Ancient Marital Customs of Gelao Minority Group

March 6, 2008
Editor: huangjuan

Gelao, one of the ethnic minority groups in China, has a population of 437,000. Most of them live in Wuchuan Gelao and Miao Autonomous County and Daozhen Gelao and Miao Autonomous County, Guizhou Province, and the others live in the city of Guizhou, Liupanshui and Zunyi, and district of Tongren, Bijie, Anshun and Southeast Qian. Very few are scattered in Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Ninety seven percent of the whole population is in Guizhou Province.

The Gelao inhabitation region is in the north of Guizhou Province, at the border of Guizhou and Sichuan, which is a slope from Yun Gui Plateau to Sichuan Basin. The landform is varied. The average rainfall per year is higher than that of the whole country. It is a land of large amounts of water, animal and plant resources, a fit place for agriculture and mixed farming.

Gelao people's main source of income comes from agriculture.

Gelao people have a long history. Their ancestors had very close relations with "Baipu" in Shang (17th-11th Century BC) and Zhou (1046-211 BC) Dynasties down to the West Han Dynasty (206BC-8AD), and with "Pu", "Liao" from East Han (25-220 AD), to Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589AD). They were called "Qiliao", "Geliao", "Liao" and "Gelao" in different periods after Sui (581-618AD)and Tang Dynasties (618-907AD). After the founding of the People's Republic of China, their formal name is Gelao.

They have their own language, which belongs to the Han-Tibetan language family.  They have no letters of their own, and basically use Chinese characters. Nowadays only a few old people understand the Gelao language.

Old Marital Customs

The marital customs of the Gelao minority group has kept many of their ancient traditions. For example, during the couple's engagement ceremony, they drink Ji wine (Ji in Chinese means auspicious), which is used as a way of asking for auspice.

The engagement dinner is in the women's home. The fiance should give a toast to the parents-in-law. The first bowl of wine should belong to the mother of the girl, while the second belongs to the father. It is said that it shows the tradition that the mother decides her children's marriage.

According to the tradition, a bride of the Gelao minority group should knock out one or two front teeth herself, in fear that the bride who is a virgin would hurt the family of the future groom.

There are still other traditions of their marital customs, such as "holding the door", "hunting for the girl" and "splashing the water".

"Holding the Door"

When the girl leaves her home for her husband's, she should hold the door tightly to show her unwillingness to leave. At this time, the matchmaker pulls the fiancée away.

"Hunting for the Girl"

When the girl gets married, she should cry when leaving and try to run away when are asked to leave. The girl's relatives should seek her back. The fiancée also needs to say goodbye to the ancestors of her family. Her father unties her top button to show that she is not a member of the family any longer but a member of her husband's.

"Splashing the Water"

When the girl arrives at her husband's family, she should splash water on the relatives there. It means that the water could get rid of evil and bring luck.

There are other marital customs different from those of other minority groups. They don't have a ceremony when they get married such as performing formal bows by groom and bride in old custom. The bride is led to the bridal chamber directly. The dowry would not be sent to the bridegroom's home until the first baby is one month old.

In the past, the parents made decision for their children's marriage and paid much attention to the betrothal gifts. But now the marital customs of the Gelao minority group has changed a lot. Young people can make their own decision and with an umbrella as prop the bride accompanied by her relatives and people from the groom's side arrive at her husband's house. She is led to the bridal chamber directly without a formal bowing ceremony.

(Source: by



Please understand that,a non-profit, information-communication website, cannot reach every writer before using articles and images. For copyright issues, please contact us by emailing: The articles published and opinions expressed on this website represent the opinions of writers and are not necessarily shared by