Chinese wedding traditions: 5. Formal ceremony – Bai tang(拜堂)

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In traditional Chinese wedding, on the wedding day, the couple also has a moment to express “I do”. In modern weddings, this very traditional part has been replaced by saying “I do”.

In the previous articles, I wrote that during the wedding day, the groom and his best men will go to fetch the bride from her parents’ place. Before they leave, the groom would offer tea to the parents to express his gratitude. After they arrive at the groom’s place, before they enter the well decorated wedding chamber, they would perform this “I do” ritual.

In Chinese this ritual is called Bai tang(拜堂), the couple has to perform three times kowtow/kotow.
To the heaven and earth, to the parents, and to each other.

What is Kowtow/kotow?
Kotow(叩头, Chinese pin yin Kou tou) is a borrowed Chinese word, it is a former Chinese custom of touching the ground with the forehead as a sign of respect or submission.

In the Chinese culture, in the old days, people with lower noble status would perform daily Kowtow to the higher status people, mostly happens in royal families.


Typically on a wedding day, the Kowtow is done after the bride enters the groom’s family, where the parents will sit in the leaving room facing the door.

1. Kowtow to the heaven and earth – 一拜天地
There is a very interesting Chinese legend story about heaven and earth, basically it says that thousands of years ago, the heaven and the earth is together, like an egg. A man called Pan Gu opened it with bare hands to separate the heaven and the earth, and also created the nature. Read more here.

On the wedding day, the couple needs to first kowtow to the heaven and earth, this is to pay respect to gods and ancestors.
If the ritual is happening on a modern wedding, the kowtow is adapted to a bow.


2. Kowtow to the parents – 二拜高堂
They also need to thank the parents for taking care of them until now.
kowtow to the parents

3. Kowtow to each other – 夫妻对拜
To show respect to each other, the couple will kowtow to each other.

Now the couple becomes husband and wife officially. Now the husband will bring the wife to the wedding chamber.

As you can see from the above pictures, the whole time the bride’s head is covered with her wedding veil, the veil will be revealed when the couple enters to the wedding chamber.

I will write the traditional ritual in the wedding chamber in my next post.

More about Chinese weddings:
0. Introduction
1. Wedding decorations
2. Gate crash
3. Tea ceremony
4. Chinese wedding outfit and Chinese sedan
5. Formal ceremony – Bai tang(拜堂)
6. Bridal chamber rituals
7. Wedding Proposal
8. Pre-wedding photo shooting(Behind the scenes)
9. Chinese wedding agency
10. Our wedding lunch menu
11. Our wedding program 1: Fetch the bride
12. Our wedding program 2: The lunch ceremony

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