In North America, we slather ourselves in sunscreen, throw on some shades, and put the air conditioning on full blast all day, every day when it’s hot. In China, however, we have a little something called chéngliáng (乘凉), which translates roughly to “relaxing in a cool place.” Beyond its literal meaning, chéngliáng is also a state of mind, a smell-the-roses kind of mentality that connotes hanging out and enjoying the shade with friends. Here, we tell you how to stay cool the “Chinese way” – well, at least for a little while anyway.
1. Frozen Treats
Lao Beijing Popsicles (lǎo bīnggùnr 老冰棍儿)
(Image via mrxia80.com/goods)
A real Beijing delicacy, the best ones are sold by the Tian Bing brand (tiān bīng天冰). Lao binggunr are salty upon first taste but then sweet. Don’t be freaked out by the salty part; these popsicles are a real treat!
Hawthorn Popsicles (shānzhā bīnggùnr 山楂冰棍儿)
I highly recommend two brands of hawthorn popsicles: Da Hongguo (dà hóngguǒ 大红果) or “Big Red Fruit” and Yili (yīlì 伊利). Da Hongguo has been around for at least a decade (if not longer); the popsicles are cheap and good for a quick chill-down. Shaped like normal popsicles, you can sometimes find the extra large ones, but they’re becoming rarer nowadays. The Yili ones contain bite-sized hawthorn fruit chunks. It’s not for everyone, but I think it’s quite a nice surprise.
2. Chilled Drinks
Sour Plum Juice (suānméitāng酸梅汤)
(Image via foodsqs.cn)
Made from smoked sour prunes, suanmeitang is a Beijing drink that many expats have come to love. Buy the ones made by Jiulongzhai (jiǔlóngzhāi九龙斋), as these have been widely recognized to be the tastiest and most legitimate brand of Suan Mei Tang, even by expats.
Arctic Ocean Soda (běibīngyáng北冰洋汽水)
This special pop consists of orange juice and water. Some Beibingyang drinks have chunks of fruit pulp inside, while others don’t. Popular with both Chinese baby boomers and the younger generation, this soda is served in a retro-looking glass bottle.
Wanglaoji Herbal Tea (wánglǎojí王老吉)
(Image via foodsqs.com)
This is a famous herbal tea established 183 years ago that can help clear excessive “heat” and toxins from the body, dispel body “dampness,” and relieve discomfort associated with colds, fevers, sore throats, indigestion, and dehydration. It’s actually quite a soothing remedy and best when taken chilled. Ingredients include such exotic-sounding herbs as radix Ilicis asprellae, semen oroxyli, herba helicter is angustifoliae, herbal polygoni chinensls, rhizoma lygodii, and water.
Recently, a controversy sprung up with another Chinese company producing similar herbal tea called Jiaduobao (jiāduōbǎo加多宝) and stealing copying the Wanglaoji label. Wanglaoji subsequently sued Jiaduobao for copyright infringement. Rest assured – the Wanglaoji brand itself is above-board and legitimate.
Lvdou Tang (lǜdòu tāng绿豆汤)
(Image via health.17ok.com)
Boiling mung beans in water to obtain lvdou tang, otherwise known as lvdou zhou (绿豆粥) or mung bean porridge. This hot-weather treat is super easy to whip up on your own; simply chill the boiled mung beans in water overnight, sweeten with some sugar, and voila! The ultimate Chinese hot-weather treat. A favorite of Chinese laolaos and nainais (grandmothers), this soup is worth adding to your culinary repertoire.
3. Anti-Heat Accessories
(Image via brolliesgalore.co.uk)
I used to scorn the locals’ use of umbrellas in the sun. I’m not crazy about tanning, but that doesn’t mean I want to cover myself up with a cumbersome (and tacky) umbrella.
But recently, I’ve discovered Victorian-looking parasols that offer excellent protection from the sun umbrellas and don’t make it look like I am carrying around my rain umbrella. For moms and younger kids (and maybe teens who want to look stylish), the “sunbrella” might actually be a good idea for preventing heat stroke.
(Image via item.taobao.com/item)
Found on hutong corners and park benches, the old and middle-aged Beijingers can be seen fanning themselves to ward off the heat. Although the big dried palm leaf fans that locals carry around often perplex many expats due to their origin and size, these oversized fans do provide great relief from the heat. Fans are available everywhere from local markets to grocery stores.