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A question of table manners

By Zhang Lei | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-03-28 10:04

Before the Han Dynasty, people were used to sitting on the floor and setting out the feast. [Photo provided to China Daily]

In the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), Lord Mengchang recruited hundreds of skilled people from all around China. When they dined he treated them as equals, regardless of their family background. They ate the same food and wore the same clothes as he did.

According to one account, at one of Mengchang's many banquets, a newly arrived knight was invited. As the knight dined, the candlelight that might have given him a good view of what he was eating was blocked by a servant, and the knight suspected that the aim was to hide from him the fact that his meal was inferior to Mengchang's. Furious at the way he was being treated, the knight put down his chopsticks and was about to storm out before Menghchang convinced him that they were eating exactly the same food. Ashamed of his behavior, the knight pulled out his sword and was about to cut his throat before being stopped.

Wang Renxiang, a researcher in the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says the advent of communal dining occurred about the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), with many touches of the modern Chinese way of dining.

"Changes in the ways meals were shared did not just happen overnight," Xinhua News Agency recently quoted Wang as saying. "There is a period of transition in which some distinctive characteristics of communal eating appeared, but the way of sharing meals was not completely abolished."


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