Intriguing Marriage Customs of Yao Minority

Generally speaking, the Yao people do not intermarry with other ethnic groups. The custom of having the husband live with the wife's family is quite popular. The young men and women have the freedom of choosing and falling in love with a partner. Through the form of ballads, they seek their lovers during festivals, assemblies, and the slack farming season while visiting different villages. If they both like each other, they will give each other keepsake. This is the tradition of falling in love freely without the intervention of parents. In some areas they need permission from their parents, so a matchmaker will assist in communicating between the two parties before they decide to get married.

The Yaos have intriguing marriage customs. With antiphonal singing as a major means of courting, youngsters choose lovers by themselves and get married with the consent of the parents on both sides. However, the bridegroom's family used to have to pay a sizeable amount of silver dollars and pork as betrothal gifts to the bride's family. Some men who could not afford the gifts had to live and work in the bride's families and were often looked down upon.

In old Yao families, the mother's brothers had a decisive say in crucial family matters and enjoyed lots of other privileges. In several counties in Guangxi, for example, the daughters of the father's sisters were obliged to marry the sons of the mother's brothers. If other marriage partners were proposed the betrothal gifts had to be paid to the mother's brothers. This, perhaps, was a remnant of matrilineal society.

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