Who is Laotong and what does the women’s friendship agreement in China mean?

Sometimes the bond with a friend is stronger than the blood bond with any relative. After all, no matter what one says, in the women’s society you can always share not only news but also wisdom. A friend is someone who will provide support and advice. In China, there was a special form of female friendship – the laotong bond. We tell you what girlfriend union means and how it differs from other forms of relationships. By the way, we have previously written about the features of relations in China.

Who is Laotong?

A frame from the movie “The Snow Flower and the Precious Fan”

Simply put, a laotong is a friend with whom you maintain a relationship throughout your life. Most importantly, such relations are similar to the union of the aforementioned sisters in Russia, only in our country their number was limited to seven girls, and in China – two girls. 17th-19th century of the Laotong union. It is worth mentioning that it was widespread in Hunan in the centuries. It was a friendship agreement between girls aged 5-7. Its importance was not inferior to marital relations.

Parents specially chose girlfriends for their daughters. First of all, the girls had to match each other’s zodiac signs. Secondly, they are similar in appearance: build, age, facial features and even leg size.

A frame from the movie “The Snow Flower and the Precious Fan”

Third, after the parents came to an agreement, the girls were introduced to each other and taught, then they swore an oath before the Buddha.

The Laotong connection was especially important after marriage, when the girl had to move into her husband’s home. Relatives could not always visit her, but this restriction did not apply to the aforementioned sister. This connection allowed women to feel protected and a little less lonely in someone else’s home (especially if many in-laws lived there).

Laotong was also taught Nü Shu, a specially female language distinct from that written by men. This allowed them to remain anonymous and share their deepest secrets. Today, this language is considered lost. Due to limited distribution and confidentiality, little information about it can be found in Chinese sources.

This tradition became known largely thanks to the adaptation of the movie “The Snow Flower and the Precious Fan,” based on the book of the same name by Chinese-American author Lisa See.

In the story, in 19th century China, two girls named Snow Flower and Lily make a laotong agreement. Despite the fact that one of them comes from a rich family, the other comes from a poor family, this does not pose an obstacle, because “the girls have the same zodiac sign” (even in modern China this is of great importance in relationships). It turns out that they are truly inseparable. After their marriage, their fates developed very differently. Due to the difference in social status, Lily decided that her poor friend was unworthy of her friend, as she would become an embarrassment and a burden, and broke her vow to the Buddha. Snow Flower, on the contrary, truly wanted to help her laotong, but fate separated them. At the same time, in modern China, their grandchildren Sofia and Nina, who also agreed on female friendship on the cover of a music disc, found themselves separated. However, fate brings them together again when Nina, who fell into a coma after a traffic accident, comes to Sofia. That’s when Sofia discovers a fan with whom girls from the past had a laotong deal in Nu Shu. Sofia must find out why their communication was interrupted and how Lily and Snow Flower’s fate changed.

Source: People Talk

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