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November 15, 2012

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Old-fashioned tangpozi bed warmers popular again

OLD-FASHIONED copper bed warmers, or tangpozi, are gaining popularity again in the city as locals are lining up at the stores of a time-honored brand to purchase a piece of a bygone era.

Using tangpozi to keep warm was once very common in Shanghai. Putting boiling water in the copper container and placing it in bed, and then using the water for washing the face in the morning, is a warm memory of many Shanghainese. They usually wrapped the item with a towel or a piece of clothing to avoid being scalded.

Preparing tangpozi as part of a bride's dowry and use of smaller tangpozi to warm hands were also popular practices before they were replaced by rubber hot water bottles and then electric blankets.

The item strikes a chord of nostalgia, and many locals hope to find one after learning that they have become easier to find in stores within the past several years.

"In those (earlier) times, almost every Shanghainese regarded tangpozi as a necessity in winter, especially for old people," said Liao Huiying, 73.

Liao was among the hundreds of consumers who queued outside a Zhang Xiaoquan Knives & Scissors General Store on Nanjing Road E. yesterday to purchase tangpozi. Some people lined up as early as 8:30am, one hour before it opened.

There were always at least 40 people lined up outside the shop through yesterday afternoon.

All of the store's tangpozi were sold out, and most consumers who came yesterday had to make reservations to pick up the product several days later.

Seven types of the warmer are available in various sizes, from 10 centimeters to 20 centimeters in diameter. They are priced between 170 yuan (US$27.29) and 380 yuan. The best seller is priced at 279 yuan.

Chen Yuebin, managing director of Shanghai Zhang Xiaoquan Knives & Scissors General Store Co Ltd, said many people think copper is a sign of happiness in Chinese culture. Craftsmen said making tangpozi is delicate and requires craftsmanship.

Gao Guangquan, who makes the bed warmer, said the welding and sealing are the most difficult - small holes may appear when copper is welded, some difficult to perceive.

Most procedures in making the tangpozi are manual and there are fewer craftsmen who can make tangpozi, Gao said.


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