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Yanxi Palace Story Time: What was dating like in Ancient China?


Dating Lessons from Yanxi Palace in Ancient Chinese Times

dating in ancient China at Yanxi Palace

Story of Yanxi Palace gives us eye-opening insights.

The people in ancient China had it so much worse. Not only are they marrying for the sake of reconciling between families, but they also may not marry the ones they truly love and want to be with. We explore what the dating scene was like in ancient Chinese times through our watch-through of Story of Yanxi Palace, a recent drama series that's quite revealing.

The recent imperial drama that hit everyone by storm is Story of Yanxi Palace, and it’s clear from the series that dating and the courtship process was not easy then. Being a patriarchal society, most of the times women had no say in the process of marriage or even dating.

So thanks to this highly addictive drama series, we can only imagine how difficult it is back then, and it really made us wonder. What is it like dating in those days? These are what we came to know about:

You either have no say – Marriage arrangements

The olden days were really strict on this aspect, with marriages arranged by families, the government or even local administrators (though this policy is still considered rare). This was heavily emphasized in the series, like Fuca Fuheng’s marriage with Er Qing. She is not someone whom he truly loves, but he still has to make it happen because it’s the King’s wish.

Imagine if this tradition is still highly prevalent in our current generation. You’d see activists all fighting from every corner of the earth! Though the modern day China may have banned arranged marriages since the 50s, the fact is parents do still get in the way. Some regions in India also still practice them. It’s no surprise that professional matchmakers started booming back then (it was already a thing!)

Or, you can have a say – Meeting during festivals

Yanxi Palace dating

But luckily, there was some sort of freedom, after all. It’s for people who meet during festivals, like the Lantern Festival and the annual mid-spring meeting in lunar March. This was the only way for parents not to be heavily involved with their children’s relationships.

Apparently, unmarried men and women would meet and exchange conversations at the mid-spring meeting once the ‘wine ritual’ has been performed. This happens when the single man’s wine cup flows and reaches the woman through the riverbank, which upon satisfaction could lead them into conversations.

As for the Lantern Festival, the singles would meet at the decorated street as well, which would be unusual in this day and age (with the existence of dating apps and whatnot).

But some prefer not to say anything at all – Staying Single

Perhaps this would be the ultimate route to take when all else fails. This is the modern equivalent: ‘If I can’t marry someone I love, I’d rather stay single with 10 puppies.'

Turns out that this approach happened for some singles back then too, especially women, who preferred to look after their parents instead of getting married. It really makes one wonder, “Were women more submissive that they would rather give up their happiness and ambitions to just stay at home?”

In fact, from the series, this could also be seen from General Hai Lancha’s contentment for wanting to only guard the palace his entire life.

I definitely can’t imagine being born back in the day where I can't be with the person that I love. And having to argue back and forth with my parents, just because it's not someone they have chosen for me.

I would probably be very miserable and just daydream helplessly every day, write poems and talk to the moon by myself. I would wish for the universe to grant us to be together, and sneak out to mail secret letters to my lover (which would take weeks to probably reach him!)

Gosh, that really makes me appreciate WhatsApp messages even more now that I think about it!

woman at Yanxi Palace in ancient China

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