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Home History and Culture The Custom of Crying Marriage
The Custom of Crying Marriage
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

The custom of crying marriage existed a long time ago in many areas of Southwest China's Sichuan (sì chuān 四川) Province, and altremained in vogue until the end of the Qing Dynasty(1644-1911). Though not so popular as before, the custom is still observed by people in many places, especially Tujia (tǔ jiā zú 土家族) people, who view it as a necessary marriage procedure.

Crying Marriage in General
It is very much the same in different places of the province. According to elderly people, every bride had to cry at the wedding prior to the liberation of the PRC in 1949. Otherwise, the bride's neighbors would

look down upon her as a poorly cultivated girl and she would become the laughingstock of the village. In fact, there were cases in which the bride was beaten by her mother for not crying at the wedding ceremony.

During the Warring States (zhàn guó 战国) Period(475-221BC), as historical records reveal, the princess of the Zhao State (zhào guó 赵国) was married to the Yan State (yān guó 燕国) to be a queen. Her mother, on the point of her daughter's departure, cried at her feet and asked her to return home as soon as possible. Later, the story was alluded to as the origin of the "crying marriage" custom.

In west Sichuan Province, the custom is called "Zuo Tang (Sitting in the Hall)".

Usually, the bride begins to cry a month before the wedding day. As the night falls, the bride walks inside the hall and weeps for about an hour. Ten days later, her mother joins her, crying together with her.; Another ten days later, the grandmother joins the daughter and mother, to cry together with them. The sisters and aunts of the bride, if she has any, also have to join the crying.

The bride may cry in different ways with diversified words, which was also called "Crying Marriage Song"; the somewhat exaggerated singing helps to enhance the wedding atmosphere. In a word, crying at wedding is a way by custom to set off the happiness of thealt wedding via falsely sorrowful words. However, in the arranged marriages of the old days of China, there were indeed quite a lot of brides who cried over their unsatisfactory marriage and even their miserable life.

In fact, swearing at the matchmaker used to be an important part of crying marriage, as well as the most rebellious part. In the old society, women were bound by the so-called "three obediences and four virtues", thus having no say in their marriage, which was all arranged by the matchmaker and the parents. Therefore, the brides often swore at the matchmaker before stepping inside the sedan, which was also seen as a pent-up of their dissatisfaction with and hatred of the old matrimonial system. This is also reflected in local operas and other folk art forms.

Once, there was a scene called "Yingtai Swearing at the Matchmaker" in aSichuan Operaon thebutterfly lovers. In the opera, Zhu Yingtai severely scolded the matchmaker with sharp crying words, which fully show her strong character and her hatred of the feudal system. The scene has been removed, as the custom of swearing at the matchmaker no longer exists in many places, especially in cities.

In the countryside, where the matchmakers still play an important part in marriage, brides continue to swear at them in crying marriage. However, it is said that the matchmakers never fear being scolded, but not being scolded, which means they will never get rid of the bad luck (the Chinese character for matchmaker is a homonym of that for bad luck).

The Tujia Ethnic Group's Crying Marriage Custom
altCrying marriage is a matrimonial custom that must be observed by every Tujia girl, no matter whether she is satisfied with the bridegroom or not. Some brides begin to cry as early as two months before the marriage, while others cry for at least ten days or half a month beforehand.

Crying marriage is a matrimonial custom that must be observed by every Tujia girl, no matter whether she is satisfied with the bridegroom or not. Some brides begin to cry as early as two months before the marriage, while others cry for at least ten days or half a month beforehand.

First the bride cries with her mother, then with her sister-in-law. After that, the neighbors and other single women come to cry with her, all of them sitting on the bed. While the bride and one of the accompaniers cry aloud, the others weep by the side. The bride cry for her parents and siblings as well as for the relatives and friends, mainly telling her life experience and her sorrow at leaving her loved ones while also expressing her gratitude towards her parents for bringing her up. The women also scold the matchmaker, and encourage the bride.

Although usually there are fixed crying songs, the bride may improvise sometimes. Tujia people attach significant importance to the custom of crying marriage. For a Tujia girl, whether she can cry and how she cries will usually cast great influence over her identity and reputation, and have been considered as symbols of the girl's wisdom and morals.

Some girls begin to learn crying at a young age, and some parents even go so far as inviting an elderly woman to teach their daughters how to cry. When they are fifteen or sixteen years old, the girls will practice crying with their young companions, and sometimes teach each other how to cry.

Accompany Ten Sisters
altAccording to Tujia customs, there are two ways of crying: The first way is for the bride to cry alone, and the second way is for ten girls, including the bride, to cry together.

The latter is also known as "accompanying ten sisters". On the eve of the wedding day, the bride's parents usually invite nine single women to join the process, with the women often sitting around a table. In the very beginning, two companions start the process with a poem or a song, which is followed by songs from the other companions. Most of the songs are themed on filial piety, diligence and etiquette, and the process lasts until dawn.

A Crying Song
The bird in the tree has grown up; my sister is getting married.
Once married, when is she going back home?
Let us share the deep feeling tonight.
My sister is like a white lotus root, and no man can resist her charm.
My sister has a sweet mouth, which every man wants to kiss.
My sister has a pair of deft hands, good at embroidery and weaving.
My sister is kind-hearted, respectful to both father and mother.


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