Love and Marriage among the Naxi

 

The young Naxi traditionally enjoyed freedom to meet and love people from the other sex. But unmarried people have forbidden keeping sexual relations. Pregnant girls are forced to abort; and their descendants, excluded from the family and society. If a deep feeling grew between a boy and a girl, it was difficult to reach a happy end, because usually the parents arranged their wedding when they were very young.

Before the communist reforms of 1956, there was a high index of suicides among Naxi youth. Most of these suicides were committed by young who, having violated the rigid rules of the unmarried couples, were afraid of the social stigma. The need to separate from the loved one, to marry the partner chosen by the parents pushed many young to the suicide.

When the lovers decided to suicide, they dressed their better clothes, and leave the village, some times to hang up themselves together in the same tree. They lost their life with the hope of being happy in the paradise.

Li Jinchun (1), himself a Naxi, has studied the evolution of the Naxi marriage during their history. An analysis of the kingship terms in Naxi language suggest that in remote times Naxi ancestors practiced a type of marriage quite free. Their society was, in these times, possibly, a matriarchal one. During the initial period of patriarchal society women still can marry more than once, enjoying a high degree of sexual freedom. Chinese influence, however, turned the institution of the marriage into a rigid prison to which the young Naxi have never got used.

Now the Naxi marriage is monogamous, patriarchal and arranged by the parents. The maternal uncles have the privilege to choose daughter-in-laws among their nieces. In Naxi society the maternal uncle is an all powerful persona, a vestige of the old matriarchal society.

The marriage is arranged by the parents from the time of their son's birth, with the help of fortune-tellers and matchmakers. When the spouses are thirteen or fourteen years old, it took place the small marriage. After it they start to know their new families. From then on they frequently visit one another, and about six or seven years later, they marry definitively.

(1) Li Jinchun.- Etnia Naxi de la región de Lijiang. En Yan Ruxian.- Matrimonio y familia de las etnias minoritarias de China. Beijing. 1991

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