A German historian said Friday in Beijing that mud beds, or Kang in Chinese, played a significant role in shaping ancient Chinese cultural etiquette.
Mareile Flitsch, professor at Berlin Technical University Institute for History of Technology, said that the Chinese hypocaust had one side cold and the other warm. They used hypocausts as beds, kitchens, dining tables and ritual sites.
Monks usually held mourning services and newly weds carried out their marriage ceremony on hypocausts.
Different sitting or kneeling postures might show different social ranks, Flitsch said.
She said that the use of the "Kang" comprises sitting postures of kneeling, squatting and sitting cross-legged. Sitting with correct postures and right places subtly exposed politeness and social rank.
Flitsch said that Kang was a multi-functional place. It could serve as a bed, floor, table, chair and heater. Therefore, it combined the working and living features of daily users.
The Kang was usually covered with a mat so that people literally sat on mats. Many Chinese historians have also investigated rules of etiquette concerning the correct use of mats and furnishing, she said.
Flitsch said many wealthy people in North China abandoned the Kang slowly at the end of 19th century. Instead they used modern tables, chairs and beds with respective functions. But Kang can still be found in rural China at present.