A mahjong table with pre-installed heaters. (Photo: Screenshot on Taobao.com)
As soon as Su Xiaoqian got home, she cranked up the heater that radiated soothing warmth, plugged in the hand warmer, and wrapped herself in a soft blanket preheated by the electric mattress pad beneath.
A native in Wuxi, Jiangsu province – where the discomfort of winter cold is compounded by incessant rain and short days – Su said a whole set of heating gadgets like hers were no longer quirky novelties for kids.
“The senior colleagues in my company have ditched the hot water bottles for electric heating pads,” she said. “And my parents, who are in their late 50s had asked me to buy stacks of them to avoid the chill.”
As another cold snap is moving into the country, Chinese consumers like Su are not only bundling up but also equipping themselves, their homes and workstations at the office with cold-weather gear and gadgets.
According to the online e-commerce platform Taobao, a variety of new heating-products – covering categories from shoes and lingerie to carpets – made their debut in November. Orders for mahjong tables with pre-installed heaters have jumped by 56 percent recently.
The buyers of such mahjong tables are mainly concentrated in Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, Taobao said. Sales of a kickspace heater soared by 352 percent during the annual Singles Day shopping festival on Nov 11, thanks to easy installation and its compact design.
“Heated place mats and fan heaters are popular at my office, so our hands and feet won’t go numb,” said Xu Fan, a white-collar worker in Beijing.
However, some antique heaters still appeal to the elderly in rural areas.
Wei Sixiong from Xiaogan, Hubei province, was intrigued by a pottery pot filled with wheat husks and wood dust during a visit to his grandmother’s house in a village.
“On top is a layer of burning wood that consumes the filling very slowly as it creates heat,” he said. “One pot can last a whole day. Most villagers still use these outmoded heaters to stay warm. They are not fancy but always sturdy.”
He added: “My nanny sometimes sticks a raw potato inside to cook it. What a versatile warmer!”
He Wei in Shanghai contributed to this story.