I saw our friend today who had invited us to the Dungan wedding and asked her a few more questions about it that I and some others had wondered about. She said that the bride is 19 years old and that the marriage was arranged.
From what I understand, than is typical among the Dungan, and it’s certainly a major reason why the Dungan still exist as a cohesive group of people who speak Dungan and follow distinct customs. You can compare them to the Uighurs who often don’t speak Uighur, and have intermarried, especially with Uzbeks. I often meet Dungans, but I rarely meet someone who identifies as Uighur, even though many people have told me they have at least one Uighur grandparent.
I’ve thought a lot about the wedding since it happened. It was a unique experience since I was able to go with my husband, so we saw both perspectives on the wedding- the men’s and the women’s. At the time I wasn’t sure if everything was entirely traditional, or if they were following traditional customs, but the bride and groom knew each other.
Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable that the bride wasn’t in the room at all when the mullah performed the Nikah. I know it’s allowed for the bride’s father to give consent for her, but it still isn’t something I’m happy with. It also really bothered me to think about her being taken to her husband’s house blindfolded. As of the time I’d left his house, I still don’t think she had seen him (the rest of the women had). But to have your father give his consent for you to be married, and then to be blindfolded and taken away with someone you don’t know and can’t see just doesn’t sit well with me.
And I’m a little surprised that happens in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan. I’d expect in some other places not so far from here, but not so much in Tokmok. But like I said earlier, it’s resulted in a strong Dungan community. I just think there are other ways those ties could be created. And it's almost certainly better than the Kyrgyz "tradition" of bride kidnapping.