From ancient Egyptian wooden beds to Japanese tatami mats-travel notes on bed mats

Sleep is the basic attribute of animal survival, and good sleep is essential to animal health and life continuity. From the perspective of posture, animals sleep or lie down or stand differently, but for humans who “work at sunrise and rest at sunset”, only lying (lying) sleeping can they sleep comfortably. Therefore, whether it is a wealthy mansion of a high-ranking family or a poor man’s house on the walls, the bed will be placed in the most important space of the home.

In the West, the tall wooden bed was the first to appear in ancient Egypt. In “The Evolution of Western Furniture: Style and Style”, Phyllis Bennett Oates pointed out that the Egyptian bed around 2000 BC “is one A simple style with a rectangular frame, often using longer legs to raise the head of the bed, so that the bed is tilted to the end of the foot, and sometimes a certain slope is formed.” On the map, North Africa and Western Europe, where ancient Egypt is located, face each other across the Mediterranean. The two places have a long history of mutual exchange. The Egyptian high-footed wooden bed was first accepted by the ancient Greeks, and then traveled to the Middle East and South Asia and China via the Roman Empire. .

In the East, the earliest bed was the “seat” invented by the Chinese. Mr. Li Zongshan wrote in “The Illustrated History of Chinese Furniture”: “From the archaeological discoveries in the prehistoric period, the earliest and most primitive sitting and lying furniture should be the’mat,’ which is based on weaving technology.” With the expansion and influence of Chinese civilization, “Xi”, as a solution for oriental sleep, traveled eastward from the Central Plains to the Korean Peninsula and Japan, and traveled southward to Vietnam and Indochina, becoming the source of tatami mats today.

The nest and the bed, traces of the bed in ancient times
“There are tens of thousands of large buildings in the day, and only one bed is needed at night.” For people, they have a wide range of activities during the day and various forms. They can stand, sit, run, and jump, but at night they can only sleep on a couch. So the bed is particularly important. Li Yu, a literati in the Qing Dynasty, concluded in his “Xian Qing Ou Ji”: “For a hundred years of life, the day is in the middle of the night and the night is half of the time. The place in the day is either a hall or a boat, or a boat or a car. , There is always no certainty. But at night, there is only one bed. It is a bed, it is the same thing for half of my life, compared with the knot and the chaff, it is also the first and the first, and the person treats the thing, which is the thickest Don’t overdo it.”

So before the birth of the bed, where did people sleep in different parts of the world? Which places or utensils have played the role of “bed”? In this regard, the article “Zhuangzi · Pirates” gave a “nest dwelling”, that is, people sleeping on the tree: “The ancients had many animals and few people, so the people lived in nests to avoid them, picking up oaks and chestnuts during the day. On the twilight wood.” According to the theory of evolution, humans evolved from ancient apes, and it is reasonable to live in trees like monkeys in the early days. In this regard, the world-famous archaeologist Brian Fagan also agrees in the book “The Human History of the Bed: Human Changes from the Bedroom”. He wrote: “In the Toro-Semliky Reserve in western Uganda, chimpanzees use Ugandan ironwood (a tree with thick and wide branches) as a bed. They weave the twigs together. Make a sturdy and durable bed…it’s certain that our distant ancestors did the same. Above the ground, they must have built nests for sleeping, resting during the hot day, and breeding.”

As people’s activities on the ground continue to increase, climbing up and down from trees is becoming more and more inconvenient every day, so it is possible to sleep on the ground in a dry cave. According to a report in the US “National Geographic” magazine, the oldest known “bed” in the world was discovered in KwaZulu-Natal province in eastern South Africa. This “bed” is more than 30 cm thick and has an area of ​​about 2 square meters. “It can be traced back to 77,000 years ago. From a distance, it looks like a “cushion” made by pressing layers of reeds and rushes, perhaps to eliminate bacteria and insects, and some reeds and rushes have burnt marks. In addition, there are some leaves remaining on the “bed”, which archaeologists speculate are the “sheets” used by people when they sleep. Because for the ancient humans in prehistoric times, the night is usually spent on a pile of leaves or hay.

70,000 years after the emergence of the “ancient bed” in South Africa, the way humans sleep on the ground has basically not changed. In the Hinds Cave in the Pecos River Valley in southwestern Texas, the archaeologists discovered a human habitat 7000 years ago. In this dry cave with a depth of about 3 meters, the sunken wall preserves the remains of the “sleeping pit and stove covered with turf”. It is speculated that these places should be the “beds” where ancient hunter-gatherers huddled up to sleep at night. Compared with South African “ancient beds”, these small oval “beds” are smaller in size and have insufficient space to stretch their limbs. They can only rest in a curled up manner. Perhaps this is more conducive to keeping people warm at night.

With the advent of hierarchical society, in order to highlight the identity and status of the nobility, people in the Western world raised the height of their beds. The ancient Egyptians and ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia began to fix the wooden bed frame on the bed legs to form a platform for people to sleep, so the wooden bed with a height of about 30 cm was about 6000 years ago. It was invented in 1970. In the tomb of the famous Egyptian juvenile pharaoh Tutankhamun (14th century BC), archaeologists discovered 6 uniquely shaped high beds with cat legs. Due to its relative geographical proximity, the Egyptian high wooden bed quickly traveled to ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Brian Feigen researched that: “In Greece and Rome, the bed of the rich was similar to the bed in Egypt. They were based on a narrow rectangular shape, but the legs were longer and could even double as a table. This kind of bed has no footrest. Board, but the headboard can support people leaning on it.”

Due to the huge differences in geography and humanities, the “bed” in the far east has not been significantly elevated for a long time. At the Banpo site in Xi’an, there was a “soil bed” or soil platform about 10 cm above the ground and an area of ​​about 5 square meters. In order to prevent moisture, some of these “earth beds” have been grilled, the surface is relatively smooth and hard, and some “beds” still have thick vegetation ash on the surface. In addition to the “earth bed”, pottery with mat patterns also appeared in the Banpo site, indicating that the ancestors at that time had mastered the weaving technique and were able to make mats to isolate the moisture on the ground. According to Mr. He Weiliang of Banpo Museum, the picture of the life of Banpo’s ancestors was speculated as follows: “(In winter) there are mats on the soil bed, and animal skins and thatch on the mats. People are wearing clothes made of animal skins and cloth. Clothes, lying on the mat.”

Mural Hu Bed, the memory of Silk Road travel from the West from the High Bed
Before the Han Dynasty, because there were no tables, chairs and stools, Chinese people often sat on the floor and lay on the floor. Even in the Tang Dynasty, some people still slept directly on the mat. In the poet Pi Rixiu’s “Stone pillow is cold, human brain, bamboo shoots on the skin”, Yang Ning’s “Agarwood pillow on the mat, Dangzi’s wife in the building” and other verses, the seats are used by people to sleep. Regarding the origin of the Xi, Wei Song from the Qing Dynasty retrospectively said that “Shen Nong served as a table recommendation” in “Yi Shi Ji Shi. What is “recommendation”? In the Eastern Han Dynasty, Liu Xi said “Recommendation, so self-recommendation”, indicating that it is used for sleeping or sitting on the bottom floor, relatively low-level seats. Wang Jia of the Jin Dynasty also has a record of “(Yellow Emperor) imperial envoys, and those who are under the moral education, and the first to list the yuyu on the orchid seat” in the “Supplementary Notes”.

So what is the relationship between the seat and the bed? Linguist Mr. Wang Li believes that the bed is a progressive form of the seat, and the seat comes before the bed. The earliest bed surface was composed of movable drawer boards, and the whole bed could be disassembled and assembled, so it is said in “Shi Ming”: “Where a person sits and lies on a bed. The bed is fitted, so it is self-loading. The long, narrow and humble bed is called a couch. The bed is close to the ground.” From the perspective of the font, the bed and the bed are related to wood, rather than the grass or bamboo of the woven mat. This means that the bed and the mat in early China are two different things. “The Book of Songs·Xiaoya·Sigan” says that “a man is born, a bed for sleeping…Is a girl, a place for sleeping”, and the “Book of Songs · Binfeng” says that “I will be in my house in September, and crickets will enter my bed in October. “It also shows that the bed has a certain height and is different from the floor (seat).

In 1957, a painted lacquered wood bed from the mid-Warring States period was excavated from the Guanchu Tomb at Changtai, Xinyang, Henan Province. The bed was rectangular, with six legs, 2.18 meters long, 1.99 meters wide, 19 cm high, and surrounded by latticework. The lattice-shaped railings and the bed body painted with black paint indicate that there was an overhead wooden bed at that time. According to the “Historical Records · Lie Sheng Lu Jia Biography”: “Pei Gong to Gaoyang Biography…Li Shengzhi, enter the Ye, Pei Gong square bed makes the two women wash their feet, and see Li Sheng.” In this historical picture, The bed that Liu Bang leans on should have a certain height, because if he sits directly on the floor, it would be very inconvenient for the two maids to wash his feet.

Of course, from the 10 cm high soil bed at the Banpo site to the 19 cm high Warring States wooden bed at the Xinyang Chu Tomb, the height of the Chinese bed in the pre-Qin period was relatively limited, which was quite different from the Western bed height of the same period. With the Western Han Dynasty Zhang Qian digging through the Western Regions and Eastern Han Buddhism spreading to the Central Plains, the high chair and stool from the West and Central Asia, the “Hu Bed”, began to travel to China, not only changing the Chinese people’s sitting on the ground to sitting on their feet but also slow Slowly raised the height of the Chinese bed. Along the ancient Silk Road, whether it is a picture of Buddha sitting high in the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves, or a picture of a monk sitting and lying in the Dunhuang murals, there are a large number of high chairs and couches. Undoubtedly, these murals are the best proof of the Western-style high bed travel to the Central Plains before and after the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties.

In this regard, Song Wenxin pointed out in the article “Analysis of Beds in Dunhuang Murals”: “In the Dunhuang grottoes, there is a living style that is different from the traditional sitting on the floor…At the same time, high furniture from Tianzhu Buddha country, such as double huts and backrests Armchairs have also enriched the types of furniture in Dunhuang and promoted the development of traditional furniture.” In the fresco “Sumati Women’s Fate Products” on the north side of the west wall of Cave 257 of the Northern Wei Dynasty in Dunhuang, there are two people sitting together. Above the long Hu bed, from the screen, the height of the Hu bed is about the same as the leg length of the seated person, and it should be 30 or 40 centimeters high. It is not difficult to speculate that as long as this Hu bed is slightly extended, it can meet the needs of people lying down and sleeping. In addition, in the frescoes on the southern wall of Cave 257 of the Northern Wei Dynasty, “The Karma of the Bad Dog”, a monk directly appears lying on a four-legged wooden bed. Dr. Yang Sen, who has long studied Dunhuang fresco furniture, believes that this is the earliest image of bed furniture in Dunhuang frescoes, and its height is already comparable to modern beds.

Perhaps it is precisely because this large Hu bed better meets the requirements of people’s daily use, and can also highlight the status of the wealthy and powerful class, the Central Plains region quickly accepted it. In February 1976, the archaeological staff of the Shandong Museum excavated an ancient tomb of the Sui Dynasty in Yanglou Village, Jiaxiang County, southwestern Shandong Province. The owner of the tomb was Xu Minxing, the servant of the driving department of Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty. In the unearthed tomb mural “Xu Shilang and his wife enjoying a feast”, Xu Minxing and his wife are sitting together on a large seat. The couch is evenly proportioned and simple in shape. The height should be more than 30 cm, and the area is larger than the Hu bed in “Sumati Girl”, so it can be used as a bed. Therefore, regarding the travel route of the high bed, Dr. Yang Sen pointed out: “If you trace the origin of the Hu bed furniture, you still need to look for ancient Egypt and Greece, the source of world civilization.”

“Sweeping” the world, Chinese bedridden travels to the east
As the chair rises, the Chinese bedding has gradually risen, but the mat on the bed has not changed and has become an important part of the Chinese bed. In ancient times when the traffic was not very developed, it was impossible for people to travel around with heavy wooden beds when they went out, but it was still possible to walk around with soft and light mats. Judging from documentary records and archeological objects, it is indeed the first to travel in four directions, becoming the representative of Chinese beds, and coming to different countries and regions.

China is a country of etiquette. People value etiquette and have strict behavior standards for sitting, lying and walking. Before bed was invented and widely used, in order to regulate people’s life etiquette, Zhou Tianzi specially established the official position of “sijiyan”, which was responsible for the preparation of people’s banquets. Perhaps it is this top-down requirement and standard that made ancient Chinese attach great importance to the use of seats and seats. “Zhou Li·Chun Guan·Si Ji Yan” stipulates that there are five types of seats: Wan, Zao, Ci, Pu, Xiong, and makes detailed requirements for the use of seats. That is the feast, and the one that is more important is called the banquet.” Zheng Xuan of the Han Dynasty said in this commentary: “Feasts are also banquets, and they are called banquets, and the books are called banquets. The banquets are laid down and the banquets are laid on the top, so it is a seat.”

The “Book of Rites” emphasizes that “the seat of the emperor is fivefold, the seat of the princes is threefold, and the doctor is more important.” That is to say, in order to sit and lie more comfortably, it can also better highlight the different levels of people’s status. When using, it is necessary to lay multiple layers of mats according to the situation, and the materials and patterns of each layer are different. This requirement for the use of Xi was particularly prominent in the Han Dynasty. “The Book of the Later Han Dynasty·Dai Ping Biography” records: “It is even more difficult for the emperor to make a group of officials who can talk about the scriptures, and those who do not understand righteousness, and who win their seats to help them, will sit more than fifty seats.” People with high abilities and good eloquence can sit on more seats, and on the contrary, they will be removed from the seats. Of course, this method can highlight a person’s status and degree of importance.

Because people in different regions use different materials for weaving mats, mats also have many different names. For example, in ancient literature, the mat woven with cattail grass is called “puxi” or “wanxi”, and the mat woven with bamboo and rattan is called 簟 (音店). In the early Western Han Dynasty, the writer Yang Xiong said in “Dialects”: “Zhen, between the Song and Wei dynasties, is called Sheng, or Zangqu; from Guan to East, or called Zangqu, the rough one is called Zang Zan, Zang Zhan, since Guan Erdong, Zhou, Luo, Chu, and Wei are called lied, and from Guan to the west, they are called Qiu.” These names also faintly reveal the travel information of the attending sons on the land of China.

Between the Han and Tang Dynasties, Chinese culture developed from growth to maturity, and profoundly influenced neighboring countries through the tributary system of the central dynasty. As a bedding used every day, Xi also began to climb mountains and ridges, and traveled west to the Western Regions west of the Hexi Corridor. After mastering the mat weaving technology, the people there also gave their own mats to the Central Plains royal family. “Supplementary Notes” recorded that: “(Zhou Lingwang) in the twenty-three years, the stage of Kunzhao…the fox fur, the su fur, and the purple quilt (a kind of bear seat) were provided by the Western Regions. When applied to the stage, all the seats are warm, and one person sings, which can make impromptu inflammation. It is done on the fingerstyle table, and when the wind enters the room, the fur mattresses are all abandoned under the stage.”

Almost at the same time, the mats of the Central Plains also traveled eastward, traveling across the ocean to the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The exact time when Xi Zi traveled to the Korean peninsula is not clear, because there is no record in historical records such as “Hanshu·Geography”, “Three Kingdoms·Umaru Xianbei Biography”, “Xintangshu”, “Taiping Huanyu Ji” and other historical records. . Until the end of the Northern Song Dynasty, Wang Yun, the ambassador to Goryeo, said in the “Ji Lin Zhi”: “There are many Korean people weaving mats, and there are dragon-shoulder seats and chai mats. Those who are sold by people from Jinbo are all woven mats, narrow and dense. It’s tight, and there are small bunches of flowers on it.” People knew that at that time, Korea not only had sleeping seats, but the production standard was not low.

Japanese people like and value the sleeping seats from China. In Japanese, Xi is written as “畳”, which is the tatami we are familiar with today. The 畳 first appeared in the Nara period (approximately 710-794). The Japanese history book “Kojiki” records: “Huo Yuan entered the house immediately by fate, and in his palace, the sea donkey (sea lion) was covered with Yae, Yiji puts eight layers of silk on top of it.” This record shows that in the middle and late Tang Dynasty in China, Japan had systematically used mats.

After that, the fixed format of 畳 was specified in the law and order history book “Yonkishi”, which was written during the Heian period (around 927) in Japan. The regulations require the selection and use of the size and color of the edges according to the user’s identity. Japan’s use of tatami is obviously influenced by China. The “Book of Rites: Nei Ze” said: “The ancient pillows were set at night, and when dawn was caught, they should not be shown in private.” In other words, people took out the pillows and quilts when night came. Put them away during the day to ensure that the room is clean and spacious. The way Japanese people use tatami mats today is roughly the same as described in the Book of Rites.

Since the Ming Dynasty, canopy beds appeared in China. Three sides of the canopy bed are set with low enclosures, four-corner pillars, and the top of the bed, which is convenient for people to hang tents to ensure heat preservation in winter and mosquito prevention in summer. From the appearance, the canopy bed is like a small room, ensuring privacy. Unfortunately, for many reasons, the Ming-style canopy bed failed to have a great impact on the world. In this regard, Mr. Ma Weidu wrote in “A Breakthrough, The Bed in Ancient Poems”: “Unfortunately, the Chinese nowadays have given up the Chinese-style beds that have brought many changes to people’s lives and brought happiness and enjoyment, and they have all slept in foreign countries. On the bed.”