Hard beds and their cultural implications?
The most significant downside of the house we rented last week: The beds had no mattresses - there was just a slightly thicker blanked on top of a piece of wood. I learned that this is the traditionally preferred Chinese style. The harder, the better.
Each morning all my bones ached. I wonder whether a long term application would lead to body deformation. Or is maybe even the opposite true and this helps keeping a streight back? And if this is indeed the traditional sleeping furniture - how did the Chinese population ever grow to such numbers?
sebireAugust 09, 2009, 01:35 PM
Hahaha, maybe they frolicked in fields instead?
At least you didn't have to use a porcelain pillow - apparently my great-grandmother used one every day of her life. The hole keeps the head cool, I hear:
She apparently didn't use a mattress and slept on the floor, and use to discipline any sleeping child that had an arm or a leg out of place with a good sharp smack with a cane.
TalAugust 09, 2009, 02:34 PM
I recall when I was much younger and still living in my cool and temperate homeland, I heard that it was common in the Orient to use wooden or 'stone' pillows. I think I was appalled and could not understand how anyone could do that.
Now that I do actually live in the sweltering humidity of southern China, I understand perfectly. In the days before air-conditioning, it's quite possible that having a nice cool porcelain wedge under your head would be the only chance of getting a wink of sleep Sebire!
When I first came one of the hardest things to learn was how to arrange one's bed so that pillows, sheets, coverlets etc, would not be soaked in sweat after only 2 or 3 hours rest. (Being from England, and never having used air-conditioning in my entire life before, I found it very difficult to sleep if it was switched on. And after 2 to 3 hours the room would then be too cold, and you'd have to get up anyway to switch it off!)
It took me a while to see why it was important to use a large bamboo mat to cover the mattress, similar things to cover conventional, western style pillows, (you can buy pillows which are made almost entirely of bamboo with a grass filling, some even just made of strips of springy wood held together by a wire frame for maximum ventilation, but I absolutely cannot get used to those,) and to learn to fall asleep with no coverlet over the body, (still not used to this. On my last visit home I actually purchased a single bedsheet for this purpose and brought it back with me. Don't ask me why but your average, single layer bedsheet is generally just unavailable here.)
As for frolicking... *cough*... well suffice it to say that living in such a climate also gives one a deeper understanding of why the Chinese are not (perhaps) so touchy-feely and uninhibited in that department as other races.
xiaophilAugust 10, 2009, 09:56 AM
My experience is exactly the same regarding the various bamboo sleeping products. I thought maybe I was the only guy around here who uses such methods. (A naive ussumption I suppose.) Someday when I move back to America, I will have visitors and they will say, "What is all this stuff?" "Oh that, I picked this up in China, it is used for... blah.... and that... blah...."
bodaweiAugust 10, 2009, 03:59 PM
I think it takes a good 3 or 4 weeks to acclimatise to a Chinese bed. Then it is very good for sleeping. However, it is not possible to anything but sleep. Anything. ;-)
oranginaAugust 11, 2009, 01:21 AM
Here in the states I have an unusually tiny apartment... 9x18ft including the bathroom... and don't want a bed to take up my entire living space. So I use a self inflating camping pad and roll it up and put it away everyday (well, some days I just walk on it.) It is 2in thick at most. The first few days I thought I was way too old for these kind of shinanigans. But after I got used to it I love it! My back doesn't ache anymore. But then that could be cause I got rid of the desk job. Don't know if I am ready for a porcelain pillow yet... bamboo maybe...
tvanAugust 11, 2009, 02:20 AM
I take it that all this talk about bamboo beds and uncovered frolicking is in reference to Southern China. In the North, and even Shanghai, it seems that covered snuggling is in order, at least during January.
pearltowerpeteAugust 11, 2009, 02:26 AM
Good point. They have the 炕 kang4, a heated brick bed.
As a side note, if not for frolicking, I would just get rid of the bed and sleep on the floor. I always sleep best on the floor. And as orangina notes, you save space that way.
TalAugust 11, 2009, 03:06 AM
Don't try pretending that you've never done floor frolicking pete! I did go through a phase of sleeping on the floor as a young student, I had a girlfriend at the time who'd lived in an ashram and briefly converted me to 'healthy living'. It became tiresome after a while having to tidy up the tangle of sheets and blankets every day, (as I tried to massage the knots out of my back,) and in the end I was as glad to say goodbye to the practise as I was to clear my kitchen of her innumerable varieties of lentil, (of course she was also a full-on vegetarian and frowned on my occasional enjoyment of a bacon sandwich.)
Oh yes, sorry I digress. Yes tvan, during the "winter" months, January and February anyway, it can be a little chilly even in Guangdong. All the bamboo sleeping equipment goes in the cupboard for a short time then.