The custom of two-way marriage between men and women
Among the She people, apart from the common women marrying men, men marrying women is also their marriage custom. For the latter one, there are two situations: the man marrying the unmarried woman to be the “son-in-law”; the man marrying the widow to be called “dropping in.” The families with no sons are most likely to find a man to marry in. But some families with sons also like to marry a man in, having the daughter remaining at home and “getting a son”(namely getting a son-in-law). Generally, the children born should follow the mother’s family name, and the sons may follow the parent’s family names respectively if two sons are born. If the couple is both the only children at home, they have to act as “two families”. That’s to say, they have to take care of both the two families in the first several years, not settling down. Several years later, they may decide to choose the wealthier family to live in.
Before the marriage, there are two stages- finding a matchmaker and getting engaged, which involve quite much etiquette. When getting married, the bridegroom sends a team to escort the bride to the bridegroom’s home, which is made up of his uncles, eloquent “red men” talented for singing, “meeting aunts” being the bridesmaids, as well as cooks. The matchmaker leads the team to the bride’s home two days ahead. They fire firecrackers to knock at the door, present gifts, and salute “the ceremony of taking off shoes”(to take off straw sandals, wash feet, and put on new cloth shoes). On the banquet, the singers from both sides sing antiphonally, and the bride proposes toasts between, and accepts red envelopes given by guests and seniorities, which is called “asking for one hundred families’ silver.” The song banquet that night should be held throughout the whole night. If the husband’s singers can not answer the questions raised by the wife’s singers through singing, their faces will be wiped with pot bottom ash, which makes people burst into laughter. The next day, the ceremony of “inviting ancestors” will be held in the bride’s side, namely reporting the marriage before the forefather’s memorial tablet, and asking for bless. Thereafter, the bride’ s mother puts the dowry on the bed. Mother and daughter sit by the bed crying, loath to part from each other, which is called “crying for the dowry.” The third day will be the formal wedding day.
The bride decides the starting time according to the distance between the two families. The principle is that they should get to the bridegroom’s family before daybreak. On the way, the bride should not look back, so as to live in conjugal bliss to a ripe old age. After arriving in front of the gate of the bridegroom’s house, the bride should open her umbrella, and step on the red sacks spreading on the ground, which symbolizes producing a male heir to continue the family line. On the way to the central room, the relatives and friends of the bridegroom ought to drop raw peanuts, wishing the couple to give birth to many male heirs. When holding a memorial ceremony for the ancestors in the central room, the bridegroom and the bride start to meet each other for the first time. On the third day after marriage, the bridegroom accompanies the bride to come back to her home. They may go back home after two or four nights. Up to now, this old custom is still in prevails among She people.
In the mountainous area in the southwest of Zhejiang Province, She’s marriage scene can often be seen: a group of greatly delighted young people cluster around the bridegroom and bride, singing in antiphonal style while walking on the field ridge or at the mountain path. The antiphonal singing is generally made by the bride and bridegroom, but if the new couple is not good at singing, the bridesmaid and groomsman will replace them. Singing the love songs is to express the affection and happiness in the heart, while singing miscellaneous songs is a contest of intelligence between the relatives of both sides. At the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, some She areas, influnced by the Han people, began to marry daughters in the bridal sedans. After the reform and opening-up, the traffic in the mountainous area is growing more and more convenient. When sending a team to escort the bride to the bridegroom’s home, more and more brides are riding the motorcycle, tractor, and agricultural vehicle. If you want to have a taste of the custom of walking marriage, you had better go to some mountainous villages where the highway is unavailable.
The love songs, which men and women in love are singing, are touching and unforgettable. While courting, the man sings: “Go down the mountain after cutting fire woods, and wait for the pretty girl at a junction of three roads. Can I ask you if the golden pheasant can match the phoenix? ” The woman answers: “In my village there is a Goddess of Mercy Hall, you can come to worship Buddha and burn joss sticks; Ask a matchmaker to come for an early engagement, and the lovers can definitely be a match. ” In their first love, the man sings: “I am cutting firewood on the hilltop, hoping that the younger sister can sing a song to relieve my worries in the past days.” The woman answers: “The little bird flies for the first time, afraid of the cold wind; the younger sister are difficult to open her mouth to express her love; It is not because of a mute throat, but worries the dear brother won’t appreciate her love.” When exchanging the keepsake of love pledging, the woman gives the colored belt to the man, singing, “A belt is 3 meters long; I bring it for my virtuous darling; out true love is everlasting and unchanging just like a pair of mandarin ducks.” The man gives his girl a towel, singing: “Both ends of the towel are blue and green; in the middle is my heart; we are face to face when you are wiping the sweat, heart to heart when you hide it in your bosom. “(According to Records of She Custom, written and edited by Shi Lianzhu, Central Institute of Nationalities Publishing House, the 1989 edition.)