Different marriages of the Yao people

ethnic china

Different marriages of the Yao people

Among the Yao there are different kinds of marriage, though all they have some common characteristics:

– They use antiphonal songs to court each other.
– They have the freedom to choose their love partners, but they not have always the freedom to marry them, since the parents sometimes choose the couple from their childhood.
– In every case, they need the assistance of a matchmaker and a shaman to decide an auspicious date.
– There is an important delivery of gifts on the part of the bridegroom’s family.
– They sacrifice chickens to see if the union will be good.
– The maternal uncle plays an important position in the marriage.
– Sometimes they marry among cousins.

The Panyao and Shanziyao branches marriage:

The Panyao and Shanziyao that live in villages quite isolated take advantage of visits and festivals to know their couples. By means of songs, they begin their relationship; sometimes they will invite a song teacher to accompany them when they visit the lover. Among the Panyao the wedding party lasts three days, the most important moment is when the bride enters the bridegroom’s village. They are faithful to each other after marrying, but they can divorce if they want.

Qinghuyao branch

Among the Qinghuyao branch, the girls have in their room an «eye of the love». A hole in the wall where at night, the lover will put a stick, and the girl will decide whether to got up to speak with him or to reject him.

Baikuyao branch

The young of Baikuyao (White Pants Yao) branch usually know their partners in funerals or festivals. They sing together and exchange gifts. Then the girl invites him to sleep in her house, without any opposition from the parents. The wedding takes place after accepting the girlfriend’s price. They can divorce.

Bapaiyao branch

The youngsters from Bapaiyao branch also meet each other at festivals. They can have sexual relations before marriage. Usually, the men request sexual relations giving the girls a red knot. Before, on New Year’s Eve and the first two days of the year, they used to go to the forest to look for sexual encounters. Now, this practice has disappeared. They are free to divorce, but usually they don’t do.

Beilouyao branch

The young of the Beilouyao branch only sing in a group, they never allow the young to sing alone. They need the help of shamans and fortune-tellers in all the phases of their love and marriage.

Hualanyao branch

In the Hualanyao branch of the Yao, boys and girls see how their marriages are fixed by their parents when they are children. Once their relationship is formalized, they can sleep together. Their wedding is very simple, only 4 or 5 people attend, but they make a great ceremony when the first-born son completes one month. Is very common to marry and divorce three or four times.

Aoyao branch

The young of the Aoyao branch need also the help of their parents and a matchmaker to marry. In the first visit of the matchmaker, liquor is fermented. After some days they smell it, if it smells well, they will marry, if not, it is not considered auspicious. They can have sexual relations before marriage, but not children. Once married, they have the freedom also to have lovers, who usually keep a good relationship with their spouses. They usually have only two children, who take the father’s family name (who usually is not the biological father). If they have more, they make infanticide. They have freedom of divorce but rarely do it.

Free marriage of the Chasan Yao

Most of the Chasan Yao inhabit Dayaoshan Mountain. They live in houses of two floors; the lower is usually used to keep the tools, the domestic animals, and the grain. In the upper one is where the people live.

The young boys, when they seek the love of a girl, ascend to the upper floor, where she sleeps, and they sing songs on the balcony. This is the period of «light the torch» because the boys leave at night carrying one. If the girl has not boyfriend, there will be many suitors who visit her at night to sing under her balcony. If she already has a boyfriend, only he will be allowed to sing with her.

Unmarried people can also meet in the «January Hall» building, which opens up habitually during the first month of the year, to make easy the social relationships between the young boys and girls.

There is no economic component in their marriage. The exchanges of gifts between the groom and the bride’s family it is negligible. Except among the richer families, very influenced by the Chinese, the weddings are usually very austere. In fact, some of the richest families spend so much money that they get into debt during generations.

One month after start their relation, they can have sexual relations, and if as a fruit of those relationships children are born, they won’t be discriminated against.

There is the free divorce between them, and some couples, in fact, marry and divorce 4 or 5 times.

Back to Yao main page

To cite this post: Ceinos-Arcones, Pedro, "Different marriages of the Yao people," in Ethnic China, 2 marzo 2021, https://ethnic-china.com/different-marriages-of-the-yao-people/.

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