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On Beds

Updated on March 13, 2014
A bed in the Wuzhen Bed Museum
A bed in the Wuzhen Bed Museum | Source
In Wuzhen Bed Museum
In Wuzhen Bed Museum | Source

I have just ordered a new bed, and had a rather amusing time checking out some of the stores claiming to be experts on beds and bedding. When a retail assistant quizzed me about my sleeping habits and preference for bedding (soft or hard) I tried to explain that I have slept in many, many different beds. Rather quickly I have to explain that I have been travelling and house sitting for the past few years, and I sleep when and where I can find a bed – and no, there was only ever me in the bed, so no hanky panky!

Travelling around Australia, staying with friends and family, or in motels, hotels or cabins in caravan parks, I’ve slept in quite an array. Some beds were king or queen sized, some had hard mattresses and others were so soft I felt like I could be engulfed by the soft padding. I’ve slept in single beds, and felt sometimes as if I was going to tumble over the edge!

In China and South Korea I experienced the hardest of beds – and learned that in those countries the harder the bed, the better (and more expensive) they were. Only poorer people slept in really soft beds! Luckily my bed was pretty hard, though I learned that my fellow teachers did not have the same appreciation as I did, and often bought foam rubber layers to increase their comfort.

I was to learn about the Chinese kangs – platforms made of bricks, clay or similar where the whole family would sleep together on this rock hard surface, and in winter it would have a small fire burning below to help keep everyone warm, when it was freezing cold and snowing outside! There was some connection between the cooking stove and kangs in some areas. Kangs

You might be lucky enough to be able to try a ‘modern’ kang when travelling in China as described by Sara Naumann

A friend in South Korea was thrilled with her new bed – made of marble. It was of course quite expensive, but she enjoyed sleeping on the cold and hard surface. I’ve not tried one, but I think I would look for something with a little ‘give’ in it.

If you go to a bed retailer these days you will see a vast array of beds, certainly a far cry from the beds of the early settlers and native peoples around the world.

Early bedding was simply a collection of grass or perhaps the skin of an animal or wool, and no doubt there are still people in the world who sleep ‘rough’ like this. Even our modern day campers with stretcher beds, or inflatable beds would have it more comfy than some primitive folk! The Japanese futons have become popular in some parts of the world too.

There’s quite interesting history about beds at Wikipedia

I recall quite a few years ago, water beds were in vogue, and indeed we had one, but it certainly had its shortcomings. My bad back was not helped by sleeping in such a bed, and after it was punctured accidentally and leaked we bought a more traditional mattress.

When living in China I had two amazing experiences associated with beds. Not long after arriving in China to teach English, it was International Women’s Day, something that is well celebrated in that country. The female ‘foreign teachers’ were invited to attend an event, which was described to us as a visit to a “match factory”. We were quite curious as we set off on March 8th, 2009, wondering what could be enthralling about watching matches being manufactured, we were stunned to discover that it was in fact a “mattress” factory, and though we were not shown through the actual factory, we were treated to an amazing tour of the show rooms. This factory was the manufacturer of mattresses for some of the top hotels around the world, and the exhibiting of them is something I will never forget. Sadly we were not permitted to take photos!

Some months later, on another tour with our university colleagues we were taken to a “Bed Museum”. Before entering we wondered what we would see, and were in fact just amazed. As we wandered the museum we were to see the beds of high ranking Chinese families going back some 5,000 years, with ornate carving in the wood, and the various styles depending on the position one held in the family. Oldest male in the family had one style, oldest single female and another, and so on. We came away rather overwhelmed by the amount of information, and the beauty of the exhibits.

Now, one thing that really annoys me about beds these days is the weird habit of having a myriad of pillows or cushions on them. I just don’t get it that you need nearly a dozen on a bed to make it look nice!! When I want to go to bed, I hate having to find somewhere to ‘store’ these pillows and cushions. It doesn’t feel right to throw them on the floor, but that is what is recommended by my hostesses. It is just another unnecessary chore, and trying to make them look neat on the bed in the morning after I try to make the bed, makes me so annoyed. I just don’t have the talent to make them look like they do in the décor magazines!

Yes, I have found a bed to grace my new abode, but it will be several weeks before I get to test it. No kang, no futon, and no bag of grasses for me, but a modern "ensemble" with a nice firm mattress, which I am keen to experience when I move into my new home!!!!

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