How ancient Chinese people beat the summer heat

How ancient Chinese people beat the summer heat
via Poemandpainting (CC BY 3.0), Gary Todd
Bryan Ke
18 days ago
This year’s was the warmest February on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As global temperatures continue to rise, cheap and creative ways to beat the heat might just be lifesavers.
Here, we look at how ancient China — the world’s oldest continuous civilization — survived sweltering summers for thousands of years without the aid of modern air-conditioning technologies. From wearing appropriate clothing to enjoying ice-cold treats, here are six ways ancient China fought through the summer heat.

1. They wore proper clothing.

via GetArchive
Like the people of today, the ancient Chinese wore appropriate clothing to combat the heat while going about their daily tasks. The difference lies in the type of clothing.
Ancient Chinese women wore thin, long silk robes, as depicted in the paintings of Tang Dynasty artist Zhou Fang (730-800 BCE), to shield themselves from the sun’s rays. Meanwhile, commoners favored bamboo fabrics, linens and plant fibers for their breathability and comfort in hot and humid conditions.
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2. They used fans.

via Daderot
Waving a fan was not merely a gesture of elegance for ancient Chinese people; it was a practical solution to cool down. This method, which began approximately 3,000 years ago in the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE), helped evaporate sweat from their bodies, providing instant relief from the hot summer days. Fans of course are still being used today, particularly by older people in many Asian countries.

3. They slept with porcelain pillows.

via Gary Todd
Porcelain pillows existed and served multiple purposes — and yes, they were actually used for sleeping. Aside for their cooling comfort, they were used to maintain an imperial figure’s hairstyle and intricate headwear. Doctors also used them as cushions while checking a patient’s pulse during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).

4. They enjoyed cold treats.

Eating ice-cold sweet treats was common among imperial court members dating back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE). At the time, only government officials and upper-class citizens afforded the transportation of ice, which was acquired from frozen rivers during winter and stored in underground facilities.
“Lychee cream water,” a drink made from lychees, plums, cinnamon and cloves that became popular in the Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE), is still being made to this day.

5. They paid attention to architecture.

via GetArchive
Carefully planned buildings also helped ancient Chinese people cope with the summer heat, particularly those in the imperial court.
Emperors of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) reportedly had an area in their estates called the “Green Cold Palace.” This spot was surrounded by bamboo, lotus flowers and plants, and featured a man-made waterfall. Additionally, gold basins filled with ice were placed inside to cool the rooms during the summer.
via Zhangzhugang (CC BY-SA 4.0)
“Skywells” are not exactly attributed to ancient China, but they also helped people cool down. Commonly found in southern and eastern homes during the Ming and Qing dynasties, these smaller versions of a courtyard not only improved ventilation, but also allowed light in and harvested rainwater.

6. They took vacation trips.

via Tak.wing (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Like modern people, the ancient Chinese took vacation trips to cool off during the summer. One popular destination was the Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples in Chengde, Hebei province, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is believed that Qing Dynasty emperors often retreated to the resort during the summer and returned to Beijing when the weather cooled down.
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