Saturday, February 11, 2012


(New York Sun.) In China the persons most interested in their marriage have nothing at all to do with the matter. The Rev S. G. Miner, a missionary in China, says that betrothals are frequently arranged by the parents when tho bride and bridegroom are as yet infants. This is the way they go about it. Frequently a man having a friend in a similar station in life proposes to give his daughter in marriageto his friend's son. It is at this stage that the matchmaker is called in. The children's horoscopes are cast, and for some days the matter is weighed by both, families. The fate of the unconscious young people hinges on trifles during this period. If any accident happens in either family, such as breaking a piece of china or glassware, or losing a trifling article, it is regarded as a bad omen, and the match is declared off then and there. But if all goes smoothly, the parents decide that the betrothal is desirable, and immediately presents are exchanged, the parents of the girl coming in for the greater share. Among the gifts two cards are exchanged by the families. One is ornamented with a gilt dragon, and has written upon it information relating to the good points and shortcomings of the boy. Of course the shortcomings are few and far between, since Chinese boys are considered nearly perfect beings by their parents. The other card is decorated with the picture of a phoenix, and gives similar information, about the girl. A thread of red, silk with a needle at each end is passed through each of these cards, which are preserved with the betrothal papers in .the two families. The red silk signifies that the feet of the people destined tq be married are tied together with invisible cords. These Chinese engagements are as binding as marriage, although the contracting parties may bo in absolute ignorance of the arrangement. Very' sad surprises constantly occur at Chinese weddings. Frequently no communication takes place between the two families from the time of the betrothal until the wedding. Sometimes one of the families becomes very poor, or one of the betrothed couple becomes a helpless cripple or a victim to leprosy or some incurable disease. Mr Miner says that he knows of one instance where the prospective bridegroom was an idiot; but nothing could prevent the marriage. Frequently the betrothed girl is taken at once to the home of the .boy's parents; There she is made a servant to the family imtil the marriage ceremony is performed. More frequently, however, the two who are to go through life together never see each other faces until after they are man and wife. In this event the bride is brought to her new home on the wedding day in a hired bridal chair, a grand affair of flaming scarlet, elaborately decorated, and carried by four coolies preceded by a band of music. Two of her near relatives accompany her until they meet two of the bridegroom's nearest of kin, when they hand her over to the care of her new protectors. All her other relatives remain at home and bewail her loss as if she wore going to her burial instead of her bridal, which, in most countries, is believed to be the hairiest, event of a woman's life. Not one of her kin or friends ever attends the wedding. Upon her arrival at the bridegroom's homo two women attendants stand ready to receive the bride and serve her during the days o£ ceremony and festivity. The chair is set down, and as they open it a child and an old woman who has many sons and grandsons come forward and formally invite the bride to accompany them to the bridegroom's chamber. They find him sitting there attired in official cap, gown and boots. The bride wears parti-coloured garments with a large scarlet robe thrown over all. A scarlet silk or cloth veil covers her face and head. With the assistance of her attendants she trips across the scarlet carpet laid for the occasion because her little feet must touch nothing else, and takes her seat on the bridegroom's right. He then removes her veil and crown, the curtain is drawn, and the two are supposed, without so much as glancing at each other, to sit and think, without speaking, until preparations for the service are completed. When everything is ready the bridegroom re-crowns his bride and they walk to the reception room. A Cbinesereception room is open at the end and looks out upon an open court. Hither the couple make their way, and by bowing their faces to the ground four times worship heaven and earth. They then face right about and worship the bridegroom's ancestors in like manner. Next they worship each other, or pretend to, and retire again to the chamber, where the bride's crown and veil are taken off for the last time, her hair is elaborately dressed, and the bridegroom beholds her in all her beauty, or ugliness, for the first time. Then the wedding breakfast is served. Nobody is .allowed to partake of it except the couple, and even the bride isn't allowed to do any eating. She has to sit there motionless and watch the bridegroom enjoy himself. During the meal the mistress of ceremonies chants a song written for the occasion, in which she predicts that every known nuptial blessing shall come to the young pair. Next they return to the reception room and worship in Iho sauio manner as -befor- 1 all the groom's senior relatives, and are worshipped in turn by all his junior relatives. The climax of tho day's festivities is a grand marriage feast, after which the guests of both sexes are permitted to inspect the bride and make any personal remarks they please about her appearance or dress. Every Chinese bride has to pass through this ordeal, and furthermore she must appear perfectly unconscious of blame or praise, of harsh criticism or friendly judgment. It has always bocu said that tho Chinese women have most amiable dispositions, and they must to stand this trial. If possible, on the foPowing day the wedded couple visit tho bride's parents. After a month of married life the bride may visit her parents and relatives. Often this visit is a very sad one, for the young wife has to tell of a cruel husband or mother-in-law, who makes life a burden to her. Life is so lightly valued in China that the taking .of it seems to many only a very little thing. And, too frequently, unfortunate young wives take advantage of these first visits home to put an end to their sufferings. Considering tho strange way in which they are brought about, there are many comparatively happy marriages in China, and many people who put a full and proper valuation on life. On the other hand, should a girl in China lose her betrothed or a young wife her hrnband, she is highly commended if she takes opium or contrives in some other way to follow him into the Great Beyond. Outside tho walls of many cities, notably Foochow, and along public, roads, hundreds of monumental arches are erected to perpetuate the memory of young women who have killed themselves rather than outlive their betrotcd. Cases of this kmd are all reported to tho Emperor, and tho arches are erected at his command. Star , Issue 5849, 17 April 1897, Page 3

No comments:

Post a Comment