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The ultimate bedroom
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In ancient China, beds were not only for sleeping and the usual diversions. They were sometimes magnificent venues to receive important guests, to sip tea and to smoke.

In the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), one standard for evaluating wealth and social status was how many beds a family owned - more precisely, how many elaborate "eight-step beds."

The ba bu chuang (eight-step bed) originally had eight small steps from the floor to the mattress. The sleeping bed itself was contained within a larger carved wooden bed chamber within the bedroom - in those days rooms were really big. Ceilings were as high as eight meters.

The bed was a room within a room. The enclosed bed area, like a rectangular pavilion with ceiling and curtains, was raised above the floor and enclosed on three sides, or even most of a fourth. It contained not only a bed, but often space for a dresser, small table and chairs, lamp, and closestool (containing a chamber pot).

The ultimate, opulently draped bedroom and walk-in closet.

Some enormous and magnificently carved beds are now in museums as they cannot be accommodated in most houses. They are intricately carved and lacquered in red and gold.

The eight-step bed (eight is a lucky number in Chinese) was popular with families of substance in southern China in the late Ming Dynasty. Such beds were very rare in the north as it was not as rich as the south.

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