Chinese Wedding Tradition Turned Extreme Hazing in Modern China

Jun 22, 2019 | Asia, China, CULTURE

Chinese Wedding Tradition – Picking up the Bride ©YeeTong

How does a beautiful tradition warp into an obscene and violent practice?

Weddings are supposed to be the happiest day of a person’s life. It is a celebration of love and union with the added fun of lavish decorations, delicious food and activities bound to make the day as memorable as it should be. Though love is always at the core, weddings are celebrated differently throughout many cultures and countries. Our East Asian friend, China, is a perfect example of this.

Chinese weddings are known to be very intimate and sacred. I mean, even ghosts in China can get married. That’s how loving it can get. Though the marriage itself is emotional, the wedding reception is almost always an extravagant affair. Most weddings display red and gold themes which are important colors in China. Red symbolizes success, prosperity, love and honor while gold symbolizes wealth. And trust me, Chinese weddings are a playground of love and wealth.

Traditions grow over time and people reclaim and adopt new customs. Chinese brides now opt to don white wedding dresses, a practice that had been strictly forbidden for centuries due to white being considered a color for death. Though traditions sometimes change for the better, they may also change for the worse.

How Far Will One Go For Love?

Chinese receptions are all fun and games (literally) until the pranks begin. Naohun, directly translating to ‘wedding turbulence’, is a traditional practice that has been around in Chinese culture since the Han Dynasty. It is a series of hazing exercises for the bride and groom conducted by the family members and close peers of the couple. The practices are said to be significant as they signify the lengths that the bride and groom must go through in order to be together.

The pranks differ from male to female. The bridesmaids announce escapades to the groom and his entourage in order to have access to his bride. Some rituals include finding M&Ms in a bowl of flour with your mouth, waxing hair off of somebody parts and eating wasabi on toast. Yum.

Though some activities are harmless and annoying at best, what happens when the tables are turned? What do women have to face at the hands of these ‘pranks’? And is it a prank when it entails the sexualization and the forceful handling of a woman’s body?

The Descent of Tradition: An Excuse for Immorality

What used to be a wonderful tradition has now taken a turn in the opposite direction. The original purpose of Naohun was never to damage, but to prove. The test of loyalty was supposedly a beautiful thing before it was overshadowed by impropriety. The hazing of women in Chinese weddings frequently involves indecent sexual acts being done unto them in the name of ‘fun’.

The groomsmen forcefully carry the bride, strip her, push her around and inappropriately touch her in front of her groom. Over time, the tradition has warped into an atrocity with the pursuit of trying to take the bride’s virginity away from her husband. These indecent acts are conducted for the sake of enjoyment towards the wedding guests, an unseemly way of showcasing a ‘successful marriage’.

In June of 2017, two groomsmen were caught on tape sexually assaulting a bridesmaid during the wedding ceremony despite her firm and obvious resistance. Disregarding her pleas, one of them yelled, “Take off her underwear!”. Soon, the footage went viral and the police got involved.

In February of 2019, another video surfaced on the internet of a Chinese wedding where the groom’s father grabbed his daughter-in-law and forcefully kissed her on the lips. The audience laughed and cheered. The incident sparked global outrage, exclaiming that the video was a prime example of normalized sexual assault. The man’s lawyer later defended the act saying, “He ‘kissed’ his daughter-in-law to please the guests and enliven the atmosphere.”

In their eyes, it is a tease. But to womankind, it is a farce. The custom is an outright defiance of human rights. Though this practice is starting to get less traction, especially in developed places like Beijing and Shanghai, it is an issue that will take more than just time to eradicate. Weddings are days that one would want to remember forever. It’s time to reverse tradition and turn a nightmare into a beautiful experience that celebrates love the right way.