Lose the lingerie and sauce: Chinese county vows to end wedding day hazing

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A county government in eastern China has vowed to crack down on traditional wedding hazing rituals that are notorious for their violence and vulgarity.

Practices such as tying grooms to trees or telephone poles and pouring beer and sauce on them would be banned, and violators would be punished for disturbing social order, authorities in Shen county, a division of Liaocheng in Shandong province, said on Sunday.

Other forms of revelry, such as throwing eggs at grooms or forcing them to perform embarrassing stunts will also be considered breaches of public disorder, according to a notice published on WeChat, China's most popular messaging app.

Hunnao (wedding hazing) is widely practised across China as relatives and friends try to create a carnival atmosphere at weddings by playing jokes on the bride, groom, their parents and bridesmaids. But it has also triggered widespread criticism as many cases cross the line and end with people getting hurt.

The government notice described it as a "corrupt custom" that in the worst cases resulted in "injury or even death".

Although the rituals observed today were rooted in a tradition that dated back thousands of years and intended to expel evil spirits, they had since lost their meaning, it said. Therefore anyone who engaged in them should be punished.

The warning was extended to local officials who were encouraged to set a good example.

Last month, a bridegroom in Tangshan, a city in neighbouring Hebei province, was made to wear women's underwear and stockings, and then tied to a tree by his friends. A video of the event that widely circulated on Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, showed him being doused with bowls of black sauce and flour by the wedding guests.

In their defence, the man's friends said he had done the same to other grooms on their big day.

In November, a 24-year-old groom in south China's Guizhou province suffered a fractured skull after being hit by a car while trying to flee a hazing ritual. His friends had earlier thrown eggs at him, covered him in beer and ink, tied him to an electricity pole and thrashed him with bamboo sticks.

In December, the government vowed to crack down on hazing rituals at weddings, describing them as a sign of "declining morality", as well as the traditions of staging extravagant ceremonies and buying expensive gifts.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post