Dai - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Before the 1949 Revolution, class endogamy and ethnic endogamy (with the exception of some marriages with Han) were the rules. Polygyny among tusi and nobles was common. A man was supposed to take his wife from his own village community, while a girl was usually reluctant to marry out of her community. There is no restriction on marriage between cousins, nor on the marriage of persons with the same surname. Therefore, a local community is often an endogamous group. Freedom of Dai adolescents in flirtation, dating, and courtship—whose rituals include antiphonal singing of love songs and love-bag throwing—are well known and recorded in anthropological writings. Premarital sex is common; parents rarely interfere, and they encourage their daughters to have boyfriends. Marriage, however, must be arranged through a matchmaker, usually the boy's mother's brother and sister. Bride-price, the length of the bridegroom's service for the bride's family, and the grand wedding dinner are always the major issues negotiated by the matchmaker. Bride-price is high and has inflated in recent years; bride-service is at least three years, and in some cases it is as long as ten years or more.

"Wife snatching" or "wife seizing" by elopement occasionally occurs because of a high bride-price or the failure of the matchmaker's negotiation. The parents and village community will recognize such a marriage after the matchmaking and bride-price are made up. Matrilocal residence of at least three years is the norm. In Xishuangbanna, three-year matrilocal residence and at least three-year patrilocal residence are taken alternately until the couple inherits property from either side. Only then can they establish their neolocal household. Divorce is easy, and either side can initiate it. Remarriage is quite common and socially acceptable. When a wife demands a divorce, she simply goes back to her parents if the couple already have their own household, or she gives the husband a candle and sends him to the gate of the house if the couple live with the wife's parents. When the husband demands the divorce in the matrilocal residence, he may have to pay some compensation for the unfulfilled bride-service. In any case, the divorced husband has the right to ask for partial restoration of bride-price from the divorced wife's next husband.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family made up of parents and unmarried children (and sometimes a daughter with her husband in bride-service) is the basic family form. In the areas connected to Han regions, some extended families exist. Average family size is four to five people.

Inheritance. Tusi and noble families strictly followed patrilineal primogeniture. The eldest son inherited the titles, offices, and the majority of property (mainly the land) of the tusi, while the other sons shared the remaining properties. For the common people, the family's legacy is usually divided by all sons with the eldest son inheriting the house; the unmarried daughters and matrilocal sons-in-law also have the right to inherit part of the property.

Socialization. Both the Buddhist temple and family play roles in children's socialization and enculturation. The Dai are gentle and mild in disposition; parents seldom beat their children, and the young respect their elders. A boy at the age of 8 or 9 used to spend at least two to three years, usually ten or more years, in a Buddhist temple as a monk. After receiving a Buddhist name and after having learned Dai scripts and Buddhist scriptures, the boy became an adult, resumed a secular life, and married. This custom was abolished in the Cultural Revolution but has recently reappeared. Secular public schools are set up in all Dai regions. Some tension exists between the public school system and the temple, as children prefer to go to temples to learn Dai writing.

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