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Betrothal Presents

The giving of betrothal presents is one of the six steps involved in a feudal marriage. The presents are given by the bridegroom family to the bride family with the type of presents varying depending on the region. This custom has a very long history which dates back to ancient times. It is recorded that in the old ages, birds and animals were often typical betrothal gifts, as was beer. Later in time, deerskin became a popular present and by the Song Dynasty, tea had grown in popularity and hence it replaced animals as the most popular betrothal present. Even if the family is rich or not, tea is considered to be an essential gift. The bride's family also often uses it as the present given in return. In some places, drinking tea is the most important activity during a wedding ceremony. Other daily supplies like fabric, wine and poultry are also normal betrothal presents.


There are eight requisite betrothal presents: a comb, ruler, cashbox, scale, mirror, gauge box, scissors and abacus. The comb symbolises the married couple will love each other even when their hair turns gray. A ruler, a measuring tool, is used as a measurement of happiness. The cashbox is usually for the bride to save not only money, but her beloved treasures as well. The scale is mainly used to lift the bride's red veil. The mirror stands for completeness and is symbolic of the timeless beauty of the bride. The gauge box is used to measure grains but has ritually become the symbol for prosperity and constant wealth with the bride's family hoping their daughter will go on to live a prosperous and comfortable life. When people make their own clothes, they usually use scissors when cutting the fabric therefore the reason behind the scissors is to help make the couple's outfits. The abacus served as the calculator in ancient times, and symbolised planning of their future.