Culture Culture

26/12/2017 - 09:41

Looking back at the old weddings

The images of the Hue wedding in the old days with the possesty tray of betel nuts, wine and tea; the altar, traditional wedding costumes, etc. displayed in the exhibition "Hue traditional weddings" show the viewers distinctive beautiful traditional customs of Hue.

A wedding organized in the traditional Hue way. Photo: Nam Trung

Ancient characteristics

As the ancient capital, Hue preserves the beauty of many traditions and customs representing the unique features of the traditional wedding. In an effort to introduce the traditional values of Hue’s weddings, Hue Cultural Museum is holding an exhibition called "Hue traditional weddings" from November11 to February 28, 2018.

Pictures of Hue traditional weddings with major rituals, precious materials, and valuable objects in Hue weddings of the 60s and 70s, along with original artifacts such as wedding invitations; wedding registrations; the wedding Ao dais; trays of betel nuts, tea, and wine; the old conventions and rules, etc. help the viewers understand more about the idyllic and distinctive wedding traditions of the people of the ancient capital.

Hue Cultural Museum has reproduced vivid images of a traditional wedding, from the decoration of the altar and the possesty tray, to the bridal procession and the gifts presented by the relatives and friends of the bride and the groom. The exhibit space also includes a wedding bed with a proper wedding reception on the wedding night. The possesty tray consists of 12 pieces of betel nuts, salt, ginger and rice wine to symbolize the passionate love, the conjugal harmony, and the commitment of living together for the whole life. The most interesting is the image of couples with their parents, signing the marriage certificate at the wedding ceremony, a wedding feature that is no longer maintained today.

Cultural researchers visit the exhibition of Hue traditional wedding at Hue Cultural Museum. Photo: Phan Thanh

According to old customs, a Hue wedding ceremony has procedures which include “luc le” (six ceremonies): Nap thai (promising ceremony), Van danh (asking the age of the bride), Nap cat (announcing whether the couple’s ages are a good match, Nap te (engagement ceremony), Thinh ky (asking for a suitable date for the wedding), and Than Nghinh (the actual wedding ceremony). With the concept of "Respecting the rituals, disregarding material goods”, the Hue wedding is more sophisticated at the rituals, but not too focused on the actual material gifts. They are economic rather than ostentatious.

Depending on the economic situation and social status of the two families, a small ceremony, an average ceremony or a large ceremony is carried out. The wedding possesty often includes: betel nuts, wine, phu the (spouses) cakes, candles, roasted pigs, and glutinous rice. In addition, the wedding cannot lack the ceremony of thanks to the bride’s mother to give thanks for nurturing and educating the bride.

Continuation of traditions

Although it is not a real wedding, the exhibition space evokes many emotions. Older people come here to reminisce about the old days when they were younger, and to remember about the most important days of their life. In this exhibition space, there are many objects and gifts at the wedding of artisan Le Van Kinh. It has been decades, but he has kept them as treasures.

A corner of the exhibition

Mr. Le Van Kinh recalled, "When I got married, I bought all the necessary supplies, from the tray to put the betel leaves to the trays for other gifts. My wife's wedding dress was also embroidered by me. I remember, the bridal procession had 12 cars. Since then, my wife and I have lived happily together. I hope the next generations to also live happily and that traditions can be kept forever.”

The wedding of Prof. Dr. Thai Kim Lan took place in Germany, but the wedding Ao dai and the images of the old weddings reminded her of her memory: "The wedding ceremony displayed here re-envisioned the wedding scene in the past. I remember when I was young. I remember my sister's wedding and my friends’ weddings. I am moved to see the wedding dress of the old acquaintances, such as of the wife of late painter Vinh Phoi. The images of the wedding bed and the embroidered pillows displayed are very lovely. They all create a peaceful space where people begin to create their own happiness.”

According to researcher Tran Dai Vinh, the weddings of the 60s and 70s entail fine customs that Hue has kept and preserved while in other places, they are almost forgotten. Marriage is the acknowledgment of the community and the families for the young couple, so it is not only meaningful in the family regard, but also in regard to the community. It is the social meaning that binds two people and binds the traditions of two families together; making the couple more committed so as not to lead towards divorce.

Today, the traditions of weddings in Hue continue, but they are streamlined. Previously, the rituals in the wedding were divided into six ceremonies which, depending on the conditions of each family, can be fully maintained or reduced. Some families simply cut down to the greeting, engagement and wedding ceremonies. Some families only keep the wedding ceremony. However, the basic meaning is still kept, which expresses the happy dream of the couple, the satisfaction of the parents and the joy of the relatives. Ho Ben, a student at Hue University of Arts said: "It is interesting to look at traditional wedding photographs. Wedding ceremonies are often complicated, but a wedding is one of the most important things in my life, so I still want to maintain these ceremonial steps in my wedding."

According to Ms Nguyen Hong Hoa Tranh, Director of Hue Cultural Museum, "Hue Traditional Weddings" not only contributes to preserving and honoring the cultural values of Hue but also to building a civilized lifestyle in accordance with the countries’ traditions and morals.

In the days of persistent rain in Hue, the exhibition on the traditional wedding is a poetic destination. Prof. Dr. Thai Kim Lan said: "The happiest time in a person’s life is probably the wedding. Stepping into this space, looking at the “Hy” (Happiness) word, suddenly I feel Hue’s winter is not sad anymore. Thank you, Hue Cultural Museum, for creating more joy in Hue.”

Story and photos: Minh Hien