You are here > Home > Quick Navigation > Folk Custom > Marriage

The Wedding of Gaoshan

Gaoshan ethnic minority practices monogamy , encourages marriage with people of other tribes and forbids intermarriage among close relatives. Most marriages are based on free love. There are no explicit stipulations on marriage age, but men are allowed to marry after the adult ritual, and women, after they master life skills.

Marital forms of different clans in Gaoshan ethnic minority have some differences, and some still keep the custom of the matriarchal clan society. Husband marries into, lives with and works in the wife's family, and becomes a member of the wife's clan. The lineage is accounted according to the matriarchal clan and daughters inherit patrimony.

There is another marital form, the service marriage. When Party A marries into Party B's family and becomes a member of Party B's clan, Party A's family loses a labor force. Therefore, Party B should go to work for Party A's family in some period of time to make up the loss.

People of Cao and Bunong, two subgroups of Gaoshan ethnic minority, also practices exchanging marriage, i.e. Family A marries a daughter to a son of Family B, and in turn Family B also marries a daughter to Family A's son. And, it is common for people in Saixia to marry husband's sisters to wife's brothers.

Burial Custom of Gaoshan Ethnic Minority

1. Naked Burial

After a person dies, his or her clothes are taken off and the body is wrapped by a piece of deerskin. Four relatives lift the corpse to a mountain peak, unpack the deerskin and set the corpse on it, then cover the dead with the clothes he or her used to wear. It is said that this burial way can make the dead leave the world cleanly. Though the corpse is naked, the soul is in clothes; the corpse doesn't mean anything after the person dies, but the invisible soul actually exists without the human body.

2. Burial of Accidental Dead

People of Taizhi, a subgroup of Gaoshan, regard death caused by war, suicides and so on as accidental deaths, and bury them on the spot where their bodies are discovered. A woman who dies of dystocia or a person who has no relatives at his death bed is regarded as inauspicious. Their bodies are just buried in the room where they die and the room is regarded as a place of taboo and marked with a straw. The family abandons the room but to build a new one. People of Saiduo, another subgroup of Gaoshan, regard violent death and death caused by war as unnatural death. In this case, they ask relatives of the dead to bury the bodies on the spot, then hold fire burial and pile up stones on the burial place. The wealthy also bury those who die of suicide, homicide, die on the way or in fire on the spot they die.

3. Memorial Ceremony

After a person dies, his or her body is kept at home for three days. Before the funeral, a grand memorial ceremony is held. On the day of the ceremony, relatives usually kill a horse or a cow. The eldest son kneels before the horse and kills it after removing the wine from the horse's hoof. During the memorial ceremony, the eldest son reads aloud the funeral oration, which covers the name, age, native place, death date of the dead, burial articles and so on, while other people are kneeling in front of the coffin or the spirit tablet. In the evening, cow meat or horse meat is used to treat relatives and friends. Memorial ceremonies to eldership are especially grand. If the mother passes away, her children generally need to kill a live pig on the scene as a sacrifice, and other people also bring sacrificial offerings to the ceremony.

Other Customs

At festivities, people of Gaoshan ethnic minority often use wooden carved cups, with which two people drink together shoulder to shoulder to show intimacy. It's a custom to cook chicken to treat guests. In the feast, the host first retains chicken legs which are kept for the guests to eat on the road when they leave, meaning eating chicken legs to gain more physical strength on the journey.

After a woman gets pregnant, she should avoid using knife and axe, eating meat ape, tiger cat and pangolin and two grains of fruit on one stalk and so on. Men are not allowed to fumble about looms used by women.

People of Gaoshan ethnic minority used to practice various customs damaging part of body, such as epilation, cutting a hole in tooth, piercing the ear lobe, corset, tattoo and so on. After the 1940s, these customs have been on the decline but their influences still lingered.

Quick Navigation

New Article