Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beijing Laboring for 'Toilet Revolution'

BEIJING -- In Beijing of the future, perhaps all toilets will be as charming as the Toto SW-710 with a ZGHD-1 disposable seat. A limousine of lavatories, it's a monument to China's efforts to take the strain out of going.


After centuries of discomfort, Beijing is embarking on the mammoth task of bringing pleasant public conveniences to the capital of the world's most populous nation.


Chinese officials call it a "public toilet revolution," and to highlight its efforts, Beijing staged China's first ever lavatory exhibition Wednesday in, of all venues, the Museum of the Chinese Revolution on Tiananmen Square.


China needs new public toilets because its people, as they get richer, want to answer nature's call in hygienic surroundings, said the exhibition's organizer, Lou Xiaoqi.


And besides, he said, the smelly WCs that foul many a Beijing street shock foreign tourists.


Most are huts with a trench, over which people squat together in rows. In the summer, their stink makes them easy to find in the dark. In winter, they are cold and repellent.


"Many foreigners who come to China leave with a very deep impression of Chinese toilets," Lou said. "They say China doesn't care about toilets -- but it's not true."


With his mobile phone, pager and smart attire, Lou, 30, takes obvious pride in his role as a toilet revolutionary.


"People can go a day without eating. But rare are the days when they go without a visit to the toilet -- they are something we can't do without," he said.


With 1,200 photos, paintings and displays, the exhibition takes the visitor on a long march through China's 5,000 years of toilet history to higher-tech lavatories being built today.


They include the sleek porcelain lines of the Toto SW-710 with the ZGHD-1 "Model Hygienic Device," which slides a clean plastic cover over the seat after each use.


"Every public toilet should have one," said Li Shujie, representing the Beijing company that sells the devices for 600 yuan ($72) each.


China's oldest toilet, dating back 5,000 years and unearthed in Xian, home of the famed terra cotta warriors, also looked easy to use. A photo showed a hut built above a pig pen -- a design still followed in some Chinese villages today.


Beijing held a competition in 1994 for public toilet designs. Some of the best were built last year and are displayed in photos at the exhibition. Beijing's best toilet, according to the exhibition, is on the northwest corner of Tiananmen Square, and comes with automatically flushing urinals, marble floors, plants and a clock.