are several chances for the young to meet each other and to look
for their love partners, namely the night of every day, festivals
and market days. These seem very important for them at one stage
of their lives because marriage occupies an important and initial
role for continuing the generations of their families.
night falls, the young boys make the long journey to the girls’
village. They usually walk along stony paths and wade across streams.
The reason is that, generally speaking, a boy cannot marry a girl
from the same village because they are usually from the same clan.
For example, there are four clans in my village - Upper Langde village
- but we have a very close relationship, so the boys are not allowed
to marry the girls from the village. Xijiang Miao village is, however,
an exception, because Xijiang is a large village consisting of 12
small villages, and they are from different clans so a boy from
one village in Xijiang can marry a girl from the another village
in Xijiang. When the boys arrive at the chosen ground at the edge
of the girls’ village, they whistle by mouth or whistle on leaves.
When the girls hear the signal, they run to the chosen ground and
start to communicate with the boys by singing traditional love songs
in groups. As I remember, singing traditional love songs between
the boys and the girls was practised in my village and nearby villages
a few years ago. However, it is a pity, but now the young seem unwilling
to practise the old traditions and they prefer undertake their courtship
in the modern way by which they talk to each other in low tones
with no traditional songs. I still remember when I was a little
boy, I once made a trip to another village with a few adults from
my village and we sang traditional songs. There are many songs with
various meanings, so we sang different songs at the beginning, the
middle and the end and this remains with me as a good and happy
the New Rice Eating festival and the Miao New Year, the young men
and young women have more chances to meet each other. These are
opportunities for them to check out the wealth of their respective
families and to get to know their parents and other relatives. Market
days provide an opportunity to deepen the relationship between the
boy and the girl.
the boy loves the girl, his family will send the matchmaker to visit
the girl’s home and to request the marriage. Usually the go-between
is a person who knows the girl’s family very well, and he or she
will have a living husband or wife and children which means that
he or she must be not a widower or widow. If the girl’s family are
happy with the proposed marriage, her parents will invite the matchmaker
to a dinner at their home together with the girl’s uncles and aunts.
A chicken is boiled with rice gruel for the dinner, and the chicken
eyes can tell whether the girl’s parents agree to the marriage or
not. If the two eyes are closed, it means that it will be a good
wedding; if one is closed and the other open, it means that it is
not an auspicious wedding, so they do not go ahead with it. If her
parents are not happy with the request for the marriage, the father
usually does not stay at home for the meal and just her mother or
sisters prepare a simple dinner for the matchmaker and tell him
or her to leave the next morning.
myself as an example, if I want to marry a girl, and her parents
agree to the wedding, my parents and her parents will make a decision
to choose an auspicious day to hold the wedding ceremony. For instance,
tomorrow is an auspicious day, so in the late afternoon of today,
my mother will steam some glutinous rice and wrap it with palm leaves
or Korean banana leaves. In the evening, a group of men will leave
my village for my bride’s village. The number will be an odd number,
usually from 7-11 people. These men will be my uncles and cousins.
If the bride’s parents really like the marriage, they will be at
home and host me and the men from my village with a good meal and
a lot of rice wine. If they do not really like the idea of the marriage,
her father and brothers will not stay at home. They will escape
meeting us at their home and just her mother, sisters, aunts, cousins
- the women and children – will come to her house to see her off.
A bonfire will be arranged at the edge of her village in the dead
of night and, at the same time, I will share some money and steamed
sticky rice with the women and children. As I remember, 20 years
ago, my brother gave each of them 2-10 Yuan, but now that people’s
income is much better, I think that maybe each will receive 10-50
Yuan. Then bride’s mother, sisters, cousins and the women and children
from her village will say goodbye to her, and she will start the
journey to the bridegroom’s home with the men. On the way she carries
an umbrella in her hand and, if it is a long way, she is dressed
in a beautiful day-time dress. If it is near she will be dressed
in festival dress with gorgeous silver ornaments and high quality
embroidery. She will make the wedding dress herself. The traditional
wedding dress includes a pleated skirt, embroidered jacket with
silver ornaments, silver necklace, silver crown, and her hair is
coiled into a bun which is decorated with three silver birds. The
bridegroom carries the bride’s dowry.
the bride arrives at the edge of the bridegroom’s village, she will
be greeted by the women and children from the groom’s family including
his aunts and cousins. The bride will then be dressed in Long Skirt
Miao traditional festival dress and given an umbrella to carry.
bride is escorted to the groom’s home and lots of firecrackers are
set off all along the way and inside or near the house. The greater
the number of firecrackers the greater the indication of wealth
of the groom’s family and the more auspicious the marriage. Before
entering the groom’s home, an unmarried boy or girl will help the
bride to carry the umbrella into the bedroom of the groom. There
will be a table blocking the door. On the table will be some cooked
pork, boiled carp, steamed glutinous rice and rice wine. The bride
will offer by chopsticks or by hand some cooked pork, boiled carp,
steamed glutinous rice and rice wine to the ground to sacrifice
to the ancestors of the groom’s family.
bride will be led into the bedroom of the groom and, at the same
time, the women accompany her and chat with her. These are the groom’s
sisters, sisters-in law, nieces and aunts. After a while, there
is a ceremony in the middle hall of the house under the shrine.
First of all, the bride offers a piece of cooked pork, some steamed
glutinous rice, boiled carp and rice to worship the ancestors, then
the groom’s parents will offer rice wine to the bride to drink and
give her some money.
men from the village will help the groom’s family to kill fat pigs
for the wedding. A rich family will kill two or three pigs, a poor
family will kill only one.
a rested for a while, an unmarried boy or girl goes to the well
and fetches water. Close to the groom’s house the water is handed
over to the bride so that she brings water to the groom’s home.
This means that the bride will belong to the new family and that
she is willing to serve her new family and her new parents.
these activities will be arranged in the morning. In the afternoon,
relatives come to celebrate the wedding bearing many gifts including
husked rice, cloth, rice wine and they set off fire crackers. The
most senior relative brings a fat pig and more gifts. When they
get to the edge of the village, firecrackers are set off, then the
men and women of the groom’s clan come to meet their relatives and
to help carry gifts. The relatives set off firecrackers and again
the greater the number of firecrackers set off the greater the wealth
and status of the groom’s family. After arriving at the groom's
home, the bride and groom are busy handing out sweets and cigarettes
to the relatives and everyone is looking at the bride and saying
how beautiful she is.
relatives eat a simple meal after their arrival which includes pork,
offal and rice wine. If the groom’s family is rich, the meal will
include more food such as chicken, carp and a variety of vegetables
and other food.
evening arrives, nearly all the villagers come for the wedding banquet.
My traditional wedding was held in April 2007. At that time more
than 500 people came to celebrate the wedding, all except for three
families were able to come. Men gave money, the amount, between
10-500 Yuan, depending on the closeness of the relationship. The
women normally bring rice, eggs, cloth and rice wine. However, my
wife, Huyan, is Han, so cloth is not useful to her. Thus the women
of my village gave money instead ranging from about 10-100 Yuan.
Relatives will give money for the wedding too, and they give more
than the villagers. Usually the elder sister will give more money
than the younger sister, the younger sister can not give more money
than the older sister, even if she is richer but for the elder brother
there is an exception. I have two elder sisters and my oldest sister
gave 1,488 Yuan, the other sister gave 1,288 Yuan and my brother
gave 2,000 Yuan. After giving all their gifts and money, they spread
out into different homes to have dinner. Before they start to eat,
the shaman hosts the wedding ceremony and offers rice wine and boiled
rice to the bride and the groom to wish for good fortune for the
marriage and many babies for the new couple. According to the Miao
culture, carp have eggs, which means more babies in the future.
Huge amounts of food and rice wine are offered by the groom’s family.
Rice wine is everyone’s favourite. During the meal, they play a
number of guessing games and so on, in order to persuade everyone
to drink more rice wine, so that they will have more fun and be
happier. The villagers said my wedding was the best one they have
ever participated in, with more food and cigarettes (everyone was
offered a pack of good quality cigarettes and more were offered
by the groom). Usually the food offered by the groom’s family is
a dish of lean and fat pork, a dish of pig’s trotters, a dish of
pork with bean sprouts and a dish of vegetables - in total about
4 dishes. This time my family had carp, chicken, plenty of lean
pork, pig’s trotters and other dishes – in total about 10 dishes.
The evening wedding banquet will last into the middle of the night
when everyone is drunk and satisfied with the rice wine and the
food. On the first night, the bride will stay overnight with the
relatives will stay for few days in the groom’s village The groom’s
clan members invite their relatives to have more rice wine and food
and the groom’s family members also join in the dinner with more
fun being seen during the meal. The dinner at the end of the second
and third days will be at the groom’s home and you can see more
fun and games with the villagers trying to wrestle the relatives
when they are nearly drunk.
the relatives leave the village for their homes, a huge leg of pork
and steamed sticky rice are given as gifts with the senior relative
being given a leg of pork with the tail. When their arrive back
home, there will be another banquet.
about a week, the bride’s father, brother and uncles will choose
an auspicious day and come to visit the groom’s home and ask for
the dowry money. A long time ago, the dowry was small, about 500-3,000
Yuan. Now that the Miao in my region are richer than before, the
dowry is from about 2,000-30,000 Yuan, usually around 5,000 Yuan
which equals about US$ 700. I paid my wife’s family 6,000 Yuan with
the rest of the dowry in gifts: 5 huge legs of pork, 10 bottles
of alcohol, 10 packs of cigarettes and some sugar. The groom’s family
kill another fatted pig to treat the bride’s father, brothers and
aunts. The groom’s father, uncles and cousins, join the banquet.
There will be a big discussion between the two sides about the dowry.
After the dowry negotiations are finished, a meal of boiled chicken
and rice are offered and the shaman will check on the chicken eyes
to tell whether the wedding is auspicious or not. If both eyes are
open or closed, it is an auspicious wedding. If one is open and
one closed that means it is a bad wedding. The bride’s father, brothers
and aunts will stay in the village for several days. During their
stay they are invited to have more food and rice wine by the various
families of the groom’s clan. They will then return home with the
dowry, steamed sticky rice and a huge leg of pork and the bride
will return to her parents’ home with the group.
bride will stay in her village during the busy harvest season or
working in the fields. The groom’s family will bring some sticky
rice to visit her family, and ask her to come to the groom’s home
to help with the agricultural work. This happens several times until
the bride is pregnant when she will live with her husband for ever.
article has been submitted by Tony Chen Hualong, a Miao from Langde
village in Guizhou province, China.