Peeking into the nuptial bedchamber(窥洞房)

Peeking into the nuptial bedchamber

Headword

신방엿보기 ( 窥洞房 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Hollye

Writer ChoSunyoung(曺善映)

Mischievous practice of peeping into the room of the bride and groom on the wedding night.

After the wedding ceremony, a sinbang (Kor. 신방, Chin. 新房, nuptial bedchamber) was prepared for the newly-weds to spend their first night together. A folding screen was put up there with a small table of liquor to create the right atmosphere. After the bride and groom entered the room, relatives or neighbors made holes with their fingers in the papered lattice doors to peep at them, which is called “peeping into” or “keeping eyes on” the nuptial bedchamber.

The origin of this practice is not clear. The following story from ancient times, however, suggests that it has been handed down from generation to generation:

“Once upon a time, the son of a butcher, who came to be married at a young age, was advised to ‘strip the bride well.’ On the wedding night, the bride continued to cry loudly saying that he was hurting her. The bride’s mother simply thought that her daughter was going through the usual procedure and finding it painful, being the first night. The next morning, as there was no sign of the bride, her mother entered the room to find her daughter stripped of her skin. The young groom had apparently misunderstood the word ‘stripping.’ From that time, family members and relatives peeped into the nuptial room on the wedding night.” Of course, this is just a traditional folktale and not to be believed.

Some argue that the “peeping” practice is rather associated with the custom of marrying at a young age. In the Joseon period (1392-1910), boys married around the age of 10 and girls at the age of 14 or 15. As the couple was so young, unexpected things happened on the wedding night, such as the bride running away, and to prevent this the family members began to keep an eye on the nuptial bedroom. Others find the origin of the practice in cultures where female virginity is considered sacred and those who destroy it are killed by evil spirits. Korea is one such culture and to ward off evil spirits on the wedding night a group of people kept watch on the newly-wed’s bedroom, which later turned into the mischievous practice of peeing into the room.

On the first night, the bridegroom first took off his bride’s ceremonial headpiece and then the outer garment in a symbolic gesture only, by undoing the breast ties or removing one of her socks. Then he put out the candle, not by blowing it but with his fingertips, signaling that it is time for onlookers to leave the couple alone. Retiring for the night, the bridegroom was also supposed to touch the bride on the foot first as there was a saying that she would die before him if she was touched on the head first, and suffer from mastitis if touched on the breast first.

The practice of peeping into the bridal bedroom is rarely observed these days due to changes in housing structure and wedding practices, with the newly-weds often departing on their honeymoon right after the wedding ceremony.

Peeking into the nuptial bedchamber

Peeking into the nuptial bedchamber
Headword

신방엿보기 ( 窥洞房 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Hollye

Writer ChoSunyoung(曺善映)

Mischievous practice of peeping into the room of the bride and groom on the wedding night.

After the wedding ceremony, a sinbang (Kor. 신방, Chin. 新房, nuptial bedchamber) was prepared for the newly-weds to spend their first night together. A folding screen was put up there with a small table of liquor to create the right atmosphere. After the bride and groom entered the room, relatives or neighbors made holes with their fingers in the papered lattice doors to peep at them, which is called “peeping into” or “keeping eyes on” the nuptial bedchamber.

The origin of this practice is not clear. The following story from ancient times, however, suggests that it has been handed down from generation to generation:

“Once upon a time, the son of a butcher, who came to be married at a young age, was advised to ‘strip the bride well.’ On the wedding night, the bride continued to cry loudly saying that he was hurting her. The bride’s mother simply thought that her daughter was going through the usual procedure and finding it painful, being the first night. The next morning, as there was no sign of the bride, her mother entered the room to find her daughter stripped of her skin. The young groom had apparently misunderstood the word ‘stripping.’ From that time, family members and relatives peeped into the nuptial room on the wedding night.” Of course, this is just a traditional folktale and not to be believed.

Some argue that the “peeping” practice is rather associated with the custom of marrying at a young age. In the Joseon period (1392-1910), boys married around the age of 10 and girls at the age of 14 or 15. As the couple was so young, unexpected things happened on the wedding night, such as the bride running away, and to prevent this the family members began to keep an eye on the nuptial bedroom. Others find the origin of the practice in cultures where female virginity is considered sacred and those who destroy it are killed by evil spirits. Korea is one such culture and to ward off evil spirits on the wedding night a group of people kept watch on the newly-wed’s bedroom, which later turned into the mischievous practice of peeing into the room.

On the first night, the bridegroom first took off his bride’s ceremonial headpiece and then the outer garment in a symbolic gesture only, by undoing the breast ties or removing one of her socks. Then he put out the candle, not by blowing it but with his fingertips, signaling that it is time for onlookers to leave the couple alone. Retiring for the night, the bridegroom was also supposed to touch the bride on the foot first as there was a saying that she would die before him if she was touched on the head first, and suffer from mastitis if touched on the breast first.

The practice of peeping into the bridal bedroom is rarely observed these days due to changes in housing structure and wedding practices, with the newly-weds often departing on their honeymoon right after the wedding ceremony.