Ancient Chinese Weddings: Rich and Poor
The lavishness of the wedding portrays the distinct Chinese class system, the wealthy upper class and the poor peasant class. While the wealthy enjoyed the luxury and free will of the wedding, the underprivileged suffered from involuntary marriages and plain ceremonies. On the other hand, most weddings of the prosperous were merely for publicity issues and reputation; however weddings of the deprived were small, but intimate and affectionate. The social status was easily determined by the types of clothes of the bride, the groom, and the guests. The bride of a rich family wore a long, form-fitting, one-piece dress called qipao made from the finest red silk and embroidered with a gold phoenix to represent the female half of the couple. Usually, she would also wear a tiara-like headpiece of gilded silver, decorated with colorful feathers and pearls, which also symbolized a phoenix. The groom wore a red silk jacket over a red robe sewn with a gold dragon, the male half of the happy duo. Only the rich could afford and were allowed colorful silk attires and slippers, red and gold silk in this case, along with jade, silver, pearl, and gold accessories. At an unknown time, the emperor of China banned all non-royalty and non-nobility from wearing gold, color of wealth and regality. Silk was a widely known symbol of status, success, and power. Even on special occasions like weddings, the poor only wore modest wool or cotton garments paired with straw shoes. The Chinese believed if someone wore white, black, gray, or any dark, colorless colors, they were cursing the newlyweds to die, so even the poor managed to dye their clothes red. The food eaten at the banquet was also essential in defining the family’s position in society. The rich reveled in big, healthy helpings of rare and deluxe foods, like meat, eggs, seafood, and fish, cooked in extravagant ways like roasting or frying. Lobsters, long xia, literally mean “dragon...
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