Traditional Chinese marriage
became customary during the Warring States period (476-221 BC). The
Han Chinese was the main body of China. Although the detailed customs
were varied due to people from different places they followed common
practice in general. Traditional Chinese marriage custom was rather
complicated so very few modern Chinese people seriously follow the
old practice and the traditional marriage customs are much simplified.
In ancient time, a marriage would be
arranged by parents instead of the boy and the girl. Only after
a matchmaker's introduction and when parents considered the two
family conditions were similar and matched they would agree, the
marriage procedures could continue. Family conditions included wealth
and social status. In China there is a saying: Bamboo gate to bamboo
gate, wood gate to wood gate which means the people will marry the
partner with the same social class.
the Formal Wedding Ceremony
Nuptial Decorative Double Happiness Papercuts
There are some cases that the marriage was arranged when both the
bride and the groom were very young or even not born. The two families
with two pregnant mothers will make the promise that when the babies
are born, if they both were boys or girls, they would become brothers
or sisters and if one baby was a boy and the other a girl, they
would get married. Hence the saying: pointing to the bosom as a
marriage promise. However, some times when the boy grew up, his
family may have fallen from prestige so the girl's family may refuse
to let them get married. There are numerous folktales of tragedies
from the arranged marriage. However, there are also many happy endings
of the arranged marriage. Anyway it was the fact of life at that
The "Three Letters” and “Six Etiquettes"
The "Three Letters" included the Betrothal
Letter, Gift Letter and Wedding Letter. The Betrothal Letter was
the formal document of the engagement and it is one must in a marriage.
Next was the Gift Letter, which was given to the girl's family.
The letter would list the types and quantity of gifts presented
to the girl's family. The Wedding Letter was prepared and presented
to the bride's family on the day of the wedding and was a document
that confirmed the formal acceptance of the bride into the bridegroom's
The "Six Etiquettes"
Proposing: Once an unmarried boy's parents looked
out for a girl as their ideal future daughter-in-law they would
then invite a matchmaker. Proposals were the specialties of the
matchmakers who were mainly women. The matchmaker would formally
present his or her client's request to the girl's parents. If successful
the matchmaker would be rewarded by the boy's family.
Birthday matching: If the potential bride's parents
did not object to the marriage, the matchmaker would then ask for
the girl's birthday and birth-hour to assure the compatibility of
the potential bride and bridegroom. If the couple's birthdays and
birth-hours did not conflict according to astrology, the marriage
would continue onto the next stage. If there was any sign of serious
astrological conflict, which meant the marriage would bring disaster
upon both families, the proposed marriage would finish.
Presenting betrothal gifts: Once both birthdays
matched, the bridegroom's family would then arrange for the matchmaker
to present betrothal gifts adhere with the betrothal letter to the
Presenting wedding gifts: After the betrothal letter
and betrothal gifts were accepted, the bridegroom's family would
later formally send wedding gifts to the bride's family. Usually,
gifts may include tea, lotus seeds, different fruits, wine, jewelry
and brocades depending on local customs and family wealth.
Wedding date selection: The parents would consult
an astrologist or astrology book to select an auspicious date to
hold the wedding ceremony. The bride's family would prepare dowry
for the girl. Usually the bride's dowry should be sent to the bridegroom's
family by the day before the wedding day. Sometimes the dowry would
be brought by the bride's escorts. The dowry indicated the bride's
family social status and wealth and they would be displayed in the
boy's home. Generally the dowry was profuse. A traditional dowry
normally consisted of valuable items such as jewelry, brocades,
silk, kitchen utensils and furniture. The symbolic dowry was also
prepared such as scissors like two butterflies never separating,
rulers indicating acres of fields, and vases for peace and wealth.
Dowry also changed with time passing by. For example, dozens of
years ago, a sewing machine, a bicycle, and a recorder were musts
in a marriage. Now, they are totally out of fashion.
Wedding ceremony: At dawn on the wedding day and
after a bath, the bride put on new clothes, wore a pair of red shoes
and waited for the so-called "good luck woman" to dress
her hair in the style of a married woman. The first combing symbolizes:
from beginning till the end. The second combing symbolizes: harmony
from now till old age. The third combing symbolizes: sons and grandsons
all over the place. The fourth combing stands for: good wealth and
a long-lasting marriage.
The Bride would be dressed in red because red color meant good luck
and happiness. Her head would be covered with a red silk veil with
tassels. She waited for her future husband to escort her home, with
married women talking around about how to be a good wife.
On the other hand, the bridegroom prepared himself to receive his
wife. He got capped and dressed in a long gown, red shoes and a
red silk sash with a silk ball on his chest. The groom knelt at
the ancestral altar as his father put a cap decorated with cypress
leaves on his head to declare his adulthood and his family responsibility.
Then the bridegroom set out to receive his bride. Usually a crowd
of friends escort the bridegroom and musicians play joyful tunes
during the entire trip. Dancing lions, if any, preceded the troop.
In ancient times, a bridal sedan chair would be used to carry the
bride. A child carried a bridal box among the people, reflecting
the bridegroom's expectation to have a child in the near future.
The most interesting part of the reception really took place at
the doorstep of the bride's residence, which was heavily guarded
by the bridesmaid or the bride's sisters. It was customary for the
bridesmaid to give the bridegroom a difficult time before he was
allowed to enter. Usually wisdom, courage and his friends would
help the bridegroom to succeed in his "trial". However,
there was one more situation he had to negotiate with the bridesmaid
and sisters of the bride - to distribute among them red packets
containing money - in order to take his bride home.
Before the bride departed to the bridegroom's home, the "good
luck woman" would lead her to the sedan chair. On her way to
the chair, one of her sisters would shield her with a red parasol,
while another sister will throw rice at the sedan chair. At the
back of the sedan hang a sieve and metallic mirror that were believed
to protect the bride from evil. The bride had to cry to show that
she was reluctant to leave her parents.
Then firecrackers would be set off to drive away evil spirits as
the bride sits into the sedan chair. All along the way people made
great efforts to avoid any inauspicious influence. For instance,
the sedan chair was heavily curtained to prevent the bride from
seeing an unlucky sight (e.g. a widow, a well or even a cat). When
the wedding procession arrived at the bridegroom's family, firecrackers
would be set off to hail the bride's arrival. Before the sedan chair
a red mat was placed so that the bride will not touch the bare earth.
By the threshold, a flaming stove and saddle would be set up and
the bride is required to step over them to avoid evils.
The wedding ceremony was the focus of interest. The bride and bridegroom
were led to the family altar, where the couple kowtowed to Heaven
and Earth, the family ancestors and parents successively. They then
bowed to each other and were led to the bridal chamber. The ceremony
proceeded under the direction of the emcee and applauses of the
guests. The bridal chamber would be well decorated with pictures
and paper-cuts with auspicious motif. The bridal bed would be installed
at the correct place on a selected day before the wedding day. The
bridal bed would be scattered with symbolic and lucky fruits. Nobody
was allowed to touch the bed until the couple enters the bridal
chamber after the wedding ceremony. Children would then be invited
onto the bed to bless the couple with fertility.
Afterwards, a grand feast is held for relatives, friends, and those
who helped with the wedding. The newlywed couple would drink wedding
wine. Generally they were required to cross their arms to sip wine.
They also would toast their guests. Guests expressed their good
wishes for the couple even though the bridegroom was trying to be
humble while acting embarrassed.
Teasing games in the bridal chamber
After night falls, the teasing games start. Usually all young men
could participate except for the bride's married brothers-in-laws.
These funny and silly games helped ease the tension, since in ancient
times the newly weds never met each other before the wedding. Most
of the games require the shy couple to act like wife and husband.
The festive atmosphere also promoted closeness among all the family
members and the community beyond. There also would be other activities
conducted by the bridegroom's mother after the roaring laughter
fades into the darkness.
The next day morning the bride should get up earlier to prepare
breakfast for her parents in law to show her filial and piety.
Bride returning home three days later
Three days after the wedding, the bride is expected to return to
her family. The bride will bring along roasted pig and gifts for
the family. Some regions require that the groom accompany her while
some didn't. Nonetheless, this is probably the last chance the bride
gets to see her parents. Therefore, she will bring along a lot of
gifts for the family and she may even stay for a couple of days
or even more.
As a tradition, the bride's family will also return part of the
gifts to the groom's family as a courtesy. Some regional custom
requires that the family should return the head and tail of the
roasted pig to the groom's family symbolizing the good beginning
and end of the wedding.
Traditional Chinese marriage custom has changed too much today.
A lot of old complicated customs are overleaped. New forms for wedding
become popular. Young people can arrange their marriage and wedding
considerably freely but their parents’ advice is still important.
A lot of couples choose traveling wedding even collective wedding.
Most of them will go to nice hotels or restaurants to hold the wedding
ceremony. Some of them even go to church to hold the wedding ceremony.
During last few years the traditional wedding ceremony seems revives
because it is attractive to some young people.
are some nice wedding gifts for sale. If you have interest please
is the active carbon decorative plate carved with the newlyweds’
images, dragon and phoenix, and Chinese characters. The plate
is 21.8cm in diameter. It is 1.8cm thick. It has a stand and
well packed in the gift box. It weighs around 1.5kg with package.
The Chinese symbol on the top means “Double Happiness”.
The other four Chinese characters on the bottom mean “Merry
Wedding”. Dragon and phoenix mean harmony and good luck.
All the designs have auspicious meaning. It is a nice wedding
gift for friends. We can also carve your name and date on
the back of this plate. Active carbon can absorb toxic gas
and odor in the air; it is environment friendly material.
For this plate it costs 65USD including shipping.
This is a pair of
newlyweds’ figurines. They are made of resin. The figurines
are in 18cm high and around 6cm thick. They are packed in
a gift box. The newlywed couple is dressed in traditional
Chinese clothes. The Chinese character on bridegroom means
“love”. The Character on bride means “double happiness”.
Their expression looks joyful. The red color means happiness
and good luck. The figurines are nice wedding gifts for friends.
It costs 60USD including shipping.
This is a pair of dragon
and phoenix candles for wedding night. Dragon and phoenix
mean good luck and harmony. Lighting dragon and phoenix candles
is very important for Chinese wedding night. The two candles
stands for the newlyweds. They also imply the good wish for
the newlyweds living together till white hair with love and
good luck. The candle is 22cm long and 4cm in diameter. It
is smokeless and no candle tears when burning. With package
it is around 0.5KG. It costs 45USD including shipping.
This is a pair of double happiness shaped
candles for wedding night. Lighting candles is very important
for Chinese wedding night. The two candles stands for the
newlyweds. They also imply the good wish for the newlyweds
living together till white hair with love and good luck. The
candle is 8cm high and 4cm wide. It is smokeless and no candle
tears when burning. With package it is around 0.2KG. It costs
25USD including shipping.
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