In the ancient water town Zhouzhuang where rich history and cultural heritage attract millions of visitors every year, there’s a special way to enhance the experience – having a traditional Chinese water town wedding.
This grand marriage program allows visitors from all over the world to have a memorable classic Chinese style wedding, integratingthe unique and rich folk activities of Zhouzhuang that have passed from one generation to another for 900 years while at the same time embracing a modern way of life.
“People come to Zhouzhuang for its rich history and cultural diversity,” said Zhang Weiqing, general manager of Jiangsu Water-town Zhouzhuang Tourism Company. “We want to create a timeless experience for those who are interested in Chinese culture and traditions. A traditional Chinese wedding is not only an unforgettable memory, but also homage to our cherished traditions.”
The classic wedding ceremony starts with the groom escorting the bride by rowing a traditionally decorated Chinese fast boat – complete with gong and drum – to the dock. Following a formal ceremony hosted by a local wedding host, the couple will go to the back of the hall where the groom lifts the bride’s veil.
A signature activity of a typical water town wedding in Zhouzhuang is to walk the three bridges. Together with the folk music band, the bride and groom will embark on a tour from Ping Bridge to the Double Bridge and Fu’an Bridge. The names of these bridges respectively mean good fortune, harmony and happiness.
Then, the guests will get together at a house for a celebratory tea party where everybody can congratulate the newlyweds and enjoy good food, tea and live performances. The traditional music often played at wedding ceremonies in Zhouzhuang is a custom of Kunqu opera, which is 20 minutes of excerpts performed to liven up the party. Kunqu opera is the oldest traditional opera in China. Evolved from the Kunshan melody, it has been listed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 2001.
Performed in soft Suzhou dialect, Kunqu opera is a melodious and delicate form of art that best reflects the serene and pleasant lifestyle of Zhouzhuang. The most famous Kunqu plays include “The Peony Pavilion” and “The Peach Blossom Fan,” the first of which is particularly well-known throughout China.
In Zhouzhuang, visitors can easily find a Kunqu opera performance to attend during their stay, or even wear the costumes and learn a few tunes from master singers.
“Kunqu opera plays an important part in our everyday life, from celebrations like the water town wedding to leisure entertainment. Itbrings people together,” says Zhang. “It’s also one of Zhouzhuang’s cultural legacies which we want to carry forward. We aim to give more people the opportunity to enjoy this everlasting art that combines both stories and music.”