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Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Red?(Beginner)

Nov. 7, 2012

Key Learning Points (Preview):

结婚礼服(jié hūn lǐ fú): n. wedding gown


喜事(xǐshì): n. refers to weddings and any happy events


被子(bèizi): n. quilt


It is common knowledge in the Western world that brides on their wedding day wear something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Each of these four "somethings" represents a hope for luck and happiness in the upcoming marriage. Every culture has its own version of these wedding "somethings," the items, colors, and traditions that are meant to bring about a happy, successful union. Here you will see some examples of what these "somethings" are in Chinese culture.

In the West there is "something blue," but in China, if one is celebrating a happy event, or 喜事(xǐshì), 红色(hóngsè) is the color to use. One of the most important 喜事(xǐshì) in a person's life is their wedding day. On this day, the family of the bride and groom mark their doors with the character 囍() in red. This character is called 双喜(shuāng xǐ), double happiness, and it is the most common symbol of love and marriage. Wedding ceremonies have become very westernized in many Chinese cities, but the wedding banquet remains a more traditional Chinese setup and is always decorated in red, including the walls and the red carpet 红地毯(hóng dìtǎn). Packages wrapped in red paper with the 囍() character are common. Wedding banquets are usually held at a hotel, so the bridal bedroom is also decorated, with red sheets, quilts 被子(bèizi), and pillows. Even red roses, which were not traditionally found in Chinese wedding ceremonies, are these days used to decorate the car escorting the bride to the bridegroom’s house.

All of these elements are incomplete without the traditional wedding gown, 结婚礼服(jié hūn lǐ fú), which is made of luxurious red fabrics and is famous for its detailed embroidery. However, many fashionable young men and women prefer to wear Western style wedding clothes. But, no matter how modern or fashionable the wedding ceremony is, red is still the color of choice. Even if the bride wore a white wedding dress during the ceremony, she would still wear a red cheongsam at the wedding banquet.

You may wonder why Chinese people are so fond of red. In ancient China, people believed that fire could frighten away monsters and evil spirits. Gradually they used the color red instead of actual fire to keep bad spirits away. Red has since become a lucky and auspicious color in China, the perfect color for happy occasions.

So, don’t forget to use red when you want to give your Chinese friends a gift. No need to choose a gift from a shop, just prepare a red envelope with money in it and write your best wishes on the envelope.  This is what we call a “红包(hóngbāo).” Take it with you and go to a modern Chinese wedding ceremony with us in the next issue.

Key Learning Points

结婚礼服(jié hūn lǐ fú): Wedding gown.


Xīnniáng chuān zhe jié hūn lǐ fú kàn qǐ lái hěn piàoliang.
新娘        穿       着   结 婚   礼服 看  起 来 很     漂亮。


The bride looks beautiful in the wedding dress.

喜事(xǐshì): This usually refers to weddings but it can also be used to talk about any happy event.


Jiéhūn shì rénshēng zuì dà de xǐshì.
结婚    是     人生       最  大 的 喜事。


Marriage is the most joyous occasion of one's life.

被子(bèizi): In English this means quilt. It is one of the most important dowries in Chinese culture.


Xīnniáng de bèizi shì hóngsè de.
新娘       的  被子 是   红色     的。


The bride's quilt is red.

Got questions? Take a Free 1-on-1 live online lesson with our professional teachers from China.


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