Lahus Marriage and Wedding Customs

Most marriages are monogamous. Traditionally, boys marry when they are 16 or 17 and girls marry when they are 13 or 14. Young people are given a fair amount of freedom in choosing their partners as long as they are not close relatives. In some areas such as Bakanai Township in Lancang County and Menghai County in Xishuangbanna, young people were free to choose their marriage partners, and only a few marriages were arranged by parents. Courting involves singing love songs, playing flutes and reed pipes, giving small gifts and overnight visits.

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Lahus Marriage (Photo from baike.baidu.com)

On the engagement and marriage process, the two parties are very polite to each other at the meeting of different clans. When the male and female go steady, the male party will ask the matchmaker to bring two to four pairs of dried squirrels and one kilogram of wine to the female's home in order to propose marriage. If the parents of the female approve, the male party will send betrothal presents again and discuss about the wedding date and the marriage way (living in the male's home or the female's home) with the female party. Go betweens are used to make arrangements and negotiate a bride price. Grooms whose family's can not come up with a bride price often do a bride service.

If they decide to live in the male's home, the male party will hold banquets and send people (including the groom) to escort the bride to come to the groom's home on the wedding day, meanwhile, the female party will send people to escort the bride to the groom's home. On contrary, if they decide to live in the female's home, the female party will prepare banquets, and the groom will go to the female's home under the escort of the matchmaker. Weddings are relatively simple: usually a large feast in the bride's village. On the evening of the wedding day the husband was required to stay in the bride's home with his production tools.

After the wedding, the groom will stay and live at the bride's home, staying for one year, three years or five years, or even longer. Women played the dominant part in marital relations. The male lives and participates in production work at his wife's home, and receives equal treatment as a son. There is no discrimination.

Whatever marriage way is, at the first spring festival after the wedding, a pig leg must be cut out and it will be given to the bride's brother if they kill pigs. While the bride's brother will send, the neck of the pig or the prey and four glutinous rice cakes to his sister for three years in a row. After receiving the gifts, his sister must present six kilograms of wine in return.

Until the day when the male needs to leave his wife's home, relatives and family members will hold banquets, and the husband can either take the wife to his home, or live on their own with his wife at another place at the village of where his wife lives. In the case that grooms need to do a bride service, the couple often lives with the bride's family until the groom finishes his bride service.

After 1949, with the implementation of the marriage law, the old custom of sending betrothal gifts had been less strictly observed. Divorces are rare in this minority. In most cases the couple pays a fine if they decide to divorce, with the spouse who initiated the process paying double what the other person pays.




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