Wonders of a Chinese Wedding

5 04 2017

One of the most universal events around the world (not surprising, since the God of the universe instituted it), weddings seek to unite two individuals in the presence of their Maker. Yet, throughout time, our cultures influence the styles, traditions, and even the ceremonies into diverse and unique customs. Along with passing the college entrance exam and the birth of a child, marriage ranks very high in the life of a Chinese individual.

I Love You

Here is a list of eight interesting and unique thing you may not know about contemporary Chinese dating and weddings:

 

1. Finding Your “True Love”

“A man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” –Chinese Proverb

In the current times, being well-educated is an essential part of Chinese culture, stemming from the Cultural Revolution’s push for higher education. Many parents stress the importance of studying and doing well on tests and insist that it leaves little time to entertain the thought of a boyfriend or girlfriend. Yet, immediately after college, family members start asking–and even setting up blind dates (xiang qin 相亲)–for their recent college graduate.

 

2. Buying the Necessities

“Dig the well before you are thirsty.” –Chinese Proverb

In China, a male that wants to ask for a woman’s hand needs a few things that money can buy. He is generally required to first have bought a house and a car (and possibly pay something like a dowry fee to the female’s family) before he asks for her hand. Additionally, his future family will want to know how much money he earns to make sure that his job is suitable to support the family.

 

3. Choosing a Lucky Day

“To succeed, consult three old people.” –Chinese Proverb

Fortune Teller

Match makers and fortune tellers predict if a female and male will be compatible. They also decide on a “lucky date” for the ceremony. Photo Source

It’s not only important to find someone suitable, but also to get the blessing of the matchmaker. If the matchmaker does not find the birth dates of the two individuals to be compatible according to the Chinese zodiac, they would be unwise (traditionally) to go forth in the process. Additionally, the fortune teller is needed to select a lucky date for the couple to wed.

 

4. Hong Bao 红包: Wedding Gifts

“If you want happiness for a month — get married. If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune.” –Chinese Proverb

Hongbao

“Hong bao” means “red packet” and is usually filled with a large sum of money, something related to the number 8 being preferable.

Money is an especially coveted concept in China, so not only are Chinese weddings elaborate, but the wedding guests do not usually give gifts like westerners. Instead, they give a “red packet” called hong bao, filled with money. It is important to give enough money and to give the right amount of money at a wedding. For example, giving 800¥ ($116) would be acceptable, as the number 8 signifies prosperity or success; where as 250¥ ($36) would be insulting, given that the numbers represent a “stupid person.” Hong bao are also given on birthdays and during Spring Festival.

 

5. Importance of Colors

“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break.” — Chinese Proverb

The color red has always been an important symbol for China, and this is no less true during weddings. In fact, the colors white and black are often used during funerals, so it is usually inappropriate to wear those colors. However, white dresses in China are becoming increasingly popular due to western influence.

 

6. Making Noise

“To be heard afar, bang your gong on a hilltop.” –Chinese Proverb

Weddings around the world tend to be noisy and joyful. In China, it is common to hear fireworks going off during the day as a sign someone just got married. The purpose of the fireworks is to scare away any monsters or ghosts that would seek to bring bad luck to the newlyweds. Most weddings also hire a middle-aged brass band that will play a slightly-out-of-tune melody in front of the house or the hotel.

 

7. Seeking Her Han: Before the Wedding

“All things are difficult before they are easy.” –Chinese Proverb

One of the most important parts of a Chinese wedding ceremony actually happens the morning of the wedding. Traditionally, family and friends will gather inside and outside the house, munching on snacks, waiting for the bride to get ready, and anticipating the groom and groomsmen’s arrival. Once everything is ready, the bride waits for the groom on her bed (which is usually covered with a symbolic red comforter), while the groomsmen go through a series of tasks that the bridesmaids have set up, ultimately stalling the groom from entering the bedroom. Some possible tasks the groomsmen might face include biting bread into the letters “LOVE”, doing push ups, “breaking down” the door, singing a song, and finding the bride’s red slippers. If they fail, the have to pay the bridesmaids in hong bao. If they succeed . . . they might still have to pay the bridesmaids in hong bao.

 

8. Gan Bei! The Party

“With true friends… even water drunk together is sweet enough.” –Chinese Proverb

And finally, the most anticipated part of the whole process–the meal! You may have thought that Chinese weddings were similar to western weddings, where the ceremony and reception holds the highest importance, but actually, the ceremony is much more private and comparatively insignificant compared to eating and celebrating together (unless it is a Christian wedding, where there will usually be a more public ceremony).

The food is served at the home or a hotel, and is generally lavish and plentiful (think whole fish, lobster, crabs, chicken, and a whole host of fruits and vegetable dishes). While guests are eating, the bride and groom will go around to each table, pouring alcoholic drinks and toasting the guests with the words “gan bei!” which means “cheers!” and signifies that the person will drink the whole glass of alcohol. It is also common to see performances by the bride and groom or close friends, and people don’t always dress up in their “Sunday best” for these events as they do in the west.

 





Biking Before Breakfast

5 11 2016

November 5, 6 AM, 6 people, 70 degrees, 120 kilometers to go, pumped tires, fruit, boiled eggs, and excited anticipation.

Thus began our bike trip to Ningbo.

We originally planned the trip for two days, but it was beautiful outside all day and we had no mishaps (blown tires, accidents, falls, etc.), so we made the trek in about 13 hours. When we arrived, we feasted on Brazillian barbeque and spent time together.

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The beautiful overlook from the Ningbo bridge near “lao wei town” (foreigner town).





TSF.

2 05 2016

Each year, we celebrate our own foreigner-made festival called “TSF”, which stands for “Tent-Sleeping Festival,” though little sleeping and no tents actually are involved. Our activities include hanging out, playing lots of ultimate frisbee, cooking competitions, and singing.

This year, TSF also happened to be on my birthday, so they gave me a sword to cut cake with and our team acquired an e-bike!





Qing Ming Jie

3 04 2016

Qing Ming Jie (pronounce “Ching Ming Gee-eh”), a Chinese festival that translates to “Tomb Sweeping Festival,” is a time that most students go home, hike up to their ancestor’s graves, clean off the tombs, honor their ancestors by offering sacrifices (often of food or burning incense), and eat cold food. The festival has roots 2500 years ago in the Zhou Dynasty and is very important in Chinese culture.

One of our friends invited us to her house for qing ming festival to make traditional “qing tuan” (pronounced “ching chw-ahn”), which is, basically, a special type of green dumpling.

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ShangHair

17 01 2016
AJ getting her hair cut. The man behind the mirror was my hairdresser, Mr. Hu, and AJ's hairdresser is behind her.

AJ getting her hair cut. The man behind the mirror was my hairdresser, Mr. Hu, and AJ’s hairdresser is behind her.

On my last day in Shanghai, AJ and I decided that it would be interesting to check out the salon down the road. We had barely set foot in the door, when the owner pulled us the rest of the way, incredibly excited that we were there. It was quite the place, and they not only cut, but also “styled” our hair in the way they thought most appropriate.

AJ and I after having our hair cut and very intensely styled.

AJ and I after having our hair cut and very intensely styled.

On my way back to ShaoXing, I was able to visit my friend’s home near Jaixing for lunch. Her mom was a great cook!

On our way to my friend's house for lunch.

On our way to my friend’s house for lunch.

My friends' house is on the right.

My friend’s house is on the right.

My friend and her mom. (The photo is a bit blurry)

My friend and her mom. The host is especially generous when there are lots of dishes and when there are crabs or lots of seafood present. (The photo is a bit blurry, though.)

Saying goodbye at the train station.





Food Street

3 01 2016
Myself, Sam, Lydia, and Morgan as we explored "Food Street" in Wuhan.

Myself, Sam, Lydia, and Morgan as we explored “Food Street” in Wuhan.

One of our feats of the weekend was to explore so-called “Food Street” together, and we tried lots of Chinese specialties, such as pig’s feet, deep-fried bananas, peanut-butter noodles, and so on.

Wuhan is well-known for this dish, affectionately called "peanut butter noodles" by all true peanut-butter-loving Americans. They are made with sesame sauce and have a very similar taste to peanut butter.

Wuhan is well-known for this dish, affectionately called “peanut butter noodles” by all true peanut-butter-loving Americans. They are made with sesame sauce and have a very similar taste to peanut butter.

Deep-fried banana.

Deep-fried bananas.

Yes, those are pigs feet. Turns out they are mostly fat.

Yes, those are pigs feet. Turns out they are mostly fat, though.

There were so many people out that you could barely walk in this narrow street.

All the skewers that people used during the day.

All the skewers that people used during the day.





Christmas Keepers

24 12 2015
One of Allison's gifts was a Baimax dressed in a Totoro onesie, just like her.

One of Allison’s gifts was a Baymax dressed in a Totoro onesie, just like her.

We were able to have a relaxing Christmas together. Our gift exchange included an electric blanket from Allison to me, lots of great food, a soccer ball for Morica (the old one had a hole in it), and much more. We have been extremely blessed!

Friends and food is always a good combination. Note the German chocolate cake Morica made (quite the feat here in China)!

Friends and food is always a good combination. Note the German chocolate cake Morica made (quite the feat here in China)!