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The Etiquette of Dining

 

 

 China has always been credited with being a "State of Etiquette". The Chinese regard food as their heaven, which means that food is people’s primal need. According to the historical documents, as early as 2600 years ago, a very comprehensive set of dining etiquette was established.

The Jieyang people, when treating guests to a banquet, must prepare adequate seating for the guests. The head seat which faces the entrance (or east, if possible) is usually reserved for the person of the highest status or guest of honor. The host takes the least prominent seat. The diners should not sit down or begin to eat before the guest of honor has done so.

When serving plates of food, the dishes or wine should be served from the right side of a guest, and guest of honor and the eldest got priority. The order of serving is from cold to hot. And the head or tail of a duck,a chicken or fish should not be placed facing the head seat.

As the main types of the Chinese dining tools, chopsticks are used in every family and banquet. It is unfortunate and impolite for a diner to play with chopsticks, such as, banging chopsticks as though you were playing a drum, using chopsticks to point at other people or waving chopsticks around, leaving chopsticks sticking upright in rice, chewing on the ends of chopsticks, spearing food with chopsticks, or "digging" and "searching" with chopsticks through one's food for something in particular. It is a proper manner to use communal serving chopsticks or spoons to bring food from communal dishes to an individual’s own bowl or plate.

A Chinese banquet without tea is not a formal one.  Tea has already blended into the Chinese's daily social lives and has formed a set of tea manners. The diner who seats close to the teapot should offer to pour tea for the guests from the eldest to the youngest and to himself/herself at last. Others should tap the table with fingers two or three times to show his/her gratitude. 

Dining with a traditional Chinese family, the manners and customs should be respected and taboos are better to be avoided. Chinese people consider that diet is closely related to an individual's fate but taboos will bring bad luck. For example, do not turn a fish over on its plate because the sailing safety is really the fisherman’s concern and they are afraid that their ship will turn over one day. Do not stick chopsticks upright in your rice because it is used in some rites of ancestral worship. Do not make noise with chopsticks hitting the rice bowl or other food container because it’s impolite and means no food to eat in the future days. All these superstitious ideas are inherited till now and more or less shaped the etiquette of dining in Jieyang.