor Museum. The museum houses hotel artifacts and paintings which tell the story of the hotel through happy and tumultuous times, and the historical events that took place under its roof.

The Astor Museum is in the basement beside of the Old Elevator, the first in the city installed by American company OTIS in 1924.

Historic postcards collected from all over the world remind visitors how the city looked in days gone by.

Explanation of how nine foreign concessions were established unfolds as a microcosm of modern Chinese history – with photographs of early villas, the Victorian Park, British Club, Country Club, racecourse and first newspaper, The Peking & Tientsin Times.

Stories about the original founders are told through a host of historic documents, photos and possessions from shooting sticks to medals and even the complete works of William Shakespeare reveal them at the pinnacle of society, maintaining subtle but significant relationships with Chinese ministers and the noblemen, playing a key role in politics, business, diplomacy and even the armed forces.

The Silver Key, engraved with the hotel logo, dates back to a 1925 refurbishment and was presented to Mrs. W. O’Hara when she opened The Astor Hotel. Her grandson recently donated it to the museum collection.

A movie exhibition features still photos from over a hundred movies filmed at the hotel. 

A photo gallery of VIP visitors ranges from revolutionary pioneers and political leaders to military and political dignitaries, cultural and technological elites, business tycoons, warlords, adventurers and courtesans.

Various scandals are also recounted, and memorabilia also recalls July 30, 1937, when Tianjin was occupied by the Japanese, and the name of hotel was changed from “Astor” to “Asian Hotel”. After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the Kuomingtang government returned it to the British and the name “The Astor Hotel” was restored.

Records also relate to the Liberation War, when The Astor was used by the Communist Party as an underground information station – and hosted the official celebration party soon after liberation day on January 15, 1949.

The hotel’s architectural history and various expansions are also revealed, from various architectural styles including Indian and 1920s modernism, to an eight-storey tower, known as the Hai River Wing, added in 1987 – through to the latest makeover by award-winning designer Alexandra Champalimaud.

Reflecting its extraordinary heritage as the first international hotel in China, The Astor is the only luxury hotel in China classified by the National Important Historical Relics Protection Unit. 

Today, The Astor Hotel now truly combines the romance of a bygone era with all the contemporary luxuries of a world-class hotel.

SOURCE: The Astor Hotel

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