Carpet-Wrapping Courting and Threading-Tying Marriage
The Dai young people are actually quite free in choosing their lovers. Both the crowded road to market and the spinning field with needfires, are good place for youngsters to look for their lovers. They always long for busy festivals, because various kinds of entertainment activities offer them great opportunities of choosing their lovers, as well as of dating. Pouch throwing in the Water-Splashing Festival is a traditional activity consisting of sport, entertainment and love seeking. Every year when the Water-Splashing Festival is coming, girls would sew a sort of diamond-shape embroidered pouch with cloth of different colors. There are cotton seeds in the pouches, and colorful fringes at the four corners and in the middle of the bottom. On the top, just in the middle, there is a line of a length over two feet. When playing the game of Couch-throwing, male and female teams are respectively led by their own leaders "Naichang" and "Naishao". Tow teams stand face-to-face about 20 meters away. At beginning, all throw casually without aiming. Those who cannot catch the pouch are losers, and would offer flowers or souvenir to the other. By and by, careful girls would not throw casually anymore, but aim especially at the one she likes. If the young man also likes her, then they would throw with each other. The girl throws high and far intentionally, while the young man pretends to miss it, sprightly goes to her to admit his "defeat", and send souvenir. Then they leave together.
The days of festivals, market gatherings and important religious activities provide best opportunities for young men to seek their spouses. They wrap themselves all up, except two eyes, and stand by the road to wait for the girls they love. If it is the first time to choose a girl, he would go over to open a conversation with his "target". If the girl agrees, he would wrap her together and go to a quiet place.
It is getting cool after the Open Door Festival, and people are not busy with farming. When dusk falls, the girls come to "Hanhong" - spinning field, in groups, carrying with them spinning wheels, bamboo stools, as well as tobacco, betel nuts and other fruits. At this time, the young men singing and fluting, come over without any invitation. They come to squat beside the needfire, talking and laughing with the girls, and move closer and closer to their girls. If the girl has no similar feeling, she would politely refuse, or intentionally make some weird sound on the wheel to speak for her. If she does, then she takes out the stool hidden under her skirt for him, and asks implicitly: "Did you have your rice with pumpkin or salt?" There is a proverb in Dai, saying "Having rice with pumpkin means satisfied and pleased with the girl, while having rice with salt means he comes to negotiate because he has difficulties." Therefore, if the answer is "with pumpkin", the girl would snuggle against the young man, who at the same time spread out his carpet and wrap up them two.
When the ideal spouse has been found through free courting, the parents of the male should ask a matchmaker to propose to the female family. Usually, marriage will be smoothly carried out. If agreement is not achieved, they will discuss together, and fulfill their wish at last by means of escaping, stealing or even robbing.
The marriage is usually held in the bride's. A bamboo table is set at the inner end of the central room, on which two cooked chicken, a cup of wine with betel leaf, as well as sticky rice, salt and white thread are set. The presider is seated at the most honorable place of the table, while the other relatives and friends sit around the table, close to him. Bride and groom kneel before the presider, who gives a congratulation speech, while others are listening with their right hands on the table, showing politeness. After the speech, bride and groom begin to run for the betel leave in the cup. Whoever gets it first will have a final say in the future family life. Then bride and groom separately pick up a dollop of sticky rice, and dip it in a cup of wine. Chicken and salt are also offered as sacrifice. After these, the presider picks up the white thread on the table, circles it over their backs and shoulders, and put the ends on the table again, implicating that their souls have already been fastened together, and they will live to their deaths in bliss together. Then the presider fastens the two short threads respectively to their wrists. At this time, others at the table all fasten threads to their wrists, and wish their love be as pure as water in Lancang River, and their life be as sweet as sugarcanes. After the thread-fastening ceremony, one of the two dishes of chicken is devoted to the presider, while the other is divided to other young men present, blessing them soon to get girls' love. At last, an old person was asked to knead the sticky rice into a triangle, and put it on the tripod of the fire pool, with salt on it. The rice gets burnt and falls by itself, which foretells a stable life and a solid love.