I wonder if most fil-chi understand the history and rationale behind each item. Most are aware of the symbolism. When we went to the store to buy the items, they were just parroting sentiments likes... "This brings luck", "This brings sons" etc.
For the non-Chinese reading this blog, allow me to explain what I know based on the Chinese literatures I have read.
In the ancient times, many Chinese parents didn't want to have girls because it was like feeding someone who would never be of use to the family. When the girls were married off, they would be serving their inlaws. Most were treated very badly but they endured this because they too would have their chance to torment the wives of their sons. Ahhh yes, the cycle of cruelty!
Simply put: Having daughters WAS like raising livestocks that you would never get to feast on.
When a girl was married off, her family would give her dowry so that she would not be a burden to her new family. You must understand that in the ancient times (even until now) the girl would move into the home of the boy's parents.
THIS IS THE MAIN REASON BEHIND THE KE TSENG. Luck, Fertility and other what-have-yous are nice wrappings.
As I gather the items, I will share the meaning with you (I'm obviously not done yet).
In my own opinion, Chinese or not, a girl will need a dowry if they have no plans to LEAVE AND CLEAVE (ie if they plan to live with the boy's parents) after wedding.
In my case, some of the items in the list are causing more headaches than peace of mind. The home,that S is preparing, is the wrong canvas for anything Chinese or Red or Gold. The glaringly red Chinese items will be an eyesore!
1.) Chinese Propsperity Lantern
This pair will be placed on each side of the bed. Tradition dictates that we shouldn't turn this off until we get a boy.
What if masunog kami?
2. Couple Mug with Double Happiness or Happy Couple Design
This symbolizes togetherness.
But for the pragmatist, it really does make sense if you bring your own mug if you are to live with people. Afterall, a lot of diseases are transmitted through saliva.
3. Bowls and Chopsticks
I got plain red bowls from Landmark yesterday. So today, I just bought chopsticks. The lady said I can't have 4 bowls since 4 means death. Sigh... I have to go back and buy 4 more bowls.
New bowls and dinnerware marks new beginnings and the welcoming of new members into the family.
4. Bed Sheets
Primrose brought this all the way from Singapore and gave them to me as her wedding gift.
This bedsheet will be used to cover the matrimonial bed, where all the dowry will be displayed. You can have a dragon and phoenix, a sang hee or a happy couple design.
It is so beautiful!
Primose also gave this to me. I'm planning to use this to serve cookies during my "KWA KE TSENG" or viewing
6. Yen Chi/lead coins
They will be sewn or embedded in the most uncomfortable places.
I will need another pack to throw around our house. I suppose to drive out bad luck.
8. Ang Cho or red dates
2 pcs will be put on each tea cup for the tea ceremony.
Ideally we need to serve the relatives with tea and misua after the kwa ke tseng (viewing) but I think we will go to Golden Bay (or wherever) instead.
9. And the Pièce de résistance- THE ARENOLA or ENAMEL POTTY
This is the stupidest thing we had to buy today. It was really funny to go around Binondo looking for 2 arenolas.
Would you believe that this is the most important of all the dowry? It is for Ho Ka Diah, good footmark.
I was so hesitant to buy the arenolas but when the store keeper told me the story of this girl who never bought and her mother inlaw changed into a monster, I just had to buy! I love my MIL the way that she is. She feeds me.
However, the red sang hee arenolas are expensive. So, Claribelle brought me to the heart of Divisoria, where we found the ORIGINAL WHITE PORCELAIN arenolas. I remember my grand parents had this.
S insists that we just put Sang hee stickes. He refuses to have them spray-painted red. He really hates red items in the new house
When my friends asked why we need two since we could technically pee on just one potty, I told them so that we can have one potty each if we fight. Hehehe.
Or we can use it to drink coffee if we really have a busy day ahead. Can work, right?
In all seriousness though, imagine in the olden days when a girl would move into such big communal house. It was really troublesome to go to the toilet and bump into people she didn't know or like. She needs her own potty.
It would also be too awkward for her to use her husband's potty right away because he only saw her face on their wedding day.
There WAS ( and I say WAS) actually a very good reason for the potty to be included in the dowry.
Anyway, These were the items I got today.
When my mom arrives on the 29th, we will buy my clothes, shoes, bags, luggage, slippers (one for me, one for S, one for my mother inlaw), boxes, baby bathtub filled toiletries, Basin and dipper, APPLIANCES, etc. SIGH... ANG DAMI PA!
I actually have bought a lot and I still have a lot left on my list. Grrrr....
This is getting expensive! I feel bad for using my father's money. But in principle the dowry SHOULD be the last thing they will spend on me. After which, I am my husband's burden.
It means that my father will not give me money or any more things after I get married. So for those who plan to do ke tseng, be prepared to cut the "financial support" ties from your parents.
I'm feeling sad...I feel...after this...I will no longer be my father's daughter.
Please Pray for Me,