Recommendations for Chinese Banquet Etiquette

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Banquets are usually held in restaurants in private rooms that have been reserved for the purpose. All members of your delegation should arrive together and on time. You will be met at the door and escorted to the banquet room, where the hosts are likely to have assembled. Traditionally, the head of your delegation should enter the room first. Do not be surprised if your hosts greet you with a loud round of applause. The proper response is to applaud back.

Seating Arrangements

Seating arrangements are based on rank and stricter than in the West. This is another reason why you should give your host a list of delegation members and their

rank. Guests should never assume that they might sit where they please and should wait for the hosts to guide them to their places. Traditionally, the Chinese regard the right side as the superior and the left side as the inferior.

Therefore on formal occasions, including meetings and banquets, the host arranges for the main guests to sit on his right side.

Serving the Meal

It is the host's responsibility to serve the guests. People do not begin to eat until the principal host served a portion to the principal guests. Or, the host may simply raise his chopsticks and announce that eating has begun. After this point, one may serve oneself any food in any amount, although it is rude to dig around in a dish in search of choice portions. Hot towels, used as napkins, are distributed at the beginning and at the end of the meal eating.

What is Served

In a dramatic reversal of everyday habit, banquets consist solely of special dishes. The meat and vegetables that serve as side dishes at regular meals become the focus, or grain. It is important that...