No water, no power: Life in rural China.

No water, no power: Life in rural China.

Today I was whining about London’s weather. Later, Jin told me about their situation at the moment. I felt bad instantly. About even thinking the weather and the conditions in London would be bad.

It is winter in Anhui province, Niuji village. That means, during the day, temperatures stay around zero degree and in the night go down to minus ten degrees. There is no heating.

Huaihe Qinling divide

As you can see Bozhou is way in the north of the Huaihe Qinling divide! We should have heating here!!!

The Qingling Mountain Range and the Huaihe River is a geographical line dividing northern and southern China. This demarcation line runs through the northern part of Anhui. People in southern China have no heating. And even as far as southern Guangzhou it can get really cold during the winter times as Sara explains in her post. But, if we take a close look on the map, Niuji village (belonging to Bozhou) in fact, is north of the Huaihe Qinling Divide! We should have heating, but we don’t because the go

I had the pleasure to experience several winters with my in-laws. The only way to keep warm is to wear several layers of clothes. Luckily, they have those really thick long underwear (baonuanyi 保暖衣) everywhere to buy. It makes you look like a fat Michelin man, but at least you stay warm. A hot-water bottle was my best friend during those winter months. You could use electric blankets or those little electric water-bottles, but then comes the problem of electricity.

If there was no electricity, we used to boil our water in those. You burn wood inside which heats the water in the outer container.

If there was no electricity, we used to boil our water in those. You burn wood inside which heats the water in the outer container.

Winter in Niuji village can be very exhausting; most of the time we did not have electricity. Most of it was due to the over-use. Most families turned on their air-cons to, at least, get a warm bedroom. The electric consumption was horrendous. We never turned on the air-con in the night. First of all, because there was usually no electricity during the night anyway, and second, the poor air-con wouldn’t survive a week if you keep it running for hours during the night with temperatures below zero. So we had blankets. A lot of blankets. Very big fat blankets. So heavy, you felt suffocated under them. But warm.

Jin told me that they haven’t had regular electricity for over two months now. The village was still using a very old transformer to produce electricity. Most of the time it would just not stand the huge amount of usage. So they decided to change it. Get something new. Which is a great thing. Unfortunately, things in Chinese villages take a while. It’s not like in those big cities, Shanghai or Beijing, where they build a skyscraper within a few months. No, in Niuji you need to be very patient. Why being hasty? Who needs electricity anyway?


Though I have to admit, it is amazing how Jin and his family couldn’t care less if there is electricity or not.

The drinking water in our room would freeze every night.

The drinking water in our room would freeze every night.

They cook on fire anyway. And who can say they had a “candle-light dinner” several weeks in a row? If I imagine one German city having no electricity, everyone would be devastated. Hey, at my mom’s house we wouldn’t even be able to cook!

But then there is the problem of water. At the moment they do have water. But I remember having no water for days. The pipes were frozen. And it wasn’t even that cold. But enough to stop the water flow. Even our toilet was frozen for days!

So, why again are they not allowed to have central heating?

I am so glad I did buy my sisters kids (actually Jin’s sisters) some warm fluffy jackets and no toys. What use is a toy car if their tiny hands are too cold to play with them? At least now they have one more layer of clothing to keep them warm.

Even the toilet would freeze!

Even the toilet would freeze!

I hate the cold. I find it so hard to visit my in-laws during winter months. Unfortunately, Chinese New Year always is in winter. This year I won’t be there to share the cold and freezing moments during dinner, before the hot pot slowly warms your insides. This year I will be staying in London; under my blanket, with central heating and a warm cup of Chinese tea.

What are your experiences of winter in China? How do you cope? Or do you just love the cold?


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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

9 thoughts on “No water, no power: Life in rural China.

    • I have arranged with the heating situation. Just having no electricity can drive you nuts. It shows how much we depend on it! I feel cut off the rest of the world when I cannot use my phone or write my mom an email…
      And having no water is the same. It is really annoying. Especially for women -.-
      Though, my hubby told me, at least they know during which hours there will be water and electricity. So you can prepare. Still… Poor them. I don’t think I could stand the situation there at the moment. Glad I am still in London…

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  2. Oh my god! It’s like nothing in Guangzhou compared to Niuji Village! I can’t even imagine how I would be able to cope with living standards like that. Last year me and my bf went to a snowy mountain and stayed at the hotel without heating. It was -10 Celsius outside, but luckily they had an electric blanket in the bed. But still, one night in a freezing hotel was quite enough. I really have huge respect for the villagers in Nuiji to cope with the cold.

    • It’s true the cold can be unbearable. But even if they have constant electricity (which they still don’t have btw) my parents in law never use the air con. They don’t even have one! The only air con is in our room. And I always feel bad using it when my parents in law are sleeping downstairs with nothing but a blanket. I told them many times to sleep in our room when we are not at home, but they refuse. They even refuse to get an air con in their room. They say it is not cold. Maybe you have to be born there to be able to bear the cold. I am a real pussy if it comes to cold weather. My father in law even installed one of those heat lamps next to our shower. That was so thoughtful! I love them so much.

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  5. This is a really interesting read. I am planning to go to China to study early next year (unfortunately during winter) and my fiance – who is Chinese – and his parents have been trying to get it into my head just how tough winter in parts of China can be. I have lived in very cold places before but always with decent heating. This post really made me see just how tough winter would be in some parts of China
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    • Yeah, the problem here really is that there is no heating and its sometimes colder inside than outside. If your house cools down once, it stays that cold for the rest of the winter. Or you would have to have aircon on 24/7 but that would kill the aircon after a while and you wouldn’t want to see the bill in the end haha So yeah I have no problem with cold outside, but when you get back home and it’s still cold you just don’t know where to escape to :( Luckily I have found a few ways to stay warm in our new apartment now…

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