Chinese Seating Arrangement
Chinese diet has a long history. In the country which has been a nation of etiquette and particular about food being the first necessity of the people since antiquity, dining etiquette has naturally become an important part of dining culture.
The banquet etiquette of China is said to originate from Lord Zhou. Through thousands of years of evolution, it has finally developed a set of universally accepted dining etiquette up to the present. It is the inheriting and developing of the dining ritual system in ancient times.
Dining etiquette varies with the character and purpose of a banquet and in different areas, it also differs in a thousand ways. The dining etiquette in ancient times is divided according to social strata: palace, local authorities, trade associations and folk society, etc. Whereas, modern dining etiquette is simplified as: master (Aamphitryon) and guests.
As a guest, people should be particular about apperance when attending a banquet and determine whether to bring small gifts or good wine along according the degree of relationship. They should also keep the appointement and be punctual. After they arrive, they should first introduce themselves or let the master do the introduction if unknown to others, and then comply with the master’s arrangement and take the seat. The seating arrangement is the most important part in the whole Chinese dining etiquette.
From ancient times to the present, owing to the evolution of dining furniture, the arrangement of seats has been changing accordingly. On the whole, the order of seats is: taking the seats on the left and facing the east or the entrance gate as the seat of honor. The seat of honor in a family banquet is reserved for the elder with the highest position in the family hierarchy and the least prominent seat for the one with the lowest positon.
When a family holds a banquet, the seat of honor is for the guest with the highest status and the master takes the least prominent seat. If the guest of honor is not seated, other people are not allowed to be seated. If he hasn’t eaten, others should not begin to eat.
When making the rounds of drinks, people drink a toast from the seat of honor down in order.
If it is a round table, then the one facing the entrance door is the guest of honor. The seats on the left hand are in turn second, fourth and sixth, etc, while those on the right hand are in turn third, fifth and seventh, etc, until they join together.
If it is an Eight Immortals table and there is a seat facing the entrance door, then the right seat facing the entrance door is for the guest of honor. If there is no seat facing the entrance door, then the right seat facing the east is the seat of honor. Then the seats on the left side of the seat of honor are the second, fourth, sixth and eighth and those on the right side are the third, the fifth and the seventh.
If it is a grand banquet, the arrangement of tables should be the table of hornor placed in the front middle. The tables on the left are in turn the second, the fourth and the sixth and those on the right are the third, the fifth and the seventh. People take seat according to the identity, status and degree of relationship.