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中華文化多語談:婚喪喜慶


生命禮俗


人類由誕生、成長、到最後死亡,都會經過幾個相關的儀式。除死亡外,經過這些儀式,人們都感受到別人對自己的祝福、關懷、情感。這些通過儀式都呈現出各種文化濃厚的內涵。擁有悠久歷史的中華文化,當然也有豐富的儀式文化,反映著中華文化的許多概念。其中,最為重要的通過儀式有生日、成年、結婚,以及死亡。以下簡單地介紹生日與婚禮這兩個活動或儀式的內容。

  • 一、生日

顧名思義,「生日」是一個人來到這世界的日子。年長者多半都記得農曆的生日,年輕的世代則多半只記國曆生日,而在國家採用國曆之後,許多華人都有農曆與國曆的兩個生日。華人年齡的算法與歐美不同,中國人一出生就算一歲,新的一歲從農曆新年大年初一開始算,也就是兩歲了。
母親生產之後的一個月,需要好好調理身體,這個期間叫做「坐月子」。以前這段時間禁忌相當多,例如不洗髮、不洗澡、不用冷水洗手、不看書、不爬樓梯、不哭、不吃冰冷的食物等等,需要吃的食物有生化湯(放中藥藥方的湯)、杜仲腰子湯(杜仲和豬腰一起煮的湯)、麻油雞(芝麻油、酒與?一起煮的湯)等等。
過了三十天,也就是坐月子結束,就是「滿月」,又稱作「彌月」。到了滿月這天,許多親友前來慶祝小孩的平安誕生與母親的健康,舉行「彌月宴」。這一天做油飯、紅蛋等食物拜神明、贈與親友分享喜悅,也有人在滿月這天為嬰兒理髮,有些人利用這些細軟的頭髮來做筆,這種筆叫做「胎毛筆」(註一)。
六十歲就是「大生日」(按照中國算法應該是61歲,因為是一甲子),傳統的慶祝方式是,當天廳堂設置為「壽堂」,而且擺設宴席,邀請親朋好友,大家一起慶祝。這時候壽星送給親朋好友的禮物有「壽龜」、「壽桃」、「壽麵」等象徵長壽的吉祥食物。

  • 二、婚禮

在傳統的華人世界裡,結婚不只是兩個男女之間的結合,同時也是兩個家族之間產生深厚關係的大事。所以,傳統的「結婚」一事,有許多不成文的規定。這些禮俗中,挑選幾項有意思的習俗加以說明。

  • 問名:男方向女方提親,等到女方接納提親,就進入準備結婚的程序。此時首先要做的是「問名」。「問名」不僅問女方的名字,還要了解女方的生辰年月日時,然後占卜八字。確定雙方的八字配合之後,就擇日訂婚,男方送聘金與聘禮給女方,而女方也致贈各種禮物交換。
  • 鬧洞房:拜堂好了,喜宴也結束了,再來就是好玩的「鬧洞房」。「鬧洞房」是新郎新娘的親朋好友湧進他們的新房,嬉笑逗樂,在電影《喜宴》中可看到這個場景。根據歷史研究,在漢代就可看到「鬧洞房」的紀錄(仲長統《昌言》)。
  • 拜堂:這是在台灣非常普遍的婚禮禮俗之一,也是這場婚禮的高潮。迎娶當天,男方去女方家將新娘迎取入門。當禮車到達男方家時,一定會聽到鞭炮聲,樂隊也演奏音樂,熱鬧非凡。接著按照司儀的號令,新郎新娘走進廳堂首先向祖先上香,再來是「三拜」──「一拜天地,二拜雙親,夫妻對拜」最後才「引進洞房」。婚禮儀式結束後,女方才正式成為男方家族的一員,被承認為「家人」。

 

問題與討論
一、人在一生中,一定會經歷過許多儀式,這些儀式到底有什麼意義?
二、請簡單地說明中華文化中對生日的看法。
三、你曾經參加過台灣的婚禮嗎?你覺得如何?你想要參加日本式的婚禮嗎?
四、除了生日與婚禮之外,還有何種生命禮俗?
五、中華文化中,喜事的基本顏色為紅色,喪禮的基本顏色為白色,請與日本文化進行比較這些顏色所象徵的意義
六、請談談台灣的婚禮與日本傳統的婚禮有何不同
八、許多影片或電視劇以這些生命禮俗為主題,請舉一部作品討論在劇情中生命禮俗如何呈現?
七、除了上述文章提到的生命禮俗之外,請用日文說明其他台灣或中國的生命禮俗。

Chinese Culture through Foreign Languages: Rituals & Cutoms


Rituals that Celebrate Life

Human life is a process that passes from birth through years of growth and maturity to finally ends in the act of dying. Each of these stages has its particular rituals or ceremonies. In addition to times of sadness and death, as we pass through various moments, we are well aware of the good wishes that other people extend to us. We know of their care and feelings for us. The ceremonies we celebrate reveal the fullness and wealth of a culture. Chinese culture relies on many years of history, so it is only natural to find a rich abundance of ritual, all of which responds to concepts inherent in the culture. The most important rites of passage are those that mark the celebrations of birthdays, the reaching of maturity, the experience of marriage, and the arrival of death.  The words below are a brief introduction to ritualized activities for birthdays and marriages.

 

  • Birthday

                                                
The very significant term birthday designates the day a person enters the human world. Older persons in Chinese culture tend to remember their birthdays according to the lunar year and its calendar, whereas younger people recall their birthdays as they fall in the so-called western calendar. When the country began to officially follow the western calendar, many Chinese people likewise began to consider themselves as having both a lunar year and western year birthday. The way of computing time is different for Chinese and westerners. Chinese consider a baby one year old on its day of birth, and so the child’s day of birth actually marks the beginning of its second year. One year passes, and Chinese call the child two years old.

The month that follows the mother’s giving birth requires judicious care of her body. This period of time is called zuo yuezi, literally, “staying in one place for a month.” In the past, this month demanded that new mothers observe a number of taboos. In the first thirty days of childbirth, a woman was not to wash her hair or bathe, not to wash her hands with cold water, nor read, climb steps. She was not allowed to shed tears. She could not eat chilled foods and so forth. Among the food a new mother was to eat was Shenghua Soup (decoction of Chinese herbs), Duzhong Soup (an herbal soup composed of pig kidney and eucommia bark) and chicken soup with sesame oil.
After the passing of 30 days and the conclusion of one month of staying in one place, it was said the new mother had completed man yue, “the whole month,” also called mi yue, “the month of joy.” With the ending of “the whole month,” a parade of relatives and friends could begin to celebrate the safe arrival of the baby and good health of the mother. A banquet to mark the month of joy was often in order. On this day the banquet might include sticky rice, “red eggs” and other delicacies to offer to the heavenly spirits above. Members of the family and friends all would share in the happiness, and sometimes people used the occasion to cut the baby’s hair.  One custom was to use the soft, delicate strands to make brushes for mao bi, the traditional brush that Chinese calligraphists use for writing decorative Chinese characters.  Such a brush was called tai mao bi, or “calligraphy brush from the womb.”

Birthday number 60 is pronounced in Mandarin da sheng ri, “the great birthday.” The significance of the term relates to the near rhyming of the terms for “ten” (shih) and “death” (si). The traditional belief was that any hint of the sound of “death” in a phrase might result in someone actually dying. It being best to avoid that danger, the belief was people should never speak of someone’s 60th birthday, which would require the making of the “shih” sound. Actually then, the celebration of a person’s 60th birthday means he or she is 59 years old.

The traditional way to celebrate “the great birthday” is for the celebrant to invite family members and friends to a fine meal and to give each participant a symbolic gift to symbolize good fortune and long life, such as shou gui (a kind of turtle-shaped cake), shou tao (peach buns) or “long-life” noodles.

 

  • Marriage

In the traditional Chinese world, marriage is not simply a matter of two people, a man and woman, committing themselves to one another. Marriage in Chinese culture celebrates the joining of two individuals and two families with the potential of the deepest of all possible ties, the bringing of children into the family. The question of marriage involves all sorts of understandings and agreements between the families. The words below address several of the most interesting of wedding related customs.

Consultation for the name (wen ming) - - The prospective groom asks the prospective bride’s parents for the bride’s hand in marriage. After the future bride’s parents accept his proposal, the couple and their families can proceed with preparations for the wedding. The first important step is wen ming. Consultation for the name is not simply a matter of asking the future bride what her name is. She must be asked about the year, month, day, and hour of her birth (these four pairs of numbers indicating one’s “Eight Characters). A fortune-teller is often consulted to determine whether the couple is felicitous match. That is, whether by time of birth and personal background the two appear to be suited for one another. When the amalgamation of the couple’s Eight Characters is determined to be propitious, a date for the official engagement for marriage can be set. A ritualistic exchange of gift follows. The future groom offers a valuable betrothal gift (usually containing the “earnest money,” wedding cookies, gold jewelry, just to name a few) to his prospective bride, who returns the honor with the giving of suitable gifts.

Worshiping the Ancestors (bai tang) - - In Taiwan, worshipping the ancestors is the most common of all the marriage customs, and marks the ceremonial climax of the marriage. On the day of the wedding, the groom goes to the home of the bride, who greets him at the entrance. As the car bringing the groom to the bride’s door draws up, assistants light firecrackers, and the air is filled with the happy noise of small explosions and pulsating music. Following any additional prescriptions thought to insure a bright future for the couple, the bride and groom then proceed to the family altar. There they first offer incense to their ancestors. What follow are the so called san bai, “the three bows.” The bridal couple first bows deeply to the deities above. They then bow respectfully to both sets of parents. The final bow is to one another, an acknowledgement that they are husband and wife. The wedding finishes with “entering the bridal chamber”—a ritualistic entrance of the couple to their private quarters.
With the completion of these marriage rituals, the bride is then officially acknowledged a member of the family.

Disturbance of the Bridal Chamber (nau dong fang) - - After worshipping the ancestors and feasting at the wedding banquet comes the widely enjoyed ritual of nau dong fang, “disturbance of the bridal chamber.” In this ritual, close friends of the bride and groom make a show of appearing uninvited and in a party mood at the door of the couple’s bedroom. This scene is probably familiar to movie-goers. Among the examples is Director Ang Lee’s depiction in The Wedding Banquet. Records from historical annals that go as far back as the Han dynasty attest to the endurance of this good-natured frivolity.

 

Discussion questions:

  1. Human beings go through many rituals in each stage of their lives. What meanings do these rituals have?
  2. Please state and explain how Chinese culture views the concept of “birthdays.”
  3. Have you ever attended a Taiwanese wedding? What did you think of it? Would you like to attend a foreign wedding? Why?
  4. Other than birthdays and wedding, what kinds of ceremonies do Chinese people have?
  5. The standard color of the Chinese wedding is red, and the standard color of Chinese funeral is white. Please compare the meanings of these two colors in Chinese and Western culture.
  6. Choose a single Western country and compare and contrast its wedding ceremony with the standard Taiwanese wedding ceremony.
  7. Many movies and television shows use rituals that celebrate life as plot themes. Please give an example of one such movie or program and explain how life ceremony is presented in the plot.

     
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