In traditional Chinese culture, the color for wedding is Red. White is for funeral. Today both traditional and western bridal ideas are being practiced.
The other day I saw someone replying to the empress of china’s photoset about how inaccurate for the two characters being dressed in white. Maybe because he saw this post, or maybe he saw some info online? anyway I want to make a clarification about why Chinese funeral dress is white.
White is just what it appears to be. Chinese wear clothes made of undyed fabric for funerals, no decoration, no pattern, no embroidery whatsoever. Some are like beige because of different fabric’s natural color. The fabrics are usually roughly made and not comfortable to wear.
As you might have seen, those costumes in teoc are white but with red and golden embroideries all over them.
I also read something like “Chinese emperor always wear yellow dragon robes”. That’s true if the emperor stays in the front court having meeting. When the emperor in the back palace he can wear anything. Also, yellow is not the only color for dragon robes in the history, there’re black very common, red and purple. Dragon is indeed a must for the pattern.
for an emperor, the Dragon must also have five talons for the claws. high officials get four claws and lower ranking important people get 3 claws.
source: my mom
That’s a social status ranking in Qing Dynasty. Before Yuan almost all the dragons have 3 claws. Ming Dynasty dragons have 4 claws.
you are my encyclopedia on china
Black wedding dress was actually the norm in the late Qing and Minguo.
This batuan (八团）eight circles type of decoration was influenced by the Manchurians.
Then people decided they like flowers and birds.
夏梦 in the 50s.
(picture source: http://www.sohu.com/a/106830597_226786)
White clothes are the norm for many dynasties as well (dyes are expensive and also the court banded coloured clothing for the merchants (not that people actually followed the law, if they had the money, most of the time).. Brown (more shades than I can imagine) was super popular in Yuan dynasty because Han people in general were not allowed to wear other colour.
Traditional mourning clothes are not dyed and without hem – to show that the families were so sad that they cannot keep up the appearance.
Wedding dresses actually varied with the dynasty. The style that everyone remembers is the Ming/Early Qing Dynasty style, probably because it’s ancient enough to seem ancient, but recent enough to be remembered.
Here are, in brief, the wedding trends from some previous dynasties.
Zhou: The earliest standard for wedding ceremonies comes from the Confucian texts from the Zhou Dynasty, especially Etiquette and Ceremonial (
仪礼). During this time period, weddings were called “Twilight Rites” because they were held toward the close of day. They were very serious affairs and came with a precise set of rituals. Steps included sacrifices to the ancestors during which the bride and groom drank the sacrificial wine together, and bride and groom bowing to each other. There were three standards for bride and bridegroom clothes based on social class. The aristocratic men wore the Robe and Crown regalia, of which there were six types, but only five used for weddings. The Dragon Crown Robe (衮冕), the Phoenix Crown Robe (鷩冕), the Fur Crown Robe (毳冕), the Linen Crown Robe (絺冕), and the Black Crown Robe (玄冕). Only the King’s Dragon Crown Robe had twelve emblems: sun, moon, stars, mountains, dragon, phoenix, beasts, seaweed, grain, flames, axes, and stylized “fu” symbol. The Dragon Crown Robe for the nobility only had nine emblems, removing the sun, moon, and stars. Phoenix Crown Robe, named for the phoenix emblem, only had seven emblems, removing the dragon and the mountains. The Fur Crown Robe, named for the beast emblem, only had five emblems, removing the phoenix and the flames. The Linen Crown Robe, named for the pattern of grain in its emblem, only had three emblems, removing the beasts and seaweed. The Black Crown Robe had no emblems. All Robe and Crown regalia included a black colored long, wide-sleeved tunic (玄衣) on top, and a sunset yellow kilt (纁裳) on bottom. All six variation also came with the mian crown (冕冠), a flat-topped crown which stretched lengthwise front and back, and had strings of beads at both ends. The Dragon Crown Robe had twelve strings of beads, of which the King’s crown had five colored stones, while the nobles’ crowns only had three color stones. The Phoenix Crown Robe had nine strings, the Fur Crown Robe had seven strings, the Linen Crown Robe had five strings, and the Black Crown Robe had three strings. The King and his Dukes used the Dragon Crown Robe, the Marquesses and the Counts used the Phoenix Crown Robe, and the Viscounts and the Barons used the Fur Crown Robe. All wearing the Robe and Crown regalia wore red wooden shoes (赤舄)
tied with black strings and decorated with black tips (黑饰). The King and all his nobles had wide cloth sashes (大带), undyed white silk (素) for the King and his nobles, under which they wore leather belts (革带). At their waists they hung jade pendants (玉佩), with the King’s pendants being of a special design. The King and his nobles carried jade tablet scepters called “gui” (圭), which doubled as slates on which they could make notes. The aristocratic ladies wore the Pheasant Robe, of which there were three types. The Great Pheasant (袆衣), the Lesser Pheasant (褕翟), and the Courtyard Pheasant (阙翟). The Great Pheasant was midnight blue-black (玄) and embroidered with golden pheasants. The Less Pheasant was blue (青) and embroidered with sparrowhawks. The Courtyard Pheasant was red (赤) and had chickens cut from silk sewn on. The Three Pheasant Robes are part of sacrificial regalia worn to most official religious rituals, including weddings, one of the most important rituals of one’s lifetime. The Queen herself wore the Great Pheasant to weddings and offerings at the ancestral temple, and the other two robes for other occasions. Under her, the wives of the Dukes, the greatest of the feudal lords, also wore the Great Pheasant. The wives of the Marquesses and the Counts wore the Lesser Pheasant. The wives of the Viscounts and the Barons wore the Courtyard Pheasant. On their heads, they wore a headdress called the “fu” (副), which was said by scholars of later dynasties to spread like branches and cover the head with six delicate, swaying ornaments. Under the “fu”, they wore a pair of crosspins called “heng” (衡). These pins were long and needle-shaped, and pinned into the hair at an angle, so on either side they sloped toward the ears. Then, from the pins would droop drum-shaped beads suspended on a string. Those wearing the Great Pheasant wore black wooden shoes (玄舄) tied with yellow strings and decorated with yellow tips (黃繶), those wearing the Lesser Pheasant wore blue wooden shoes (青舄) tied with white strings and decorated with white tips (白饰), and those wearing the Courtyard Pheasant wore red wooden shoes (赤舄) with black strings and black decorations (黑饰). A bridegroom of the Dafu, or senior official class, would use the Black Crown Robe (玄冕)
with a three-string crown, undyed white silk sash (素带), and red wooden shoes(赤舄) tied with black strings and decorated with black tips (黑饰).
The bride would wear a ceremonial robe of a lesser grade, called the Plain White robe (展衣), an elaborate wig called a “bian” (编), and white cloth shoes (白履) with black strings and black decorations (黑饰).
A bridegroom of the lesser gentry, or shi class, would wear a nobleman’s square-topped cap (爵弁) with no beads, as well as an undecorated reddish-black long, wide-sleeved tunic (缁衪) and sunset yellow kilt (纁裳), with a white hemp sash (练带) and sunset yellow cloth shoes (纁履) tied with black strings and decorated with black at the tips (黑絇). The bride would wear a undecorated full-body reddish-black robe with wide flowing sleeves called a Bordered Robe (缘衣), also called the Pure Robe (纯衣) for a wedding, with sunset yellow borders (纁袡). On her head, she would wear ancient hair extensions called “ci” (次), and on her feet would be black cloth shoes (黑履) with blue strings and blue decorations (青饰).
The people of the peasant classes would use the same ceremonial costumes as the lesser gentry. Like the nobility, the officials and the commoners wore jade, but of a lower grade and mixed with other colored stones.
Qin to Early Han: The Qin dynasty grew out of the Qin Kingdom in Shaanxi. Being a border state created to defend against Western Rong, the Qin had fewer formalized standards when it came to ritual. As a result, Shihuangdi massively simplified the rituals of the Zhou. The King’s ritual headwear was now the Heavenly Communication Crown (通天冠), a crown with a square front and trapezoidal profile. By the time of the Qin Dynasty, it was constructed from black cloth stretched over an iron frame (铁卷梁), with a mountain shaped iron diadem at bottom. (During the Xia, Shang, and early Zhou Dynasty, it was a horse hoof-shaped hollow crown with an open top carved from pure jade). The ritual costume was now a full-bodied black robe (袀玄) without the twelve emblems. The Empress was said by texts in later dynasties to coif her hair into a high, loosely tied loop called a Cloud Brushing Chignon (凌云髻) and wear a lotus-flower shaped crown (芙蓉冠子) made of green cloth (碧罗), with turtle shell hairpins decorated with phoenixes (凤钗) and pith paper flowers (五色通草苏朵子). She wore a yellow gauze tunic (浅黄丛罗衫), multicolor patterned gauze skirt (五色花罗裙), and phoenix-tipped cloth shoes (凤头履), and held a fan made of thin mica (云母小扇子). During the Han Dynasty, the Emperor’s highest ritual costume changed to the Long Crown. The crown is a long, narrow, lengthwise wooden crown that tips upwards. The Emperor still wore a black full-bodied robe
outside, but would also wear a vermilion hemmed robe inside (绛缘), above the white undershirt, as well as red trousers, socks, and wooden shoes (绛裤袜). The Empress switched to a multi-layered set of robes with a red-hemmed black overlapping spiral collar robe as outer layer and a double-headed hairpin called the zan-er (簪珥) or huasheng (花胜). During both dynasties, officials wore a variety of crowns, as well as the basic black robe. Their brides dressed in the same layered pattern as the Empress. The lower classes retained the Zhou Dynasty’s wedding costume.
Late Han to Jin: The Later Han Dynasty officially revived the Robe and Crown regalia. However, colors were redefined. Xuan, which had meant midnight blue-black now meant reddish black. Xun, which had meant sunset yellow now meant sunset red. The Emperor and his nobles’ regalia had little change from the Zhou design. The King’s crown beads and jade ornaments were now of white jade (白玉), while his nobles’ ornaments were of green jade (青玉). The crowns of the nobility no longer had beads in the back. All the nobles wore the nine emblem Dragon Crown Robe (衮冕), with red wooden shoes (赤舄) decorated with black tips and tied with black strings
(黑絇). They all wore the same pattern of jade waist-pendant called the Great Pendant (大佩), but their cloth sashes had attached in the back a long cloth train (绶). The Emperor’s train was woven from four colors and mainly yellow and red (黃赤绶), the Princes’ trains were woven from four colors and mainly red (赤绶), the other aristocrats’ trains were woven from two colors and mostly purple (紫绶). All the trains were intertwined with jade rings (玉环鐍). The Empress’ Great Pheasant regalia now featured a robe with a blue top and black bottom (紺上皁下). She no longer had fu or heng, but the new ornaments of buyao, the step-swayer (步摇), and zan-er
(簪珥), the ear beads. The ear-beads, confusing as the name may be, are not actually ear ornaments, but a sort of hairpin. The body is made of turtle shell, and both ends are decorated with flower-shaped disks (花胜)
that feature a phoenix design (凤皇爵) with jadeite feathers. Under the phoenix hangs a drum-shaped white bead (白珰珠) and several trailing strings of delicate golden ornaments (金镊). The buyao has a golden peaked base, with golden wire extending from the base and being threaded into chains of white beads that form osmanthus branches. On the branches perch one phoenix with jadeite feathers and nine bunches of flowers (一爵九华), as well as six auspicious beasts (六兽): the black bear, the tiger, the brown bear, the heavenly hart, the pixiu, and the ox. Later, during the Jin Dynasty, the number of phoenixes was increased to eight. The wig was no longer called a “bian”, but a “false coiffure” (假紒). It grew larger and fancier, and could be piled into various elaborate hairstyles. It also became part of the Empress’ regalia. The Empress had a sash and train in the same colors as the Emperor’s sash and red wooden shoes. Many Emperors married their Empresses when they were still Crown Prince, and as a result would use the regalia of the Crown Prince. They wore the Distant Journey Crown 远游冠, a headdress resembling the Heavenly Communication Crown, but without the peaked base. The hat strings were decorated with kingfisher feathers and white beads. The brides wore a multi-layered set of embroidered brocade robes in twelve colors, with a purple sash intertwined with a golden pixiu buckle. She would have a less elaborate wig than the Empress and wear ear-beads but no buyao.
The noblemen and the higher-ranked officers were allowed to use the Robe and Crown regalia.
The brides of the aristocrats would wear fewer layers and less fine material than the Crown Princess, but still have robes of twelve colors. There were no longer differences in class for low level and high level officials. The officials whose income came above two thousand koku of rice wore the Phoenix Crown Robe with five lines of black jade beads on the crown and red shoes. Their sash was woven in three colors and mostly blue, while their jade pendants were also black. Their brides wore layered robes of two materials and twelve colors, with purple sash and golden pixiu clasp. On their heads, they wore blue scarfs with fishbone ear beads decorated with golden dragons at the tips. Those whose income came above a thousand koku dressed similar to higher officials, but used a black sash. Their brides used hemp robes of nine colors. Those whose income came above six hundred koku dressed much the same as those whose income was above a thousand koku, as did their brides.Those whose income came above four or three hundred koku dressed similarly to higher officials, but had a yellow sash. Their brides had robes in five colors. Those whose income came above two hundred koku dressed the same as those whose income came above three hundred koku, but their brides’ robes were restricted to four colors. Those whose income came under two hundred koku wore similar robes to higher officials, but with a light blue sash, while their wives used robes of two colors. All others married in the same dress as those in the Zhou rites. Also, by this time, weddings had lost some of their former solemnity and became rowdy, festive occasions, including some hazing of the bride and groom by guests, and the construction of a “green tent” (青庐) in the back yard to be used as the new couple’s wedding suite.
Northern and Southern Dynasties: During this chaotic period, Northern China was invaded by several nomadic tribes, who brought along their customs as they set up short-lived kingdoms and dynasties. Between the foreign origin of the Northern courts and the decadence of the Southern courts, the previous ritual costumes were rarely used until the final years of this period. The Emperor still had his Dragon Robe, but the Northern emperors, our of modesty, refused to shoulder the sun, moon, and stars lest they trespass on the gods’ domain. The Empress’ Great Pheasant Robe changed design to become a swallowtail great-robe, the style which would be used for later Pheasant Robes, including the regalia of Vietnam and Korea. The bird pattern of the Great Pheasant also changed to Lady Amherst’s pheasant, while the Lesser Pheasant took on the golden pheasant pattern. The popularity of Buddhism meant that the Empress’ headdress became the flower crown, another trend that would be continued through the later dynasties.
Usually, though, the Northern Xianbei monarchs married in their native costume. Xianbei customs were not recorded in much detail, but they are thought to be related to the Mongols, the Monguor, and the Xibe peoples, and their customs might also be similar. Easter Xianbei men, such as those of the Murong, cut their hair short in a style resembling the glibbe,very short on the sides and bottom, but longer on top. Women also cut off patches of their hair, but upon marriage would grow their hair out and wear ornaments. Other Xianbei such as the Tuoba wore braids, which men would shave off for their wedding. Women also had short hair until marriage, when they would start growing their hair and style it into a bull horn style by wrapping it around a forked metal hair support. Both men and women of the nobility used exquisite golden crowns. As the Xianbei became sinicized, they retained their old hairstyles, but adopted Chinese ritual costumes. The Emperors married in their Dragon Robes, while the Empress wore an embroidered robe with shawl. Commoners would imitate the costumes of the nobility, with round collared robes for men and short blouses with high skirts for women. In the South, the color white was so beloved, people wore white robes to every big occasion, including weddings. The wedding hazing became more violent, and not even Emperors were exempt. In the North, there were also several tests for the groom, and he would only be allowed access to the bride if he provided the answer in poetic form.
Sui to Song: Once China was reunified, Han Chinese culture became the dominant standard. However, there came to be two sets of wedding costumes based on social class. The nobility and bureaucrats used ritual costume, while the commoners used another standard called the festive costume. Festive costumes were used for non-religious celebrations by the nobility and imitated by the commoners. The Emperor wore the Dragon Robe, which was pretty much unchanged from previous dynasties, only with a wide collar and red borders with white embroidered pattern. The upper tunic was reddish black while the lower kilt was sunset red. The Emperor had white beads on his crown and a fancier crown base than previous dynasties. His sash was the same color as the kilt, but the train was black and embroidered in six colors. The leather belt was now worn over the sash and featured thirteen jade buckles. Most importantly the emblems of the sun, moon, and stars were placed back onto to the Dragon Robe. The Empress wore the Great Pheasant with a twelve flower crown. The Great Pheasant was pure midnight blue with red collar and twelve lines of embroidered pheasants. Most emperors married before taking the throne, and thus used the nine emblem Dragon Robe, which was temporarily blue in the Sui Dynasty but returned to black during the Tang. The bride dressed in the Courtyard Pheasant, cut from the same pattern as the Empress Great Pheasant, but in a lighter shade of blue. A Crown Princess’ Pheasant Robe had nine lines of pheasants and her crown had nine clusters of flowers. The nobility and high officials married in Robe and Crown regalia.
The numbers of pheasants and flowers would decrease as the wearer’s rank decreased. The commoner bridegroom had red round collar robes imitating mid-level officials and the commoner brides wore green or blue blouse and skirts, with elaborate hair decorations and a shawl draped over their shoulders.
Wedding rituals had become increasingly elaborate. The groom was tested at several points, and was required to answer with a poem if he wished to continue the wedding. All the meanwhile, he was subject to various forms of hazing, including a feigned combat where he would have to besiege the door as the bride’s family stood in defense. When the bride finally emerged, she would cover their faces with their apron as they boarded the ox-carriage that would bring them to their husband’s house. Guests would pretend to be brigands and waylay the cart, and the bride, reciting poems, would send them off with a gift. Then, as the couple walk down the aisle, or, rather, first to the kitchen to pay respects to the kitchen gods, then to the courtyard to their tent suite, the bride would have her maids obscure her face with a fan, or obscure her own face if she was too poor to have a maid. The bride and groom recite a rhyming set of vows to each other, while the wedding guests act as a chorus, encouraging the couple at each new step. After much romantic serenading from the groom, the bride lifts the fan, and, under encouragement from the guests, the bride and groom remove each other’s headgear and outer garments, and their hands and ankles are tied together, symbolizing their new bond. Older traditions were not completely discarded, such as a cross-armed drink of bitter wine using two halves of a gourd. The Song Dynasty continued the Tang Dynasty customs, but often on a larger scale.