Our school recently had to buy new Ikea mattresses for several visiting American faculty members, because they were too uncomfortable sleeping on the hard Chinese beds. It’s true: the beds in China are quite hard. The husband also complained a lot in the beginning, but I told him to adapt, and he has (I think!). I’m a Korean native, so I’m used to harder beds. As you know, my people often sleep on the floor, which probably explains why the beds in Korea are quite hard, too.
So why are the beds in China so hard? I know Chinese people don’t traditionally sleep on the floor, so I asked my friend Luna. She said that in her hometown of northern China, they have elevated Kang beds that are built into the rooms and “made of bricks and hollow inside and connects with a stove out of the room, so that the smoke and heat can go through the Kang.” So basically, they’re like mini ondolbangs. Similar to Koreans, they’re used to sleeping on these hard, heated surfaces, and that probably explains why even after adopting the more western-style beds, the mattresses are still much, much harder than what Americans are accustomed to.
In other parts of China (southern, warmer parts where they don’t need the heating), people traditionally sleep in regular beds made of wood, like this fancy one in the photo. But I’m told they only put a very thin mat on top, so you’re still sleeping on a pretty hard surface.
Anyway, whenever westerners complain about the hard beds, Chinese people will tell you that it’s better for your back. Is that true? WebMD actually says that you should take the Goldilocks approach: not to hard, and not too soft. But… what’s considered hard? What’s considered soft? I think it depends on whether you ask an American or a Chinese.