Opening the longevity lock** The lock-opening ceremony in old society
Opening the lock is a
widespread custom in North China's Shanxi Province, especially the rural areas,
where it is regarded as an illuminative activity for 12-year old boys. In the
old society, this activity was only for the eldest son who was 12 years old, but
as time goes on, the scope is greatly enlarged.
Opening the longevity
lock is likened to opening the door of the child's wisdom, to lead them out of
the obscurity of the infancy period and into the boyish period. It also
expresses the parents' wishes that the children can become clever and mature
increasingly, stand on their own feet and get rid of their dependent mentality.
Before the lock was opened in a family, offerings, such as cakes, fruits and
dishes were placed in front of the memorial tablet dedicated to worship the
ancestors. Steamed bread and rice were the choice of offerings in a poor family.
The whole family was required to burn incense and kowtow in front of the
memorial tablet, then the elderly would give instructions to the children. After
that the one who was to open the lock would prays before the family's ancestors
prior to opening the longevity lock. When the ceremony was finished, the whole
family would have dinner together to celebrate the lock opening.
** The lock-opening ceremony in modern society
Nowadays, the lock-opening ceremony has become simpler in rural areas. One of
the child's uncle, the brother of his mother, will openthe lock in front of the
whole family before they all have dinner together.
In the south of Shanxi Province, the lock-opening ceremony is different. They
hang the child's (who is now 12 years) umbilical cord on a tree in the wild. The
umbilical cord is no longer in the original shape, but wrapped in a red cloth
into the shape of a crescent. Usually, the umbilical cord is hung high on the
tree, which is believed to be able to bring the child a good promising future.
Whereas in the north of Shanxi Province, the removal of the silver lock and
bangle signifies the parents' wishes of freeing their children from shackles
before they grow up.