It gets hot in this part of China, especially as you move south. Shanghai isn't even too bad, it hits 36C (that's 100F, yanks) regularly in July and August. The nasty thing is the humidity, which is constantly above 90%. Makes the climate extremely muggy and uncomfortable. It gets worse in Canton. Hong Kong is infamous for its utterly unbearable summers. But then again, it's even worse in India and the Middle East. I cannot even imagine how hot it gets there. Cornell weather has conditioned me a bit, it seems.

Anyways, many folks can't afford air conditioning in China, so they seek alternative methods of cooling. My sister in Houston, Texas, says no one will survive without AC there. Other than the usual methods of drinking lots of water staying in the shade, people here have a few other methods of staying cool in the blistering heat of August.

Seats covered with bamboo mats. These help a lot, because they hardly ever heat up. Even wooden seats get hot after a while, but these are cool even after long exposures to heat. Sweat doesn't soak into it, so it is comfortable even after long seatings.

Big bamboo fans. Swing to create an illusion of air conditioning. It's cheaper than an AC machine.

Green tea. A common convention is this: People get those big vertical glass jars that hold instant coffee. They rip off the paper covering, put their choice of tea leaves into it, and fill it with water. The sun brews the tea! What's better, it is lukewarm, the best temperature for cooling down. Cold Chinese tea is icky.

Watermelon works wonders. They have open street markets for selling the stuff here. People bring in their harvest, and it is sold by the pound. The best ones are big and striped, the flesh red and juicy. Yummy. This leads to the next custom.

After dark, people bring out their big reclining chairs and sit out in the streets, eat watermelon, talk, discuss life, play Chinese chess, and have a good time. Since the houses here are very small and cramped, it's much more interesting to sit around outside and mingle. I walk around in the summer at night once in a while, play some Chinese chess (and lose horribly to the old folks), and talk to the people about China. Always a very interesting experience.

Various Chinese foods cool the body. Green bean tea, red green ice. Winter melon soup. Pickled cucumbers. I was surprised, but it actually does help you deal with the muggy dead heat of summer. It's also healthy.

On a sidenote, another popular Chinese way to blow off steam is to fight and brawl. Fights are much more frequent in the summer here. See Chinese street brawls.