Saturday, September 5, 2009

Children, Pillows and the Bolster

The other night, before I could leave the Children’s room, I was prompted by Nicole to pass her the bolster.

Even though I think that her bolster is really smelly (due to her saliva and sweat), she insists that she likes it just the way it is…unwashed and soiled!


Have you ever wondered how the bolster came about?

Why do we seem to need this cushion, in between our legs before we sleep?

And interestingly enough, when we watch Hollywood Movies, this pillow seems to be missing from the bedrooms of American and Western homes!

Why ah?!?

According to Wikipedia, A bolster (etymology: Middle English, derived from Old English, is a long narrow pillow or cushion filled with cotton, down, or fibre. In western countries, it is usually placed at the head of bed and functions as head or back support.

In southeast Asian countries, in particular Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, the bolster is designed to be hugged when sleeping. It is called a dakimakura in Japanese. In the Philippines, many call it the "hotdog pillow" (or more natively, "tandayan") following the close resemblance to the food bearing that name. In Chinese, its hanyu pinyin is "bao zhen" (lit. "hugging pillow").

Tradition suggests that a wife would fashion the bolster out of bamboo and give it to her husband when he travelled away from home so that he would not be lonely at night, hence the name "bamboo wife," or "Dutch wife," or chikufujin in Japanese.

In many Chinese and Malay families, children are provided with a bolster and the habit of sleeping with a bolster carries over into adulthood.


It is said that hugging a bolster will calm one's mind when sleeping, and, in the hot tropical climate of Singapore and Malaysia, it is often too hot to cover oneself with a blanket when sleeping, especially in a non-air-conditioned room, hence hugging a bolster will avoid catching a cold.

In more traditional Chinese families, a newly-wed couple's wedding chamber will most likely have a bed that comes with two pillows and one bolster. It is said that the bolster is to provide the husband with something to hug when the wife is not in the mood or vice versa.

In many other countries, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, a bolster is quite different. They use a bolster the way what some western countries use their body pillows. These are pillows that the sleeper can rest his head on and also hug it with both arms and legs. This is great for children who like the comfort of sleeping with something and the habit extends to adults too.

The use of the bolster is so common among Indonesian people that most local hotels provide bolsters for their guests. However, this is less common in westernized hotels in bigger cities in Indonesia.

So exactly what a bolster is, depends on the country you live in.

I believe that this little article explains, why bolsters play such a significant role in Asian Families! Do you sleep with a bolster?


Jerb said...

Wow... I didn't know all these about bolsters!

Anonymous said...

This is indeed interesting to know about bolsters...what a great insight! I didn't know a bolster has so many uses! And yes....I can't sleep without one =X

San said...

Nice photos! :)

And yeah, I can't sleep well without a bolster too! :P Well-researched entry!

Denesa said...

My 10 year-old son still insists on hugging the bolster that he has used since he was a toddler. In fact, he doesn't like us to change the cover. Perhaps, the smell has some comforting effect when he sleeps:)

Hann Hann said...

I don't exactly z with a bolster.
I hug an extra large pillow to z. actually it's a normal adult pillow but it's large for me.

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