- How did people marry in ancient China?
- How do Chinese couples marry now?
- How is a Japanese wedding different?
- How many types of weddings exist in India?
Every country has its own traditions and customs. The same applies to marriages, but although there are already dozens of different wedding traditions among the European peoples and cultures, the contrast is largest when we compare ourselves to Asian customs.
What role do standing and status play in Asian countries? Do they generally marry out of love or for economic reasons? How long does a wedding last? And which symbols are important to them instead of the golden ring? In this article, you will learn about the amazing wedding traditions from China, Japan and India.
TIP: Would you like to know why a golden ring is so important in Europe? What powers were ascribed to the wedding ring in Medieval times? Or why a wedding ring is worn on the left ring finger ever since the Roman times? You can read more about those topics here.
How did people marry in ancient China?
No country is laced with traditions quite like China. It is also a gigantic country, so that, partly due to ethnic migrations, countless of regional and cultural differences have arisen throughout the centuries. As a result, each region has its own wedding traditions that are not found in other parts of the country. When the People’s Republic was founded, however, a number of traditions were lost.
With the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese wanted to transition into a democratic society, to which human liberty and equality between men and women were central. One of the first laws issued under the new authorities was a marriage act.
In traditional Chinese culture, marriage was not seen as a unity of two people, but a union of two families out of economic interest. Girls were often purchased by a family at a very young age, so that she could later be offered to one of their sons as a bride. It was very common to see a boy marry at the age of 16, or a girl at barely 11.
Additionally, rich men were usually not monogamous. It was perfectly fine to marry more than one woman. The first woman would remain the most important, while the subsequent women had a lower status and were mostly seen as domestic help. In contrast, it was a challenge for poor men to get a wife.
In order to come to a marriage arrangement, it was common for the parents of the groom to give gifts and money to the family of the bride. If they came to an arrangement, they entered into the engagement period of at least 1 year. The exact wedding date was to be determined by a fortune teller, based on the Chinese almanac and the dates of birth of the couple. It was highly possible that the bride and groom had not yet met each other.
TIP: In Europe, couples commonly get engaged without parental involvement. We even rarely still ask her father for her hand. You can read more about what the modern woman expects of a marriage proposal here.
How do Chinese couples marry now?
Although brides are no longer married off, matchmaking is still commonplace. And although couples increasingly marry out of love, other old Chinese marriage traditions are still respected, such as the tea ceremony or xinliangcha that originated in the 7th century. A family usually keeps around an old tea set to use exclusively for this tradition.
Traditionally, the tea ceremony is performed with the parents of the groom, and later once more with the grandparents and other family members. The tea is somewhat sweetened, and the tea bowls sometimes contain 2 red dates and lotus seeds. Sweet tea brings good luck, while the dates and lotus seeds are symbols for the swift production of offspring.
Another tradition, which you have probably already noticed during the Chinese New Year, is the abundant presence of the colour red. Red represents good fortune. That is why this colour is found in the clothing, decoration and other symbolic aspects of the wedding, such as the drinking from glasses of wine that are connected with a red string, a custom that takes place before the wedding night.
One ritual that returns in dozens of other countries is the throwing of rice or other grains when the couple leaves the wedding location. The throwing of rice or grains should be interpreted as sowing, which symbolizes fertility, fortune and good luck.
Have you noticed that in summing up the different Chinese wedding traditions, there was no mention of a golden ring? Exchanging a golden ring is an important wedding tradition in Western culture, but not in Eastern cultures. A ring is usually only worn during the ceremony.
How is a Japanese marriage different?
Although Japanese princess Mako abdicated her right to the throne last year in order to marry the love of her life, arranged marriage is still a thing in Japan. In order to couple two parties, they consider factors such as career, social status and ancestry. If they find a match, they arrange a meeting. After the meeting, both parties can still pull out of the marriage.
So, neither party is obligated and barely 10% of marriages are still arranged. The Japanese also increasingly get married at a later age. Moreover, of the unmarried Japanese men between 18 and 34, no less than 70% is not in a relationship. And a quarter of the Japanese men between 35 and 39 is still a virgin.
But Japan would not be Japan if there were no alternatives. For example, you can visit hug cafés, where men can hug women; you can set up wedding ceremonies to wed yourself; and you can hire male geishas to drink champagne with single women.
For those who do want to get married, there are four common wedding ceremonies: the traditional Shinto ceremony, the Western ceremony, a small celebration or a photo book ceremony. The traditional Shinto ceremony starts with a spiritual cleansing, followed by praying for good fortune, the drinking of cleansed sake (3x3 sips) and the offering of the tamagushi.
Shinto is the original religion of Japan and is based on the worship of nature spirits. A waterfall, the moon or a rock with a special shape can all be held to be a nature spirit. The worshipped tamagushi is a richly decorated tree branch, which perfectly fits into the Shinto ceremony.
All this might seem rather sober and simple, but a traditional wedding can easily cost you up to some € 10.000. The largest expense is not the party, but purchasing a traditional wedding kimono and accessories. Even if you rent one, it will easily cost you € 1.000.
By the way, the Western ceremony is even more expensive, because they spend a lot more attention on the wedding location and they invite more guests. So, for those with a smaller budget, a small celebration or a photo book celebration is the preferred choice. For the latter option, you will take wedding photographs for a number of hours at a real wedding location. And, again, Japan would not be Japan if there were no companies specialised in this service!
Wearing a gold ring is not commonplace in Japan either. Couples do usually have a golden ring, but it is stowed away for practical reasons. They are also generally seen as a Western ritual. Conversely, divorce parties when the marriage is over are relatively popular. And people frequently buy a divorce ring for that occasion…
How many types of wedding exist in India?
For now, India hold second place with regards to population numbers, but scientists expect that it will overtake China before 2050! And with such a large population, it is not surprising that it has multiple religions.
While Hinduism is still the largest religion, there is no description of Hinduism that applies to all Hindus. For example, the rural religion differs greatly from the more philosophically supported religious practice. The customs and traditions of Hindu marriage also differs per region.
In addition, the Hindus have 8 types of marriage, each with its own value, most of which are determined by the parents. Just like in Japan, corresponding factors between the partners still play a role in arranged marriages. After an introductory meeting, the couple is given the option to not pick each other and to not marry.
A wedding celebration lasts for multiple days and costs tons of money for the family of the bride. This is because the bride is decorated as a temple statue, with a host of golden jewellery, of which the necklace is most important. Should you ever have the opportunity to witness a wedding in India, be sure to accept it! It will be one of the most beautiful and special celebrations you will ever experience.
The wedding ritual itself only lasts for a few hours, but the small customs that precede it make it so endearing. For example, the bride has to dig up a bit of earth at their common dwelling, which is turned into a brazier for the wedding ritual.
Another custom is to tie the shoulder scarf of the groom to the sari of the bride during the sacrificial ceremony, as a symbol of their unity. In the meantime, the pandit, the cleric leading the ceremony, pronounces spells to bring the bridal couple good luck. Then, the couple takes 7 steps towards the North Star. It is very important for the North Star and the sun to bear witness of the events to come.
Sometimes, the ceremony ends by the groom applying a kind of red powder to the hairline of the bride. This tells everyone that she is now a married woman. And a golden ring? You will not find one in India, either. It is more common to wear a golden necklace, the length and width of which depends on the financial status of the couple.
If they do wear a wedding ring, it is always worn on the right hand, as the left hand is seen as unclean. Although the young urban generation might dare to take the American example and wear it on their left hand.
Are you still looking for the perfect golden ring for your wedding? Discover the wide range of wedding rings at BAUNAT or contact our experts for more advice.