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Chinese wedding customes   

2008-10-23 21:41:05|  分类: 关于教学 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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 Double Happiness

 

A large Chinese character, Double Happiness, on a red piece of paper or in paper cut is always put where it must strike the eyes on a young couple's wedding. It has a story behind it.

In the ancient Tang Dynasty, there was a student who was on the way to the capital to attend the national final examination, in which the top learners would be selected as the ministers in the court. Unfortunately, he fell ill halfway when he passed through a mountain village. Thanks to a herbalist doctor and his daughter, he was taken to their house and treated well. He recovered quickly due to the father and the daughter's good care. Well, when he had to leave, he found it hard to say good-bye to the pretty girl, and so did she. They fell in love. So the girl wrote down the right hand part of an antithetical couplet for the student to match:

"Green trees against the sky in the spring rain while the sky set off the spring trees in the obscuration."

"Well, I can make it though it is not easy. But you'll have to wait till I have finished the examination." replied the student. The young girl nodded in significance.

In the examination the young man won the first place, who was appreciated by the emperor. Also the winners were interviewed and tested by the emperor. As luck would have it, he was asked by the emperor to finish a couplet, which would need a right part as the answer. The emperor wrote:

"Red flowers dot the land in the breeze's chase while the land colored up in red after the kiss."

The young man realized immediately the right part of the couplet by the girl was the perfect fit to the emperor's couplet, so he took the girl's part as the answer without hesitation. The emperor was delighted to see the matching half of his couplet was so talent and harmonious that he authorized the young man's identity as Minister in the court and allowed him to pay a visit to his hometown first before holding the post. The young man met the girl happily at home and told her the emperor's couplet. They soon got married. For the wedding, the couple DOUBLED the Chinese character, HAPPY, together, on a red piece of paper and put it on the wall to express the happiness for the two events. And from then on, it has been taken on and became a social custom.

Spree in the Bridal Chamber

Though many traditional activities can no longer be seen at a Chinese wedding, the spree in the bridal chamber is still common both in the country and in town.

The spree happens after the feast when the bride and groom go back into their chamber. Relatives and friends and neighbors, any one at the wedding in fact, can come in to play all kinds of tricks on the new couple, especially the bride. They make a lot of noise so that there is an extremely lively atmosphere in the room, which is believed to be an inseparable part of a jolly wedding.

Some say that this custom goes back to Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220). Others say it was first started by Emperor Zhao Kuangyin, the founder of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). As historical records say that Zhao was concerned about his subjects and often made personal investigation among them. One day, he was traveling in a suburb of the capital city when he came across a wedding. When he learned that the groom was too poor to hire a musical band, he pretended to be the head of a band and called in his royal band to play at the wedding. At night, as Zhao remembered that it was an unlucky day according to the divination, he stayed at the yard with his military counselor Mr. Miao, so that they might be helpful in case any mishap happened to the couple. They sat in the dim moonlight playing chess. After midnight, they caught sight of a ghost climbing over the brick fence. Zhao picked up a wooden bar and ran up to the ghost. He knocked down the ghost only to find that it was a burglar wearing a mask, who had often been stealing property from newly married homes.

 

Emperor Zhao returned to the palace and made an announcement that at all weddings there should be relatives, friends and neighbors to stay around the brides and grooms and that all should be permitted to spree to keep off any eventualities.

 

  

 

Double Seventh Festival  

 

 

 

The Double Seventh Festival, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, is a traditional festival full of romance. It often goes into August in the Gregorian calendar.

 

 

 

 

   This festival is in mid-summer when the weather is warm and the grass and trees reveal their luxurious greens. At night when the sky is dotted with stars, and people can see the Milky Way spanning from the north to the south. On each bank of it is a bright star, which see each other from afar. They are the Cowherd and Weaver Maid, and about them there is a beautiful love story passed down from generation to generation.

 

 

 

 

Long, long ago, there was an honest and kind-hearted fellow named Niu Lang (Cowhand). His parents died when he was a child. Later he was driven out of his home by his sister-in-law. So he lived by himself herding cattle and farming. One day, a fairy from heaven Zhi Nu (Weaver Maid) fell in love with him and came down secretly to earth and married him. The cowhand farmed in the field and the Weaver Maid wove at home. They lived a happy life and gave birth to a boy and a girl. Unfortunately, the God of Heaven soon found out the fact and ordered the Queen Mother of the Western Heavens to bring the Weaver Maid back.

 

 

 

   With the help of celestial cattle, the Cowhand flew to heaven with his son and daughter. At the time when he was about to catch up with his wife, the Queen Mother took off one of her gold hairpins and made a stroke. One billowy river appeared in front of the Cowhand. The Cowhand and Weaver Maid were separated on the two banks forever and could only feel their tears. Their loyalty to love touched magpies, so tens of thousands of magpies came to build a bridge for the Cowhand and Weaver Maid to meet each other. The Queen Mother was eventually moved and allowed them to meet each year on the 7th of the 7th lunar month. Hence their meeting date has been called "Qi Xi" (Double Seventh).

 

 

 

   Scholars have shown the Double Seventh Festival originated from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD220). Historical documents from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD371-420) mention the festival, while records from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) depict the grand evening banquet of Emperor Taizong and his concubines. By the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties, special articles for the "Qi Xi" were seen being sold on markets in the capital. The bustling markets demonstrated the significance of the festival.

 

 

 

 

Today some traditional customs are still observed in rural areas of China, but have been weakened or diluted in urban cities. However, the legend of the Cowhand and Weaver Maid has taken root in the hearts of the people. In recent years, in particular, urban youths have celebrated it as Valentine's Day in China. As a result, owners of flower shops, bars and stores are full of joy as they sell more commodities for love.

Chinese marriage was systemized into custom in the Warring States period (402-221 B.C.). Due to the vast expanse and long history, there are different customs to follow in different places, although they are generally the same. Visitors still get chances to witness traditional marriages in the countryside.

In the ancient times, it was very important to follow a basic principle of Three Letters And Six Etiquettes, since they were essential to a marriage.

 

Three letters include Betrothal Letter, Gift Letter and Wedding Letter. Betrothal Letter is the formal document of the engagement, a must in a marriage. Then, a gift letter is necessary, which will be enclosed to the identified girl's family, listing types and quantity of gifts for the wedding once both parties accept the marriage. While the Wedding Letter refers to the document which will be prepared and presented to the bride's family on the day of the wedding to confirm and commemorate the formal acceptance of the bride into the bridegroom's family.

 

Six Etiquettes

 

Proposing: If an unmarried boy's parents identify a girl as their future daughter-in-law, then they will find a matchmaker. Proposal used to be practiced by a matchmaker. The matchmaker will formally present his or her client's request to the identified girl's parents.

 

Birthday matching: If the potential bride's parents do not object the marriage, the matchmaker will ask for the girl's birthday and birthhour record to assure the compatibility of the potential bride and bridegroom. If the couple's birthdays and birthhours do not conflict according to astrology, the marriage will step into the next stage. Once there is any conflict, meaning the marriage will bring disasters to the boy's family or the girl's, the proposed marriage stops.

 

Presenting betrothal gifts: Once birthdays match, the bridegroom's family will then arrange the matchmaker to present betrothal gifts, enclosing the betrothal letter, to the bride's family.

 

Presenting wedding gifts: After the betrothal letter and betrothal gifts are accepted, the bridegroom's family will later formally send wedding gifts to the bride's family. Usually, gifts may include tea, lotus seeds, longan, red beans, green beans, red dates, nutmeg, oranges, pomegranate, lily, bridal cakes, coconuts, wine, red hair braid, money box and other stuff, depending on local customs and family wealth.

 

Picking a wedding date: An astrologist or astrology book will be consulted to select an auspicious date to hold the wedding ceremony.

 

Wedding ceremony: On the selected day, the bridegroom departures with a troop of escorts and musicians, playing happy music all the way to the bride's home. After the bride is escorted to the bridegroom's home, the wedding ceremony begins.

 

Different with the West, the dominant color on traditional Chinese wedding is red, almost every thing. Chinese tend to apply red to add happy atmosphere in such big days.

 

At dawn on the wedding day, after a bath in water infused with various grapefruits, the bride puts on new clothes and wares a pair of red shoes, waiting for the so called good luck woman to dress her hair in the style of a married woman. Her head will be covered with a red silk veil with tassels or bead strings that hang from the phoenix crown. Then she waits her future husband to escort her home, with married women talking around her how to act to be a good wife.

 

On the other hand, the bridegroom prepares himself to receive his wife. He gets 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 he will be crowded among his friends as escorts and musicians who play happy music all the way to radiate happiness. Dancing lions, if any, precede the troop. In the ancient time, a bridal sedan chair (or a decorated donkey due to poverty or bad traffic) would be used to serve the bride. There will be a child carrying 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 takes place at the doorstep of the bride's residence, heavily guarded by the bridesmaids or sisters of the bride. It is customary for the bridesmaid to give the bridegroom a difficult time before he is allowed to enter. Usually wisdom and courage and his friends will help the bridegroom to succeed in the quizzes. After passing the tests and singing for his bride, the bridegroom is finally allowed to meet his bride. However, there is one more pass, he has to negotiate with the bridesmaid and sisters of the bride to distribute them red packets, with auspicious money enclosed in, in order to take his bride home.

 

Before the bride departures to his bridegroom's home, she will be carried by the good luck woman to the sedan chair. On her way to the chair, a sister of her will shield her with a red parasol and another threw rice at the sedan chair, at the back of which hung a sieve and a metallic mirror that were believed to protect the bride from evil. The bride has to cry to show that she does not want to leave her parents.

 

Then firecrackers will be set off to drive away evil spirits as the bride sits into the sedan chair. All along the way people make great efforts to avoid any inauspicious influence. For instance, the sedan chair is heavily curtained, so as to prevent the bride from seeing an unlucky sight, e.g. a widow, a well or even a cat. When the parading troop arrives at the bridegroom's, firecrackers will be set off to hail the bride's arrival. Before the sedan chair a red mat is placed so that the bride will not touch the bare earth. By the threshold a flaming stove and a saddle will be set up, the bride is required to step over, to avoid evils.

 

The wedding ceremony is the hottest point. The bride and bridegroom are led to the family altar, where the couple pays kotows to Heaven and Earth, the family ancestors and parents successively. Then they bow to each other and will be led to the bridal chamber. The ceremony proceeds under a director's prompts and applauses of the audience.

 

Then there will be a grand feast for relatives and those who help in the wedding. The newlywed couple will resume to drink wedlock wine. Generally they are required to cross their arms to sip the wine and then exchange their cups to gulp down. They also will toast with guests to pay their thanks. Good wishes of the guests rush to the couple. However, well-intentioned people will try their best to fuddle the bridegroom who is dodging to avoid the embarrassing scene.

 

Teasing games in the bridal chamber: After night falls, the teasing games start. Usually all young men can participate except for the bride's married brothers-in-law. Those funny and silly games will ease the tension, since in ancient times the newlyweds 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 promotes closeness among all the family members and the Community beyond. There also will be other activities conducted by the bridegroom's mother after the roaring laughter fades into the darkness.

 

Other Customary Practices

 

Preparing the bridal bed: A good luck man, usually having a nice family, will help to install the bridal bed in the right place in the bridal chamber on a selected day before the wedding day. Before the wedding, a good luck woman will arrange the bridal bed and scatter candies, lotus seeds, peanuts, beans and fruits of good meanings on the bed. Nobody is allowed to touch the bed until the couple enters the bridal chamber after the wedding ceremony. Children will then be invited onto the bed to bless fertility of the couple.

 

Dowry: Usually the bride's dowry shall be sent to the bridegroom's family by the day before the wedding day. Sometimes the dowry will be brought by the bride's escorting troops on the wedding day to show off. Traditional dowry normally consists of items such as jewelry, embroidered beddings, kitchen utensils and furniture. The package of the dowry is always changing except those basic items of symbol. For example, dozens of years ago, sewing machine, bicycle, and recorder were musts in a marriage. Now, they are totally out of fashion.

 

Bride's Return: Traditionally, the newlyweds are to return to visit the bride's parents one or three days after the wedding. They will be hailed with a banquet and it is the bridegroom's turn to suffer teasing of the bride's relatives and friends. That is still well intentioned.

 

Traditional marriage customs lost its popularity due to the collapse of feudal marriage custom and its complexity. However, traditional marriage can still be seen in the countryside, despite innovations. Now, traditional marriage custom revives in some places and attracts will-be-couples.

Traditions of Arranged Marriages in China

作者:

 

 

Chinese marriage became custom during the Warring States period (402-221 B.C.). Due to the vast expanse and long history of Chinese marriage customs and ceremonies, there are different practices that are followed in different places, although they all generally adhere to similar guidelines. Visitors still have opportunities to witness traditional marriages in the countryside.

 

In ancient times, it was very important to follow a basic principle of the "Three Letters and Six Etiquettes" since they were essential to a marriage.

 

The "Three Letters" included the Betrothal Letter, Gift Letter and Wedding Letter. The Betrothal Letter was the formal document of the engagement, a must in a marriage. Next was the Gift Letter, which would be given to the identified girl's family. Within the letter would be a list of the types and quantity of gifts designated for the wedding, once both parties accepted the marriage. The Wedding Letter was prepared and presented to the bride's family on the day of the wedding and was a document that confirmed and commemorated the formal acceptance of the bride into the bridegroom's family.

 

Six Etiquettes

 

Proposing: If an unmarried boy's parents identified a girl as their future daughter-in-law, they would then locate a matchmaker. Proposals were the specialties of the matchmakers. The matchmaker would formally present his or her client's request to the identified girl's parents.

 

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 astrological conflict, which meant the marriage would bring disasters upon both families, the proposed marriage was immediately quashed.

 

Presenting betrothal gifts: Once both birthdays matched, the bridegroom's family would then arrange for the matchmaker to present betrothal gifts, including the betrothal letter, to the bride's family.

 

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, longan, red beans, green beans, red dates, nutmeg, oranges, pomegranate, lily, bridal cakes, coconuts, wine, red hair braid, money box and other delicacies, depending on local customs and family wealth.

 

Picking a wedding date: An astrologist or astrology book would be consulted to select an auspicious date to hold the wedding ceremony.

 

Wedding ceremony: On the selected day, the bridegroom departs with a troop of escorts and musicians, playing cheerful music all the way to the bride's home. After the bride is escorted to the bridegroom's home, the wedding ceremony begins.

 

Unlike Western tradition, the color red dominates traditional Chinese weddings. Chinese people tend to use or wear red to add a joyful atmosphere of such a festive occasion.

 

At dawn on the wedding day and after a bath in water permeated with grapefruit, the bride puts on new clothes, wears a pair of red shoes and waits for the so-called "good luck woman" to dress her hair in the style of a married woman. Her head would be covered with a red silk veil with tassels or bead strings that hang from the phoenix crown. She waits for her future husband to escort her home, with married women talking around her about how to be a good wife.

 

On the other hand, the bridegroom prepares himself to receive his wife. He gets capped and dressed in a long gown, red shoes and a red silk sash with a silk ball on his chest. The groom kneels at the ancestral altar as his father puts a cap decorated with cypress leaves on his head to declare his adulthood and his family responsibility.

 

Then the bridegroom sets out to receive his bride. Usually a crowd of friends escorts the bridegroom and musicians play joyful tunes during the entire trip. Dancing lions, if any, precede the troop. in ancient times, a bridal sedan chair (or a decorated donkey due to poverty or bad traffic) would be used to transport the bride. A child carries 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 takes place at the doorstep of the bride's residence, which is heavily guarded by the bridesmaid or the bride's sisters. It is customary for the bridesmaid to give the bridegroom a difficult time before he is allowed to enter. Usually wisdom, courage and his friends will help the bridegroom to succeed in his "trial". However, there is one more situation he has 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 departs to the bridegroom's home, the "good luck woman" will lead her to the sedan chair. On her way to the chair, one of her sisters will 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 are believed to protect the bride from evil. The bride has to cry to show that she does not want to leave her parents.

 

Then firecrackers will be set off to drive away evil spirits as the bride sits into the sedan chair. All along the way people make great efforts to avoid any inauspicious influence. For instance, the sedan chair is heavily curtained to prevent the bride from seeing an unlucky sight (e.g. a widow, a well or even a cat). When the parading troop arrives at the bridegroom's, firecrackers will be set off to hail the bride's arrival. Before the sedan chair a red mat is placed so that the bride will not touch the bare earth. By the threshold, a flaming stove and saddle will be set up and the bride is required to sidestep or step over them to avoid evils.

 

The wedding ceremony is the focus of interest. The bride and bridegroom are led to the family altar, where the couple kowtows to Heaven and Earth, the family ancestors and parents successively. They then bow to each other and are led to the bridal chamber. The ceremony proceeds under a director's prompts and applauses of the audience.

 

Afterwards, a grand feast is held for relatives and those who helped with the wedding. The newly wed couple will resume drinking wedding wine. Generally they are required to cross their arms to sip wine. They also will toast their guests. Guests voice their good wishes for the couple even though the bridegroom is trying to be humble while acting embarrassed.

 

Teasing games in the bridal chamber: After night falls, the teasing games start. Usually all young men can participate except for the bride's married brothers-in-laws. These funny and silly games help ease the tension, since in ancient times the newlyweds 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 promotes closeness among all the family members and the community beyond. There also will be other activities conducted by the bridegroom's mother after the roaring laughter fades into the darkness.

 

Preparing the bridal bed: A "good luck man", usually having a nice family, will help to install the bridal bed in the correct place in the bridal chamber on a selected day before the wedding day. Before the wedding, a "good luck woman" will arrange the bridal bed and scatter symbolic and lucky fruits on the bed. Nobody is allowed to touch the bed until the couple enters the bridal chamber after the wedding ceremony. Children will then be invited onto the bed to bless the couple with fertility.

 

Dowry: Usually the bride's dowry shall be sent to the bridegroom's family by the day before the wedding day. Sometimes the dowry will be brought by the bride's escorts. A traditional dowry normally consists of valuable items such as jewelry, embroidered beddings, kitchen utensils and furniture. The type of the dowry is constantly changing except for the basic, symbolic items. 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.

 

Bride's Return: Traditionally, the newlyweds are to return to visit the bride's parents one or three days after the wedding. They will be hailed with a banquet and it is the bridegroom's turn to suffer the well-intentioned teasing of the bride's relatives and friends.

 

Traditional marriage customs lost their popularity due to the collapse of feudal marriage customs and their complexity. However, traditional marriage can still be seen in the countryside, despite innovations. Now, traditional marriage customs are being revived in some places and they are attracting many prospective couples.

中华民族的传统文化博大精深,源远流长。早在2000多年前,就产生了以孔孟为代表的儒家学说和以老庄为代表的道家学说,以及其他许多也在中国思想史上有地位的学说和学派。这就是有名的诸子百家。

 

从孔夫子到孙中山,中华民族的传统文化有它的许多珍品,许多人民性和民主性的好东西。比如,强调仁爱、强调群体、强调天下为公,特别是“天下兴亡,匹夫有责”的爱国情操和吃苦耐劳、勤俭持家、尊师重教的传统美德。所有这些,对家庭、对国家和社会都起到了巨大的维系和调节作用。

 

The traditional culture of the Chinese nation is profound and has a long history. As early as more than 2000 years ago, there emerged / had been the Confucian School represented by Confucius and Mencius, and the Taoist School represented by Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, as well as many other doctrines and schools of theory which occupied a definite place/position in the history of Chinese thought/thinking. These constituted the well-known Hundred Schools of Thought.

 

       From Confucius to Sun Yat-sen, the traditional Chinese culture embodied/enjoyed/had a great number of treasures and many fine elements that reflected the (popular) feeling (of the common folk) and were democratic in nature. For instance, (in the culture) emphasis was laid on benevolence, on the common good/collectiveness/collectivism, on the notion that the world belongs to all people / all under heaven is equal / all are equal, and in particular, on the patriotic sentiment of ”Every man has a duty to his country”. And the traditional virtues/values of working hard and enduring hardships, running the household industriously and frugally/economically, and respecting teachers and attaching importance to education were passed down from generation to generation. All these fine qualities played a tremendous role in holding together and regulating the country and society. 

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