Wedding Traditions/Superstitions – China

Chinese Wedding Traditions and Superstitions

Ancient customs and old wives’ tales have been handed down from generations to generations.  As a young girl I was told not to leave any rice behind in my bowl or else, I will end up marrying a guy with lots of acne or poke marks.  It is also a taboo to marry someone with the same surname as it means that you’re marrying the same bloodline.  Ancient customs do blood test by pricking their finger and dropping their blood in a bowl of water.  If the two mix together, then supposedly you’re related.

If one does end up getting married, there’s a lot of taboo and customs to follow like when a couple gets married, the groom has to carry the bride over a pan of burning coals when they first enter their new home so that when she is pregnant, she will give birth successfully and with ease. Since maintaining and passing down the surname of the family is very important, having a son as a firstborn is a priority. Therefore, a young male child will be asked to first lie down on the bed before the couple does.  It is also believed that putting some auspicious food under the bed will bring lots of children and harmony with the newlyweds.

During pregnancy, it is believed that hammering and renovation of the home will lead to miscarriages or deformities.  Eating a particular kind of food can help determine the kind of baby the woman gives birth to– like if you eat light colored food or drink plenty of milk, the baby will have a fair complexion.  Eating crabs will lead to an overactive baby and blotchy complexion.

After giving birth, it is not recommended to attend any weddings or funerals for the first 100days– it is believed it might bring ill health or misfortune to either families.


Ms. Yong heard these customs growing up as a child in Malaysia.  She was one of seven girls, so the topic of marriage was always a favorite.  She is not too sure if her own parents practiced these traditions, although if they did, it would be quite ironic since only the last two children, out of the nine in her family, were boys. Now, however, as a grown woman, she is more skeptical about some of these beliefs saying, “I probably do not believe that leaving rice behind in your bowl means you will marry a man with poke marks [or acne] on his face”.  My mother has some doubts on the truth behind these beliefs, but it should be emphasized that that is not be the point.  I’m sure most folklore could be disproved with science, but that takes all the fun out of it.  Passing down tradition and beliefs is what creates a culture.  Without it, everything would be black and white with no room for imagination.  One should not worry about the validity of lore but rather the experience of being able to know it (part of it’s folk) and the ability to tell it to future generations, ensuring its survival.

The wedding traditions seem very typical to me of Chinese culture.  One superstition in particular stood out, that of wanting a son as one’s firstborn. Chinese people put a lot of importance on one’s surname.  Throughout history, male babies were of preference over female.  Males would not only be more helpful to the family business, which back then was mostly farming and agriculture, but also in passing on the family name.  This tradition is not changed, even in the twenty first century.  When modern China realized it needed to take action on their enormous population (currently around 1.4 billion), they imposed a “one couple, one child” law.  This encouraged new families to only have one child; if they were to have more they were stripped of benefits and tax breaks.  The policy worked for its purpose, but it also generated serious side effects.  Deserted and even dead babies started turning up in dumpsters, rivers, and everywhere imaginable.  As one can guess, these babies were all female.

This reality is very depressing but it proves just how powerful tradition is.  Modern Chinese would not behave in that manner if their culture did not emphasize the importance of a surname.  This can be paralleled with American culture, where most couples are indifferent about the sex of their child.  Some may be concerned with their family name dying out, but with our increasingly liberal society, hyphenated surnames are ever more common.  I have never heard of a Chinese woman keeping her maiden name, which may be more reason for this unfortunate circumstance to continue.   Folklore, surprisingly, does indeed carrying significance in a culture and can even be the reason behind people’s actions.