Ornate Ordos wedding draws crowds

Updated: 2014-01-27 09:11

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily USA)

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The upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year, which arrives Friday, is a busy season for wedding ceremonies. At the Eisenhower Theater of the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington on Friday and Saturday evening, some 2,000 people observed probably the grandest wedding ceremony in their life.

The Wedding of Ordos, staged by the Ordos Song and Dance Theater from China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, recreated a long and rich wedding tradition from the hometown of Genghis Khan.

The musical drama tells the story of a young man and woman's first encounter, their growing mutual attraction, their presentation to each other's family and finally the solemn wedding ceremony and their subsequent life on the great prairie of Ordos.

The eight-chapter tale begins with the prologue: sun moon fire, and is followed by pray for love, welcome son-in-law, sand bath, departure, wedding and cradle. It ends with the epilogue: sky earth man.

The many traditional rituals recreated on stage included marrying the bride with a bow, meeting the groom at the gate, toasting, sheep offering, asking names and birth dates, receiving mother's blessing, baptizing with sacred water, unveiling the bride's veil and the bride offering tea to parents.

The show has been hailed by critics both in and outside China as a moving experience of traditional Mongolian culture. The magnificent wedding ceremony can be traced to the Yuan Dynasty of more than 700 years ago when the Mongols ruled China.

The 80-minute performance intoxicated the audience, not only with its colorful ethnic music, but also with its singing, dancing and celebration of local culture and customs. Just for the dance part, at least 20 different dances were employed, known in China as "Chopsticks Dance" "Sabre Dance," "Bowl Dance" and "Eagle Dance" – all passionate, lively, humorous dances.

Wedding of Ordos is a gorgeous costume show with some 35 performers, mostly ethnic Mongolian. They turned the theater into a fashion stage such as you'd find in New York City, Milan, Paris and London during fashion weeks.

The whole show demonstrates the warmth and outgoing nature of the people in China's Inner Mongolia, whose many traditions evolved out of a nomadic lifestyle.

Four lucky members of the audience participated in the wedding in a more direct way, when several dancers who came out to perform in the hallway presented them with traditional ceremonial scarves known as hada.

It is the first time the nationally award-winning group has performed in the United States although it has already visited Japan, Singapore and Hungary in previous years, winning rave reviews.

During their week-long stay in Washington, the troupe staged a smaller show in the Salisbury University in Maryland and conducted an exchange with faculty and students at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington.

However, a scheduled performance on Tuesday at the Chesapeake Art Center was cancelled at the last minute due to the unexpected snowstorm, which also closed the federal government in Washington.

The Wedding of Ordos not only introduced audiences to the remote Inner Mongolian region where few foreign tourists have set foot; it also unveiled a long festive Chinese New Year celebration in the Washington area.

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum near DC's Chinatown on Saturday, China's Ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, kicked off a Chinese New Year Family Festival, with a variety of kid- and family-friendly activities including a puppet show, a performance on the guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument, calligraphy, paper cutting and clay figuring. It drew an estimated 2,000 people.

The organizers, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Chinese Embassy, said they will continue to host the activity next year.

The Tianjin Puppet Troupe performed at the Millennium Stage at Kennedy Center on Saturday evening. On Sunday, the World Artists Experiences and the Chinese Embassy teamed up at the Avalon Theatre in Easton, Maryland, just outside of DC, to present various events for children and adults celebrating the Year of the Horse.

Contact the writer at chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com