The Chinese are keen on preserving their culture, and they showcase their traditions on different occasions, including weddings. Statistics reveal that about 10 million people tie the knot in China every year. Chinese weddings are quite colorful. They represent the bond between the two lovebirds and the coming together of two families.
Wedding traditions represent the rituals that the Chinese observe during the celebration. We will look at how the Chinese marry in detail and highlight how wedding traditions have changed over time. We will also help you understand the wedding taboos that the Chinese believe in. Read on!
How do the Chinese marry
Though China has different ethnic groups, they also observe similar traditions regarding marriage. The Chinese wedding traditions changed in the 1950s after introducing legal policies like the New Marriage Law. Such policies led to the change in the traditional structure of marriages in China. Before we look at how the Chinese marry today, we will discuss how marriages used to occur in the past.
Ancient Chinese wedding traditions
Before the freedom to pick one’s partner became the norm, arranged marriages were common in China. The Chinese did not have fixed spouses. One could have different sexual partners without society condemning them. Besides this, marriage between siblings was not prohibited.
Some of the legendary characters famous for doing this were Nuwa and Fu Xi. The two were siblings, but they chose to marry when the world had less population. According to Chinese wedding traditions, the bride had to use a fan to shield her face during her wedding to the brother.
People with the same surname were also allowed to marry during ancient times.
Marriage between siblings was banned by the end of the Neolithic age. During this period, exogamous marriages came up.
Though taking a partner from one’s family was now prohibited, a girl from another family could act as a wife to different brothers in a family. During the Zhou Dynasty, sororate marriage was allowed. A man could marry his wife’s cousins or sister.
Modern Chinese wedding traditions
The Chinese wedding traditions have significantly transformed. Unlike in the past, when arranged marriages were the norm, people now have the freedom to choose who they would like to marry. In modern China, the secular ceremony now represents the official act of getting married.
Due to the high population of China, the law requires the couple to be above 20 years old to marry legally. Though Chinese law does not recognize marriage between individuals of the same sex, this is not considered a crime.
In this modern age in China, marrying a sibling no longer has a place. Unlike in the past when polygamy was allowed, monogamy is the norm in modern china. The government also discourages widow remarriage.
What happens at a Chinese wedding
Besides knowing how the Chinese marry, you should learn what happens in such weddings before attending one. Chinese weddings are lavish ceremonies that include different rituals. Some of the crucial ones include the following.
Chinese wedding traditions tea ceremony
This is an intimate tradition that is observed during the wedding day and includes the families of the groom and bride. The tea ceremony gives the couple the chance to show respect to their families. Some of the people who attend this ceremony include in-laws, parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents.
The ceremony takes place in the couple’s family home. Before the tea ceremony, the couple wears traditional wedding garments. The couple has to serve the family Chinese tea called Tsao Chun while kneeling down. The tea can also be accompanied by traditional elements like dates and lotus seeds. This symbolizes the sweetness in the marriage. After serving tea, the family then gives the couple a red envelope containing jewelry or money. The red envelope is referred to as hong bao.
Chinese wedding door games
Besides this tradition, the Chinese also engage in door games that test the groom. Door games are referred to as Chuangmen. The bridesmaids prepare door games to assess how determined the groom is to marry his bride.
Though the door games sometimes vary from one Chinese wedding to the other, they are used to assess how well the groom knows the bride. The bride’s family only marries her off after the groom passes all the tests and proves himself.
Chinese wedding history
Chinese weddings have been in existence from 402 and 221 BC. The Chinese prohibited practices such as free courtship and freedom to choose a spouse in the past. Parents’ desires played a big role in determining whether a couple could get married.
Things such as love between a couple did not matter in the past. A couple often got married without knowing one another. Some of the main things that parents looked for before choosing partners for their children included social status.
Chinese weddings included six stages, commonly referred to as six etiquettes. This includes the marriage proposal, birthday matching, presenting gifts, choosing the wedding date then the ceremony.
Chinese wedding clothes
Traditional Chinese wedding dress
The bride’s wedding dress is often red since this color symbolizes good fortune and happiness. This dress is called Qipao, and it often comes in a silver and gold design. While some Chinese brides wear a one-piece frock, others prefer to wear a two-piece wedding dress called Qun Kwa. The bride also puts on a covering veil that contains colorful patterns.
Traditional Chinese men’s wedding clothes
The groom can wear a traditional tang outfit to the wedding. This includes a jacket and a long sheath, and it goes well with the bride’s qun kwa. Tang suits for the groom also feature dragon embroidery. In China, a dragon symbolizes power and honor. Alternatively, the groom can also wear a mandarin collar jacket.
Traditional Chinese wedding gifts
Besides the red envelope that we mentioned, traditional Chinese weddings also have other gifts. For instance, the groom’s family prepares 12 gifts to present to the bride’s family during the wedding ceremony. Some of the wedding gifts include firecrackers, candles, cookies, cakes, shoes, purses, clothes, jewelry, and money.
Traditional Chinese wedding hairstyles
Chinese brides match their dresses with unique hairstyles. They use different accessories on their hair to match the unique patterns of their dresses. Apart from choosing an ideal hairstyle, the bride should also prepare for the hair combing ceremony, which represents the transition to adulthood.
Traditional Chinese wedding food
Good food is important in a traditional Chinese wedding. The Chinese often prepare ten-course meals for guests. The menu often includes rice balls which symbolize a happy life. A fish course also forms part of the traditional wedding food since the Chinese believe that it symbolizes abundance.
They also serve pig which symbolizes that the bride is pure, and duck or chicken, which is a sign of peace. Sweet lotus seed is also present in traditional Chinese weddings since it represents fertility.
Chinese wedding flowers
Traditional Chinese weddings are never complete without flowers. These are used as decorative elements in the wedding. The Chinese incorporate some of the common flowers in their weddings, like lilies, lotus, peony, and orchids.
Each flower signifies something. For instance, lilies represent a happy union, while the lotus symbolizes purity based on Chinese culture. On the other hand, orchid flowers symbolize fertility and love, while peony represents wealth and peace.
Chinese wedding taboos and things to avoid
According to Chinese culture, a couple should not attend joyous events within three months of their wedding. The Chinese believe that this can result in a doomed wedding and marriage. The bride should keep off baby showers before her marriage since this can make her lose a good fortune. Rather than attending such events, couples can send gifts.
Use wrong colors
We mentioned that red is the main theme color in traditional Chinese weddings. The wrong use of colors is considered taboo in such weddings. If, for instance, you are a guest, you should not wear red to the wedding since this is specifically meant for the bride. You should also avoid dark colors since they symbolize bad luck.
Using the matrimonial bed
Though not every modern Chinese wedding prepares the matrimonial bed, this was a common practice in the past. The couple’s bedroom is decorated using red lamps and gold and is blessed. Once the matrimonial bed is blessed, the Chinese believe that no one should sleep on it. Breaking this taboo could bring bad luck to the newlyweds.
Serving fish cut into portions
During traditional Chinese wedding ceremonies, fish is often served whole. Serving fish that is cut into portions is taboo according to their culture. This is because a whole fish intact symbolizes abundance. Cutting the fish could bring bad misfortune to the couple.
Chinese weddings are quite interesting. While some of the customs are no longer observed, others are still part of modern Chinese weddings. Whether you are getting married into the Chinese tradition or are planning to attend a Chinese wedding, you should understand their customs.