As tradition dictates, the grooms family is required to provide the matrimonial house and the bed itself. For the bride's family, there is the Ke Tseng - the traditional dowry given before the wedding, which consists of items that will be used in the couple’s future home. Ke Tseng is basically an art form since each item will have a corresponding significance. The dowry then is not just a familial duty, but also a stepping stone to a happy and prosperous home.
For the modern Tsinay bride, this is only a small part of the wedding preparation hysteria that most Filipino-Chinese couples face nowadays. Scheduling a trip to Chinatown and scouring the numerous shelves of Chinese specialty stores can be a feat in itself. If you are Filipino-Chinese and an expectant bride, then you are in luck; here is a comprehensive list of the traditional Ke Tseng items. Some of these may be found in Binondo, like at New Victory Trading, but you can also find a number of them at your nearest SM Home branch. Bring your significant other for a well-spent date.
1. A pair of red lanterns.
2. Round or oval wall mirror, preferably with gold frame or trimmings, covered with red satin cloth sewn with gold coins and yen chi (lead coins) on each of the four corners.
3. A pair of arinola or enamel potty.
4. A pair of mini sin na (layered bamboo basket), filled with Chinese herbs such as ginseng, bird’s nest, or abalone, and topped with yen chi on every layer.
5. Chinese tea and bowl sets and candy tray, preferably the same tea set used in your ting hun (engagement party).
6. Red bed cover set with dragon and phoenix design* as a cover for the matrimonial bed on which the dowry is displayed.
7. A pair of basin and dipper (tabo) set, and a handtowel with sang hee (double happiness character)
8. Baby bathtub, filled with personal toiletries.
9. A pair of flower vases, filled with fresh or artificial flowers.
10. A jewelry box with comb and suyod (fine-toothed comb used for lice).
11. Red sang hee or dragon-and-phoenix fan.
12. Red robe** with sang hee or dragon-and-phoenix design, with yen chi sewn on the robe.
13. Red slippers** with yen chi sewn on the slippers.
14. Figurine of Buddha with kids.
15. Figurine of the Three Wise Men.
16. A pair of happy couple figurines
17. Dragon and phoenix figurines
18. A pair of towel blankets
*The dragon represents the male while the phoenix represents the female.
**These items are to be used during the wedding day preparations by the bride.
Finding the right Ke Tseng items will seem overwhelming at times. Take it easy and do not let tradition dictate every aspect of your soon-to-be married life. Yes, respecting Filipino-Chinese tradition is key to a stable conjugal future, but it is how we tread on that matrimonial journey (arduous at times, as they say) that will matter most. We wish you the best of luck for this task and for the long, winding road to a happily married life.
Source: My Little Kanchiu Book, 3rd Edition, W@W Central Publishing 2011
Noia Mendoza is an events manager for Christine Ong Te Events, an events management and consultation company based in Manila, Philippines with a 15 - year event record in the industry and known for its annual Singapore Bridal Caravan. In her spare time, Noia loves to indulge in musicals, historical fiction and food-led trips. She's an introvert with a penchant for training and development of goal-oriented teams.
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