Throughout history, women have been treated as if they were belongings. Not only were rights given only to men, but those so called rights gave men power over women. The power relationships in the household of China started in the marriage negotiations, with the intricate dances of the gift exchanges and dowry, and continued on through the rest of the woman's life. The negotiations for the bride were conducted not with love, or feeling, or her interest in mind, but for the family, for the money, and for the benefits of marriage. An elaborate tradition whose roots were set in the ownership of women by men, marriage was often a cruel institution. The mistreatment did not end there. It continued on the wedding day, after the wedding day, and every day of the bride's life, a self-perpetuating cycle of pain and suffering that would not, could not, be brought to the surface.
Marriage played, and still plays, an integral part in Chinese culture. It did many things. It was a coming of age for both parties involved, especially the man. He could not be a true, grown man without first taking a wife. It unified distant families through promises of closer ties. Occasionally, a bride would even be given as a peace offering, a treaty between two warring states.
Usually brought together by a matchmaker, the two parties involved would engage in an elaborate gift giving ceremony. First, the groom would send the bride to be a cart with all sorts of fare, who, upon receiving this package, would send half of it back. Not only did the gift giving show off the wealth of each side, but the act of the female sending back half of what was sent to her showed how little her household needed the gifts. It showed off the wealth of her family and hopefully enticed the groom even more. She would then also send her suitor a package of her own, usually things grouped in twos, parts of it hand made, including cash strings, feminine embroidery, and pairs of gold fish in jars. Through all these traditional ceremonies and negotiations, the feeling was that of a trade. The woman played the role of a much sought after commodity, while the men and families bartered over her in a very polite manner. This could already start to feel a little belittling to the bride.
After the negotiations and traditions leading up to the wedding finish, the groom picks up his bride from her home town and takes her back to his village. The wife's family is not at all displeased at this time, because, if nothing else, the absence of their daughter is one less mouth to feed. At this point, she is not only feeling like an object, but also rather alone, as she has been separated from her family, with no one nearby she knows. Her support system is gone, and the only guidance she shall receive is that of her husband and of her mother in law, both of which are new faces to her. They then move on to the wedding.
The wedding is meant to be a rather happy experience, at least...