Is Shanghai’s current heatwave even hotter than the notorious summer of 1934?

A dead heat has settled in to large parts of southern China, and images of fiery thermometers and children splashing in pools have cropped up on front pages of newspapers around China alongside headlines exclaiming record-breaking temperatures, as can be seen in the gallery below. Most reports simply confirm the weather to be as outrageously hot as readers feel, but this morning’s Oriental Morning Post broke word of Shanghai’s heatwave a little more creatively, comparing it with the notoriously hot summer of 1934.

The picture for the main story, “Hot 1934: People hot at indoor chairs and desks, people rushing around on street even sweatier” (热过1934:人在室内桌椅皆热,路上奔波更为汗透), is a clipping from the July 12 1934 edition of Shun Pao (申报), China’s first, and now defunct, newspaper, dating from the Qing Dynasty. According to the report, the temperature yesterday reached a blazing 39.1 degrees celsius, bringing the tally to a grand-total of twenty-three exceptionally hot days (高温日) this month, and beating out July 1934 to become Shanghai’s hottest July on record. Nevertheless, considering how Shun Pao described the heatwave in 1934, “Steamed by the heat, warmth everywhere, even when sitting, the sweat is torture” (暑气所蒸、无处不热,虽静坐,亦觉汗珠点滴不收), Oriental Morning Post reporters wonder if 2013 might boast the hottest summer in name only, and look to the venerable periodical to find out how the metropolis beat the heat without air-conditioning in that notorious summer of 1934.

Amid the “densely-packed traditional characters” of the Republican-era newspaper, reporters discovered a snapshot of life in old Shanghai: A low, muddy Pudong river; residents and officials purchasing irrigation equipment for peasants to keep down the price of rice; silk factories closing their doors during the day; the reading of sutras on the street, in offices, and even in Christian churches, to pray for rain; stylish Shanghaiers packing into soda fountains and movie theaters; and hospitals treating hundreds of victims of the heat each day. Situated alongside this digest of 1934 heat-wave news, the paper also reproduces a number of news clippings – describing the deaths of five from heatstroke and record sales by the local soda bottlers, among other events – from various July 1934 editions of Shun Pao, transcribing traditional characters into simplified but leaving the original semi-classical wording unchanged.

As for the rest of Oriental Morning Post‘s front page today, the main headline reads “When criticizing superiors, don’t shoot ‘polite bombs’; When criticizing oneself, don’t shoot ’empty bombs’ (对上级批评不能放“礼炮”,对自己批评不能放“空泡”), referencing a speech made at a Party education and practice event (教育实践活动) by Shanghai Party Secretary Han Zheng 韩正. Four other headlines, including one claiming that non-critically injured individuals account for 40% of ambulance rides and an apology to netizens by the Guizhou vice-provincial governor for criticizing “scumbags” (人渣), take up the sidebar. Beneath the main picture, the top headline reads “Non-Shanghai residents will be able to obtain Passports next month”, while the lower notes that Public Accounts Committees at all levels of government will expand the scope of audits to better address public debts.

Links and Sources
Oriental Morning Post 东方早报: 热过1934:人在室内桌椅皆热,路上奔波更为汗透

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