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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
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London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Modernity and the Transformation of Marriage Customs

With Professor Shu-Ling Horng (National Taiwan University)

Series:  London Taiwan Seminar

Date: Thursday 21 February 2008, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Room 116, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Chair: Mr Stuart Thompson (Taiwan Culture Research Programme)


In the 1920s and 1930s, Taiwanese folk songs were transcribed and published in booklets known as 'Ge Zi Ce', and these remained popular until the 1970s. The booklets allow us to explore the folk culture and customs of Taiwan in the early- and mid-twentieth century, and this paper focuses on one particular 'Ge Zi Ce', entitled Drinking the Bride's Tea and Saying Four Blessing Sentences. It is an old custom that when a bride gives a cup of tea to a guest, the guest must drink it and then in return give a red envelope and pronounce four sentences of blessing. Drinking the Bride's Tea provides information about appropriate blessings: the guests should praise the bride for her healthy body and express hope that she will bear healthy sons, they should praise her for being clever and docile, and they should exhort her to obey her husband and parents-in-law. However, we can also see how Drinking the Bride's Tea expresses modernity and the transformation of customs, as the bride comes to be praised for her education or fashionable hair-style, and so on. Other examples of 'Ge Zi Ce' show other changes concerning the wedding ceremony or how the bride is to be received, and so show us the change of society in the 1930s. This paper will consider several examples in detail, and draw contrasts with ancient customs.

About the speaker

Professor Shu-ling Horng has a PhD in Chinese Literature from the National Taiwan University, and she is currently a professor in the NTU's Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature and in the Department of Chinese, where she specialises in Chinese and Taiwanese folk literature. In the past few years, she has undertaken research into numerous projects which connect Women's Studies with Chinese folk culture, and she is now working on a project concerning folk culture and modernity in relation to Taiwanese folk songs. She has published A Study of The Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden and A Study of the Folk Image of Kuan-Kung: folk literature and women in the Kuan-Kung ;egends (both in Chinese).