Bamboo wife

A bamboo wife (夫人; Mandarin: zhúfūrén; Cantonese: jūkfūyàhn; Vietnamese: trúc phu nhân; Korean: 죽부인, jukbuin; Japanese: chikufujin), also known as a Dutch wife, in Tagalog as kawil (literally, fish hook or chain); in Burmese as ဖက်လုံး and in Indonesian as guling, is a hollow bamboo bolster roughly the size of the human body.

The origin of the English term "Dutch wife" is thought via folk etymology to be from the (former) Dutch colony of Indonesia, where Dutch traders would spend long periods away from their wives. A more likely explanation is the link with Dutch courage, Dutch auction or to go Dutch. Here the use of the word Dutch was something dodgy or not regular. It arose in the 17th century when there were a series of Anglo-Dutch wars and the Dutch were seen as untrustworthy by the English. This then carried over to America and the colonies and sees this use of Dutch applied in other circumstances such as in the phrase "you can trust me or I am a Dutchman".

Bamboo wives are typically hand-woven from bamboo cane.

Usage

In the summer heat, the open bamboo structure is cooler to the touch than fabric pillows or sheets. The Dutch wife is embraced by the user, as one would a sleeping companion—this position exposes the maximum amount of the body to cooling breezes. This and other devices, such as pillows of a similar shape, may also alleviate lower back pain when placed between the legs during sleep periods.

Adoption

Bamboo wives and their variants in other countries have their origin and use in East Asia and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, which are regions with hot and humid summers.

They are now less popular to the point of extinction, possibly due to the prevalence of air conditioning, especially in the urban areas and among people who can afford it. As a replacement for Dutch wives made from bamboo, they can also be made of cotton or other synthetic fibers. Dutch wives made of cotton or other synthetic fiber are still widely used in Indonesia.

In culture

Because chikufujin are hand-woven from cheap materials, they are an item used to connote the poverty of the manufacturer. In the Japanese film Lady Snowblood, a supporting character (Kobue) pretends to make her living by weaving chikufujin to conceal her profession as a prostitute from her father.

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