How did the ancient People of Hangzhou cool down in summer?

The temperature keeps rising which a lot of netizens keep mocking — “my goodness, the air-conditioning.” In the past, when there wasn’t any air-conditioning, the ancient people spent their summers wise. To find out how read on…

Specially-designed accommodation

Palaces in the past were built from tall and thick bamboo structures, with clay roofs made from many layers of bricks, artificial waterfalls stood proud inside the gardens, and a big pond was placed at the centre of the main construction — these designs blocked sunlight from entering the house and decreased the indoor temperature. 

In the gardens of the palaces, different flowers such as lily, lotus, jasmine, carnation, and orchid were grown for providing scents to refresh people in the sweltering summer months.

Various summer drinks

In addition to He’xie’jiang (a kind of herbal tea) and white spirit with sugar, there were many different beverages for summer such as flat-bean soup, pear juice, plum soup, ginger-and-honey soup, papaya juice, lychee’gao soup (red brown sugar with plum, ginger and water), and different types of black herbal teas.

In summer, Hangzhou people in Southern-Song Dynasty liked to sail on boats and chat with friends, gliding on the lake, sipping a cool fragrance and all amongst the fragrance of lotus flowers.

Light clothes
In the past, Chinese females liked to wear light dresses and clothes made from chiffon in summer. Sometimes, people also wore a ramie fabric which was easy to dry in humid conditions. 

Fans refresh the summer
A fan was a prop for royalty and then it became popular among the literati not only for cooling but also for flaunting fortune. The richer the literati were, the more delicate and fancy were the fans they hold.

Hard Cushions made from bamboo

In Jiang’nan area, people used to lie on bamboo cushions. “Mrs. Bamboo” is a hard cushion woven with bamboo shoots, which provided coolness when people touched it. Usually, people could either hug it or put it under their feet.

 Intricate-designed ancient ice-container “Bing’jian”

The bronze “bing’jian” made in the period of Warring states is currently stored and exhibited in the National Museum of China. The bing’jian has a double-layer structure. People could put ice cubes in between the two layers, then put what they wanted to into the container such as spirits. Sometimes, ancient people opened the container so that the cool air came out to cool the inside air. The ice container with multi-functions was widely used throughout Chinese history until the end of the Qing-dynasty.