Fury as popular tourist attraction installs timers above public toilets

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun13,2024

A world-famous cultural destination has recently drawn criticism following the instalment of bizarre new devices in at least one of its public toilets.

Cubicles in a female public toilet at the Yungang Buddhist Grottoes in China were fitted last month with digital timers, as shown in a video shared on various Chinese news sites and social media platforms.

Hanging above each stall, these counters let people know when the cubicles are unoccupied, as they feature the word “empty” in green.

When someone enters and closes a stall’s door, the counter above it displays how long the cubicle has been occupied.

The original video was reportedly first shared by a visitor to the grottoes with the state-run local newspaper Xiaoxiang Morning Herald.

The paper quoted the tourist as saying: “I found it quite advanced technologically so you don’t have to queue outside or knock on a bathroom door. But I also found it a little bit embarrassing. It felt like I was being monitored.”

Some users of the Chinese social media site Weibo were more scathing about the timers, with one saying: “A tourist site isn’t an office – who would spend their time in the toilets? Is it really necessary?”

Another wrote: “Why don’t they just spend the money on building more washrooms?”

Addressing the criticism, a staff member at the Yungang Buddhist Grottoes told the Chinese newspaper the timers had been installed to cope with the increased number of visitors across the site. 

Reassuring users of the toilet, they added: “It’s impossible that we would kick someone out [of the bathroom stall] midway. And we aren’t setting a time limit such as five or 10 minutes of how long one could use the toilets.”

The Nanchang Evening News, another state-run newspaper, quoted a staff member at the UNESCO World Heritage Site saying the timers had been operating since May 1 and were not meant as monitoring devices but, rather, a safety measure “in case some guests use the toilet for an extended period and an emergency occurs”.

Several thousand people walk every day through the majestic Yungang Buddhist Grottoes in Datong City, Shanxi Province. In 2023, the site was visited by more than three million people from around the world.

The site consists of a series of 252 caves in which more than 51,000 statues were carved in the 5th and 6th centuries.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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