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Chinese Bridal Sedan Chair

As one of the main vehicles of ancient times, the sedan chair is often featured in movies about old China. But its function is not limited to transport: The sedan is linked with one of the important ceremonies in life -- marriage.

  Sedans in China

According to legend, the sedan first appeared in China during the reign of the Yu Emperor in the Xia Dynasty (2100-1600BC). Boasting a long history, the Chinese sedan has survived and developed throughout the dynasties. But for the common people, the most familiar type of sedan is the one used during wedding ceremonies. Finances allowing, the sedan has always been the preferred prop at weddings in the past.

In feudal China, re-married widows could only go to their husbands in the evenings and were generally not seen in sedans. Concubines also rarely enjoyed the privilege of sitting in sedan chairs - even in marriage. At best, they were seen in black sedans only. The honor of sitting in a sedan was a great source of pride for women. Even today, the saying "I was carried here in a colorful sedan chair by eight people" is still used to suggest the speaker is genuine (like original wife who rode the colorful sedan).

There are generally two types of sedans: the "hard cover" and "soft cover" chair. The former is a completely wooden structure shaped like a rectangle with a pagoda-like cover on top adorned with standing phoenixes. Pictures of the dragon, kylin, phoenix and other figures from Chinese mythology are often painted on the surrounding four sides. The "soft cover," chair-like sedan is enclosed with colored silk of various embroideries.

  Sedan and Folk Customs

There are various folk customs pertaining to the sedan all across China. In cities, there were generally three kinds of rental sedans: The first was called a sacred or official sedan, which was used to transport memorial tablets or the rich and powerful. This kind of sedan was usually carried by four to eight people. The second, which was usually much smaller and made of bamboo, was used as a vehicle for ordinary people. Usually, it took only two people to move it around. The third type of sedan was the bridal sedan. As its name suggests, it was used during wedding ceremonies and was often carried by more than four people. Due to this particular sedan's delicate ornamentation and heaviness, usually more men were needed to work on shifts for longer journeys.
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