The system that is in place for China to heat itself in the cold months is via boilers burning coal. Your geographic location in China will determine when the heat comes on. For example, if you live in northern China, your city will probably start burning coal and start sending heat through the radiators at the first of November. If you live further south, then the heat will come on later. I think the heat comes on in Beijing the 15th of November.
As you can see in the picture to the left, the hotel where I was staying in a very small city had their own boiler. There is no telling how old the boiler was, but I was impressed with how well the pile of coal was kept swept up around it! As you can imagine, it is a happy day for many people when the heat for their home is provided. In case you were wondering, yes, they use radiators like some of us had when we were in school. I will show those of you who didn’t have radiators what I am talking about in the next picture.
Many people complain about the fine coal dust that is in the air in China while the boilers are being used for heating, so many people wear masks. I can understand why people with breathing issues would be concerned!
One funny sight I once saw near a boiler room was a clothes line. There were some beautifully clean and white sheets being hung out to dry, but there were right beside the boiler room, which put out lots of black smoke, and the sheets were by a pile of coal, so if the wind blew from a certain direction, the coal dust could blow on the clean white sheets!
I guess some days you just do the best you can do with what you have!