Enchanting Customs and Diversified Culture (2)

  • offcial website of Beijing Expo 2019 2016-06-06 10:21:28

Folk Music

During the period of the Republic of China, two categories of music were retained and spread in Yanqing: one is religious music, namely Buddhist and Taoist music; the other is folk music which spreads more widely. Instruments such as chime, wooden fish, sheng, pipe, flute, xiao, Chinese gong chimes, cymbals, drum and others are used in Buddhist music. Instruments used in Taoist music are similar, only with different compositions. Folk music is extremely widespread, among which the names of the tunes as folk dance accompaniment are well-known, with far-reaching influence. Chinese wind and percussion music matters most in folk music. Percussion instruments used are bass drum, side drum, large cymbals, small cymbals, gongs, etc. and wind instruments are suona, flute, sheng, etc., in which suona is the most important. In fact, folk music is suona solo with accompaniment of many musical instruments. There are abundant names of the tunes in folk wind music, with only several hundred handed down. These names of the tunes are divided into three categories: one is for accompaniment in festival activities, the second is for celebration of wedding and birthday, and third is for funerals.


Nowadays, people in Yanqing attach great importance to wedding, regarding it as “Auspicious Ceremony”. Centering on holding “Auspicious Ceremony”, the whole process of wedding features complex procedures, abundant rituals, and grand scenes. On behalf of the bridegroom’s parents, the matchmaker would propose a marriage to the bride’s side. Furthermore, the matchmaker is required to introduce Chinese zodiac, the date of birth and the eight characters of a horoscope and some basic information to both sides respectively.

Engagement is commonly known as Card Exchange. After the bride’s parents agree, the matchmaker would take a red paper card with the girl’s name, the date of birth and the eight characters of a horoscope written on, to the bridegroom’s side, and sometimes bring back that from the bridegroom’s side. Three days later, the bride’s side would return a salute by giving a case with a pair of pillows embroidered by the bride inside. The matchmaker would take the case to the bridegroom’s side, and convey the requirement for betrothal gifts. After three days, the bridegroom’s side would send the required betrothal gifts such as clothes and jewelry to the bride’s side for the engagement.

Following the handover of betrothal gifts, the bride’s side would be informed of the auspicious day for marriage selected by the bridegroom’s side, commonly known as “Xiatongxin”. The exact date for marriage is called “Zhengrizi”. On the previous day, the bridegroom’s side sends the prepared gifts to the bride’s side, and the bride’s dowry would be sent to the bridegroom’s side. On the marriage day, the bridegroom goes to the bride’s home to escort her to the wedding, with 3 wedding sedans, accompanied by a male Perfect Person and a female Perfect Person (luckily blessed with a happy, complete family of parents, parents-in law, husband or wife, son and daughter). A drum band with six members would be hired to perform all along the way. The bride, dressed up with a piece of red silk veiling the head, is carried in arms by a brother or a brother-in-law to the sedan.

The bride and groom bowing to Heaven and Earth is the major part of a wedding ceremony. After the sedans are carried back to the groom’s home, the wedding host would sing songs of celebration while holding the ceremony. The bride is required to get off the sedan, walk on red carpet and pass over a saddle (with safe and peaceful connotation) supported by the female guests. The table for the specific ceremony of bowing is placed in the middle of the yard, on which there are a steelyard and a dou (an ancient Chinese measure) containing sorghum, stuck by a bow and an arrow. The bride carries a mirror, commonly known as a monster-revealing mirror for driving evil, and stands on the right side in front of the table, while the groom stays on the left side, with a red carpet in between. They would perform the grand ritual of three prostrations and nine kowtows, and then be escorted into the bridal chamber, which symbolizes their formal marriage.

The wedding feast would be held by the bridegroom’s side on the day of marriage, with guests including New Relatives (parents and relatives from the bride’s side), Old Relatives (parents and relatives from the bridegroom’s side) and fellow villagers who would attend for congratulation. There are two grades of wedding feast, one with 8 big bowls and 8 small bowls of dishes, and the other with 6 big bowls and 8 small bowls of dishes, plus 9 or 12 tables of beforehand set dishes. Sometimes, tea water and snacks are served before dishes. In the process of wedding feast, the host and the newlyweds are required to make a toast to guests, table by table, following not a few of folk routines and rituals. After the feast, the fellow villagers and New Relatives may leave, while the Old Relatives would stay and return back to the feast table for eating on the next day.

On the third day, the newlyweds would attend the reciprocal feast held by the bride’s side, when all the relatives and friends who enrich the bride’s dowry would be treated. The couple is supposed to stay overnight in the bride’s family (or not sometimes).

Eight days after marriage, the bride would visit the parental home, and stay four days, meaning stable and well-organized. A month after marriage, the bride is supposed to be taken back the parental home by her parents, living for a month. Later on, the couple lives together normally. Above is the general procedure, to which the degree of emphasis depends on family status. In poor families, a girl would be sent to her future husband’s family after engagement, and get married on the selected day which is called “Consummation”. Those girls who are sent to the future husband’s family under the age of 10 are also called child bride. They would consummate the marriage in adulthood on an auspicious day. There is a simple ceremony for “Consummation”: the bride changes hairstyle from braid to bun, sitting in front of the stove, and her husband inserts a hair clasp to the bun, which is called “Wearing Crest”, symbolizing they get married. More formally, a thick tube-shaped space would be made by rolling up mat, commonly known as “Mat Tube”, with a chair placed inside. The bride sits on the chair instead of a sedan, preparing for the ritual of bowing to Heaven and Earth.

After the founding of new China, the Law of Marriage was promulgated, and the new-type wedding ceremony in combination of old and new customs gradually formed.

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