From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Heated Brick Beds of Northern China

Sleeping cozy in a kang


HUACHUAN, China — Li Xiulan says that for all of her 73 winters in China's frigid northeast, her best weapon against the biting cold has been a pile of bricks.

Like millions of northern Chinese, Li wakes up every morning on a kang — a traditional brick sleeping platform heated from below by burning straw or coal during the long, dark winter months.

"Without the kang, winter would be unbearable," she said, bundled in layers of sweaters and warming her hands before the gentle heat of the kang in her grandchildren's bedroom.

Quoted from "Life centers around heated sleep platforms," by Joe McDonald, The Associated Press, Tucson, Arizona, published 01/08/2006.

The writer refers to the kang several times as a pile of bricks, but I have seen brick piles, and I believe a kang is quite a bit more sophisticated. It sounds to me like they've figured out a way to sleep on top of the stove.

Wikimedia image.. The lady of the house is accompanied by a maid.
The children are playing around the mother on the kang (heated bed),
The artist Gao Yinzhang lived 1835-1906 in Yang Liu Qing of Tian Jin (city).

This story about kangs brought to mind a reading book I had in my early years of grade school. In a story about a family in Holland, the illustrations showed their beds as sort of sleeping cabinets with doors, built into the wall. I was intrigued by the idea of such a bed and I thought it would be pleasantly cozy and private. But now, I have a mild feeling of claustrophobia when I think of sleeping in such a shoebox. I am sure the small enclosure retains body heat but I think I'd rather have a kang.

"Aren't these queer beds, Mrs. Fisher?" the parson's wife was saying, peering into the shelves against the side of the wall, boarded up, with doors swung open inviting inspection.
"The idea of sleeping in one of them!" exclaimed Mrs. Fisher, inspecting the interior with a sharp eye. "They're clean enough and as neat as a pink"--with a critical glance along the white lace spread and the immaculate pillow--"but to be shut up in a box like that. I should as soon go to bed in a bureau drawer."
"So should I," laughed the parson's wife; "and look at the artificial flowers hanging up over the head, and that picture pinned, above the foot. Well, well, well, and so that is a Dutch bed!"
"There are a good many kinds and sorts of Dutch beds, I suppose," observed Mrs. Fisher, turning away, "just as there are a good many American ones; but I hope there aren't many of this particular kind."
From The Five Little Peppers Abroad (chapter 14) by Margaret Sidney.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.