The crying marriage custom has existed a long time in many areas of Southwest China’s Sichuan Province and remained in vogue until the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Though not so popular as before, the custom is still observed by people in many places, especially Tujia people, who view crying as a necessary marriage procedure.
For generations, Tujia has always attached great importance on crying wedding, it is a must-do thing when brides get married, so as to say goodbye to her family life and express reluctance of leaving her parents. Many girls start to learn to cry when at the age of 11 or 12 in order to avoid poor performance in pre-marital, which, if happened, the bride would be looked down upon by her neighbors as a poorly cultivated girl and she would become the laughingstock of the village. In fact, there were cases in which the bride was beaten by her mother for not crying at the wedding ceremony.
During the Warring States Period (475-221BC), as historical records reveal, the princess of the Zhao State was married to the Yan State to be a queen. Her mother, on the point of her daughter’s departure, cried at her feet and asked her to return home as soon as possible. Later, the story was alluded to as the origin of the "crying marriage" custom.
In west Sichuan Province, the custom is called "Zuo Tang (Sitting in the Hall)". Usually, the bride begins to cry a month before the wedding day. First for every other night, the bride walks inside the hall and weeps for about an hour. Later, in every night, her sisters, aunts and good friends also have to accompany the crying, taking turns to cry and singing a unique "Crying Marriage Song", which often lasts for the whole night. The somewhat exaggerated singing helps to enhance the wedding atmosphere.
Crying at wedding is a way by custom to set off the happiness of the wedding via falsely sorrowful words. However, in the arranged marriages of the old days of China, there were indeed quite a lot of brides who cried over their unsatisfactory marriage and even their miserable life. In the old society, women were bound by the so-called "three obediences and four virtues", thus having no say in their marriage, which was all arranged by the matchmaker and the parents. Therefore, the brides often swore at the matchmaker before stepping inside the sedan, which was also seen as a pent-up of their dissatisfaction with and hatred of the old matrimonial system. In modern society, however, women have no more such restraints of decency and propriety. Many places, even in the countryside, parents would advocate free love rather than relying on the matchmaker or arranging marriage for their sons or daughters. In a word, Crying marriage is remained to a large extent an expression of feelings in regards to family, friendship, love, as well as the hope of the happy life in future.