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Qing Dynasty Wedding Tradition

2016-06-16 15:34:00Share:

To a Qing Dynasty marriage, it was very important to follow the basic principle of Three Letters And Six Etiquettes(三书六礼), which was the essential to a marriage.


  The six traditional rites involved in a Chinese wedding are as follows:


  1. nacai (纳彩) - formal proposal


  2. wenming (问名) - giving of the eight characters of prospective bride to the groom’s side


  3. naji (纳吉) - placement of the eight characters at the ancestral altar to confirm compatibility


  4. nazheng (纳征) - sending of betrothal gifts to the bride and return gifts to the prospective groom


  5. qingqi (请期) - selection of an auspicious wedding date


  6. qinying (亲迎) - wedding ceremony Three letters were the betrothal letter, the gift letter with a gifts list and the wedding letter used on the day the groom met his bride at her home.

A Qing Dynasty wedding.


  Betrothal Letter(聘书) is the formal document of the engagement, a must in a marriage. Then, a gift letter(礼书) 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(迎书) 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 then led to the final wedding ceremony.


  When a boy's parents intended to make a match, they would invite a matchmaker to propose with them at the girl's home. It was the custom that the first time matchmaker went as a guest they could not be served tea in order not to 'lighten the marriage'.


  If the proposal was successful, however, the matchmaker (usually a woman) would be rewarded with profuse gifts and feasts to show the two families' gratitude. Many unmarried young people could not see and were unfamiliar with each other till their wedding day.


  Birthday Matching: after knowing the girl's full name and birthday, they would ask a fortune teller to predict whether that could match their son's and whether there would be a happy marriage. The Chinese zodiac would be surely taken into consideration.


  If the match was predicted to be auspicious, the matchmaker would take gifts to the girl's parents and tell them that the process could continue.


  This was the grandest etiquette of the whole process of engagement. Prolific gifts were presented again to the girl's family, symbolizing respect and kindness towards the girl's family as well as the capability of providing a good life for the girl.


  The boy's family asked the fortune-teller to choose a date according to the astrological book when it would be proper and propitious to hold the wedding ceremony.


  Wedding Ceremony: the wedding ceremony began with the groom and his party meeting the bride in her home. Before this day the bride's dowry would have been sent to the boy's house.


  The dowry represented her social status and wealth, and would be displayed at the boy's house. The most common dowries included scissors like two butterflies never separating, rulers indicating acres of fields, and vases for peace and wealth.(嫁妆)


  Before the meeting party's (迎亲队)arrival, the bride would be helped by a respectable old woman to tie up her hair with colorful cotton threads.


  She would wear a red skirt as Chinese believed red foreshadowed delight. When the party arrived, the bride, covered by a red head-kerchief, must cry with her mother to show her reluctance to leave home.


  She would be led or carried by her elder brother to the sedan. In the meeting party the groom would meet a series of difficulties intentionally set in his path. Only after coping with these could he pass to see his wife-to-be.


  On the arrival of the sedan at the wedding place, there would be music and firecrackers. The bride would be led along the red carpet in a festive atmosphere.


  The groom, also in a red gown, would kowtow three times to worship the heaven, parents and spouse. Then the new couple would go to their bridal chamber and guests would be treated to a feast. Wine should be poured to the brim of a cup but must not spill over.


  On the night of the wedding day, there was a custom in some places for relatives or friends to banter the newlyweds. Though this seemed a little noisy, both of them dropped shyness and got familiar with each other.


  On the third day of the marriage, the new couple would go back to the bride's parents' home. They would be received with also a dinner party including relatives.


  Of course, marriage customs differed by region, but these were the most common. They have been maintained for thousands of years, but in recent years (especially after the founding of modern China), people have tended to discard some of the details and advocate simplified procedures and wedding ceremonies.

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