Cry and Marry of Tujia Ethnic Group

“Crying and marrying” is also called “crying for marriage”, “crying for marrying the child”, “crying before the sedan chair” and so on. It is the traditional marriage customs of Chinese and Tujia, Zang, Yi, Zhuang and Salar minorities. It is the crying and singing ceremony the bride ought to fulfill while marrying. The crying ceremony of Tujia is the most grand and typical one. It is not merely an essential etiquette and procedure in Tujia’s wedding day, it has also become a kind of unique art form of Tujia.

Tujia’s ceremony of “crying and marrying” usually starts three or seven days ahead of the wedding. Some may open the prelude half a month, a month and even three months ahead. However, in the very beginning, the crying is off and on. When relatives, friends and neighbors come with gifts to have a visit, the bride cries as gratitude etiquette. The ceremony reaches the climax, from the former night of the wedding to the next morning before the bride getting on the bridal chair. The crying during this period must go through according to the traditional etiquette. Random crying is not allowed. Generally speaking, the crying and singing content included “crying for parents”, “crying for brothers and sisters-in-law”, “crying for uncles”, “crying for escorting guests”, “crying for the matchmaker”, “crying when combing hair”, “crying for ancestors”, “crying when getting on the sedan chair’ and so on. Lyrics are either passed down one generation after another, or created improvisationally by the bride and her “crying” sisters. The main theme is to extend gratitude for parents’ bringing up and the love and care from brothers and sisters. Some themes are to show their dissatisfaction with marriage and hatred for the mismatch made by the matchmaker and so on. Take crying for the matchmaker (also called “cursing the matchmaker”) for example: You come to seek a marriage alliance and boast both about the wife’s family and the husband’s family. If you smoke one pipe of the husband’s family, you say his family will make a fortune. If you take one cup of tea of husband’s family, you say they will become even wealthier. If you drink a glass of wine of the husband’s family, you say they will enjoy good wine for generations.

Another example is “crying for the forefather”: When my right foot steps out of my mother’s room, my left foot steps onto the forefather’s hall. I have to leave both my forefathers and my father; I have to leave my forefathers and my mother.

Tujia people pay much attention to “crying and marrying”, especially in the past. In those days, the bride must cry when she was going to marry because of the traditional concept that the family won’t make a fortune if the bride doesn’t cry at the time of marriage and the more the bride cries, the wealthier the family will be. People even set the extent of the “crying and marrying” as the criteria of a woman’s talent and virtue. The bride will be highly praised for her eloquence, her flowery, querulous and stirring words, her hoarse voice and red and swollen eyes. Conversely, if she doesn’t cry at the time of marriage, she will be sneered. Therefore, a lot of Tujia girls have to learn to cry by imitating the brides and participating the crying ceremony since they are very young. Before marriage, some families even ask some “experts” to teach their daughters.

Besides the bride, her relatives and friends should also join the crying ceremony and they must be skilled and experienced in this ritual.

In the Tujia settlement at the foot of the Buddhist Mountain, when a girl is getting married, the hall of the bride’s house will become a singing arena and the women relatives will all come and join the crying ceremony. Everyone in the stockade village — old and young, men and women—will come, crying together with the bride and singing in antiphonal style. We can see this “crying together” has transformed from “crying” in its general sense to an entirely new “blessing and farewell party”.