Ta Thi Tam
Marriage of the Mang, a small Mon-Kh’mer language group living in the northwestern mountainous provinces of Lai Chau and Dien Bien, bears unique traits.
Mang people are free to choose their partners but are not supposed to marry members of their own clan. But two brothers can marry two sisters of the same family.
A Mang ideal husband must have good health and be skilled in farming while a perfect wife is supposed to be gentle, hardworking and good at housework.
When a young couple falls in love, the boy asks his parents to visit the girl’s family to make a proposal which marks a new period for the relation between the couple and their families.
The boy’s family then selects two men and a woman as matchmakers who will take the main charge in carrying out bridal formalities, from the proposal, engagement to wedding ceremonies.
The proposal ceremony is usually conducted in September or October after harvesting time. First of all, the boy’s family sends a male matchmaker to the girl’s family to seek their consent for holding the proposal ceremony.
After selecting a good date which must fall neither on the date of death of the boy’s parent (if any) nor on his date of birth, the boy’s family visits the girl’s to make the proposal. This visit must be paid in the afternoon and put off if on the way the boy’s family sees a snake or hears the howl of a muntjac. If the visit is postponed, the family has to ask a sorcerer to choose another date.
Arriving the girl’s home, the matchmakers stand at the stairway, asking if the family has any taboo for guests. If not, the two male matchmakers will enter the house through the main entrance door to talk with the girl’s father while the female matchmaker will come in through the sub-entrance door to meet the girl’s mother, discussing about wedding formalities.
Before a wedding, the groom’s family must pay three proposal visits to the bride’s. The first aims to get to know about the bride’s family. The second seeks to tighten the ties between the two families. The third is to decide on the time of matrilocal residence for the groom.
After these visits, the family of the groom chooses a good date for him to start his matrilocal stay which can last between three and five years. The bride’s family kills a chicken and conducts a ceremony to officially accept its son-in-law. After that, it invites relatives of both families to a party. During his stay, the groom must get involved in all affairs of his wife’s family. A groom who does not stay with his wife’s family must offer the latter five or six silver coins and some pigs and chickens.
When the matrilocal residence is over, the groom’s family, represented by the matchmakers and the groom himself, visits the bride’s, asking for the latter’s permission to take the bride home. At this ceremony, the two families reach agreement on the date for bringing the bride home and the wedding offerings which usually include a pig, nine chickens and three silver coins.
The rite to bring the bride to the groom’s family must be conducted in the afternoon. Heading for the bride’s home, the groom’s party includes two persons carrying the pig, another two carrying the chickens, the chief matchmaker bringing the silver coins and the groom and his relatives. Welcoming the groom’s family, the bride’s offers two jars of wine and then kills two chickens to conduct a ceremony allowing its son-in-law to bring his wife home. After this ceremony, the two families have a meal together, drinking wine and singing all night long.
Early next morning, with the help of relatives and villagers, the bride’s family prepares a big feast to which all villagers and the groom’s family are invited. In the afternoon, the bride is accompanied by an odd number of her relatives and friends to her husband’s home. Before she leaves, her parents conduct a home-cleaning rite in the wish that all the best will follow the bride to her husband’s home. The bride’s parents are not supposed to accompany their daughter in the belief that such will not bring in luck for her new life. The bride brings with her blankets, clothing, home utensils, wine jars and other farming tools or even cattle and poultry if she comes from a well-off family.
Arriving her husband’s home, the bride is welcomed at the foot of the stairway by her parents-in-law who offer three cups of wine to every person accompanying the bride. When stepping on the stairs, each person is again invited another three cups of wine. The wine offering shows the groom family’s gratitude to the people accompanying its daughter-in-law. Entering the house, all accompanying persons must wash their feet in a pot of hot water placed in the middle of the house in the belief that all misfortunes they might meet on the way will be cleaned up. After this formality, accompanying members each drink another three cups of wine. The groom’s family also kills chickens and offers each accompanying member a chicken head, a symbolic act to pray for peace and happiness for them.
The next day, the groom’s family holds a wedding and another party the day after to see off bridal family members. In this party, both families drink two jars of ruou can (rice wine). After the bride’s family leaves, the groom’s family drinks wine again in a formality to clean the house.
Twelve days after the wedding, the couple visits the bride’s, bringing a chicken and some rice as the offering, to thank them for raising up the bride.
If the wife dies shortly after the marriage, the husband’s family has to pay some silver coins to her family. When a woman dies, her husband can marry her younger sister or when a man dies, his younger brother can marry his wife. A widow can marry another man provided such marriage is permitted by her parents-in-law and her children will stay with the paternal family. Her new husband’s family must give her old husband’s family all the offerings previously given to her family. The new couple can also receive some property from the old husband’s family.-