Three Letters and Six Etiquettes (三书六礼)

Three Letters and Six Etiquettes


Traditional Chinese Weddings – Three Letters and Six Etiquettes (三书六礼 San Shu Liu Li)

During the Ancient times, communication was done through letters which played a vital role in the Betrothal and Traditional Chinese Wedding process.

These are the Three Letters being sent and the Six Etiquettes that was observed during those times :


The THREE LETTERS (三书 San Shu)

Request Letter (聘书 Ping Shu)

The request letter is sent from the groom’s family to the bride’s family, which serves as a confirmation of the formal arrangement of marriage.


Gift Letter (礼书 Li Shu)

This letter accompanies the gifts from the groom’s family to the bride’s family before the wedding. It serves as a gift record that describes the value of each gift.


Wedding Letter (迎亲书 Ying Qin Shu)

This letter is given on the actual day of the wedding, to accept the bride into the groom’s family officially.



Proposal (纳采 Na Cai)

In the olden days, marriages were arranged by the parents. When the groom’s parents found a potential daughter-in-law, they will hire a matchmaker (媒人 mei ren), a spokeswoman, who will communicate their wish to the potential bride’s family. (The matchmaker is usually an elderly woman who acts as midwives or spokeswoman for the groom’s family).

This lady will persuade the potential bride’s family to accept the offer from the groom’s family. Both sides will negotiate certain terms like the “Bride’s price” (Betrothal gifts)


Birth date assessment (问名 Wen Ming)

If the potential bride’s parents did not object to the marriage, the matchmaker would then ask for the girl’s “Eight Characters” (八字 Ba Zi), which, according to ancient Chinese, is a person’s “Life blueprint”. It represents a person’s Hour, Day, Month and Year of birth.

Each of the Hour, Day, Month and Year of the birth will have a combination of the Heavenly Stem and Earthly Branch, giving a total of eight characters.

The “Eight Characters” will be given to the Chinese fortune teller to determine the couple’s compatibility.


Find out more about Ba Zi here.

If signs of any astrological conflict were found, the proposed marriage will be abandoned. The conflict could result in disasters on both families, thus the traditional Chinese families are very careful with these results.

Betrothal Gifts (纳吉 Na Ji)

If the birthdates are compatible, the groom’s family will request the matchmaker to send the initial gifts and the gift letter.


Formal Wedding Gifts (纳征 Na Zhe)

This is followed by the formal bridal gifts from the groom’s family on
an auspicious date. These gifts includes tea, lotus seeds, longan, red
beans, green beans, red dates, nutmeg, oranges, pomegranates, lilies,
bridal cakes, coconuts, wine, red hair braids, gold/cash and other
delicacies, depending on local customs and the family’s wealth.


Selecting the Auspicious Date (请期 Qing Qi)

An auspicious date would be picked for the actual wedding date from the Chinese divination guide and almanac (通胜 Tung Sheng). This could be done by the Chinese Fortune teller or the elder in the family.

Picking an auspicious day is again, very important to the traditional Chinese families. It ensures a good future for the couple.


The Wedding Ceremony (亲迎 Qin Ying)

Finally, the big day. This would be the actual day where the bride and
groom becomes a married couple. Once again, there are traditional
rituals to follow.


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