Sunday, July 19, 2009

Engagement Pictures

At the beginning of the engagement ceremony, I served tea to all the relatives on the first row. In a totally traditional ceremony, each person who drank tea would give me a red envelope of money, but since all traditions were off, we did not do money envelopes...

These are the most senior relatives on the most comfortable and innermost seat (from left to right): the 92 year old grandma of our hosts (she was from Shanghai, had bound feet, and needed two people to support her to get her off the couch), Liu Yuni's maternal grandmother, Ma Liu and Pa Liu.

This was the third row of Liu relatives. These were the younger paternal uncles, the youngest maternal uncles, a few of the aunts, and several of Liu Yuni's siblings and cousins. They should have been further back, but there wasn't room, so chairs were added at the ends of rows. They arranged themselves by birth order in their generation with the older ones sitting further toward the front. Liu Yuntian is the little boy at the end of the last row. He was only in 9th grade and the youngest of the Liu clan at the event, so he sat at the far end near my friends.

The second row was for the eldest paternal uncle and third and fourth maternal uncles plus the eldest cousins present from each side of the family. (The second maternal uncle passed away at age 45, so I never met him. He would have been on this row, too.)

The front row opposite the couch. My dad and brother with their translator sat there with Liu Yuni's eldest maternal uncle, the host parents, and two of the elders from church.

Everybody made speeches, even my dad (at least I didn't have to interpret).

Then Joshua put a ring on me,

and his grandmother's gold necklace around my neck (to me via his mother),

and I put a ring on him.

Then we went to the restaurant around the corner for a feast. This was the head table with the couple and the parents and the elders from church.

These were my friends from work who video taped everything for me. The waitress in the background is one of my good friends. This was one of the tables of Liu relatives with uncles and cousins sitting at it.


Barrie said...

I like all the little ways that respect is shown. So missing from our N. American culture.

Teresa said...

Hi Barrie,

Those things are second nature now, but they were hard to get used to. I still talk a little bit disrespectfully to my elders when I am excited, but I've come a long way.

murat11 said...

Ah, we're back to the tea now, are we?

Another wonderful pictorial, to set the pictures nicely in our heads. I love the idea of tea ceremonies (though keeping the red envelopes would have been nice, too!). I've been reading a crime fiction series set in Israel and the West Bank: even the terrorists make sure that the customs of serving tea are kept.

In Tina's family, the custom is to serve Armenian coffee as part of dessert. After finishing the demitasse cup, you turn it over and let it sit for about 20-30 minutes, then read the "rorschach"/fortune from the image left on the inside of the cup.

Teresa said...

Yes, Murat, and the tea served at an engagement ceremony has so much sugar in it, it's guaranteed to rot your teeth after just one cup. The tea has to be sweet to ensure sweet feelings of love between the fiance and fiancee.

Thanks for sharing your experience of tea and coffee ceremonies. What did your coffee-ground horoscope tell you?

murat11 said...

Oops. The Armenian coffee thang is for all gatherings, nuptial or otherwise. I've had and done many readings through the years.

I like the sound of that tea. No cream, I presume?

George Orwell would call the cream and sugar tea I favor candy, not tea. Read an essay a few years back where he explains the "correct" way to prepare tea. Needless to say, I fail.

Teresa said...

Since we are dealing with a primarily lactose-intolerant population, the traditional Han ceremonies don't usually use milk. (Now if we were out with the Manchus or the Mongolians it would be different; I believe the Mongolians have a special horse-milk tea laced with some kind of potent liquor, but I have never had the opportunity to try it.)

The engagement tea is "red tea" (what we call black tea) simmered with rock candy. Talk about syrupy sweet.

So at least tell us ONE of your more notable coffee-ground horoscopes.

Cloudia said...

Thank you for so generously sharing your life with us. You met a bound-foot woman! Living history and YOU could speak to her....Wow! You are my hero, Teresa!!


Comfort Spiral

Teresa said...

Hi Cloudia,
Thanks for stopping by my blog. I used to see the old grandma a couple of times a week. When she remembered to speak the Mandarin dialect instead of the Shanghai dialect, we could communicate pretty well. She was a very nice old lady, but her bound feet were very painful on cold, wet days in the winter. My good friend, her granddaughter, had to help her wash them every night and make sure they were dried in every crevice or she would get infections. The cloths were long and smelly and had to be scrubbed by hand. It was a very cruel tradition, but it lasted for several hundred years among the Chinese urban middle and upper classes, even the moderately wealthy farmers wanted their daughters to have bound feet because it was a sign that the family was prosperous and could afford to NOT have the women working. And the women bought into it. There is a really good novel by Lisa See called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It describes the life of women with bound feet.