Before I start my article, here is an eye-opening video of different marriage traditions of varies ethnic groups in China. China has 56 ethnic groups, among which 91.59% are Han, and the rest 8.41% are people of the other 55 ethnic groups(according to the Fifth National Population Census of the People’s Republic of China in 2000). Different ethnic groups have different customs. In Chinese history, the ethnic group of the ruling party accounts for the etiquette across the country. For example, during Qing Dynasty, the ruling family is Man ethnic group(满族), thus the costume style and accessory style, as well as the customs they practice all go according to Man traditions.
Video source: YouTube channel no009<Documentary-Amazing Marriage Customs-China Anthropology 101> Published on 25th October 2013
To stick to my topic of jewelry, let’s look at the accessory aspect of these wedding traditions.
5’15”–“Usually bride’s veil is lifted after the ceremony, but here the bride uncovers her face before the ceremony starts. That is when the bride and the groom first set eye on each other.”The red veil is a tradition and rule in ancient China, which also contains the element of surprise–although back then it probably wasn’t the main purpose.
33’14”–The Ainis of Xishuangbanna, is a branch of Hani ethnic group. 34’35”–Their costumes are designed to show off their most important features. They use silver, ribbon and lace, as well as nature objects such as flower seeds, shells, and even beetles. The girls will process the beetles before wearing them on hair. When girl reaches the age of 18, she wears yellow cap; married girls wear black caps.(Use accessory to represent their status and identity)
1:09’30” when Ethinc group Miao(苗族) girls and guys are looking for partner, the boys will blow Sheng(芦笙), a traditional music instrument, while the girls dance around them. If a girl likes a boy, she will put her necklace onto the his Sheng. Miao people adore and are professional in silver jewelries because the region is abundant in silver. Even to date, many Chinese people and tourist of other countries visit Miao district and purchase silver accessories. During wedding day, Miao girls wear a great amount of silver jewelries on them, usually the more the merrier, to show the good blessing.
However, Miao is only a minority ethnic group in China. Majority of the Chinese nowadays are Han people, which traditionally uses gold jewelries, red wedding gowns, etc, as we seen in many Chinese movies and drama.
Nowadays there are still some jewelry related traditions in Chinese wedding.
For example, in Cantonese traditions, there is hair combing ceremony(梳头shutou). Hair combing session expressed the bless of female family members to the couple:
一梳、梳到尾(First combing, blessed to be together to the end)
二梳、百年好合(Second combing, blessing for a hundred years of harmony in your marriage)
三梳、子孙满堂(Third combing, be blessed with a houseful of children and grandchildren)
四梳、白发齐眉(Fourth combing, be blessed with longevity)
A sweet dessert soup containing pink glutinous-rice balls(汤圆pinyin: tangyuan, Cantonese:tongyuhn) is served after the hair combing ceremony to wish the couple a complete and sweet marriage.
In Teochew traditions, 四点金si dian jin(four pieces of gold)is an important part of betrothal gift to the bride. Usually the four pieces of gold jewelries are necklace, a pendent or ring, a pair of earrings and a bangle. It is selected by the groom’s mother and is presented to the bride durng the tea ceremony(when the groom arrives at bride’s house to fetch her).Usually, the design of the Si Dian Jin is cloud patterns, phoenix, dragon, and some suapicious floral designs, indicating that the groom and bride are heavenly couple like dragon and phoenix (龙凤配)。
Si Dian Jin id the name of a traditional architecture style, a four-pointed curved roof found in traditional homes. The jewelries symbolizes a blissful union in a secure home.
Gold jewelries with red wedding gowns create a very vivid, vibrant and auspicious atmosphere in Chinese wedding. Red is for joyful occasions in the culture, and gold is a symbol of wealth, fortune. In fact gold jewelries are still so popular during wedding in modern China, as a way to respect to customs, also a way to show off wealth. In some part of GuangDong province in China, “Golden Bride” has become increasingly popular. On the wedding day, the bride is adorned with excessive gold jewelries such as necklaces, bracelets, bangles, rings, ankle chains, etc. From far the bride would look like a girl made of gold, thus is called “golden bride”. Besides showing off the wealth, this also symbolizes “locking up” the bride so the bride will not run away and will be obedient in the groom’s family.
As we can see here, the gold bangles are wore as necklece on the bride. The accessories are not meant to make the bride visually beautiful anymore, it is a mean to show wealth, to attract auspicious vibes, even the jewelries may not make the girl look objectively prettier or elegant. The family just pile up everything they can onto the girl, to make her look burdened, clumsy, as they believe this is good for the marriage.
The double joy“囍”
The double joy character is so iconic and recognizable that one sight you know it is a Chinese style wedding. You can find countless different designs of the double joy on internet. During Chinese New Year, Chinese families paste inverted “福(good vibes)” in and outside their house. During Chinese weddings, Chinese families paste 囍. Although it is not a piece of jewelry in wedding, it could be cooperated into the elements of jewelries.
SINGAPOREBRIDES.com https://singaporebrides.com/articles/2000/11/combing-the-hair-and-other-chinese-wedding-traditions/ last access 1st September 2016
Weddingplannersingapore.net http://weddingplannersingapore.net/wedding-planning-101/traditional-chinese-wedding-guide/hair-combing-ritual-shang-tou/ last access 1st September 2016
Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_pre-wedding_customs last access 1st September 2016
Gold, dragons, phoenix, all these elements can clearly show the sense of “Chinese”. However, it also shows some cliche, and may not be suitable for younger generation. Take myself as an example, I would not wear a gold accessory with dragon and phoenix because it makes me look outdated, old-fashioned, and overly mature. If I want my designs to be accepted by younger generation who pursuit fashion and style, the jewelry must not look “old”. It can have the elements of traditional Chinese style but it should not look totally traditional–in other words, it should express tradition in a modern way. All the wedding jewelries and Si Dian Jin available now in jewelry shops are meant to be worn during wedding, not as a fashion accessory, which is a challenge that I want to overcome.
Here is some jewelry brand and design that I personally like. They may not be very relevant to the idea of traditional Chinese style but they can give me inspirations on jewelry designs, sensual designs, and how jewelries can make the owner pretty, elegant, or sexy, instead of just being a beautiful jewelry itself. The act of wearing the jewelry pieces can bring both the jewelry and the person alive. I admire how they combine different texture or material together, each brand has its own unique style and characteristics, and how they complement user’s overall aura.
Jennifer Meyer has amazing details in her designs. Although the designs are simple and small, they are extremely elegant and sexy. Very fine diamond paved pendant with turquoise instantly attract people’s attention. The striking color of the natural material combined with gold gives a high class yet casual feeling.
Ippolita makes great use of different gems and its intriguing light reflection characteristics. The designs are so fancy because of the transparency of the stones, and the range of colors in one design. Weither is contrasting color or similar tones, they are all so well combined to please one’s eye. The precious gem and their light transparency make the jewelry “breathable”, visually light, and gives the atmosphere of delight.
Fine curvy lines with micro paved diamond simply makes an haute-couture, high-fashion kind of statement. The design is so delicate that it maximize the elegance and sexiness of human body. The design is also very visually light, emphasizes all the desirable female traits. Of course, diamonds are girls’ best friends.
Stephen Webster have wild and brave designs. The designs always take inspirations from fairy tales, animals, plants, and the designer is not afraid of using bold colors. It has Disney Story collections, sea creature collections. The designs are very recognizable, with designers’ great master over colored stones, the ombre designs are so well paved that you almost cant realize that they are individual embed stones. Every his design looks like having a story to tell.
I like how the designer plays the idea of void, making use of the empty space to create the lightness and tension for the jewelry. This is very prominent when the jewelries are worn, as can see from the image below, the jewelry “floats” on fingers and ears, in a very elegant and demure way. The smooth and sexy curves of the designs also make it very appealing on and off human body.
Kimberly McDonald’s jewelries are simply mesmerizing. Geode, Opal, Calcite, Aquamarine…All the fancy colored natural stones with their organic shape, sit inside the ‘halo’ of micro diamond, it is the amalgamation of disorder and order, natural and artificial. Moreover, the diamond halo sometimes are of different sizes, definitely gives me some surprise. There is some playfulness in the design, and something that is so attractive that makes me cant take my eyes off the pieces. It is almost like there is a universe in each of its jewelry.
Irene Neuwirth plays a lot with colors and opals. It has some designs that are similar with Kimberly McDonald. However, Irene Neuwirth can be more youthful. One of the iconic designs is its color gradient necklaces.
Jacquie Aiche is pure sexiness. The jewelries are so small but they speak so loud. A little bit goes a long way. Just a little details glorifies the beauty of skin and body, the subtle sparkles creates mystery and sophisticated aura.
Qeelin is a great example of the combination of eastern elements witrh western material. Diamond is obviously not something traditional Chinese jewelry uses. However, designer uses micro pave method and put diamond onto traditional Chinese motifs, objects, such as lion-dance lion, bells, Chinese coins, Chinese lock, hulu(gourd), Chinese Zodiac. Although the subject matters are very traditional, the overall design is still versatile and fashionable, maybe due to it’s small size and the not-over-yellowish-gold color. This brand is now very popular in China and among celebrities, as it is very recognizable, youthful, playful and shows our Chinese identity.
Aimee Sun, Yun Yun Sun, is a Taiwanese Socialite and entrepreneur. She started her jewelry lines as a hobby and designs very interesting, unique pieces. My favorite collection is her Nonsense collection, as show below. She make many different sentences directly into necklace, ring, and earring. The sentences and words are far from formal. There are many necklaces from other designers says”hello””Happiness” or some popular slogan, but those are so cliche and commonly seen. I always want something more “me”, more naughty, more playful and makes deeper impression on people. This is the collection where I found myself, find something that can represents me, not everyone. I have purchased dozens of her jewelry from nonsense collection and they do attract a lot of attentions and fun from my friends. More importantly, Yun Yun Sun uses Chinese words and sentences, which is rarely seen in any jewelry design. This brings out my Chinese identity efficiently. The Chinese sentences such as “不要一直偷看我(don’t keep peeping at me)”“有奶有脑(boobs and brain)”“我怎么可以这么美(How can I be so beautiful)” are the best statement of Chinese identity and personal characters, because obviously, the use of Chinese language and humor is all written in the small pieces.
All jewelry pictures above are from yun-yun-sun.com
Design is not copying, but design always needs inspiration. I wish I can take inspiration from modern designers and create something, as I mentioned many times, traditional yet fashionable and wearable…Although I am still currently overwhelmed by so much information and still finding my entry point..