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Marriage Customs

Chinese marriage custom

In China, marriage is considered to be one of the three most important things in one's whole life. Traditionally, a whole wedding consists of 6 different steps in advance and then the wedding ceremony.

At all times and in all countries, the wedding ceremony is considered to be the greatest ritual of anyone's entire life. Although Chinese marriage customs are changing and developing all the time, the atmosphere created during the wedding is invariant - being ceremonious, enthusiastic, jubilant and auspicious.

The Chinese wedding ceremony first began at the end of the Prehistoric Times (1.7 million years ago – 21st century BC) perhaps with an engagement proposal with a complete deerskin in ancient times. In the Xia and Shang Dynasties (21st – 11th century BC), the 'Meeting the Bride' ritual was formalized. During the Zhou Dynasty (11th– 221 BC) the more complex and ceremonial tradition of 'six rites' was recognized: presenting gifts to the girl's family, knowing the girl's general background, engagement, presenting betrothal gifts to the bride's family, asking the fortuneteller to choose an auspicious day, and meeting the bride. This established the traditional Chinese marriage customs. Thereafter, the wedding ceremony becomes even more colorful and lively.

Because China comprises 56 ethnic groups, Chinese marriage customs are an important part of the country's folk culture. Different ethnic groups have different marriage customs: During a wedding day in Bulang communities, the bride's companions will steal the bridegroom and carry him off to the bride's home at dawn and the bridegroom's companions then carry off the bride to the bridegroom's home at dark; for the Dai people, finding a mate by selling chicken soup is done at every festival: girls will stew a pan of chicken soup to sell. If the boy is well-satisfied, she will hang her head shyly; if the boy also takes a fancy to her, they will carry the chicken soup to a quiet place to confess their feelings; during the Folk Song Fair of the Zhuang nationality, girls carry colorful embroidered balls while singing songs. A girl will throw the gaily-decorated ball to the boy she falls in love with.

 Traditional Chinese Marriage Customs
In feudal society marriage depended on ones parents' orders and a match-maker's selection. Men were honored more than women in the society, so the actual process of marriage was as follows:

Match-making: if a man fell in love with a girl, the man's family would ask the matchmaker to help propose with some gifts. Originally, the gift was a live wild goose, which was the symbol of living up to the pledge between each other, because the geese were always punctual to fly to the south in autumn and move back north in spring. Then white geese (symbolizing spotless virtue), emulsion paint (jiaoqi in Chinese, symbolizing harmony and affection) and silk trees (hehuan in Chinese, symbolizing happiness) were also used.

Name Knowing: inquiring about the girl's name and birthday, then asking the fortuneteller to match if the marriage would be happy.

Engagement: if the match was auspicious, the man's family would ask the matchmaker to arrange the preliminaries for the marriage with some gifts and a formal letter called the 'Appointment Book', after which the two families would exchange the girl's and the man's birthday records as the evidence of the engagement. Subsequently, the man's family would make preparation for the marriage. The girl's family would also assemble for the dowry such as bedding, chests, jewelry, clothing, silk & satin, plates, and some rich family even used house and store as the dowry.

Betrothal Gift Presenting: when everything was almost ready for the marriage, the man's family would present gift-money and various gifts to the girl's family. The variety and quantity of the gifts and gift-money were all clearly listed in a 'Gift Book' document.

Auspicious Day Choosing: the man's family would then asked the fortuneteller to choose an auspicious day according to the date of the couple's births.

A few days before the wedding, the girl's family would send the dowry to the man's family. About the same time a privileged elder woman would make the bed for the new couple, scattering all kinds of sweets and fruits on the new bed such as red dates, longans, litchi, red and green beans. No one was permitted to enter the bridal chamber or touch the new bed until the night of the wedding.

Marriage Custom, Chinese cultureMeeting the Bride: finally the peak of the marriage came – the wedding day, when the bride would wear auspicious and festive red clothes, and the bridegroom would wear a special wedding suit accompanied by a procession to meet his bride. Before leaving her former home the bride would kowtow to her parents to acknowledge their love and care from childhood. The bridegroom would also bow out of respect. At the departure of the carriage or the bridal sedan chair, the bride's parents would scatter a bowl of water and a bowl of rice. This represented that their daughter was leaving and would never be back — like scattered water and wishing her enough food in future. Upon leaving, the bride would throw her fan out the window of the carriage or sedan chair to throw away her bad temper.

Wedding: when arriving at the bridegroom's home, the bride would step over a brazier to burn out inauspicious things. Then the couple would kowtow to the bridegroom's parents, the heaven and earth, and to each other. After that the bride would be sent to the bridal chamber, and the wedding came to its peak – the feast. After the feast , came the last part of the marriage. Most relatives and friends would leave one after another, but some friends and relatives of the same generation would crowd in the bridal chamber, playing all kinds of games, giving performances and so on, to add more joy to the wedding.

However, along with the society's progress and the transformation of people's thinking, free love has become increasingly popular in China, so current Chinese marriage customs are not as complicated as the traditional ones. They primarily involve the engagement and wedding ceremony. Betrothal gifts are usually golden or diamond jewelry, with the wedding ring different from the engagement ring. The dowry has been changed into some modern electrical appliance such as a fridge or washing machine or TV set, or perhaps a sofa set or even a flat. On the wedding day the bride wears both white wedding dress and festive red clothes, while the bridegroom still wears a special suit; a bridesmaid and a groomsman attend the new couple at the wedding; the bridegroom takes a decorated car to meet his bride instead of a carriage or sedan chair; hotels have become the favorite place to hold the wedding feast, the whole wedding ceremony is often organized by a master of ceremonies in the hotel; and the new couple will also attend the feast together and propose toasts for the guests; after the wedding, some new couple will even take a honeymoon trip.

I want to say
  • Replydwight Pedersen
    2015/7/14 16:28:00

    I want to marry a girl who lives in Changsha, Hunan Province. Her mother does not like the age difference and refuses to give the girl her papers, so can file for marriage and visas. Is there anyway this girl can get her papers from the Chinese Government.

    • Helen :2015/7/19 5:40:00

      PEdersen, if you want to marry the girl, you must get her mother's consent. Without the family book, you can't resgister your marriage.

    • FD :2015/9/8 22:21:00

      I am marrying a girl from Hunan province in 3 days, but we are marrying in the US. To get married here is trivial, not even an ID is required it seems (unless you want to get the included name change that comes free with the marriage license). Marry her in the US if she has a passport to get here. 20 year difference between us. Her Mom wants her married off so bad she does not really object to the age difference, though the mom would prefer a younger man instead.

  • Replyabid,   Pakistan
    2012/10/10 6:11:00

    Hi I m a Muslim and my GF is ready to become a muslim also we know eachother from 1year n we love eachother very much n decided to get married but her parents don't want tht n my parents are agreed so she says tht we can get married but won't tell her parents .so in December ill go to marry her but can I find there Muslim priest to get married in a Muslim way .plz reply in detail tht after marriage how can I be registered on China and how can I get the Nationality .with thankZ.

    • Anna :2012/10/10 20:25:00

      is your GF is a Chinese?
      if so, you can apply a family visit visa after you get married. but you can not get the Chinese nationality.

  • ReplyCherie,   United States
    2012/4/16 7:01:00

    Hi. I'm about to marry a man whose family lives in China (He is in Australia). I would like to add a few Chinese traditions to our wedding ceremony to honor his heritage. He is, according to himself, "quite westernized" but I am sure that his family would be pleased. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • Lisa :2012/4/16 18:26:00

      I think you can wear a red Chinese cheongsam on your wedding day.

  • Replysalim,   Pakistan
    2012/4/13 18:51:00

    Asalam u alikom to all muslim of china .please guide me i love so much the chinese muslim and i want to marry with chinese muslim Girl .i m looking for last six mounths but not found yet.I make my ID in many wedding website only looking for chinese muslim girl but no responce .any body help me?

  • ReplyVicto,   Australia
    2012/3/31 19:01:00

    Are there separate functions for Engagement and Wedding in China (Shanghai), or Enagagement is considered as wedding.Can a girl start living with boy after engagement?

    • Peter :2012/3/31 19:44:00

      yes, engagement is different from a wedding.they are family after engagement, and can live together and no need to worry whether others will talk. but a girl can not live with a boy until their wedding in ancient times.

  • ReplyEdward,   Indonesia
    2011/11/2 21:38:00

    I really need help from everyone here...
    I'm working on my thesis right now and I am want to research about chinese wedding...
    I wanna ask if anyone have a really good source (e-book reference about it)and video of traditional chinese marriage.
    about the marriage itself, I have question is there any ritual that involves like marriage vow in christian ritual as we know there must be a person who have duty like priest to ble (it's okay ifs the wedding it's in chinese)

    • Bruce :2011/11/3 18:38:00

      I think you can get too much from the above article. Try to read it!

    • Edward ( Indonesia ) :2011/12/7 15:35:00

      I know that explanation above are good but what I want to know is the event that happen in the past, could someone help me to find any source like book that could guide me to the wedding event in ancient china

    • Steven ( United Kingdom ) :2012/3/5 20:06:00

      You can get both from google and youtube.


  • Replyfaizon,   Malaysia
    2012/1/27 21:31:00

    hye,i relly need the information about chinese wedding tradition.i got assignment to finish

  • ReplyLe,   Christmas Island
    2011/12/7 12:54:00

    who is the author of this article?

    • Warriortours.com :2011/12/7 19:17:00

      Dear Le,
      The articles on Warriortour.com are all edited by our editors.

  • Replymukaram,   Pakistan
    2011/10/23 1:48:00

    im mukaram im 27 years old im not rich im professnal photographer my father is daid is 1 years ago
    i want marry & working in china my job very good but here not make my futuer if any intrast in me so plz contect me

    my yahoo massenger : mukaramkhan555@yahoo.com

    my provaait email : mk5892@yahoo.com

    • Ann :2011/10/23 19:32:00

      Hi Mukaram,
      if you want to work and live in China, you need to apply a job in China first.
      after you get a job offer from a Chinese company, can you apply for a Chinese work visa, and then you can work in China.

  • Replyjay,   United States
    2011/3/22 18:19:00

    I am thinking about getting engaged to a Chinese lady that has been divorced previously, does the same traditions and rules apply?... giving money to parents, etc. how about the dragon and phoenix necklace, does it signify anything when getting engaged?....

    Thank you in advance

    • Emily :2011/3/22 22:43:00

      yes, the same rules apply.
      but nowadays, people have some new rules, and rules are also different in different places. you may ask your girlfriend. the dragon and phoenix necklace are usually not uesd today, but an engagement ring.

    • Tracey ( Hong Kong, China ) :2011/10/23 9:17:00

      living in Australia. The Dragon and phoenix necklace (Most Jewels) are prepare by the bride's family. Groom's family have to get few (no specific type) jewels for the bride as a gift.

      The money to parents it depends your financial ability. If you find a girl live in Mainland China, I guess US$2000 is okay for them.