The ancient refrigerator
In spite of a civilization-wide obsession with hot water, ancient Chinese people did crave cold foods occasionally. Before they had the electric refrigerator, there was a device called the bingjian (冰鉴), or “ice container.” It’s usually made of bronze or wood, and had two layers. People filled the outer layer with ice cubes and food and drinks into the inner layer to chill. Putting the bingjian indoors and removing the lid of also made a makeshift air conditioner.
The automatic fan
The “windmill fan (风扇车)” was invented in the Han dynasty, first used for the military, and later to thresh the grain. It also had to be hand-cranked by a human at the time. In the Tang dynasty, the machine was introduced to daily life, and a water wheel was used to power it so it could autonomously cool the home.
Bed-mats and porcelain pillows
The bed-mat is still widely used in China today. People weave reeds, vines, or bamboo into bed mats, which are much cooler to lay on than a cotton-paddled mattress.
Not so popular today is the porcelain pillow, which, with its ceramic glazed surface, was supposedly pleasantly cool to sleep on (if rather uncomfortable for obvious reasons). It is said that Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty was a big fan.
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