Manchu Wedding Reenactment

There is a another Forbidden City in Shenyang. It is smaller than the one in Beijing, and the design is a bit different. The palace in Beijing was built during the Ming Dynasty. The palace in Shenyang was built later, just before the founding of the Qing Dynasty. The Qing Dynasty actually originated in the northeast part of China, by the Manchu minority. When the dynasty was founded, its capital was in Shenyang. Only some years later did the capital move to Beijing. The Imperial Palace in Shenyang is now a museum and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.


Although it’s smaller and less well-known, it’s a great example of imperial architecture. It isn’t as well maintained; in fact, there’s some serious deterioration in some parts of the buildings, and some of the decorations are damaged. The government seems determined to improve the museum’s position on the international stage, though, and the effort seems to be paying off. Attendance is up.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a special visitor to the museum as part of a program to enhance the visibility of the museum to international tourists. We were given a standard tour, then we met with the museum’s director to give some feedback, as foreigners, about how to make enhance the experience of foreign tourists when they visit the museum.

One of the regular performances that we saw was a reenactment of a Manchu wedding ceremony that apparently actually occurred in the palace in the 17th century.


The stage: the imperial pavilion.


The emperor’s throne


The officiant of the ceremony reading the script and presiding over the ceremony.


The emperor receives representatives from the bride’s family


The bride presents herself to the emperor


The bridal party performs a Manchu dance


The bride’s family preparing to enter


Another dance, by buff male dancers


The performance is over, the cast takes a curtain call.

Here’s a video of the curtain call. The fancy costumes were really nice-looking.

It was a wonderful experience. After our official program was over, I lingered for a few hours to explore the rest of the grounds and take some more pictures. I took over 200 pictures that day.  I’ll upload some of the better pictures soon.


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