Imagine a room with Wifi access, a refrigerator full of beverages and a microwave oven for heating up food. Now imagine all this in a toilet.
Toilets in the Chinese countryside, and sometimes also in cities, have earned a nasty reputation for poor hygiene and unpleasant smells, but “luxury toilets” popping up in China are helping to change that.
In northeast China’s Liaoning Province, a “luxury toilet” debuted recently, instantly attracting public attention.
“I came here just to see this luxury toilet,” said a local resident standing in front of the toilet, located near Luxun Children’s Park in Shenyang, the provincial capital. “I have never seen anything quite like this before.”
The toilet was built in the style usually found in south China with a pond and a moon painted on the white wall. Inside, a fishbowl sits in the middle.
“The public can not only answer nature’s call here, but also access free WiFi and charge their phones,” said Zhang Peng, an official in charge of public toilet management in Shenyang.
The toilet also has a facial recognition system that gives residents free toilet paper up to twice a day, Zhang said. “It is convenient, and it saves paper.”
A similar toilet can be found at the Mountain Resort in Chengde, Hebei Province. It offers toiletries, a dryer, a baby changing station, and a sofa.
“I think it’s great,” said tourist Li Jintang. “It’s clean, convenient, and it is a display of a civilized city in my eyes.”
Such luxury toilets have been built in cities such as Beijing, Hangzhou and Chongqing.
Last year, Nan’an District government in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality revealed a plan to build an additional 10 “five-star” public toilets in answer to China’s “toilet revolution.” The local government previously put six five-star public toilets into use in 2015.
According to a local official, the project was aimed at upgrading old toilets while providing “more hospitable toilet services” to the public. The toilets feature WiFi, free drinking water, first-aid kits, food heating facilities and even mobile phone chargers, according to the government.
The criteria for the star rating system was set in 2010, when the Chongqing government issued a guideline to provide the best public toilets to the public.
A five-star public toilet should “have ornamental value” with flower terraces and air-conditioners, among other facilities. All star-rated toilets should be free to the public, the guideline said.
The first five-star public restroom in Chongqing opened in Bishan County in September 2010. It featured a sound system, automatic flush toilets and air-conditioner. It generated quite a buzz, with many Chinese calling it “too luxurious.”
The government launched its toilet revolution across the country in 2015 with an aim to make the most notorious facilities cleaner and more regulated. It planned to add 33,000 public restrooms and renovate 24,000 between 2015 and 2017.
China had installed or upgraded 52,485 toilets from 2015 to the end of April this year, according to the China National Tourism Administration.