A Vanished Custom in Wuhan

Chongqing, Wuhan and Nanjing are called "Three Furnaces" in China for their scorching days in summer. In Wuhan, the highest temperature of a year is usually above forty degrees centigrade. In the past, there was no air-conditioner, no electronic fan, so it was unbearable hot in a chamber. People in Wuhan would like to go out of their chamber, staying outside overnight.

I'm the last generation that still have such experience. I was only a little boy at that time. In summer when twilight came , dwellers of the community would splash several basins of water onto some vacant ground in front of their home, and then move bamboo beds there. The bamboo bed was a kind of necessary furniture of every family. The water would soon be vaporized, taking away some heat. People then sat or lay on bamboo beds, chatting with family members and neighbors, playing cards or Chinese chess (as the copper sculpture in the upper image shows), completely relaxed and forgetting the hot weather. After dark, the community turned silent. People fell asleep and they would take their things home the next morning. Non-Wuhanness would often feel odd by the sight of bamboo beds arrays.

But these scenes now stay only in my memory. I can't remember at what time air-conditioners slipped into every family while bamboo beds were discarded and people no longer stay outside in summer. I haven't seen the scene for maybe more than ten years. And now sleeping outside will somewhat be considered improper.

Bamboo Beds, together with an old custom, disappeared.