Deliver the chinese dowry 送嫁妆
The chinese dowry may be delivered with the return gifts on the day of betrothal or delivered a few days before the wedding.
Some people have the impression that chinese weddings are expensive affair for the groom’s parents since they have to pay for the betrothal gifts, bride price and wedding banquet.
However, it may not be so, as the bride’s parents also have a long long list of items to prepare for the bride’s dowry and may also co-pay for the wedding banquet.
The dowry typically include personal items for the bride and household or electrical appliances for the couple’s new home, such as
- tea set,
- bedroom furniture and bathroom items,
- set of washbasins and buckets called “子孙桶”,
- electrical household appliances,
- gold jewellery, etc.
Tea set for wedding tea ceremony 茶具
In the past, the bride’s parent might provide bedroom furniture such as vanity table, wardrobe, basin stand and washbasin, bath tub, spittoon, etc. Some would give wooden chinese wedding chests instead of wardrobes.
Instead of providing the couple with the bedroom furniture, parents are now giving a sum of money to for the couple to buy their own furniture. These days, the wardrobes or wedding chests are usually replaced with traveling suitcases.
Small item including toiletries such as comb and mirror, toothpaste and toothbrushes, tumblers, perfume and lotions, are also packaged with little red or pink ribbons and delivered to the groom’s home as part of the chinese dowry.
A set of baby bathtubs, pails, face washbasin, in red and with chinese wedding designs and the famous chinese spittoon collectively referred to as 子孙桶 is included in the dowry. 子孙桶 is literally “buckets of off-spring”
From a practical aspect, the spittoon was also necessary gift from the bride’s parents. The toilets of chinese household were not easily accessible from the bedrooms in the past as they were usually built as out-houses for sanitation purposes. Hence chinese used spittoons for passing urine in the bedrooms at night and clear them in the morning. (The stuff made very good fertilizer :-0 ).
When the dowry is delivered to the groom’s side, the red paper and all the sweet goodies inside are removed and distributed to children. A young boy, preferably born in the year of the dragon, will be invited to pass urine into the spittoon.
Most modern young chinese prefer to set up their own household when they get married. It became popular for parents to give the bride electrical household appliances as part of her dowry. These may include refrigerator, microwaves, washing machines, televisions, etc.
In the 60s and 70s it was popular to give sewing machines as part of the dowry as sewing was considered a wifely virtue. Many housewives made clothes for their own family and supplemented their husbands’ income with tailoring.
However, by the 80s hardly anyone wanted to sew their own clothes when manufactured ones were affordable and easily available. More women became better educated and entered the workforce and shifted their attention to acquiring workplace skills rather than domestic skills.
The quantity of new clothing included in the chinese dowry varies from dialect groups to dialect groups. For teochews, it can be between 10 to 12 sets of new clothes which for economic purposes may also include pyjamas .
Red wooden clogs were worn as wedding shoes during the Later Han 后汉 (AD947-950). In traditional families, two pairs of red wooden clogs wedding slippers are included as part of the chinese dowry. Since they are not commonly available they are now usually replaced with bedroom slippers.
I remembered the wooden red clogs were usually relegated for use in the wet toilet in grandma’s house after weddings. As a kid, I wore them as playthings. They made nice ki-ki-kia-kia sounds while skipping or walking in them but were not particularly comfortable to wear.
Gold jewellery given by the bride’s parents or owned by the bride is included as part of the bridal dowry. Sometimes these are brought over only on the wedding day itself.
Theoretically, the gold jewellery included as part of the bride’s dowry belongs to the groom’s family and may be apportioned according to the parent-in-law’s wishes. Hence it is common that a “sister” of the bride will make sure the groom’s parents are aware of the riches brought over by the bride.
Chinese prefer pure gold (99.9%) or 916 gold (equivalent to 24K gold). Anything below that, such as 18K gold commonly used in fashionable gold jewellery, is not considered “real” gold to chinese.
Some brides will even get gold jewellery sets known as four items of gold 四点金 as bride dowry from their parents although these are normally given by the groom’s parents to brides as betrothal jewellery.
- tea set for the wedding tea ceremony,
- beddings, pillows, bolsters, comforter set, blankets, bed sheets, etc., tied with red ribbons,
- 子孙桶- baby bathtub, potty, face washbasin, in red and with wedding designs,
- toothpaste and toothbrushes, tumblers, mirror, comb,
- sewing basket with even numbered rolls of colourful thread, needles, pincushion, scissors, and sewing wax with auspicious words on it,
- new clothing in a suitcase for the bride,
- two pairs of red wooden clogs or bedroom slippers,
- gold jewellery from the bride’s parents or owned by the bride (sometimes this is only brought over on wedding day).