Marriage of the Xinh Mun
The Xinh Mun, a Mon-Khmer language group, lives in the northern mountainous provinces of Son La, Dien Bien and Lai Chau with a population of over 23,000.

>>“Xinh Mun” ethnos – its customs and practices

Ta Thi Tam

Ethnology Institute

The Xinh Mun, a Mon-Khmer language group, lives in the northern mountainous provinces of Son La, Dien Bien and Lai Chau with a population of over 23,000.

Xinh Mun is transcribed from K’sing Mul, which means mountain people.

Marriage of the Xinh Mun goes through various formalities which bear typical cultural traits of the group. A Xinh Mun marriage comprises four main steps, namely the proposal ceremony, the engagement ceremony, the matrilocal ceremony and the wedding ceremony.

Proposal ceremony (noong khoam)

A man who wishes to marry a woman will ask his parents to find a matchmaker (po su) to propose the marriage for him. A matchmaker must be a person who is smooth-tongued and prestigious in the village and leads a happy and well-off family. On a good date chosen by the man’s family, which must be an even-numbered date, the matchmaker, the man and representatives of his family bring to the woman’s family a rooster and a bottle of wine as offerings for the proposal. Receiving the offerings, the woman’s family invites the man’s family to a meal during which the two sides discuss and choose a date for the engagement ceremony.

On the night before the date of proposal, if a member of the man’s family hears the roar of a tiger or the howl of an animal or sees a fallen fence in his dream, which is believed a bad omen, the man’s family is supposed to put off the proposal ceremony.

Engagement ceremony (manh khoam)

The engagement ceremony is for the two families to discuss and decide on the betrothal money and presents as well as the time for holding the matrilocal ceremony. The engagement ceremony is usually held several weeks after the proposal ceremony. Representatives of the man’s family and the matchmaker take to the woman’s family betel and areca, poonah-paper, wine and two pairs of chickens as the offerings for the spirits of the woman’s family. They also bring presents for the bride, including a dress, a headdress, a belt, two silver bracelets and a set of butterfly-shaped buttons.

When the man’s family arrives, the woman’s family makes offerings to its spirits to inform them and pray for their support for a happy marriage. After the offering ritual, the woman’s family offers wine to the man’s and the two families talk about the date for the matrilocal ceremony, wedding presents and betrothal money.

Matrilocal ceremony (du bi khuoi or song khuoi)

This ceremony is held either late or early in a lunar year. The man’s family, comprising the matchmaker and his wife, the groom and his relatives and friends, offers the bride’s family a pig, a chicken, sticky rice and 50 liters of wine which will be used for making an offering meal to the spirits of her family. The wedding presents also include 12 arm lengths of white cloth, a pair of dresses, a pair of bodices, a pair of silver bracelets, one set of butterfly-shaped buttons and 100 silver coins as the betrothal money.

At this ceremony, the matchmaker conducts a ritual to offer the wedding presents to the spirits of the bride’s family, praying for their support for the new couple and asking for their permission to change the family name of the bride after her husband’s. According to Xinh Mun custom, if a bride does not go through this formality, her oldest son must hold this ceremony after her death.

After the formality to change the family name for the bride, the groom’s family hands over the betrothal money to the bride’s. This formality is followed by another to coil up the bride’s hair, before which a ritual must be conducted to conjure up the spirit of the bride so that it can recognize her after she wears her chignon. The person coiling up the bride’s hair is the matchmaker’s wife or an elderly woman who has many children. The bride has her hair coiled up in the presence of the groom and the two families and will wear her chignon all her life. When her husband dies, she will not wear her chignon for two months and then has her hair coiled up again if she has a son. If not, she will no longer wear a chignon until she gets married again.

Then comes the formality to join blankets for the new couple in which the blankets of the bride and groom are attached together in the presence of the two families.

Then the bride’s family treats the groom’s family, its own relatives and villagers a big party.

Five or seven days after the matrilocal ceremony, the couple returns to the husband’s home for a ritual to inform his family’s spirits of the marriage. Now starts the stay of the husband with his wife’s family which can last as long as 9-10 years. In some cases, the man stays with his wife’s family forever without holding a wedding ceremony.

Wedding ceremony (cho doong)

As the matrilocal stay draws to an end, the matchmaker visits the bride’s family, saying thank you and discussing the wedding day as well as bridal presents which usually double those offered in the matrilocal ceremony. The wedding is held in the bride’s family, after that the bride is escorted to her husband’s home.

The wedding comprises several formalities, including making wedding offerings to the bridal family’s spirits, asking her family’s permission for taking the bride to her husband’s home and calling for the spirits of the new couple.

Before leaving for her husband’s home, the bride is given by her parents dowry including clothing, jewelry, blanket, cushion, pillow and other presents for the couple such as knife, dishware, cattle and poultry. Before leaving, the bride’s family applies three marks of soot on the groom’s face while the groom’s family does so with the bride in the belief that the spirits of the bride and groom can recognize and follow the couple to the husband’s home. The two families then throw rice husk to one another to wish for happiness for the couple. On the way to the husband’s home, the bride and groom each bring along a stalk for drinking wine, which is a symbolic sword to protect them from evil spirits. Arriving home, the couple drinks wine with the stalks which are put crosswise. After that, the stalks are stuck to the roof of the room of the couple to protect them.

Several days after the wedding, the couple and the matchmaker bring thank-you gifts to the wife’s family which include wine, square sticky rice cakes and chicken. In return, the wife’s family prepares the same presents for the couple to bring home.-

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