Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When The Moon and The Stars Decide Your Partner

Even the Animals, for that matter.

For most of us what Ah Chong's and Mei Ling's parents did in  prearranging their marriage seems inexplicable. But for their parents that's the best thing they could have done for their child.

Match-making by the parents, relatives and other village elderlies used to be common-place.

While watching the children - still running around half naked - play among themselves, the elderlies would wonder if such and such a boy would made a good husband for such and such a girl.

The wonder would then transcend into discussions, and later turned to a more formal 'arrangements'. Once it is all agreed a 'promise' is solemnized. This promise is more or less carved in stone. To break that promise would cause severe embarrassment to either parents and even a civil war.

On the children's part if they were to refuse or later not fulfill that promise they would have 'painted charcoal on their parents faces' and will be disowned.

Whilst amongst the Malays the match-making are simple routines normally conducted between close families (marriage between cousins used to be common) to preserve the relationship, or to prevent the wealth from 'going to others', or to preserve status in society, deciding on a child's future partner is a bit more complicated for the Chinese.

As the Chinese consists of many groups or dialects, the parents may want their children to be married to those from the same group to preserve the surname. (This may not be true for all groups, but certainly the preference for sons rather than daughters stems from the fact that when the sons marry their children will perpetuate the surname).

The child's year of birth is extremely important. As we all know the year we are born make us one of the twelve animals in the Chinese calendar. Never should a person who was born in the year of the Tiger be married to someone born a Monkey,  for example, or an Ox to a Goat.

There's more: they would have also checked out what element is the child made of to ensure future harmony, based on the five elements of metal, water, wood, fire, and earth - e.g whether you are mixing fire with water, or earth with metal, etc.

There are affinity and enmity relationships between the five elements.

Certain birth year will make you the kind of animal you are: for example you are a Metal Rat if born in 1960 and a Water Rat if born in 1972; or a Fire Monkey in 1956 but an Earth Monkey if born in 1968, and so on.

To leave all these to the children would be taking a big risk and considered irresponsible on the part of the parents. It may invite disaster. The children would then be too young to think about all those, or to even understand them. When they have grown up they may not want to follow the stars. So it is the parents duty, as it were, to make doubly sure that they get the most compatible life partner.

What about love, you may ask. What has love got to do with it?


The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

Wow, it’s amazing, the vast differences in cultures around the world.

It has to be said though, that so many young western couples get married believing they’re in love when they’re not. At the cost of short lived marriages.

Maybe pre-arranged marriages last longer and are more successful?
The enigmatic, masked blogger

Joanna St. James said...

well... I know everyone has their own point of view and everyone thinks their way is write. To be honest as a parent I do get that feeling where u want to choose you kids partner and my son is only two! I know he is going to have to choose when he gets older but my friend and i have matchmaking dreams; maybe we'll get lucky.

Patricia A. Timms said...

It's funny, I think all cultures do this to some degree as you mentioned.

For me, I started to make comments to mom's of boys who played well with my 1 year old daughter. I would point out that they might grow up and marry each other. Then when my two sons came along I equally tried to find suitable girls for them. Ha! They are older now and I don't really do that so much but I do ask them who they like at school. I guess it's my way of seeing where I can guide them. Ahhh, life is going to be hard when they bring home someone that really irks me. I hope I have perspective and can let them be whoever they are all going to be.

Great post!

Faith said...

I think that if the parents are very wise and also truly looking out for the lasting happiness of their children, rather than monetary gain, there is a lot to be said for heavy involvement in choosing a spouse.

I think young people would be very smart to allow their parents to, at the very least, veto spouses that they know would not be good for their children. But I also believe the young people should be just as involved, and love should play a part.

Actually, I am a fan of traditional courtship with both families involved, but the young people making the final decision.

Interesting post!


Su said...

That makes me think of that lovely song in Fiddler on the Roof, "Do You Love Me?", since the marriages in Fiddler were mostly all arranged as well.

Jennifer said...

Very interesting! As Patricia stated I also think all cultures practice this to some degree, except often here instead of parents telling their children who to marry they often try and tell them who NOT to marry! :-)

THE SNEE said...

Hi Grandpa,

I saw your comments over at Klahanie's, and your words piqued my curiosity. I'm so glad that I visited! I'm intrigued by the matchmaking concept. I'm also convinced that a successful marriage can be made going either root since marriage is so much more than just about love. I look forward to digging around your archives and visiting again to see the world from your experiences.

small farm girl said...

Very interesting!!!!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

i'm kinda "for" matchmaking and i wish it were a bigger part of our culture. i think in many ways children have lost all respect for their parents. half the cartoons/kids tv shows are how the parents are stupid and the kids know whats best. the thing is.... parents usually have a few more miles on them and sometimes can see a "danger" sign before an even grown up child.

great work, Grandpa!

Grandpa said...

Thanks EVERYONE for your comments. Education, modernisation and technology had in many ways overtaken some of the traditions, but many families are able to retain and embrace the best of both worlds, thankfully.

THE SNEE, Welcome to The Farm. Please look around at the varied topics that I had the pleasure of writing over the last four months. Will pop over and see what's cooking at your place in a bit...

secret agent woman said...

I'll take a short-lived marriage to keep my right to autonomy. I'm sure people can and do fall in love in some pre-arranged marriages, but how hellish if you do not.

Bimbimbie said...

Interesting post Grandpa which leaves me curious how an earth pig and metal rat match would be viewed by match-makers?

Grandpa said...

secret agent woman, I think we can respect that line of thinking too...

Bimbimbie, I don't claim to be an expert, what I wrote are based on established beliefs of astrologers.
To satisfy your curiousity you can go to or

Btw I was frightened by what I saw on your site the other day - the slithery creature! I have a phobia with it, so I quickly backed off!

Wan Sharif said...

You are also in matchmaking business..?

Bimbimbie said...

I'll take a look at the links, thank you :)

I should have put a warning out about the slithery one for those who want to make a fast exit ... I'll try and remember to do that in future. Smiles to you*!*

Grandpa said...

Salam Wan, not at all, far from it! I was just trying to rationalise the parents' action, and the arts and science(?) that went into match-making - that resulted in what some readers think a 'tragic' situation for the couple.
Just like superstitions, each of us will have to decide for ourselves whether we believe in them or not.

Bimbimbie - Thanks Annie, *smiles* back to you!

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Grandpa, very interesting....and yes, I too to a certain extent believe in our life being ruled by stars.....
out of alignment, our life gets messy.
Fortunately my wife is a 'dog' and I am a 'horse' problemos....though we did not refer to the Zodiacs prior getting handcuffed permanently.

And you're right there re the Chinese wanting same genes, ha ha.
My mother became very religious my being an only son, inview of my dating more Malay girls than others.

Even though she liberal minded, did not say anything, I did notice when I date a Chinese girl, there was only 3 jossticks at our house alter.
But when an Indian or Malay, it was 9! Ha ha ha.

Have a pleasant weekend, Grandpa....Lee.

Grandpa said...

Hi Lee, being the only son your mother must be very worried who you'd end up with, being the popular gentleman that you were! She must have prayed for divine intervention, and her prayer answered. Good for you and for her.
You too have a good weekend Lee.

caterpillar said...

Coming from the land of arranged marriages (India), this post didn't surprise me much....just a little since the match making seems to start quite early....I liked your last line..."
What about love, you may ask. What has love got to do with it?" true...