Countless generations ago, an endearing practice of betrothal gifting was birthed in the humble Chaoshan region of eastern Guangdong province, China. On her wedding day, the bride would receive a four-piece set of gold jewelry from the groom’s family. Known to the Chinese as Si Dian Jin (which translates to “four touches of gold”), the set would usually comprise a necklace, a ring, a bracelet or bangle, and a pair of earrings.
Source // South China Morning Post
The name Si Dian Jin was derived from the Chinese character Jin (金), which resembled the four-pointed curved roof sitting atop the archaic houses in the Chaoshan region. Symbolically, the act of gifting Si Dian Jin came to represent the groom’s wealth and ability to provide a roof over the bride’s head, while the rich gold hue of its material represented good luck and prosperity. Usually presented by the groom’s mother, this traditional Teochew custom became an important gesture of welcoming a bride into the family, while assuring that she will always be well taken care of under their roof.
For decades, this tradition has passed down from one generation to the next. Brides back in the day often saw this wedding jewelry set as a prized possession that marked their achievement of entering a respectable, wealthy family. However, despite its longstanding cultural significance, the Si Dian Jin may have lost some relevance in today’s context, as women are gaining greater economic empowerment and families are looking past the need to define a bride’s acceptance into a family through physical opulence.
Many modern brides also find it difficult to blend traditional Si Dian Jin designs with their everyday wardrobe, given their intricate carvings and auspicious motifs. Some of these motifs include:
- Dragon & Phoenix | This pairing represents a perfect harmony for a well-suited marriage that can withstand the tests of time.
- Floral | Elegant flowers such as the Perennial Lily and Peonies symbolize the bride’s virtue and beauty, pointing to a life filled with happiness and bliss.
- Shuang Xi (囍) | The Chinese character, which means “double happiness”, is a symbol of joy and unity, one we often see in Chinese wedding invitations and decorations.
- Wedding pig | Bearing the symbol of fertility, this design blesses the newlyweds with an abundance of children.
Source // One Ounce
Although these designs are laden with symbolism, many brides don’t see themselves wearing them post-wedding. Consequently, these meaningful jewelry pieces are then stored in a safety box and often don’t see the light of day until they’re passed down to the next generation.
Could this spell the end of an age-old Chinese custom?
At Lucy & Mui, we believe that the traditions of the past can evolve with the times. We love reinventing timeless classic designs with a modern twist, and we see this symbolic act of betrothal gifting no differently. Naysayers might call the custom old-fashioned or outdated, but we think that the emotional significance that a jewelry set holds for the bride shouldn’t be overlooked.
For one, the Si Dian Jin represents a promise - made by the in-laws to the bride. This promise symbolizes a bride’s welcome into the family, who has made a commitment to care for her and accept her as their own.
The Si Dian Jin can also be viewed as a precious family heirloom, one that’s handed down through generations. In some families, the in-laws may present a jewelry set that was passed down to them, gifting the bride with a piece of the family’s history. This momentous occasion looks well past the value of the gold material one is inheriting, but instead focuses on the family’s blessings and well-wishes for the newlyweds.
Traditional as it may be, the Si Dian Jin custom has lived through the decades and remains a precious rite of passage for many brides-to-be in Chinese families today. What a Si Dian Jin jewelry set looks like is interpreted differently for every bride and her in-laws, and there are typically no fixed rules or superstitions dictating what each piece should look like.
Handpicking (or creating) your Si Dian Jin ensures that the pieces reflect your style and personality, while taking on the sentiment and meaning of tradition. After all, there’s something truly special about incorporating a family heirloom in your everyday ensemble. Not only does it celebrate your new family’s blessings, but it can also be an expression of your own identity as a modern-day Chinese bride staying true to her roots and heritage.