Wedding customs of Miao ethnic group in Xiangxi
Among many ethnic minority groups in China, the Miao people maintain a long tradition in wedding customs, which vary in different branches and different places.
Miao people's wedding customs are both traditional and interesting. There are arranged marriages by parents and free love.
Arranged marriage is usually arranged by a matchmaker who is invited by the young couple’s parents, usually a relative or friend of the other party. After the girl’s family understands the young man family’s situation and obtains her view, the parents will explain whether they agree or not when the matchmaker comes back. If the girl’s family agree, they will agree on a " cash gift" and an engagement date. Then the young man’s family prepare goods to go to the girl’s home, who in turn prepares wine and meat to serve the young man’s family, which is called " drinking wine of engagement". When the young man’s family are leaving, the girl’s family will send chicken, glutinous rice and a waist belt made of " Chinese pepper cloth" to each of the guests as gifts.
There is also a custom of singing wine songs during the Miao’s wedding. In celebrating a wedding, Miao's wine songs are often sung in sets. It takes eight or nine hours, even all night long, to sing a set of wine songs in the wedding. Singers should be selected by both the bride family and bridegroom’s family to sing wine songs, and the selected singers are called Wedding Singers.
Each set of wine songs consists of nine parts:
Part 1 is the Road - Blocking Song ( also known as the Gate- Blocking Song). When the Wedding Singers of the bridegroom come to the bride's village, the Wedding Singers of the bride will gather at the intersection of the road to sing songs to welcome the Wedding Singers of the bridegroom, which is called the Road - Blocking Song.
Then the Wedding Singers of the bridegroom must skillfully sing with those of the bride, and they can only be allowed to enter the village after they have satisfactorily answered the other's questions raised in the song.
Part 2 is called “Ten Sections”, in which the Wedding Singers of the bride and bridegroom have to sing ten sections of songs, which reflect the local customs and conditions of their villages.
Part 3 is called " Ancestor Enter the Land", which mainly sings the origin and the migration process of both bride’s and bridegroom’s ancestors.
Part 4 is called “Road to Marriage”, which sings the formation and forms of ancient marriage etiquette between men and women.
The fifth part is called “Basics of Three Generations”, which sing the basic conditions of three generations: the young couple’s parents, grand-parents and great grandparents so as to enhance mutual understanding of the two families in law.
Part 6 is called “Love Experience”, which sings the love experience of the young couple before they get married, for instance, how they get to know each other.
Part 7 is called “Blessings”, which represents the expectation and wishes of the young couple’s parents for them.
Part 8 is called “Thank You”, in which the Wedding Singers of the bridegroom express thanks to the bride’s family.
The last part, or Part 9, is called “Dragon Boat Song”, which is the climax of the set of wine song. Wedding Singers of the young couple will sing in duet to decide who will win, and the winner can get the preserved duck as a prize.