Traditional marriage of the Aini - Akha

 

The Aini-Akha is the best known branch of the Hani nationality. In China, called Aini, they live in the south of Yunnan, from Xishuangbanna Prefecture to Menglian County, in an arch of soft mountains, sometimes covered with forest, where the life is really hard. Their language is different to other Hani languages. They are called Akha outside China.

Their marriage had some special characteristics; most of them have already disappeared with the arrival of the modernity.

In the first place, among the Aini, when the boys reached puberty age, they usually moved to live in a small hut near their parents' home. Among other peoples living around the Akha, are not the boys, but the girls, who letf their parents house. This hut, usually built with the parents' help, was called the "Flowers' Room". It was the place where the boy slept, alone, or when fortunate, with a lover. It was the center of the sexual freedom the young Akha enjoyed in the past. During the first year after marriage, the newlyweds also lived in the "Flowers' Room". Only after one year they can move to the house of his parents or build a new house for themselves.

The wedding ceremony was carried on by a peimo or priest that formally bonded the couple in marriage. The crucial moment of the ceremony was very intimate, with only the bride, bridegroom and the priest in the room, and the guests waiting outside.

During the wedding ceremony the priest was usually dressed with red clothes, because the red color, symbol of life, was sacred to the Aini. (Among the Han Chinese and other minorities, it was the bride who was dressed in red). Before the priest a cooked egg, a glass of rice wine and a cup of tea were placed. The priest took first the egg, and he gave it to the bridegroom, who passed it to the bride. After a while she gave it back to the bridegroom, who peeled it, and divided it in three pieces, which all they shared.

After finish this ceremony, the peimo usually sang some auspicious songs, mixed the egg with wine and tea, and ate up it.

The next step was to give the bride a cooked chicken leg. She will eat a little and give the rest to the bridegroom, who will eat it completely. After the peimo proclaimed that the marriage had been blessed by the gods, and they three left the room to receive the congratulations of relatives and friends.

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