Hot ways to chill: China’s heat wave inspires creative thinking among sweltering locals

From staying cool on the subway to prostrating in the plaza, people across China are doing their best to beat the summer sun

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 July, 2017, 7:10pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2017, 9:35am

The heat wave that has seen temperatures soaring across China in recent days has had the knock on effect of stimulating people’s creativity.

In Hangzhou, capital of eastern China’s Zhejiang province, on Sunday, hundreds of people congregated at a local subway station, not to catch a train to the seaside, but to take advantage of the free air conditioning.

As the mercury outside rose to 41 degrees Celsius – the hottest day of the year – friends and families arranged lines of mats and towels on the tiled floor of the concourse and chatted, napped and drank bottles of water to their hearts’ content.

While some people on social media criticised the assembled horde for making the city appear “uncivilised”, others were more generous.

“Not everyone is rich enough to [be able to] purchase an air conditioner,” a person wrote on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter.

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“They are actually saving energy in a way! As long as they don’t block the road, what is the big fuss about?”

Others were less concerned about social graces than they were about the financial implications of an extended heat wave.

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“I can’t imagine what my air conditioning bill will be at the end of the month ... I basically have it on at home all day long!” a person wrote on Weibo.

In Anhui province, meanwhile, locals took the opportunity to treat themselves to a complimentary hot stone massage, courtesy of Mother Nature.

As the temperature of the pebbles in a public plaza in Huaibei rose from stone cold to therapeutically toasty, proponents of alternative medicine were quick to avail themselves of their alleged healing powers.

According to a report by China News Service, many Chinese people, especially older generations, belive that lying on hot stones can help cure all manner of ills, from aches and pains to asthma.

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But the hot weather has not been a walk in the park for everyone. As the National Meteorological Centre on Monday issued its 18th consecutive “orange” weather alert – the second-highest on the scale, and indicating that the temperature is expected to reach 37 degrees or higher – hospitals across the country reported spikes in the number of admissions due to heat-related health problems.

In Xian alone, capital of northwestern China’s Shaanxi province, three people died from heatstroke after several days of 40-plus degree temperatures in the city, the local Huashang Daily reported.

The spike in hospital admissions is hardly surprising. In Shanghai on Friday, the weather bureau recorded the city’s hottest day in 145 years as the mercury topped out at 40.9 degrees, Xinhua reported earlier.

On Monday, the city’s meteorological bureau issued its second “red” weather alert – the highest possible – in four days as the temperature once again reached 40 degrees.

It was a similar story on Monday afternoon in Hefei, capital of Anhui, where the mercury peaked at 40 degrees.

The two hottest places in China on Monday were Linxian in Shanxi province, and Toksun county in the Xinjiang region, which both saw temperatures of 42 degrees.

The searing heat in Xian has also raised questions about the rights of people who earn their crust outdoors.

Under Chinese law, companies are required to pay a “hot weather allowance” to all employees working outside if the temperature rises above 35 degrees. But according to the Huashang Daily report many people – from car park attendants to security guards – have complained of not receiving the additional payment.

Meanwhile, life has been less stressful for the residents of one of China’s favourite zoos.

According to a report by news website Thepaper.cn, the giant pandas at Shanghai Wild Animal Park have been treated to extra fruit rations and blocks of ice to lick and cuddle. Such are the perks of being one of the country’s national treasures.