Aside from the rising temperature; the appearance of Chinese sun-visor hats, the smell of sunscreen, and the chirping sound of 知了 “zhī liăo” (cicadas) are all tell-tale signs of summer. When you are in a good mood, the chirping is a lovely melody. When you are in a bad mood (oh boy!) the noise can be really frustrating.


Last time we explored some expressions describing the summer. In this article, I want to bring you back to my childhood and take a look at the different must-haves for a Chinese summer.



Summer Days


My favorite season in China is summer - it left me with the most memories. In my home, before we had a 电风扇 “diàn fēng shàn” (an electric fan), all we had were plastic and 纸扇 “zhĭ shàn” (paper fans) that you'd fan manually. There were a variety of fans with Chinese ink drawings on them. Some designs included Chinese poems, ancient Chinese architectures, and various drawings of flowers or other objects. If I forgot to take my plastic fan to school, I would make a paper fan on the spot.


When we got our first electric fan, I would sit in front of it and enjoyed talking to the fan. It was a big upgrade from paper fans. The echo you would hear from the fan was so fun and entertaining as a kid. That was my version of TV, even if all the shows were the same!


When I was a kid, we never got a 空调 “kōng tiáo” (an air conditioner). The only time I had an air conditioner was when I visited my aunt’s work. It would get so cold that I would need to bring a jacket with me! I don’t think I would be able to survive without an air conditioner now that I am in Arizona, but I am grateful that we didn’t have an air conditioner back then in China. Without an air conditioner, we didn’t have to keep our windows shut. I spent more time being closer to nature.






zhī liăo



zhĭ shàn

paper fan


shī cí



gŭ jiàn zhù

antique building


shuĭ mò huà

Chinese ink painting


diàn fēng shàn

electric fan


kōng tiáo

air conditioner



Example Sentences:



xià tiān zhī liăo jiào de méi wán méi le 。 xīn qíng hăo de shí hou , nà shi yī shŏu dòng tīng de gē qŭ ; xīn qíng bù hăo de shí hou , nà jiù shì yī duī zào yīn !

Cicadas chirp non-stop during summer. When you are in a good mood, it is a lovely melody. When you are in a bad mood, it is just noise!




zhōng guó zhĭ shàn zhŏng lèi fán duō , yŏu zhe gè shì gè yàng de tú àn 。

There is a broad range of Chinese paper fans with different design patterns.




wŏ xiăo shí hou zuì dà de lè qù jiù shì duì zhe fēng shàn “ shuō huà ”。

One of my happiest moments as a kid was "talking" to the fan.



Summer Nights


When night time came around, we would often leave our windows open so we could feel the breeze. Before we got an electric fan, my mom would fan me until I fell asleep on the bamboo mat; the bamboo mat helped me stay cool. On days where it was very hot, we would lay our bamboo mats on the balcony and sleep outside. My mom always preferred hard beds, so no padding was needed! But by sleeping outside, you completely destroyed your first line of defense—the walls—against 蚊子 “wén zi” (mosquitos). Two must-haves to soothe mosquito bites and repel mosquitos were 花露水 “huā lù shuĭ” (Florida Water) and 蚊香 “wén xiāng” (mosquito coils).


Mosquito coil can be a fire hazard if not used properly, so we would usually set our mosquito coils at least one or two meters away from us. Even with the mosquito coils burning, some strong-willed flies would still get to us and leave their mark of territory—a huge itchy bump.


It was incredibly hard to resist scratching the bump. But the more you scratch it, the bigger and itchier it would get. Luckily we had 花露水 “huā lù shuĭ” (Florida Water), a liquid solution with a very nice scent that helped reduce the itchiness of the fly bump. It was also advertised as an insect repellent, but it didn’t seem to work for me.


Sometimes we preferred to sleep indoors. In this case, we would definitely use a 蚊帐 “wén zhàng” (mosquito net). We would make sure that our mosquito nets wouldn’t get blown away by the wind by folding the bottom part of the net underneath our bamboo mats.






wén zi



huā lù shuĭ

Florida Water (Chinese Version)


wén xiāng

mosquito coils


wén zhàng

mosquito net



Example Sentences:



suī rán shì wài méi yŏu kòng diào , dàn shì zhèng yīn wèi rú cĭ wŏ cái yŏu jī huì xiăng shòu dà zì rán de mĕi miào 。

Although there was no air conditioner outside, it was because of that very reason that I got to enjoy the beauty of nature.




dāng wŏ bèi wén zi yăo de shí hou , huā lù shuĭ shì wŏ de bì xū pĭn 。

Florida Water (Chinese version) was a must when mosquitoes bit me.




wŏ xĭ huan zài yáng tái shuì jiào de găn jué , qīng fēng xú xú , ràng wŏ găn dào píng jìng 。

I enjoyed sleeping on the balcony. I felt calm and peaceful as the summer breeze flew past me.



As time passed, a lot of families in the cities bought air conditioners but 电风扇 “diàn fēng shàn” (electric fan) and 花露水 “huā lù shuĭ” (Florida Water) are still popular. 纸扇 “zhĭ shàn” (paper fans) have been replaced with portable mini electric fans. 蚊香 “wén xiāng” (mosquito coils) are not as common, but they are still used. The most popular choice nowadays is 电蚊香液 “diàn wén xiāng yè” (electric mosquito repellent) that you simply plug into an outlet. Although some things have changed, it is still fascinating to look at the development that has happened over time. What was your childhood summer like? Share with us in the comments section!





diàn wén xiāng yè

Electric mosquito repellent (liquid form)


mí nĭ shŏu chí xiăo diàn fēng shàn

Portable mini electric fan


Hero image by Pixabay (CC0 1.0)