05 March 2011

Dungan Wedding

We were pleased to be invited to a Dungan wedding today. I’ll see how many photos I manage to get up.  My husband had the camera so there are very few photos of what I saw, but that’s okay. I sincerely hope the photos land in the right places in the description, but I really don't have much reason to hope.

Dungans are Chinese Muslims who have usually lived in Central Asia since the mid-to-late-1800s.  They still speak Chinese (Dungan) and they have kept many Chinese customs.  It was different to see people in Kyrgyzstan eating with chopsticks and speaking what sounded very Chinese to me.  Dungans are less likely to marry non-Dungans than, for example, Kyrgyz are to marry non-Kyrgyz.

We were invited by the bride’s aunt, so I was with the women from the bride’s family, and my husband was with the men from the family. I also had our three-year-old with me. The celebrations go on for at least three days, and this was the last day when the bride went to the groom’s house.

When we got there, I went inside the house with the women and ate some food (meat and vegetable stew, steamed buns, and carrot salad),
then went to see the bride getting ready.  When you have lots of people to feed, you tuck them wherever you can find a spot.  The bride here is in the process of getting ready.  She ended up with a lot more stuff in her hair.  She was very serious, as Dungan brides are supposed to be, but she did crack a smile or two while she was getting made up. 

Everyone ate the plov with spoons, but all the Dungan women used chopsticks when they were eating their stew.  I heard lots of Dungan spoken and many of the people looked Chinese, if there is such a thing.

My husband was outside with the men, taking pictures and talking to people.  When the groom showed up in the decorated car,
the women went outside while the men went inside for the official ceremony.  You can see the traditional ribbons or sashes the groom is wearing.  All the members of both the bride’s and groom’s families were wearing special aprons also, but I can’t remember their name.  You can see the man standing at the giant qazan way below wearing his.

The mullah recited from the Qur’an and another man said a prayer, which we women outside participated in by doing the Amin with them, even though we couldn’t hear the prayer (you can see the men in this
photo holding their hands up for another Amin before they left the house; I’d already left by then).  My husband said the bride wasn’t in the room during the ceremony.  When the Amin was over, the women had our turn to eat plov briefly.  They’d just brought out a tasty carrot salad with what looked like tofu sticks when we had to leave, so I didn’t get a chance to ask where I could find them. 
After the plov, I went with some of the women to the grooms house.  We rode in a van and left before the rest of the bridal party.  The groom’s house was decorated with the red banners and lanterns.  We sat down to more tea and cookies while we waited for everyone else. 

When the bride came, the car pulled all the way up to the house so she could get out easily because she had a cloth over her head so she couldn’t see.  My husband said she had it on from the time she left her parents’ house. They led her into one of the rooms of the house, and after we ate (lots of eating) more plov and carrot salad, we went in to see her.  She was very serious again. 
No alcohol, unlike the Kyrgyz wedding my husband went to, just lots and lots of tea.  The plov was good.  When it’s served for lots of people, the platters of plov are scooped up and topped with a hunk of meat.  Then the platters are delivered to the tables and women come around and chop up the meat and everyone shares the plov. 

This is the gift-taker.
It appeared that money was the standard gift and I didn’t see any display of wedding presents like at a Kyrgyz wedding. 

The homes were simple homes with many people helping with the wedding- cooking, doing the dishes, driving people around.  There were many people to feed.  At both houses we were given handkerchiefs with 5 or 10 som tucked in them.

After we congratulated the bride, we got back in our van and went back to the bride’s (old) house and everything was done.  It was wonderful to have a chance to see this.

Here’s what my husband had to say about it:

We arrived just after 10 AM.  Amira was ushered inside and I stayed outside in the courtyard at the home.  Men were sitting at a table eating stew and dumplings. 
I sat with them and had two bowls of stew and one dumpling.  It was good but not great.  The men eventually finished and left the table.  They gathered to talk around the qazans where the food was being cooked.
At the entrance a man was sitting at a small table with a red tablecloth.  His briefcase was at the table and a notebook.  It appeared as if he was taking some kind of an accounting.  The man next to me ate three bowls and gave 100 somNikoh (Muslim marriage ceremony) with the mullah and some elderly men.  The groom came in a knelt down in front of the mullah.  The mullah prayed in Arabic. 
He had a good voice.  He also gave the groom some advice and spoke with him. When he finished, one of the elders from the groom’s family said a dua and we all did an amin.  Then the groom bowed three times in front of the mullah and left.  I was surprised the bride wasn’t involved at all.


  1. Wow! Very, very interesting. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. So interesting--I love it!