At a traditional Chinese wedding, the bride is often seen with a red veil on her head. It covers the bride’s face. Chinese people call the veil, made of a laced silk square, red head cover.
This practice dates back to the Qi Period (479-502) of the Northern and Southern Dynasties. The head cover was used by women farmers to protect their heads against cold wind and hot sunshine while working in the fields. It could be a cloth of any color and was big enough to cover the head top. For its practical use and ornamental function, the head cover was widespread.
By the beginning of Tang Dynasty (618-907), the cover had become a long veil down to the shoulder. And it was no longer exclusive to working women. Later, Emperor Li Longji made a decision. He demanded that all maids-in-waiting in the palace add a piece of gauze to the head covers to cover their faces. It soon became a fashion among the commons. But the commons made a difference of the cover’s function. In those days, women’s faces were thought of as a lure to men. A husband did not want his beautiful wife to be an attraction to other men. He wanted her to behave bashfully and shyly in front of men. A veil could realize his wish. And the wife readily accepted the veil to show her loyalty to her husband. Gradually the veil became popular among both married and unmarried women who were eager to demonstrate their virtues. Veils are not unique in China. Even today veils can still be seen in some other places in the world.
This custom lasted about a thousand years. From Later Jin Dynasty (936 – 946), a veil became a must for a bride at the wedding. But the color of the bride’s veil is always red as it is the symbolic color of happiness.