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At Chinese weddings, red is the new white

In China, many young couples are forgoing Western rituals and gowns for the crimson costumes of the ancient Han way. Considered auspicious in China, red is the color of choice at traditional weddings.
/ Source: Reuters

Red is the new white in China as more young couples forgo Western wedding gowns and rituals for the richly embroidered, crimson costumes and intricate traditions of the ancient Han way.

The Han ethnic group is the biggest in China, accounting for more than 90 percent of the population.

Yet many of their traditions were relegated to history, especially during the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, when the old ways were seen to have no place in new, Communist China.

The recent economic boom has seen many Chinese clamoring for Western-style luxury goods and lifestyles, but now, local media and wedding organizers say many twenty-something ethnic Hans are looking back to their ancestors for unique nuptials.

“This idea is very popular among young people, especially those born in the 1980s,” said wedding organizer Ren Guanyu, who also runs a traditional Han clothing shop.

“As China becomes more and more integrated into the world, the younger generation needs to have some special cultural characteristics to express themselves, and maintain their difference from others,” she added.

The color red is considered auspicious in China and is the hue of choice at traditional Han weddings, where both the bride and groom wear crimson colored gowns.

Rituals include the couple performing formal bows to heaven, their parents and each other, the casting off of the fan which covers the bride's face, the scattering of auspicious items on the nuptial bed and wishes for a child.

“I have always loved traditional Chinese culture. We discussed it and finally decided to have a Han-style wedding instead of a Western one,” said Li Na, who recently got married the traditional way.

“We are of pure Han ethnicity. So we should have pride in our nation and have a pure Han-style wedding,” added her groom, Wang Churn, who was dressed in the red traditional costume.

Han couples literally tie the knot — the couple drinking tea from cups tied together with a red string — as these are highly symbolic in Han weddings.

According to Chinese lore, a deity who lives on the moon ties a red string around the ankles of a man and a woman who are fated to be husband and wife — therefore no matter how far and long apart they may be, the two will eventually get married.

Some Chinese think these traditional weddings are a great way to keep their cultural heritage alive.

“In the past I have been to several wedding ceremonies where the brides wore the western wedding gowns. But this wedding is really different. This is a way we can pass on the Chinese culture from generation to generation,” said Sao Yin, a 24-year-old guest at a recent Han wedding.