Free Courting and Adventurous Wedding Ceremonies
Until early 1950s, Jingpo young unmarried people all take part in "Gantuozong" (Zaiwa dialect), which is called "Chuanguniang" in Chinese, meaning looking for a girl. It is a kind of communication activities for young men and women, also a way of seeking an ideal lover.
According the traditions, each Spring Festival is the best time for "Gantuozong". Young people of and out of the village, taking food and wine with them, together go to picnic in the open air. They sing and dance, indulgently enjoying themselves, while love secretly breaks in. Usually, when the evening falls, groups of young people walk to the wood and the bamboo bush, whispering and singing gently, trying to know thoughts of the other gender, or they go to the "public house", playing flutes, singing, telling legends and tales. At the same time, some young couples may whisper and express their affection to each other. At night, all sleep in the house. But everyone should obey traditional rules, and sexual intercourses are forbidden. By and by, having known each other more, they both send gifts to each other. The girl sends exquisite flowery belts and handkerchiefs embroidered with flowers, while the young man sends her an exquisitely sculpted small bamboo tubes (empty or containing paper fan or mouth flutes), weaving shuttles and "Qiantong", which is worn on ears. If a man and a woman have settled their love, they report it to the male and female supervisors who are in charge of the communication activities. They should invite old people and their fellows to have a celebration feast in the public house. Thus their love relation is recognized by the public, and they can go out of the public house and have their secret dates now.
For The Jingpo people, marriage cannot be made between cousins, nor between persons of the same family name. People of different family names but originated from the same clan cannot get married, either. Marriage is only between persons of different family names and of either "wife's-father" breed or "son-in-law" breed (in Jingpo respectively "Muyu" and "Dama"). Anyone breaks this rule is despised as pig and dog, such as ignoring subgroups, age and generations.
The so-called "wife's-father" breed and "son-in-law" breed is a kind of marriage relation based on the paternal side. It goes as follows: son of father's sister can and must marry the daughter of mother's brother, while son of mother's brother cannot marry daughter of father's sister, which means the blood cannot flow backwards. It is a one-way marriage between cousins. However, in the real life, a family may have as many "son-in-law" breeds as daughters, and as many "wife's father" breeds as sons. Therefore, there is such a proverb among the Jingpo people, "It is limited to only one family to get a bride or groom."
When the love is ready for marriage, the groom's parents send "Lejiao" (matchmaker of the male side) to negotiate with "Qiangtong" (matchmaker of the female side), to propose to the girl's parents and bring them mang gong, silk textures, eggs, wine, etc. If the female side receives the gifts, that means agreement. Secondly, more gifts and negotiations about the wedding date. Thirdly, hold the wedding on a chosen day. Then, the female side invites "Qiangtong", mother's brother, friends and other relatives to accompany bride to the groom's.
The wedding is mostly finished within a day, and the dramatic scene is unforgettably impressive. On that day, the groom goes to fetch the bride with wedding gifts, accompanied by a man and a woman, who are both married and experienced in such things, and can hold on without laughing. They should also carry dozens of tubes made of cooked sticky rice (each is enough for ten persons eat), many steamed breads (the number just fits with that of guests from the bride's side) filled with cooked meat, vegetables and traditional indispensable "Chongchong Dish". Having arrived the bride's home, they pass over the gifts, cut up the tubes, and give every guest a piece of bread and a gobbet of rice. After the meal, tow sets of gifts are brought out - one is real and the other is unreal. Such items as sword and spear made of banana tree are one by one passed to the two receivers - the groom's companions. These two should carefully take them over and hang on their shoulders. It is not easy to do this job, because these weapons are made of break-off banana tree, which are connected by bamboo sticks. If they fail in the task, they are punished to give back a real one. So in this occasion, all the others keep cheering and laughing. Faced with the provoking laughs, the two receivers should restraint from breaking into laughter. Having received the gifts, they try hard to keep balance and walk slowly out of the gate. They cannot take off the items until they are out of sight. At this time, they breathe an easy breath saying "Thank goodness," and go back to the groom's with the others.
In some areas, when the troop is near the village, they have to cross three "road-blocks". Before this, children of the village gather twigs, bamboo sticks and broken fence to form the three blocks, and are divided into three groups. At the first block, the troop is stopped by a group of girls. A middle-aged walks out and seriously offers her watery wine from a bamboo tube, along with some small gifts. They do not receive the gifts, but keep on crying, "No pass for the bride!" At this moment, guarded by her companions, the bride crosses the block from the other side. The second block is guarded by a group of boys, and wine and gifts are useless, either. Then "Lejiao" and "Qiangtong" pretend to walk over staggering. The boys are afraid of being knocked down by these two "drunkards", and step back a little. Just at this moment, people rush through the block like the lightning. At the third block are several 3- or 4-year-old babies, who go over and hug the bride's legs. With full delight, bride and other women hold them up and go across the block. According to folk saying, this kind of "road-block" is a wish for the bride's getting babies after marriage.
At the groom's home, there is still another ceremony. At the yard, on the way to the new bamboo house, small pits are dug out, several feet from each other. In the pits are put couch grass higher than a person. In the grass is a piece two-meter log (or a new-cut piece of wood or a new ladder). Sometimes two pairs of banana trees and sugar canes are planted respectively at the ends.
It is said that banana trees symbol good luck, sugar canes sweetness of life, and couch grass flourish of the family. When the bride has arrived, a shaman is invited to offer to "family ghosts". Pigs, oxen and sheep are butchered as sacrifices, and the blood is splashed on the grass. Then, the bride walks on the log (or ladder) to the wedding room upstairs. This is called "crossing the grass", which is an indispensable and the most important ceremony in a Jingpo wedding.
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