Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/644

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THE curious philosophical views of life which appear to be common to the races of the Chinese stock, and the elaborate ceremonials by which they are symbolized and emphasized, give a rare interest to all that relates to the manners and customs of those peoples, whatever may be their particular nationality. Nowhere are these features more marked, or do they savor more of another world than ours, than in Annam. We are indebted to certain French writers, whom military and political events have given rare opportunities to observe, for some fresh and original accounts of the inhabitants of this country, and of their characteristic beliefs and usages. M. Henry M. d'Estrey has given, in the "Revue Scientifique," descriptions of the principal ceremonies prescribed in the rites to commemorate the most important events in life, which are six in number, viz.: 1. Gèa Ké, or the imposition of a pin in the hair-dressing of a maiden on her reaching puberty; 2. Gèa Quan, or the imposition of the virile bonnet on the head of a young man when he reaches adult age; 3. Quan, or the feast in celebration of obtaining a first employment; 4. Hón, or the marriage ceremonies; 5. Taûg, or funeral ceremonies; 6. Té, or the ceremony of ancestral worship.

The first two ceremonies are celebrated by the relatives, in the family. When a maiden has reached the age of nubility, or fifteen years, the father and mother adorn the two altars erected to the ancestors of their respective families, invite the near relatives, and select, as president of the ceremony, an aged lady, of high repute for virtue and good sense. While the lights are burning among perfumes, two masters of ceremonies, one at each end of the altar, call off the order fixed by the rites. The father and mother then come up to the altars, and say in a low tone, "It is our duty to inform our ancestors that our daughter is, according to the rites, marriageable from this day, and that the age of fifteen years, which she has reached, gives her the right to wear the pin." They then prostrate themselves four times, and the other relatives follow, imitating them. Next, the maiden is brought up to the altar, and the lady who presides over the ceremony, or sometimes the mother herself, takes the pin from off the altar and places it in the hair of the maiden, when, after having saluted the altars four times, she takes her back into the house. At any time after this the maiden may marry. The ceremony is followed by a festival, which is attended by the participants.

The ceremony of the imposition of the virile bonnet upon the young man who has reached the age of twenty years is performed with similar observances; but the father or an old man takes the place of the mother or aged lady in making the investiture.