Bound by Tradition?
Customs Play Major Roles in Chinese, African Weddings, Childbirth
Given the increasing number of cultural exchanges between China and Africa, people from both cultures are eager to learn about each other.
随着中非文化交流日益深入，中非人民渴望了解对方的愿望也更加强烈。那么，中国女性和非洲女性在婚育方面有哪些差异呢？ An estimated one million Chinese live in Africa, and a growing number of Africans visit China, for either business or study, each year. Undoubtedly, many of those people are women. Therefore, it is a good idea for African and Chinese women to know, and understand, the similarities and differences in the cultures.
In China, marriage refers to two people who essentially become one as husband and wife. Generally, there is a courtship and engagement before the wedding. The situation is similar in most African countries; however, the customs are not the same.
Generally speaking, women in urban China are more open minded than women in rural areas. Many urban Chinese women search for their future husbands by themselves, or with the help of friends, and some take part in some activities, such as singles' gatherings.
Many rural Chinese women are introduced to their future husbands by their parents or relatives.
If an urban Chinese woman likes a man, she will develop a friendship and get to know him. If they fall in love, the woman will tell her parents that she is serious about the man. Generally, if the man is suitable, her parents will not object. The two families will choose a date for the engagement, usually in a restaurant. In rural China, many marriages are arranged by parents. After they talk to their daughter about a potential son-in-law, they will find a matchmaker who knows the man's family. The matchmaker will talk to the man's parents about the possibility of him marrying the woman. If the man's family doesn't object, the two families will discuss the details of the following wedding.
The engagement ceremony in China is much simpler compared with those in African countries.
In some rural areas in China, a banquet will be held so the bride and groom's families can get to know each other. During the engagement ceremony, the bride's family will receive betrothal gifts from the groom's family. Cakes, sweets, fish, roosters, hens,(s) pork and/or sheep are among the gifts. Money is sometimes included, but it is not obligatory.
After the engagement ceremony, the couples' parents set the date and prepare for the wedding. The groom's family will generally prepare a new house or apartment (bridal chamber) for the couple; the bride's family, furniture and household appliances,(s) such as a TV set, refrigerator, computer and other necessities.
It has become popular in China for a couple to have a wedding album. A professional photographer will take pictures of the bride and the groom, at various locations and wearing different outfits (including wedding clothes), as a keepsake.
In most African countries, where a marriage is considered a union of two families, parents arrange their children's weddings. The man's parents will pick out the woman if they think is fertile, hardworking, respectful and if she has a good reputation and good morals.
A matchmaker (elderly person) will then be asked to act as a go-between. If both families agree, the parents of both the girl and the boy will begin meeting to perform some rituals.
First, there must be an engagement ceremony at the woman's home. The man's parents, and their relatives and friends, will take part in the ceremony.
At the end of the ceremony, a date will be set for the presentation of betrothal gifts. New dresses, a knife, a sword and some cattle are generally among the gifts. Money is included in the list.
In some African countries, such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania and the Central African Republic, circumcision of women has been banned. However, it is still performed illegally.
Religious wedding ceremonies are uncommon in China. That is not the case in Africa. In China, it is increasingly common for couples to blend traditional Chinese and Western aspects of wedding ceremonies.
For example, the bride will wait at her home for the groom, who will pick her up and take her to the bridal chamber, or to the restaurant, where the wedding ceremony will take place.
Red envelopes (which contain money) are presented to the children of the relatives. The color red, on the envelope, symbolizes happiness and good luck.
After the bride arrives at the wedding site, she and the groom must pay their respects to heaven and earth, their parents and each other.
The couple will drink wine from cups that are tied together by red thread. After they finish the wine, they will exchange and refill the cups, and they will have a second drink. Drinking the wine is symbolic of their everlasting love.
After they have their two drinks of wine, they present a cup of alcohol to each person at the wedding banquet.
"Flash marriages" are becoming increasingly popular in China, especially in urban areas. "Flash marriage" means the man and woman meet and marry in a very short period of time.
Although wedding traditions in African countries vary, African culture demands that the bride be a virgin. A bride is commonly treated with great respect because she is the link between the unborn and the ancestors.
Singing and dancing are two very important elements in an African wedding ceremony. Weddings also include a big feast.
Polygamy is common in Africa. In many countries, including Cameroon, Niger and Sudan, men are encouraged to have many wives, as multiple marriages will help increase the population.
Polygamy still occurs in many African countries that have banned the practice. For example, Ghana and Burundi have abolished polygamy, yet the practice remains popular.
In accordance with China's family planning policy, which urges each family to have only one child, most Chinese women do not give birth to more than one child. The policy, implemented in the 1970s, does not apply ethnic minorities or Chinese women who marry foreigners.
If both the husband and wife are the only child in their families, they can have two children. In rural China, if a family has a girl, the wife is allowed to give birth a second time, to try to have a boy to help on the farm.
In urban China, virtually all women give birth in a hospital. In some rural areas, especially remote villages, some women give birth at home with the help of a midwife. After delivery, the lying-in woman will stay at home for one month to recover.
Procreation is the main reason people get married in African communities. Most Africans, in fact, believe that a woman is incomplete if she does not have children. In most African countries, when a woman becomes pregnant, others will say she has become beautiful or that God has kissed her. A pregnant woman is not permitted to work.
When a pregnant woman is about to deliver, an experienced woman massages the woman's stomach and applies some lubricant to the birth canal to make the birth easier on the woman. After the umbilical cord falls off, the child's hair is shaved.
In many African countries, it is common for women to marry and give birth at a young age; for example, at 16 or 17. In fact, it is common to see high school girs breast-feeding during breaks in their classes.
In some African countries, such as Tanzania, it is not uncommon for girls aged 12-14 to quit school to give birth.
Many African women get pregnant eight or nine times and have four or five live births. A typical African woman spends an estimated 80 percent of her reproductive years either pregnant or lactating.
There are differences and similarities in the marriage and childbearing customs followed by Chinese and African women. Generally speaking, Chinese women now mix Oriental and Occidental customs, while African women hold firm to their traditions.（作者博客：飞翔的铁塔 http://blog.sina.com.cn/zhirong）本文发WOMEN OF CHINA,Issue 12, 2009