Chinese Table Manners
Chinese people love to eat and China boasts one of the world's greatest cuisines. During the long period of development of the eating culture, there formed many things about the eating that foreign visitors may find quite different from what they are used to and even feel weird.
Getting to know Chinese Table Manners
Formalities in Reception
Inviting the guests:
Equities of Seating Arrangement
The way Chinese people get seated is also an interesting part of the table manners. Yes! This might surprise you that a typical seating arrangement is a sign of etiquettes in the Chinese culture. Therefore, it is ensured to leave the best place on the dining table for elders. If a group of people is having meal, the respectable members are given the place at the head of the table while the rest take their seats accordingly.
In case of a teacher dining with the students, teacher is given the seat of honor with students surrounding the teacher. If the dining table is rectangular, the elder member sits on the shortest side with his face towards the front door. The rest of the people would get seated in the descending order of their ages. However, if you are dining on a round table, the elder member should be seated on the inside seat.
Equities of Seating Arrangement
The guests are requested to sit on the assigned seats by the host when they reach the dinner place. In the Chinese tradition, the seating arrangement follows some strict rules and it’s complicated. The first thing that is required is to see who the guest is. Usually, the first place and importance is given to the oldest member of the family. In the American Wild West, the guest of honor is named as “Wild Bill Hickok Seat.”
The first seat that is given to the most respected person of the family gives the best view of the room. If in case there is not seat at the entrance of the room, then the “seat of honor” will be the one facing the eastward position of the room.
The next rule that governs in the seating plan is linked with the ‘social ranking’ of a person. This rule will be applied even if the dinner is of family get-together. They do it to maintain closeness between the family members and the host of the dinner. In banquets, the seating arrangement is followed on the basis of religion.
The person with the highest rank gets a closer seat to the ‘guest of honor.’ However, there is no fixed ranking between the seats on the left side and right side. This provides a huge flexibility to the guests.
The first seat is given to the ‘guest of honor’. After that, the seats on the left side of the chief guest and numbered in even like two, four, and six. On the right side of the chief guest, the seats are numbered in odds like three, five, and seven. Hence, the most prestigious eats after the ‘guest of honor’ will be number two and three.
In a banquet function, the guests occupy several different tables. At this point, the ‘guest of honor’ takes the center table. This way he is visible to everyone and he is becoming a center of attention. The tables that are on the right and left side of the chief guest are filled by the ordinary guest. Here, the ranks of guests are kept in the mind again. The one with highest rank point will get a closer table to the “guest of honor” and it goes on like this.
The host of the banquet event will try to be in touch with every ranked guest so that a good environment will prevail. He will make sure that every guest is attended in the best possible manner. The good thing about Chinese tradition is that etiquettes are being followed whole heartedly. This way, there are no chances of any accident or un-unusual events. This is the best example of the world’s most civilized nation.
Offering to others:
It is not only the duty of the host to offer the dishes to the fellow members but it is regarded as good manners if you make an offer of a particular to your partner before you take a share for yourself. This indicates that you have come from an educated background and know how to socialize around.
How the Dinner Starts?
As described earlier, the ‘guest of honor’ gets the first place in everything and now same happens at the time of the dinner. The chief guest will start the proceedings of dinner by himself. He takes the drink at first, raises his hands first and then first and second row follows him. It goes on like this in every row and this way, everyone takes the drink at the same time.
Generally, the chief guest will say ‘shall we eat’ first to invite everyone to the dinner. This politeness gesture will impress the rest of the guests and they will take it as a signal and will start eating. It’s a rude thing to start the dinner before the ‘guest of honor’. Hence, everyone start taking dinner after the chief guest.
How to Help Yourself in Holding a Rice Bowl?
follow the proper Chinese etiquette for table manners, you must know that you are going to hold the rice bowl in your hand rather than putting it on the table. To make the work easier for you, put your thumb on the rest of the bowl, support the bottom of the bowl with the middle, index, and ring fingers.
When you want to help yourself for the found around you, make sure to start taking it from the side which is closest to where you are standing. If you take food from the side of the platter facing others, it will be considered as ill-mannered.
What is Lazy Susan?
The rich culture of China is a matter of interest on account of many reasons. It has some very unique features which are quiet unusual and surprising for the foreigners. Yes! This is to refer to the Lazy Susan. It is a round rotating disc in the centre of the dining table. . There are different materials to make the tray or the disc. However, the most commonly used are wood and glass.
The idea behind the Lazy Susan is to ensure that all the participants have equal extent of accessibility to the served meal. Since the disc can be rotated only if it is round, you would find circular shaped dining tables in most of the Chinese people. The basic purpose of the Lazy Susan is to make everybody realize that each one is honored. This is one of the signs of hospitality and equality.
During the meal, it should be considered that you are not rotating the Lazy Susan for yourself when someone else on the table is serving himself from the main bowl. It is recommended to wait until he gets himself the sufficient quantity of the dish so as to show respect. Also it so happens that while rotating the disk, some of the dish falls off which again leaves a very bad impression on the fellows.
If you want to have something second time, you should wait until the dish takes a complete round so that everyone gets his due share. Also, this is strictly against manners to fill the plate to the maximum. Always serve yourself with a small quantity as you can surely take it second time. Rotating the Lazy Susan backwards is yet another bad habit which should be avoided.
One of the best Chinese table manners is that the host is supposed to be caring if everybody has tried every dish served on the table. Despite the facility of the Lazy Susan, It is expected of host to offer the special dish to all the members present. This is just a simple gesture of showing your concern and respect for others. For guests, it is suggested to politely decline if you do not want to eat something.
How to use Chopsticks?
How to use Chopsticks?
The use of chopsticks is a must in the Chinese cuisine. It is not only important for you to use the sticks but you should be aware of the correct use of the chopsticks otherwise you would be regarded as an ill-mannered and ill trained person. Therefore, you must have an at least a basic idea about the correct method of using the chopsticks in order to avoid embarrassment.
Firstly, you should be worried about the fact that you hold the stick at the middle or at the top. But what is important is that the ends of the sticks should be maintained at the same level. That implies that one stick should not be lowered than the other. The basic use of the chopsticks is for eating purposes, they should not be used for moving the utensils on the table.
If you are not using the chopsticks, you are expected to place them tidily. Since they are used for eating, it should be considered that they are not mishandled. Therefore, after finishing your meal, always place the chopsticks side by side neatly. Another important thing is that it is indecent and ill-mannered on your part if you point at someone with the chopstick as they are to be treated as spoons.
Just like ordinary spoons, the chopsticks can be re-used after washing. However, there might be some disposable chopsticks. Therefore, if they are not disposable, you should be courteous enough to use them only for eating purposes and the things like biting at the ends or tooth picking are highly discouraged. Always try to act respectfully during the meal. If you hit the stick in your plate, this would be childish.
The way the chopsticks are placed in the plates also holds importance in the Chinese culture. Yes, if you do not know how to place the sticks in the plates, the food would be considered to serve the dead people. Similarly, sticks should not be used for trying to find certain special ingredient in the dish. This habit is normally associated with digging of one’s grave which is obviously shameful.
Since Chinese culture is extremely rich and they value the various etiquettes, they have created standards for themselves. This shows that they promote mutual respect and brotherhood in all possible ways which is one of the reasons for their success in the modern world of the 21st century.
In the Chinese dinning etiquette, there are many do and don’ts. They have spent thousands of years in developing these set of values for their society. If you can learn all these etiquette, you won’t find any difficulties as a ‘dinner guest’ in China.