Some Miao Folklore - 2

Jessy Zhang
Notes by our friend Jessy Zhang on Miao festivals and marriage customs give us a delightful view of life among Southwestern China's minority groups. Reading of Miao rituals enables us to see their elaborate costumery in a different light. Since Miao groups are spread over large areas, customs differ from group to group, and here we present just a sampling, in Jessy's own words. 

For notes on textile imagery, go back to Some Miao Folklore - 1.

To see a selection of Miao textiles from our gallery inventory, go to
Chinese Minority Textiles, Miao and Others.  For other textiles, go to our HOME page.

Some Background on the Miao
The Miao are an international ethnic group, living currently not only in China, but also in Thailand, Laos and Viet Nam. Some have migrated into Europe, South America, the US and Australia.  In China they are concentrated in Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangxi, Hubei and Hainan provinces. According to a Chinese census of 1990, 3,686,900 Miao were living in Guizhou province-- above 50% of the total in China. In Taijiang, a town in Guizhou province, 97% of the people were Miao. 

About 5,000 years ago, Miao lived in the Yellow River area, but were then forced to move to the Changjiang River area. About 4,000 years ago they finally settled in Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou areas, separating into several different cultural groups that are still related through some of their activities. 

Miao Festivals

According to the Chinese calendar, Miao have 15 various festivals, but some of the dates differ from place to place.

Miao people have their own polite ways to treat others. They invite guests with chicken and ducks, especially to the guests who are from far away. Drinking cow horn wine is the first step. The chicken heart will be eaten by the oldest guest, the chicken legs are for the youngest guest. In some places, at the table, the oldest owner will use a pair of chopsticks to cut off the chicken or duck heart for one of the guests, but the guest cannot eat it by himself (herself); he or she must share it with all the old persons at the table. If the guest couldn't drink more, or doesn't like much fat meat, he must tell the owner ahead of time; the owner will not push the guest any more. But the guests must be sure to be starved; otherwise it would mean not to respect the owner.

The Miao are a polite nationality. They walk after you when on a narrow road. They use respectful words while talking. They wear festival dresses, set up wine dinner tables in front of the village gate to welcome guests. When the guests are near their home, the man of the family will advise the woman ahead of time, and the woman will sing songs to welcome the guests to come in. 
Miao Sister Festival
In every spring season, women invite others to have sister dinners.  Different regions have different dates.

In the morning, women get up early to clean the rooms. After the breakfast they do fishing. Wherever they do the fishing, the owner of the pool cannot stop them or swear at them. If they catch a rice fish and the owner wants to keep it, he needs to change it back with chicken and duck or bacon. Men can help women to do the fishing or even play with them while they are fishing.

At noon the women come back from fishing. Together they steam the sister rice, cook the fishes, chickens, gooses, prepare to welcome their guests. If there are any men's groups being invited to the meal, women set up a big long table (about 4 or 5 meters long), fully put all the fishes and meats on the table, and put colorful triangle flags on the fishes or meats not cut into pieces. In the middle of the dishes, there is a huge bowl of five-colored sister rice. When they eat the rice, they use their hands instead of chopsticks. In the middle on the table, there are two plates of boiled shells.

In the afternoon, women dress up.  They put on their carefully embroidered dress, with silver horn, silver pins and silver hat on head, wear silver necklaces, earrings, bracelets. The total weight of their silver ornaments all over the whole body is about 5 to 10 kg. They gather in the square, circle with a wooden drum, dance the drum dance according to the drumbeats. They dance back and forth, left and right, turn around, go into the middle, etc., while dancing while singing, while showing their embroidered beautiful dresses, rich silver ornaments, their beautiful bodies, as well as their winning sounds.

In the evening, every family in the village invites their guests. They are drinking, singing, laughing. According to the tradition, they don't care if you are not a Miao nationality, do not speak their language, they invite you as the same as their own, with meats and wine and sister rice.

When old people are telling their stories, memories of their past times, young people finish their meals in a hurry and dated out/ or got together. They are "flying singing" till midnight. In the middle, women go back home, to take their sister rice out to men. Women put objects into the rice, to pass on their ideas to men. For instance, they put chopsticks into the rice, meaning they wanted to date with the men; corns say they want embroidering thread in return from the men. Pine needles show that embroidering needles are needed; a bamboo hook signifies a hope for more communications, a forked twig, meaning to cancel this love relationship. Even when a woman is not satisfied with a man, she gives him a smile face, inviting him to have sister rice. 
The Miao Dragon Boating Festival in Taijiang
Quingshui River looks like a green silk belt, twines round ten towns towards the east. It's 136 meters wide at low water level, and 160 meters in high water level. During June and July,  velocity of flow reaches 3.18 meters per second; in summer the water depth is 3 to 5 meters. Most of the area where the Qingshui River is passing by are hills, mountains, rocks and rapids. About 60 to 70 villages of Miao are located along the river banks. Every year in Dragon Boating Festivals, about 30 to 40 thousand nearby people get together here, wearing their festival dresses, to celebrate their important festival for four days.

Before the festival's coming, after the farm work, people start to clean their rooms, making zongzi (a pyramid-shaped dumpling made of sticky rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves, eaten during the dragon boat festival), cooking, preparing to welcome their guests. In 1962 there were 28 dragon boats in the river, in late 80s, there were 35 dragon boats there.  
The Dragon Boating Festival Folk Story

Here's the folk story. Long time ago an old man called Bao Gong lived near the river. One day he did fishing, together with his only son, called Jia Bao. Suddenly a cloud covered the sky, strong wind made huge river waves, a bad dragon jumped out of the river, pulled his son down into the dragon cave. The old man was frighten very much, dived into the water immediately to save his son. But it was too late. The dragon had already bitten the kid to death, put his body as a pillow. And the dragon was into deep sleep.
The old man was extremely mad and decided to avenge his son. He was swimming back home, got some flint and straw, and dived back again to the dragon cave. He made a fire and killed the dragon. But the smoke of the fire covered the whole sky in Qing Shui River.
Later on, the heavy rain lasted nine days and nights. It was dark all the days: chickens couldn't eat rice and cows couldn't eat grass in the darkness, and men couldn't do the farm work either. They did nothing but worry.  At that time, a woman, with her kid went to the river bank, doing the washing in the dark weather. The kid was hold the washing robe, and played it over the water, while saying, "Dong Don Duo! Dong Don Duo!" Everyone was shocked. As soon as the kid said this, the cloud was gone away, a bright light appeared in the east, the sun was rising slowly. They were happy and cheered. 
Later, a huge colorful, close-eyed monster was floating in the river. The crowd rushed to it, and realized that that was the fire-died bad dragon. Some brave people cut the dragon's meat, smoked it and ate it.  It was tasty. So lots of people came up and tried the taste. So the dragon's whole body was separated by every village, some got the head, some got the neck, some got the tail. And the latest arrived village got the gut. It was in green color.  So that's why the dragon boats later were colored in green.

That night the dragon went into the people's dreams and said, "I hurt the old man's only son, and lost my own life also. I beg you all to do me a favor: Use China fir, based on my body to make a boat, boating along the Qingshui River for days, just like I'm still alive. And I will arrange with the clouds, get it rained, let you have a good harvest."  People trusted him.  According to his words, they made a small boat, did the boating. It worked. It rained. They were happy so much and started to make dragon boats. At the beginning, they decided to do the boating village by village, according to the dragon parts which they got, saying the head part first, the gut part last. But it was just in the busiest harvest time. In order to save time, they changed the date and rule. The next year it was arid.  They thought it might be because they had changed the rule. So they changed it back. This custom has been kept till today.

The Dragon Boating Festival Today

Normally each village has a dragon boat, and villages in which over 200 people live have two or three boats. The warehouse for a dragon boat is sized about 25.6 meters long, 2.7 meters wide, 3.24 meters high.

THE DRUMMER MASTER

One village has one drummer, and gets him changed every year. The drummer will be taken turns by one of the members who is involved in the dragon boat owner group. Every year, as soon as the dragon boating festival is over, the drummer will kill a pig, invite the villagers to drink, and find out the new drummer for the next festival. And the old drummer will send the drum and dragon head to the new drummer's home. In some villages the drummers' turns are usually taken by the big families, and the drummer's position would be taken by the oldest person in this turned family, if he is still alive. If he gives it up, the second oldest one will take his position. Normally, no one will give it up when in turn, because there are too many families in a village; it needs years, even one hundred years to get the turn. It's lucky to get two turns in the whole life. Most of the drummers have too many relatives, because whenever the dragon boat is passing by a certain village, the drummer will get lots of gifts from his relatives or friends. It's a good chance to show his good personal relationship, to raise up his social position. It would be better for his children's marriages. Also, with those gifts, he could make his family richer.








The person who is recommended to be the drummer will prepare some candies, and go out to inform his relatives and friends. His relatives and friends will prepare the gifts for the next festival. The gifts are domestic animals, domestic fowls, fireworks or a 3 meters long red silk and satin cloth.  The son-in-law has to give a pig as his gift.  His direct relatives give a sheep; others give goose or duck to the drummer.
The procedure is like this.  When the dragon boat is driven into the village, the people will move their gifts to the river banks. As soon as the boat is stopped, the gift person fires the fire works, ties the red satin on the dragon's horn, offers a cup of wine to the drummer, and then to all the members on the boat. Finally, he moves all the gifts onto the boat.

The drummer will get a lot of gifts this day, but he has to spend a lot also. He is responsible for the meals with drinking for all the boating persons. When finished the boating, he has to kill a pig, prepare wine, invite the villagers and guests. When his relatives and friends get back home, he has to give chickens or ducks back to those who gave him pigs or sheeps.
THE MANUFACTURE OF THE DRAGON BOAT

The date of cutting the tree is in dragon year, some day of October.  Before doing this, people prepare some sticky rice, one alive cock, one alive male duck, one piece of meat, one piece of black cloth, one silk thread, one hemp, one pot of wine, incense and papered money. Those are going to be used for praying to the tree god. Whenever the China fir is chosen, they wrap the tree trunk with the black cloth and silk thread, put the wine and the rice on the earth at the foot of the tree, fire the incense and papered money, pour the duck blood to the trunk to pray to the mountain god and the tree god. A recommended  old man who has the full generations prays to the tree, saying "Lucky China fir, forget our villagers to cut you for making the dragon boat. Hope you could protect us to be safe and rich." When the prayer is finished, a lucky man does the first cut. Then others start the cutting and lead the tree down to the north, to mean good luck.
When the tree is moved into the village, the villagers prepare wine, meat and colorful silk thread to welcome the dragon boat wood, as well as the cutting person. On the way of shipping the wood back, the people nearby will use the wine to welcome, together with duck and goose. They tie a one meter long red satin cloth on the wood, while singing, while moving. When they arrive at the village they shout, "Here comes the dragon!"
They find a good date to start manufacturing. Before starting, they use white chicken, fire incense and paper to pray to the protection god, to smoothly make the dragon boat. After, the master makes the marks of the sizes for certain parts; all the male volunteers do the rough works. Then the master does the finish works. The master is the only person who can get some return for his work:  a basket of rice, one red cock, one pot of wine. When the dragon boat is finished making, the villagers will put their money together to have a big dinner, to celebrate.  They beat the drum, dancing and singing.
The boat body is made of China fir. The mother boat is in the middle, two baby boats are at the both sides. There are all consisted by three big, complete trees, with slotting in the middle and put together side by side. The mother boat is the widest, with 6 cabins, length at 1.8 to 5 meters. The mother boat is 21 to 24 meters long, .7 meters wide. The front part, which connected with the dragon head, is .9 meters higher than the water surface. The 4 cabins in the middle are the store rooms for the storage of the gifts, as well as the lunch for the boating men.
The two baby boats are about 15 meters long, .5 meters wide, the place for the boating men. The dragon head is made of China ash, for being easy to be carved. The material is 3 to 4 meters long, .3 meters in diameter. The dragon head is carved with horns, ears, nose, eyes, cheek, beard on it.  The lower part of the neck must be hollowed, and be sealed the port by a wood boat. It's said if it's not in a hollow, the dragon boat will fight with the dragons in the water. The back surface of the neck is carved with dragon scales, colored by gold, red, yellow and green. Tiny glass chips are inserted in it, to have it shinning while boating. Besides, a pair of big cow horns will be attached at both sides of the dragon head.
THE CEREMONY AND THE TABOO

During the festival, every day the drummer has to cook sticky rice, wine, meat, duck, etc. for all the persons in the dragon boat. All the men eating in the dragon boat should use their hands instead of chopsticks, to think of their ancestors' life. The person in charge of cooking should be a lucky old or middle-aged man. While cooking, the rice steamer should not be covered; the meat, chicken or duck being cooked in the pans should not be turned over. After being cooked, the meat, chicken and duck would be put into the rice steamer, and moved onto the dragon boat for the boating men. The pans having been used for cooking should not be moved until the dragon boat comes back to the village. Women are not allowed to get onto the dragon boat. And if a woman is going to have a baby, or is in her confinement, all the members in her family are not allowed to touch the dragon boat.
On May 18th the dragon boat will be pulled into the water. On the 23rd, the mother boat and the baby boats will be gotten together through a rope, and the dragon head will be set on the mother boat.
May 24th is the day of the boating. At the beginning, the drummer prepares one white cock, one pot of wine, sets up a square table, puts the dragon god's panel onto the table. Along the table legs, he ties a robe with the tree trunk on it. The robe must be without leaves and barks on it. He ties one umbrella, a piece of red cloth, a chain of white cut paper, some cotton grass on the table. This kind of grass is shaped as a knife, means to get rid of the evils. After praying to the god, the grass will be inserted in the small holes on the boat tail part. When the dragon boat gets to the competition point, the helmsman will separate them to everyone in the boat, saying each man has a piece, then they will throw their grass into the river at the same time. There is rice, 3 bowls of wine, a piece of meat on the table. After burning the incense they sing the praying song, "I am holding a white cock, a jar of wine, which is as sweet as honey candy. I am calling to this mountain, I am calling to that mountain, hope you dragon god, earth god, mountain god, to come down to the mountains, together to protect the dragon boat to be safe and lucky, to get wins all the time, to give us more grandchildren, as many as the fishes." 
After offerings to the gods, they kill the white cock, pour his blood onto the robe, attach some feathers on the tree trunk. To cook the chicken, they put in a big bowl, burn the incense and papered money, pour the wine onto the earth, devote the cooked chicken to the goods.  They beat the drum, boat the dragon boat around the village, then leave for the competition site.  None of the stuffs for the praying should be moved away until the dragon boat comes back from the competition site.
PERSONS ON THE DRAGON BOAT

They are one drummer, one gong man, one pole man, one accountant, one helmsman. They are all standing or sitting on the mother boat. And there are 16 boatmen standing on each of the baby boats.
The drummer, wearing a robe, the outer garment is a red or black vest. He wears sun glasses with a wide edge straw hat on head, holds a drum, sitting in the front, back to the dragon head, facing to the boatmen. He is responsible for ordering, beating hard at the drum, pushing the boatmen to march on.
The gong man is sitting 1.5 meters away from the drummer. The gong is about one meter in diameter, hung on a pole; a carved dragon head is on the pole. The string of the gong is hung on the dragon mouth. The gong man is a ten year old boy, to be dressed in women's dress. The gong could be beaten according to the drum's beating. He is recommended from the drummer's family. People say the old drummer and the young gong man stand for Bao Gong and Jiu Bao, the father and his only son.
The pole man, being invited by the drummer must be strong enough and swim well.  The accountant makes the counting whenever they get the gifts, so that the drummer will know to whom he has to send gifts back.

There are 16 boatmen in each baby boat, 4 persons on every cabin. They are standing. They wear black jackets and pants, with a weaving stitched waist belt that has silver chips on it. The pants legs are not allowed to be rolled up. They have hats on their heads. Three phoenix- like silver boards are along the hats' edges. The paddles are 2 meters long, 10 centimeters wide.
The helmsman is good at swim and bright. He has a longer paddle. While controlling the direction, he judges the boatmen's speed. He is the key man of the boating.
At the end of the competition, the dragon boat will be sailing back, with the gifts. The people on the banks say goodbye to their relatives or friends on the boats. The boatmen sing songs to celebrate the festival. 

Drum Praying Festival in Taijiang
This is the highest Miao protocol--to pray to their ancestors once in 13 years, in order to remember their ancestor's hard works during their times. They hope their ancestors can make their power again, to give this generation rich, happy life. They have four years of continued activities for each festival.

This festival is originally from their mother ancestors. Some say that Mother butterfly is the mother ancestors. They were twins born in a Chinese sweet gum heart. Miao people thought when a person dies, his or her soul would be moved into someplace else. And the Chinese sweet-gum-made wooden drum was the place their ancestors had been moved in.  To beat at the wooden drum could wake up their ancestors' soul. So their praying to the ancestors was by means of beating the wooden drum.
Before the festival, they have some related activities: to call the dragon, thank for the earth, to elect drum owners buying the praying cow, to welcome the grandchild drum and the waking up ancestors' drum, to cut the drum tree, etc.  Before the festival, people involved in the same group will send their gifts to each other, every family will be full of guests. When praying to the drum, their family master will be invited to read the pray cow word. The drum owners kill the cow to pray to their ancestors. After people get together, they beat drums, blow Lu Shengs (the piped musical instrument), being happy together with their ancestors. Later on, they will have the activities of welcoming the bird house, getting fire to warm the house, standing up on the stools, etc.
Holding bowl is one of the the important activities. Miao people believe that if the bowl was round enough and without any damage, it is the symbol of good fortune and beautiful future. They treated their ethnic group as a bowl. At this moment, five drum owners, together holding the bowl, let it be leveled, and don't let the wine come out of the bowl. It means that Miao people should be working as one, protecting their group, loving their group, letting their later generations be rich forever. When all the activities are over, they will send the grandmother drum back to the mountain, to take rest. At the same time, all men and women will blow Lu Sheng and sing and dance. At last, the praying master will tell their ancestors to be back to the mountains, having rest, not being worried about their generations.  That's the end of the festival.
Cow Fighting Festival
Miao people like cows. They have the custom to hang the cow head, with horn, on their village gate. This festival is very popular in Miao areas, normally lasts 3 to 5 days.  They have two kinds of cows for the festival:  one is the farm cow, the other is the competitive cow.

Traditional Songs and Dances
Lu Sheng is the most important musical instrument of Miao. In their thought, Lu Sheng was created by their mother ancestors--that's the sound of the mother. It is a six piped musical instrument, being divided into big, medium, small and super small size kinds.

Miao people like Lu Sheng. As soon as they blow it, the dance must be matched with. Lu Shen dances vary from praying to the ancestors, celebrating, entertainment and friendship dances.

Miao have two kinds of drums; one is long and narrow, say one meter long. The other is bigger and round. 

When people visit their relatives or friends, after drinking the women will use stools to dance.

Some Marriage Customs

The marriage ages are from 16 till 23.  Male's age is a little bit older than the female's.  Mostly, men and women are introduced through canvassers, and will get married whenever they both like to. The only limitations: that they should not be the same blood relationship. 


Canvassing is not allowed everywhere; they have a certain canvassing place. Normally there is one canvassing place in small villages, and two or more in bigger ones. If there are many family names in one village, one family name should have one canvassing place. They have certain canvassing dates, say three times a year. Young people all have been to the canvassing activities at 16 or 17, and they are more active during 18 to 20. The main dating way is antiphonal singings.
In Fang Bai village, the traditional marriage is something special. When a girl is at her 14 or 15, she will live in a separate room by her own. There is a "cave" on the wall, which fixed for one person's head. The cave is called girl's cave, just next to her pillows. During night, men will come over to the cave outside. They talk and have antiphonal singings. If the girl is satisfied with the man, she will open her door, let him in, sitting in the bed, having antiphonal singings for a whole night. Her family should avoid meeting them. In some other villages, girls' doors are half opened. The girl is inside, and the man is outside, having antiphonal singings. In the deep night, being approved by the girl, the man enters into the girl's room antiphonal singing or talking. 
During their dating, men and girls exchange their keepsakes when they decide to get married. They will tell their decisions to their relatives, ask them to advise their parents, to get their approvals.

If the man and girl couldn't find each other by themselves, who he or she would like to marry to, the other way is by the matchmaker. Whenever the man's family finds a girl whom they like and hope she could be married with their son, they will send the matchmaker to introduce the family's background and the son. The matchmaker should be an old woman, who has parents alive, has sons and daughters, is good at persuading, has some relationship with the girl's family. At the beginning, the girl's parents will not easily get agreed. They are going to discuss it with some other relatives. At this moment, they will not receive the matchmaker, show their higher position; otherwise, they will lose their faces. Even if they accept in their minds, they will stall her off, just like, "Our daughter is still young, she knows nothing about that...we like her to be with us for more years, and find her a man later."  And the matchmaker will repeat persuading many times, to get their final approval. After agreement, the girl's parents start to invite the matchmaker for dinner, and will give her a lucky ribbon. Besides, they will prepare two ribbons, one cock, one hen for the man's parents. That means the engagement.

The man's family will choose one or two men or women, together with the matchmaker, to go to the girl's to choose the date. The procedure is like this: the girl's family kills one cock, get it cooked, watch the cock's eyes. This activity will be made at night. Now they set up a long table in the dining room, and put the cooked cock onto the table. If the two eyes are same opened or closed, it means the good fortune. The two young persons could get married. If the left eye is closed, the right eye is opened, it means the man would be restrained by the girl.  If the right eye is closed, the left eye is opened, it means the girl would be restrained by the man. They all mean bad fortune. If the families don't care about it, they will not change their minds. If they do, the man's should turn back the ribbons to the girl's. After watching the cock's eyes, they will find out a lucky date for the wedding, and then they will get ready, like feeding pigs, making wine, preparing the bride's wedding dress. 
In some places the wedding ceremony is held in daytime, in some places at night. One day before the wedding, even numbers (normally 10) of men, sent from the bride groom, are going to the bride's family, to pick up the bride. Two men are the most important among them, one is going to preside over the wedding ceremony, the other is the chief witness at the wedding ceremony. The gift is a male duck, tied on the end of the umbrella, being held by a young man. Rich families' gifts includes one alive cock, one killed pig without hair on, a big striped ball tied on the head, one or two big baskets of sticky rice, red eggs on the top of the rice, two white colored porcelain bowls, two new chopsticks, one jar of wine with red paper sealed the port. 
That day, the bride family sends many middle aged women and old men, standing in a line, from their home till the entrance of the village, holding wine pots, bowls, wine cups, to pour wine to the men sent from the bridegroom.  In the dining room there is one or two long tables. Next to the ancestral tablets' side, they put one cooked cock (cut into pieces, but the legs and feet cannot be cut off), pork head, pork liver, pork kidney, pork heart, pork lungs, pork feet. They are all put into one big basin, one basin of sticky rice, three bowls of wine. The other surface part of the table is full of wine and meat. The bride's parents are sitting in the middle. The men from the bridegroom are sitting in the right hand side, and the persons from the bride's are sitting in the left hand side. The guests are surround sitting there. 
Now the praying.  It is made by the master who is invited by the bride family. After the praying, the master will give wine and the chicken legs to the presiding person from the bride's and the bridegroom's. The first wine has to be offered to the ancestors. The other wine will be changed drank by the two and so the chicken legs. After that, the master will give wine and chicken wings to the chief witness from the both families, and they will have them changed drank. Later, a lucky woman, being invited by the bride's family, who has parents alive, has son and daughter, has food and dresses, she will tie two ribbons to every man sent by the bridegroom. They are called the master ribbons. Then the relatives from the bride family tie their ribbons to them, each ribbon should be connected with the master ribbon. Later on, the relatives send gifts to the bride's family. The gifts are money or clothes. At last, everyone drink, sing, for a while night.
The next day, in early morning, the men sent by the bridegroom hurry up the bride on the way to the bridegroom. Before leaving, the persons from the bride's side ask shoes money from the bridegroom's men. At beginning, those men will pretend to have no more money, and saying if they knew, they should have taken shoes for them. The persons from the bride's side will take off those men's jackets, searching for the money. They play and laugh for a while. At the end, they give the money to them, get ready to leave. The bride will say good bye to her parents, to her brothers, to her relatives, all the time with tears. And the mother will give her an umbrella.  She will hold this umbrella, use her right foot to go out of this door.  She will be accompanied by her sisters till their village gate.  The gifts from the bride are the same as those from the bridegroom.  

The bridegroom will send a lucky middle-aged woman, who uses a new towel, got some water on it, and clean the dust out from the bride's shoes. And the bride gives her umbrella to the bridegroom's sister. Then uses her left foot to enter the door. Other guests follow her into the door.  Entering to the dinning room, two of the bridegroom sisters accompany with the bride to sit there. Each of them has a towel putting on their legs, in order to get gifts. An old person will do the praying, the same as in the bride's family. After that, he/she will give three pieces of the sticky rice and fishes to the bride and the sisters. Then the relatives send their gifts to the bride.  After that, the sisters will take the bride to carry happy water, and she  will clean the floor also.  After, the sisters send the bride to the room, to take rest. Then, all the guests start to have the dinner.  During all the activities, the bridegroom will not attend.  He wears a normal dress, doing the farm works, sounds nothing happened!  
After 13 days, the bride will go back to her mother's once. During these 13 days, the bride and the bridegroom are not allowed to live together.  Normally, the bride lives with her sister-in-law or mother-in-law.  After the wedding, the bride goes back to her mother's very often. By chance of festivals, her mother-in-law or sister-in-law, has to pick her up. Being repeated many times, the bridegroom and the bride finally live together. 
THE "ESCAPE MARRIAGE" - ELOPEMENT

The date for this marriage is made by the man and the girl. At that night, the bridegroom sends some even numbers of friends, to send signals to the girl at the meeting point, like a whistle, sing songs, etc, not beating up her parents. Before the night, in the evening, the girl will be back home, while the parents are sleeping soundly, she steals the shirts, dresses, ornaments and an umbrella, which she has prepared ahead of time. She sends them to her girl friend, to take them out of the door firstly, and transfer them to the men sent by the bridegroom.  Then the girl goes out for dating, as normal, following the man to his home. And her best girl friends from her village will accompany her, till the middle way, and say good bye with tears.  And the bridegroom has to give them some money on the way back.  Near to the man's village, somebody will inform his parents, they come out to welcome the bride. The bride hands her umbrella by her left hand, to one of the bridegroom's sisters, using her left foot to enter the room.  She will be sent by the sister into the bridal chamber to have a rest. The bridegroom will sleep in one of his relative's home in the village, to respect the parents.  

In the next morning, the bridegroom's parents will kill a cock, to pray to the ancestors. Then, they invite all the villagers for dinner, meaning their son has got married. In the same day, the bridegroom's parents have to send one or two men who are good at persuading, taking one alive duck, being tied on the umbrella end, one pot of wine, to go to the bride's family, to tell her parents the message, and ask them to accept it. On behalf of the bridegroom, acknowledge the mistake. If her parents agree with the marriage, they will accept the gifts, cook the duck, invite the men, as well as their villagers, for dinner. Then with the men, they will make out the returning date of the bride, and the gift details.  If the men get refused by the parents, the duck sent by them will be thrown away out of the room.  Even though the men cannot go back, they have to do all their best to repeat doing the persuading.  If they fail, they will go back to the bridegroom, tell the truth.  They will find some other old persons who are the relatives to the bride's family to persuade, till the parents accept it.  Once everything is accepted by the bride's parents, the bridegroom's family will prepare the gifts, sending them together with the bride back to her family, on the returning date.  
Included on this page are photos from Yang Yuan, Chinese National Costume Culture, 1999, Beijing; The Cultural Palace of Nationalities, ed., Clothings and Ornaments of China's Miao People, Beijing, 1985, and Huang Shoubao, Ethnic Costume from Guizhou, Beijing, 1987.


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