Maybe one of the last few traditional Chinese weddings

Maybe one of the last few traditional Chinese weddings

I have to admit, since I have spent time living in rural China in a small village with my Chinese parents-in-law I have got very indifferent towards weddings there.

If you would live there, you might understand why.

Every single day at least some one gets married there. Sometime I ask myself where all those people come from? Are there all from that village or do they come here to get married? Because, honestly, there should be a time where everyone in the right age is married… Apparently not. Not in Niuji village, where there is a wedding everyday.

In the beginning I always got excited when Jin told me, we will be eating at a wedding. I say eating on purpose, because that’s the only think we and everyone else does there.

A typical wedding in Niuji lasts for about two days. On the first day the groom and the whole male side of the family goes to worship the grandfather (no not the grandmother, she doesn’t need to know her grandson is getting married). The whole day you hear firecrackers exploding, and see people eating. If there’s a wedding, the food is for the whole village. That’s why many times we end up eating at a wedding not even knowing who the bride and groom actually are. But no one cares, there is free food… On the second day you have the actual wedding. No big ceremony, just some firecrackers, and a bride dressed in a white borrowed wedding gown for about ten minutes (then she always changes into her street clothes), followed by food.

Maybe you already noticed but I am not very impressed by those weddings in Niuji. They have lost all meaning. The few traditions that are left, most people couldn’t even explain what they are for anymore. Weddings in Niuji are more like a business arrangement. So far I have not met a single person who deeply fell in love with the future husband/wife to be, and married out of this love, and not out of obligation towards the parents. They don’t call them arranged marriages anymore. No, they are more sophisticated than that now. It’s an arranged meeting of two similar people, where both families agree they are a match made in heaven. In theory, both girl and boy, have the choice to decline the other person. But if you are of a certain age (like 22 for girls and 24 for boys), the pressure to get married is overwhelming in Niuji village. Many people actually leave the village to escape the pressure. But whoever is stuck, gets married off very quickly, often believing it was out of free will…

So, yes I am not really into the weddings there. They are all the same, and no one dares to do anything different out of fear to lose face in front of neighbors and family. My wedding was very similar, and I still haven’t gotten over it (that’s why I don’t feel like writing about it, yet).

However, last time I was back at my parents-in-laws house, something new (or old, depending on the view point) happened. I just stayed for a week, and had already eaten at five different weddings, but one morning my father-in-law came running up the stairs to our room screaming we have to get outside the girl from the hair salon is getting married. I thought he was drunk, how else could he get so excited about a wedding in Niuji village.

When I came out, and pushed my way through the crowds of people, I saw it. A wooden rectangular box on two thin log poles, the top and four sides of the box were enclosed with curtains, with a chair blind that could be rolled open in the front and a small window on each side: A bridal sedan chair.

The only sedan chairs I have seen so far in China were tourist attractions to reenact the ancient Chinese wedding ceremony or to be used as a photo prop. This was the first time I have seen an actual very old Chinese bridal sedan chair in use. And it was beautiful.

chinese traditional wedding

Interestingly I wasn’t the only one fascinated. A huge crowd, bigger than the usual one (not bigger than the one at my wedding though) had gathered; taking pictures and videos. It seemed, for them it was as special as it was for me. Maybe the last sign of the old traditional times. And maybe the only traditional item left.

The bride was wearing a white western wedding gown…

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

6 thoughts on “Maybe one of the last few traditional Chinese weddings

  1. Wow, reading about those kind of marriages always makes me sad…
    I know for some it probably works out well, Fiddler on the Roof style, discovering after 25 years that they love each other…but I can’t imagine it working well for a lot of people. It’s almost a recipe for unhappiness in my eyes, even sometimes abuse.

    Awesome chair though.

  2. Feeding the whole village must be expensive. What happens if the family doesn’t have enough money?
    I wonder where the girl from the hair salon found such a beautiful sedan chair?

    • Well, it is not as expensive as in a big city. And it is usually paid by both families. Plus most people in that village live very modest, that means they rarely buy anything that is not absolutely necassary. Every single cent they earn they save starting the day they get married. So, most people can afford to feed the whole village and later pay the fines for two, three, and more children as well.

      The sedan chair seems to belong to the eldest family in that village. At least that’s what people told me.

  3. I asked my husband once why his friend, a Chinese guy from Manila, didn’t get married. He said the guy’s father had gambled away the family fortune, so he couldn’t afford to get married. I wondered why he couldn’t just have a smaller wedding dinner. But after knowing his friend longer, I think the problem was, he was too shy to have a girlfriend and arranged marriages were not fashionable in Manila.

    • Oh that is actually really said to have no one just because you are too shy.

      In Niuji and in actually a lot of parts of china people get introduced to each other, by family or friends. But as I said, they don’t really call it “arranged marriage” anymore… And if some families really don’t have enough money for a proper wedding, they would just borrow money from some one. Borrowing money is very very common there.

  4. Pingback: 5 Disappearing Chinese New Year’s Traditions which are still very much Alive in Niuji Village | Lost Panda

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