Located in Jiangning district, Tuolejia is a huge compound, even by Chinese standards. The residential complex boasts 7,000 apartments, along with a sizeable number of underground car parks.
It is here where local residents are to be found on these hot days, walking their dogs or playing badminton as a way to while away the heat during their retirement or school holidays. Some don a wet towel to the head when stepping outside.
Nanjing is regarded as one of the three furnaces of China, along with Wuhan and Chongqing. While such a reputation does indeed stem from the city’s traditionally scorching summers, in actual fact, Nanjing has slipped down the list of China’s hottest places in recent years; as far as number 14 in fact.
This will come of little consolation to those who need toil outdoors. Their predicament has not escaped some, however. Residents of the Qinghebeiyuan compound in Jianye district have been spontaneously providing soft drinks such as plum syrup and sweet mung bean soup to cleaners who work in the community under the hot sun.
Temperatures reached 43 degrees Monday in Nanjing, in what is so far a summer that is unusually hot, even for Nanjing. Humidity levels are also unusually high this year, regularly breaching 90 percent, making the summer of 2017 truly oppressive. The government has gone so far as to issue a “red alert” for heat.
Today brought mild relief, with a temperature at time of writing, of 41 degrees, and humidity at 42 percent.
Nanjing’s reputation also drove local government to be first in the country to open up World War II air raid shelters as a way of providing the public with an escape from the heat. Most recently, some of the previously dank, dingy and plain terrifying bolt holes have been transformed with white paint, pleasant benches and even free Wifi. Other cities have recently followed suit; Chengdu, Hangzhou, Zhengzhou, Fuzhou and that furnace Chongqing, for example.
The decidedly sensible initiative is cheap too, with no air conditioning costs; temperatures in these far below ground shelters are typically half that of the 40 plus degrees outside.
Many were built into the sides of hills, such as the Beijiyan Shelter beside Jiming Temple. Now open each year from mid July to end August, the shelters are for many becoming a Nanjing summer tradition.
Speaking with China Daily for the Asia News Network, Mr. Yuan Renshui described the Qianxin Yinkuang Shelter that lies not far from the Nanjing Number 4 Bridge in Qixia district; "We bought a television this year… The shelter covers more than 200 square metres. It's divided into three rooms for reading, playing poker and dancing”.
Back at Tuolejia, as the sun sets a different kind as pastime can be observed underground. On most evenings, Mr. Sun Jiawang can be found here, playing his saxophone. He observes of the environment that is essentially an echo chamber, “It’s win win. My saxophone playing sounds great, I keep cool and I don’t even annoy the neighbours”.