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February 2004

HAN DYNASTY
All Fired Up


A bed by night, a seat by day, and always a source of warmth, the kang, a masonry platform—its origins possibly reaching back to the Han dynasty—was once common in rural north China. Smoldering coals beneath a brick surface generated heat. Here, Chinese sleep at a country tavern. An adjacent photograph in the June 1927 Geographic showed guests awake on the kang, rice bowls in hand. "At mealtimes small, low tables are placed upon it, and at night numerous mats convert it into a warm, hard bed," the photo caption explained. The pillows, noted the photographer, "are filled with millet and are very hard."
 
—Margaret G. Zackowitz
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Send this image as a postcardPhotograph by A. Segers


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