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Today was the day when the bridegroom presented the betrothal gifts to the bride’s family. Three rite emissaries — one main emissary and two deputies — were dispatched to Yichun Marquis on behalf of the imperial family. Even the deputy emissaries were officials of some status and grade in the court. After all, this was the Crown Prince’s wedding rite, in which every detail was going to be recorded into the annals of history. Naturally, those who were appointed for this job couldn’t be random anybody.
In other words, everyone who came had a higher official grade than Cheng Yuanxian.
Cheng Yuanxian was the most inferior here, but this fact made him full of inexplicable pride.
The emissaries carried the betrothal gifts and imperial edict into the manor’s main gate and stopped before a ceremonial curtain and ceremonial altar prepared beforehand. Following a series of cumbersome rules, they displayed the imperial family’s betrothal gifts one by one for the public to see. The periphery of Yichun Marquis Manor’s main gate was full of onlookers. Everyone was pointing at rows of mahogany boxes on the ground with envy and admiration.
After that, the emissaries finally entered the manor to present the imperial edict. Amidst many sighs and exclamations, the main emissary respectfully carried the edict enclosed in a jade case into the manor’s main hall, followed by crown princess’ formal court attire. Last was the row of dazzling and imposing guards of honor, which filled the main courtyard in an instant. Looking at the expression of the main emissary reading the imperial edict, it was clear that he was feeling honored to be able to participate in this grand ceremony.
After Cheng Yuanxian and other Cheng family members knelt down and accepted the edict, the crown princess attire was delivered into Cheng Yujin’s courtyard by the female officials. Cheng Yujin changed into her new formal court attire before she slowly walked into the hall, surrounded by several female officials.
The Crown Princess set the example for the world – this sentence was not just a saying. Both the Crown Prince and Crown Princess bore heavy responsibilities on various state ceremonies and rituals. The sacrificial ceremony, New Year salutation, New Year Eve…for every important state ceremony involving the Emperor, there was the Crown Prince there. And where there was the Crown Prince, there was the Crown Princess too.
At today’s important ceremony, Cheng Yujin was the protagonist, and also the one receiving the most scrutiny.
The place where Cheng Yujin presented herself in crown princess attire for the first time was located in the inner courtyard, closed from the peering eyes of outsiders. Cheng Yujin was wearing a nine pheasants and four phoenix crown1, clad in a dark-blue diyi2 dress, an outer robe, and a waist-knee decorative cover with a jade pendant and red tassels. The whole set of attire was complicated and somber.
Cheng Yujin’s posture was perfect, her appearance was stunning, and she looked so dazzling in her new formal attire.
With this kind of wide-sleeved clothes, letting the sleeves swing back and forth was extremely crude. Under countless gazes, Cheng Yujin walked out slowly. Her palms were hidden in the sleeves, her right hand was attached to the back of her left hand, her arms were level, and her large sleeves fell down naturally, looking solemn and elegant.
Under so many eyes, both well-intentioned and unkind, Cheng Yujin did not panic at all. She steadily stopped in front of the ceremonial altar and performed a set of formal four bows under the instruction of the female official. Then, she knelt and listened to the female official reading the imperial edict.
This imperial edict was to formally confer Cheng Yujin as the Crown Princess. The edict, which was enclosed in a jade case, was of the highest-ranking and importance. After the edict was read by the female official, Cheng Yujin reverently took it with both hands. The female official kneeling by Cheng Yujin’s right hurriedly walked on her knees and raised both hands above her head respectfully. Cheng Yujin put the edict on the female official’s hands and then stood up with another female official’s help. Holding a jade tablet used for the ceremony, she performed another set of four formal bows. Finally, the female official who presided over the ceremony announced: “The ceremony is over.”
When the people in the yard heard it, they immediately stepped forward to give Cheng Yujin a deep bow: “Congratulations to Crown Princess.”
Cheng Yujin smiled as she gently nodded at the crowd.
Before today, although the whole world knew that she was the Crown Princess, others still had to call her using her identity as Cheng family’s eldest daughter because she hadn’t been conferred yet. But from now on, she was the Crown Princess both in name and reality.
From now on, everyone who saw her would have to bow their heads and call out ‘Crown Princess’ respectfully.
The supervising eunuch went out from the main entrance, walked to the front courtyard where the males were gathering and announced with a loud voice: “The edict has been received.” In an instant, congratulatory voices sounded from outside. All the officials coming for the ceremony also went to congratulate Cheng Yuanxian. The emissaries and supervising eunuch left soon after the congratulations. They had a task entrusted to them and now had to return to the palace to make their report.
After the presentation of betrothal gifts and formal confer of the Crown Princess, it would soon be the day of the grand wedding. In the past few days, the entire Yichun Marquis Manor was very busy. Cheng family had never held such a grand event before. The Crown Prince’s wedding was naturally different from ordinary weddings. In ordinary weddings, anything that went wrong would at most result in embarrassment in front of the guests. In the case of the Crown Prince’s wedding, however, failure was a crime.
The Cheng family’s rules and disciplines were not good. Otherwise, the family wouldn’t decline in each generation. As one could imagine, people who worked in Yichun Marquis Manor were not the most capable either.
The whole manor fell into a panic.
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- Phoenix Crown or phoenix cap (fengguan) is a traditional Chinese headgear for women. It was worn mainly by noblewomen for ceremonies or official occasions. It is also traditional headgear for brides. There are different varieties of phoenix crown, in which the number of dragons, phoenixes, and pheasants, in addition to the presence of certain ornaments, was dictated by rank.
- Diyi is the historical Chinese attire worn by empresses and crown princesses in the Ming Dynasty. It is formal wear meant only for ceremonial purposes. It is a form of shenyi (a type of long-sleeved formal robe) and is embroidered with long-tail pheasants (di) and circular flowers. It is worn with a phoenix crown (without the dangling string of pearls by the sides).