Wedding Ritual: Chinese Hair Combing Ceremony


Before Chinese newlyweds can marry, they commonly participate in a ‘Hair Combing Ceremony’ where the parents of the bride and groom will comb their respective child’s hair four times while uttering blessings.


Informant: “When my cousin got married last year, my family and I flew back to China for two weeks to participate in a long string of pre-wedding activities and traditions. Out of all of these practices, one specific one stood out to me. The night before the wedding, I sat in a room with a few of our family members and watched my aunt comb my cousin’s hair as she recited [what I think were] Buddhist passages. The whole thing lasted just a few minutes, but this activity was hyped up so much. While it was happening, my mother explained to me that this was a common practice in a lot of weddings to bring good luck to the marriage. Even the groom received his own ceremony, apparently!”


Rituals, both repurposed Buddhist and traditional ones, are commonly found in most Chinese weddings. The hair combing ceremony is no exception. My informant seems to have witnessed a modified version of this ceremony; traditionally, the ceremony involves several pre-rituals, such as bathing and eating, and has to be done very auspiciously—for example, the bride’s ritual must always start one hour after the groom’s ritual and must be done at a time of day designated by a holy individual. The key thing to note about this tradition, however, is that the crux of it features an ancient Chinese blessing that is uttered which each comb of the hair.

Superstitions are common in Chinese culture and this ritual is no exception; many superstitions in Chinese culture pertain to the concept of ‘aging’ which is seen as a pathway to respect and wisdom. The act of combing one’s hair symbolizes the transition and resolution of childhood as the couple-to-be transitions to adulthood. In my informant’s version of the ceremony, hair is only brushed four times. In the actual ceremony, hair should be brushed 10 times, with a specific proverb/mantra uttered every single time the hair is brushed. Each mantra is a blessing of prosperity and happiness to the newly couple; for example, the loosely-translated line “May you fill your home with your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all over the place,” both wishes the couple success and alludes to their lineage and generational prosperity. Ultimately, this simple ceremony ties very strongly to key Chinese beliefs relating to aging and wisdom as well as acknowledges the superstitious nature of many