In Chinese society the bed is one of the most important pieces of furniture. Used at night for sleeping, the bed is the equivalent of the couch in western society. During the day the bed was where people sat or reclined. Smaller beds could be taken outside where friends and family could relax to enjoy fine weather. Beds were a measure of family wealth and were proudly displayed.
The simplest form of bed is a flat platform on legs called a “ta” or day bed. They were used for a short nap during the day as well as a place to enjoy the company of others. As mentioned above this type of bed could be easily taken outside. This convenient portability perhaps explains why the majority of them are quite simple in design as more ornate pieces can be more fragile.
The three sided bed is called “luohan chuang” or monk’s bed. This type of bed has strong associations with the scholar’s studio as a place to sleep, recline or sit with books and scrolls. The three sides distinguish it from other bed types and it is this design that allows it to function as a couch during the day and a bed at night. The sides can be a simple railing or solid panels on which motifs are carved.
The canopy bed is in effect a house within a house. Its four sides means that it can be covered with curtains to give the occupants total privacy. While these beds were used for sitting and conversation, their main purpose is a private place for husband and wife to make love with the aim of producing children, especially sons, to carry on the family name. Because of this, the canopy bed was often presented as a wedding gift and most of these beds are ornate with motifs symbolising the wish for happiness and many children.