China’s wedding hazing trend leaves bridesmaids bloodied and bruised. Picture: Weibo
China’s wedding hazing trend leaves bridesmaids bloodied and bruised. Picture: Weibo

Dangerous, bloody wedding ritual

AXES, blood and public humiliation might not be typically associated with Western weddings but in China hazing rituals have made them a matter-of-course.

A video of a groom who smashed a glass door with an axe and sent shards flying into the faces of the three bridesmaids last week went viral.

It was part of a wedding day rite to help the groom enter a house and pick up his bride. Instead the bridal party and videographer were left wounded as blood dripped from their faces.

The viral clip showed that other members of the wedding party cheered until they realised the victims had been injured.

But it wasn't an isolated incident.

The traditional Chinese custom of hunnao, or wedding hazing, is a practice originally meant to expel evil spirits that has devolved into assault. In some cases the bride is forced to mime sexual acts with the groom. In others, even the groom's parents become a target of practical jokes - being forced to put on humiliating costumes.

The revelry is meant to create a fun, carnival atmosphere for the bridal party and has remained popular despite widespread criticism.

Late last month, a groom in Tianjin passed out after several guests set off dry powder extinguishers aimed at him on his way to the bride's home, according to another video circulating online, the South China Morning Post reported.

The hazing tradition dates back to the year 960. Picture: Weibo
The hazing tradition dates back to the year 960. Picture: Weibo

The man collapsed into a relative's arms after inhaling too much powder, the newspaper reported. Onlookers feared he was dying but he eventually got back on his feet and continued on his way to his bride's home.

Bridal hazing has stirred controversy in recent years after numerous reports of the pre-wedding games descending into physical and sexual abuse.

In another video clip from a ceremony held in Sanqing village, a crowd is seen surrounding a bridesmaid and spraying her with coloured foam. One man begins pulling at her dress.

A man then takes a fire extinguisher and blasts the bridesmaid in her face.

In June this year, a video of a visibly uncomfortable bridesmaid being groped by groomsmen in a vehicle in northwestern China's Shaanxi province prompted questions about the pre-wedding activities.

The assault triggered a public outcry and the offenders were later sentenced to detention for sexual assault.

Guangzhou-based feminist writer Hou Hongbin described wedding hazing as "sexualised revelry".

Ms Hou said that in ancient China, young people were not educated about sex so hazing allegedly offered clues about what awaited them on their wedding night.

Meng Jun, who manages the wedding organiser Sunny Xipu in Zibo, Shandong province, where hazing is keenly observed, said it had become increasingly difficult to find a bridesmaid in the city because of the fear that sexualised banter at weddings had instilled in young women.

"A few years ago the targets of hazing in Zibo were mainly bridesmaids who were often single and shy," she said. "But many were offended, not only verbally, but physically. So now we start to play the jokes on grooms."

Bridesmaids are often targets in the wedding hazings. Picture: Weibo
Bridesmaids are often targets in the wedding hazings. Picture: Weibo

She said the common practice locally was to tie a groom to a tree in the street and force him to sing or wear funny outfits.

"As an organiser, we believe that this helps inject a happy tone to their big days. But if it's too much, we will stop them," she said. The bottom line is that "they don't get hurt, either physically or emotionally".

Today, friends often pass along the practice from one wedding to another to repay what is perceived as a debt of gratitude.

Wedding hazing in China is increasingly going too far. Picture: Weibo
Wedding hazing in China is increasingly going too far. Picture: Weibo

"For example, a man may ask his friend to allow obscene acts to [be done to] the bridesmaids at the latter's wedding, on grounds that when he marries, he provides an opportunity for the latter to do similar things," Hou said.

The tradition of hazing dates back to at least the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). The Chicken Ribs Collection, or Ji Lei Bian, a collection of historical stories and contemporary anecdotes by Zhuang Chuo, described the proceedings of a wedding at which a bride sat in her bridal chamber and tried to not take offence at any ribald commentary or touching by male guests.

Fudan University anthropologist Pan Tianshu said lewd banter and rough-housing were traditionally common elements of weddings in China but the extent of the hazing varied from one area to another.



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