Marriage among the Bulang


When Bulang young people are 15 or 16 years old, they carry out a rite of passage known as Poke among the Bulang of Xishuangbanna. After the young men return home after spending some time in the Buddhist temple, they begin to play musical instruments, especially the sanxiang and the tanqing and to sing songs of love. Together they visit girls of the same age in their houses. The girls dye their teeth with a darkened wood from the time of the Festival of Closing the Doors to the time of the Festival of Opening the Doors. The boys have already done the same in the temple. When young people have colored teeth it is understood that they can begin to talk of love.

Usually a group of girls are embroidering together at dusk, waiting for the boys that will arrive with their music in small groups, generally of three or four, but sometimes even ten. The boys greet the parents of the girls that welcome them. The parents are happy because their daughter has many suitors. The boys sit near the fire to talk with them, singing and playing musical instruments. When it seems that a girl begins to harmonize well with one of the boys, they begin a song dialogue, by means of which they ask different questions that the other will answer. The other boys, seeing that the girl does not pay attention to them, get bored and leave to visit other houses, leaving the couple alone to sing and talk by the fire.

Later on they will set an appointment in the forest or on the mountain. When they have made a commitment, the girl announces it by wearing flowers of white osmanthus in her hair. If they decide to marry, the boy sends emissaries to the girl's parents on his behalf, which are rejected several times to demonstrate that their daughter should be well treated. They finally accept him.

They begin to spend nights together and, after a period of one year, they should celebrate the wedding. It is necessary to choose a favorable day, usually in the 4th, 6th or 8th month of the Dai calendar. Before the marriage the bridegroom gives tobacco to the chief of the village and informs him of the impending marriage. The following day a pig is sacrificed to invite everybody in the village. They then invite the chiefs to the house of the parents, and offerings are brought to the Buddhist temple. The girl says goodbye to her previous boyfriends and other friends.

For the first three years after the wedding the husband still works in his house, but spends the night with his wife, who continues to live with her parents. If everything goes well, they have a second wedding, and the husband returns to his house with his wife and the children that she has borne during these 3 years. But, if they think that the wedding is not harmonious, they can separate.

After the second wedding the wife is taken to the husband's house, and from then on she belongs to his family. After three more years, the couple can form an independent family for themselves.

The Bulang always marry people outside their clan. They practice monogamous marriage. But they have freedom of marriage and divorce.
A divorce can be settled during any phase of this extended matrimonial process. Usually they kill a pig and invite the children of the village, who then walk the streets shouting: "So-and-so has gotten divorced."

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