Yugur Ethnic Group: "Cupid's Arrow" at Wedding Ceremony

April 24, 2008
Editor: huangjuan

Originating from the Huihe people who were nomads around the E'erhun River during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Yugur ethnic group now has a population of about 15,000 and 90 percent of them live in the Su'nan Yugur Autonomous County, and the Huangnibao Yugur Township of the city Jiuquan, in Northwest China's Gansu Province. In Chinese, "Yugur" means "wealth and stability."

Wealth and Stability

Animal husbandry is the major industry of the Yugur people. The Yugur people believe in the Yellow Sect of Lamaism, their customs and habits are similar to the Tibetans'.

Only one meal is eaten every day of which their staple foods are primarily rice, wheat and some mixed grain. As the Yugur people live by stock raising, they usually eat beef, mutton, and pork, as well as chicken and camel meat, to which they add some garlic, soy sauce and vinegar. Due to the special climatic conditions, fresh vegetables are rare, and only some herbs such as the wild shallots and leeks can be found. Fresh mushrooms are the main vegetables in the fall. In addition, "milk tea," which is usually mixed with fried noodles, plays a crucial role in the Yugur people's daily life.

The Yugur people are renowned for their hospitality. No matter when guests arrive, they will give them a feast. Fragrant tea or milk tea will be immediately presented that lets each guest feel the Yugur people's friendliness. Singing and dancing performed by the local people will follow accompanied by wine and toasts by every member of the family. When festivals come, each family will bring their best food to treat their honored guests. Among all the delicious food, baked-mutton is the most special.

Three forms of burial exist in Yugur people's traditions, including cremation, inhumation, and celestial burial (by which bodies are exposed to birds of prey).

Wedding Traditions

Yugur people hold grand wedding ceremonies, which last two days for ordinary people and several days for rich ones. Some customs are quite peculiar. In one, the bridegroom shoots three arrows (that have no arrowheads and will not hurt anyone) to his bride and then breaks the arrows and the bow during the wedding ceremony. According to their culture, this means they will love and live with each other forever. Monogamy is adopted and marriage among people of the same surname and kin is strictly prohibited.

The Yugur wedding ceremony usually lasts two days. The first day is in the bride's house and second day is much more ceremoniously in the groom's. On the first day, relatives from the bride side will come to give their congratulations to the bride's family and present the gift of hada.

To a Yugur girl, nothing in her life is more sacred and exciting than the ceremony of "putting on the headdress", which means the girl becomes a bride. On the wedding day, singing the traditional "wearing headdress song," the bride's mother does the hairdressing for her daughter and helps her put on the headdress, which is made of silver, jade, coral, agate, and seashell.

Reluctant to leave, the bride gets on a white horse and heads for her future-husband's house. Her brother escorts her there. The white horse stands for the heavenly white elephant in Yugur legends. Before they start off, the bride's parents have to toast the party escorting her.

Arriving at the groom's house, some experienced riders from among the bride's relatives ride a horse or a camel, pretending to "try to trample and destroy" the bridal chamber, which is set up by the groom's family. At the same time, the groom's relatives are supposed to protect the bridal chamber from being damaged. This "battle" ends with those riders from the bride side riding around the bridal chamber three times. This program is used to display the groom's strong capacity to escort his wife.

The groom's family welcomes the bride's side with as much hospitality as possible. When the "off-the-horse" toasts are presented to the guests, people from both sides enter a big tent to attend a solemn ceremony where the groom puts on the wedding hat. He steps on the design formed by scattering rice on the ground, which is believed to be able to bring an everlasting happy marriage to the couple. Afterwards, one of the bride's uncles begins to recite the words concerning the creation of the world, the origin of marriage, the obligation of the newlyweds to wait on their parents, as well as their life-long faithfulness to each other. The uncle also chants the blessings of a happy life for the young couple. Then ghee is daubed onto the groom's forehead, and a leg of lamb is tied onto the bride's girdle. After this, the bridegroom shoots three arrows (arrows without arrowheads that won't hurt anyone) to his bride and then breaks the arrows and the bow.

Now, it is time for the newlyweds to toast all the guests present, first to the elderly and then to the young. People enjoy themselves to the full by singing and dancing, and staying up all night.

(Source: chinaculture.com.cn/Translated by womenofchina.cn)

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