The Dragon and the Phoenix

Hong Kong Tatler Weddings - - Keepsakes -

The mo­tif of the dragon and the phoenix rep­re­sents the per­fect mar­riage in Chi­nese cul­ture, so it’s lit­tle sur­prise that it’s a vi­tal part of Chi­nese wed­ding jew­ellery. Lyn­nette Lee ex­plores the tra­di­tional adorn­ment’s im­por­tance to the mod­ern bride

At jew­ellery­first glance, ap­pears Chi­nese in­tim­i­dat­ing: wed­ding big, heavy and ag­gres­sively yel­low. But de­spite this, many taste­ful mod­ern women wear it with pride on the big­gest day of their lives.

Be­cause like the world’s most fa­mous jew­els, it’s the sen­ti­ment and prove­nance that re­ally counts. Chi­nese wed­ding jew­ellery is laced with mean­ing and soaked in cul­ture— it re­minds us of who we are. It car­ries the well-wishes of those dear­est to us: hopes and dreams that have been passed from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion.

The jew­ellery is tra­di­tion­ally given by the groom’s fam­ily as part of the brid e price, sig­ni­fy­ing that the bride is wel­comed to the fold as a trea­sured mem­ber: it is said that hav­ing a woman in your home is like hav­ing gold. The type of jew­ellery given varies by group: Can­tonese and Hakka fam­i­lies give “Dragon and Phoenix Ban­gles”; Chiu Chow and Hokkien fam­i­lies give the “Four Pieces of Gold,” a set of four items. El­ders on both sides will also pass on heir­looms to show the bride how cher­ished she is.

It’s also a chance to dis­play wealth and gen­eros­ity. The bride is ob­li­gated to wear the jew­ellery im­me­di­ately, which some­times re­sults in her be­ing draped in quan­ti­ties of gold that go up to the kilo­grammes. The pieces are typ­i­cally 24-karat gold, en­graved by hand. Any­thing less pure can­not be con­sid­ered “real” gold in a Chi­nese wed­ding. It also serves as a form of in­surance for the bride, should she ever en­counter hard times.

While tra­di­tion is ir­re­place­able, mod­ern brides have been ex­ert­ing their in­flu­ence in terms of style and de­sign, and jew­ellers have taken note. Elec­tro­form­ing tech­nol­ogy has im­proved the hard­ness of 24K gold, en­abling jew­ellers to de­sign more in­tri­cate pieces and even set gem­stones. A spe­cial process also en­ables 24K gold to take on a rose tint, though many Chi­nese still pre­fer its orig­i­nal colour. Here are a few wed­ding favourites:

DRAGON AND PHOENIX BAN­GLES

The di­vine and right­eous dragon is known as the “Ruler of Beasts” while the phoenix is the “King of Birds,” bring­ing beauty and pros­per­ity. To­gether they form the ideal part­ner­ship, filled with unity, har­mony and bal­ance. Usu­ally pre­sented by Can­tonese or Hakka fam­i­lies dur­ing the tea cer­e­mony,

GILDED SYM­BOLS from far left: Pea­cock ban­gle, neck­lace and ring by luk fook; dragon ban­gles by chow sang sang; and del­i­cate ban­gles by tsl, all in 24k yel­low gold

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