Ancient Chinese pillows are often hard pillows, made from stone, wood, bamboo, bronze, or porcelain instead of stuffed fabric. And the shape and contents of pillows have varied over time.
The stone pillow, usually made from jade, was believed to transform the energy from the stone to the human brain. Derived from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), this piece of material was trusted to cure headaches or depressions, or simply to increase the intelligence. It was more common in the royal and noble families because it was expensive and rare.
The wooden pillow played an important role in ancient China. It was made from precious woods like rosewood and boxwood, and its shape varied a lot. The boxwood pillow was often mentioned in ancient poems due to its rarity.
Among all ancient Chinese pillows, the porcelain pillow was the most widely used. Coming into being with the development of porcelain-making crafts, the porcelain pillow first appeared in the Sui Dynasty (581-618), flourished in the Tang Dynasty (618–907), and reached its heyday in the Song Dynasty (960–1279). Featuring great variety and elegant modeling, the porcelain pillow included the geometrical shapes, animal shapes, or shapes of architectures and human figures, etc. It also had colorful decorative patterns, including animals, plants, mountains and rivers, and characters. The modeling and decorative patterns on the pillows directly or indirectly reflect the culture, customs, fashions, and pursuits of the social life at that time.
Nowadays, modern Chinese people prefer soft pillows, often filled with natural stuffing like chaff, cotton, and feather. Some are even filled with herbals to cure disease and improve sleep.