What Are The Table Manners In China? (18 Detailed Answers)

Whether you are having dinner with your friends, dining at a restaurant, or when eating at home with the family, good table manners are an essential part of every meal you have. When you are well acquainted with good table manners, you are well equipped with the most essential tool for social interaction that will serve you for a lifetime, no matter where you go. With good etiquette, you automatically become a pleasant companion for both family dinners and get-togethers with friends. Also, you will feel comfortable dining in public or anyone else’s house.

Here, we will look extensively into the history of Chinese table manners and table manners do’s and don’ts. We will also identify about 5 of the most important table manners in China.

Customs and Etiquette in Chinese Dining

Table etiquette, as the name suggests, refers to the knowledge of etiquette on the dining table during meals. The issue of dining etiquette has a long history. According to documented records, as early as the Zhou Dynasty, a fairly complete system of dining etiquette had already formed. It was praised and respected by Confucius and became an important aspect of the appearance of great nations, a country of etiquette, and a civilized society throughout the dynasties.

History of Chinese table manners

Since time immemorial, China has been led by royalties. For this reason, it was perhaps one of the fastest communities to embrace good etiquette and was able to accommodate different ideas of polite social interaction within a short period. Looking back into China’s history, we can say that the whole idea of table manners began during the time of the Confucian philosopher.

At the time, he believed that one cannot separate food from friends, and he preferred to drink with his townsmen at his table. He would only leave the dining table once all his elders left, and this greatly informed the hierarchical ties associated with wining and dining etiquette. When dining with friends and family, he would stand and give thanks to the host for the great meal.

Aside from that, some historical records also show that table manners in China began with the duke of the Zhou dynasty. The duke wrote a ceremonial book, which became the etiquette guide during the reign of the Han dynasty. Since then, the rules have been binding to the Chinese people and informs Chinese food culture. To date, the rules remain a great treasure.

who invented Chinese table manners?

Chinese table manners and dining etiquette have evolved over thousands of years and are deeply rooted in Chinese culture. It is difficult to attribute the invention of Chinese table manners to a specific individual, as they have developed through societal customs, cultural practices, and the influence of philosophical teachings.

However, Confucius (551-479 BCE), an influential philosopher in ancient China, played a significant role in shaping social norms and ethical principles, including those related to dining and etiquette. Confucius emphasized the importance of proper conduct, respect for others, and maintaining harmonious relationships. His teachings and emphasis on ritual propriety, known as “li,” had a profound impact on Chinese society, including table manners and dining etiquette.

Confucius advocated for a hierarchical structure in society, which extended to seating arrangements at the dining table based on social status and seniority. He also emphasized the importance of showing respect to elders and superiors, practicing moderation in food consumption, and displaying proper behavior and manners during meals.

While Confucius and his teachings had a significant influence on Chinese table manners, it is important to note that dining etiquette in China has been shaped by various historical, cultural, and regional factors. Different dynasties, regions, and social classes have contributed to the development and refinement of Chinese table manners over time.

What are Chinese table manners do’s and don’ts?

Table manners Do’s

  • Show respect for others by keeping your phone silenced, out of your hand, or completely off the table.
  • When taking a break, put the chopsticks towards the side of your plate or bowl, or on the chopstick rest if you have been given one. When you leave your chopsticks on top of your plate, it means that you have finished eating.
  • If you have been invited to a friend’s home for dinner or lunch, some serving utensils may not be present. When this happens, turn your chopsticks around moving from the communal bowls to your bowl.
  • Lift huge chunks of meat using your chopsticks, then nibble slowly instead of putting the entire chunk into your mouth. This also applies to large meat pieces such as fried chicken or pork chops.
  • Towards the end of your meal, you are always given toothpicks. If you choose to use the toothpicks, hold them in one hand, then cover your mouth with the other hands. That way, you look more civilized.

Table Manners Don’ts

  • Do not click your chopsticks together, especially when trying to move anything other than food or just so you can make a clicking sound with them.
  • Do not use your chopsticks for gesturing in the air when trying to talk to the person seated across the table.
  • Do not leave your chopsticks pointing directly at the person seated across the table. You ought to angle them slightly to avoid sending the wrong message. This is because placing the chopsticks vertically is a symbol of death in China.
  • Avoid sucking sauce or rice grains off the end part of your chopsticks, even after you have finished eating.
  • Do not try to lift food that seems too slippery to handle using a chopstick. You can always impale food as a way of tearing it and making it easier to consume, then pick up the smaller pieces using your chopsticks.
  • Whatever you do, do not pass a piece of food to anyone seated at the table using your chopsticks, neither should you receive food by snatching it with your chopsticks. This is because doing this is directly affiliated with a Chinese tradition that involves crossing over cremated bones between loved ones using a set of chopsticks. That said, you are better off placing the food on the receiver’s plate than give them a chance to pick it up using their chopsticks.

5 Important table manners in China

Introduction and seating arrangement

When you arrive at the table, the first thing you need to do is introduce yourself to those seated at the table, or you can allow the host to do the introduction to his guest. Once you have introduced yourself, sit according to the host’s arrangement or wait for the master to show you your seat if your name isn’t written on the cards at the table.

Of all things, the seating arrangement is the most important part of dining etiquette in China. If you find that the guest of honor or the most senior member is not seated, then no one else should sit until they do. If the guest of honor hasn’t eaten either, no one else should. When making toasts at the dinner table, the first toast is made from the seat where the guest of honor sits.

Seating arrangements and Pre-Dining habits

When eating meals in China, you are expected to be as civilized as possible. The best way to be civilized is by paying attention to table manners and practicing good dining habits. Older people ought to serve before the younger ones, and you can only start eating when you hear an elder or the host say, ‘let’s start’, ‘let’s eat’, or ‘you can begin’.


When eating, pick your bowl using your thumb towards the mouth of the bowl, followed by the first finger, middle finger, and the third finger of the bowl supporting the bottom of the bowl and palm empty. At this point, the palm should be empty.

Table manners when taking tea

When someone is pouring tea into your cup, tap the table with you’re index and middle finger about two or three times as a way of extending gratitude to the person serving you. When you do that, you also signal the pourer on when to stop.


You shouldn’t pick up too much food all at once, neither should you talk with food in your mouth. Also, you shouldn’t let food or sauce spill into the table. Also, close your mouth when chewing as a gesture of etiquette and a way to boost your digestion.

Chinese dining etiquette chopsticks

Chopsticks are an integral part of Chinese dining etiquette. Here are some key points to keep in mind when it comes to chopstick etiquette in Chinese culture:

Handling Chopsticks:

Do’s: Hold the chopsticks towards their ends, using your thumb and index finger to grip them. Keep the other fingers relaxed. Ensure that both chopsticks are of equal length and aligned properly.

Don’ts: Do not use your chopsticks as a tool for pointing, gesturing, or drumming on the table. Avoid crossing or sticking chopsticks upright into a bowl of rice, as it resembles funeral rituals.

Sharing Food:

Do’s: Use your chopsticks to pick up food from communal dishes and place it onto your own plate or bowl. When offering food to others, use the serving chopsticks provided or turn your chopsticks around to use the clean ends.

Don’ts: Do not use your personal chopsticks to pick up food from communal dishes and directly eat from them. It is considered unhygienic and disrespectful.

Passing Food:

Do’s: If you want to share food with someone, you can use your own chopsticks to place the food onto their plate or bowl. Alternatively, you can use the serving spoons provided to transfer food to their plate.

Don’ts: Avoid passing food directly from your chopsticks to someone else’s chopsticks, as it resembles a funeral custom of passing cremated remains between family members.

Finishing a Meal:

Do’s: Place your chopsticks neatly across the top of your bowl or on the chopstick rest when you have finished eating. This indicates that you have finished your meal.

Don’ts: Do not leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice, as it is reminiscent of incense sticks used in memorial ceremonies.


Do’s: When using chopsticks, show respect and courtesy by serving others before serving yourself, especially elders or guests. Pay attention to their needs and offer them food first.

Don’ts: Avoid using your chopsticks to pick through a dish and select only your favorite items, leaving the rest behind. It is polite to take a little from each dish and share the food equally.

Remember, chopstick etiquette may vary in different regions of China, so it is a good idea to be observant and follow the lead of your host or the locals. Showing respect and consideration for cultural customs is appreciated in Chinese dining settings.

Chinese dining rules

  • Seating etiquette: Guests should be seated first, followed by elders and other guests in order of importance. When entering the seat, do so from the left side of the chair. Once seated, avoid using chopsticks or making any noise. Refrain from getting up and walking around. If you need to address the host or greet someone (usually the seat facing the entrance is considered the main seat, typically based on the person’s status and position).
  • During the meal, invite the guests, particularly the elders, to start using their chopsticks first. When picking up food, take a smaller portion each time and eat less of the dishes that are farther away. Avoid making noise while eating or drinking soup. When drinking soup, use a spoon and take small sips, avoiding lifting the bowl to your mouth. If the soup is too hot, allow it to cool before drinking. Do not blow on the soup while drinking. Some people may chew crunchy food loudly, which is considered impolite, especially when dining with others. It is advisable to avoid such behavior.
  • Avoid burping or making other sounds during the meal. If an involuntary sound such as sneezing or stomach rumbling occurs, apologize by saying phrases like “Excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” or “Please forgive me” to express your apology.
  • When serving dishes to guests or elders, it is best to use serving chopsticks. Alternatively, you can bring the dishes closer to them. According to Chinese customs, dishes are served one by one. If there are leaders, seniors, or guests at the same table, invite them to start using their chopsticks when a new dish arrives or take turns allowing them to start, showing respect for them.
  • When encountering fish heads, fish bones, or other inedible parts, avoid spitting them out or throwing them on the floor. Take them slowly with your hand and place them on your own plate or on a prepared paper beside your plate.
  • Take the opportunity to chat with the people around you, using humor to create a harmonious atmosphere. Do not just lower your head and eat without paying attention to others. Avoid gobbling down your food or drinking excessively.
  • It is best not to pick your teeth at the table. If you need to do so, use a napkin or hand to cover your mouth.
  • Clarify the main purpose of the meal. Determine whether it is primarily for conducting business, building relationships, or simply enjoying a meal. If it is for business purposes, pay attention to seating arrangements, ensuring that the key negotiators are seated close to each other for ease of conversation. If the focus is on building relationships, basic etiquette is sufficient, and emphasis should be placed on enjoying the dishes.
  • When leaving the table, express gratitude to the host and consider inviting them to your home as a gesture of reciprocation.
  • Wait for the elders to be seated before taking your seat.
  • If there are ladies present, wait for them to be seated before taking your seat.
  • Maintain an upright posture and an appropriate distance from the table.
  • When leaving the table, offer assistance to elders or ladies in pulling out their chairs.
  • Use a spoon when drinking soup and avoid lifting the bowl to your mouth.
  • When drinking soup, scoop the spoon towards you and drink inwards.
  • When drinking soup, start with a small spoonful to test the temperature before drinking. Drink soup silently without making noise.
  • Avoid stirring hot soup or blowing on it to cool it down.
  • Do not take multiple sips of soup from the spoon in one go.
  • After finishing the soup, place the spoon on the soup plate or saucer.
  • Tear the bread into small pieces and eat them one by one. Do not bite directly from the bread.
  • If using butter on the bread, do not spread it on the whole piece. Tear off a small piece, spread the butter on it, and then eat it.
  • When tearing bread, crumbs should be collected on a plate to avoid dirtying the table.
  • After the meal, guests should wait for the host and hostess to leave the table before leaving.
  • Bread should be cut with a knife.
  • If the bread is warm, you can spread butter on the whole piece before tearing it into smaller pieces to eat.
  • When the soup is almost finished, you can tilt the soup bowl towards the center of the table using your left thumb and index finger to help you get the remaining soup.
  • When dining in a restaurant, follow the lead of the server to your assigned seat.
  • The napkin is primarily used to prevent stains on clothing and can also be used to wipe the mouth and hands.
  • Wait until everyone is seated before using the napkin.
  • Once the napkin is unfolded, place it on the upper thighs without tucking it into the belt or hanging it on the lapel of a suit.
  • Avoid using the napkin to wipe the cutlery.
  • After the meal, fold the napkin neatly and place it on the table before leaving.
  • Juicy fruits such as watermelon and grapefruit should be eaten using a spoon.
  • Small fruits like grapes can be eaten by hand.
  • When eating grapes, swallow the seeds together. If you need to remove the seeds, do so in your palm and then place them on the plate.
  • For less juicy fruits like apples, persimmons, and pears, you can cut them into quarters, peel them, and use a knife and fork to eat.
  • After peeling and slicing peaches and melons, use a fork to eat them.
  • To eat a banana, use a knife to make a slit in the middle, peel the skin apart, and take bites with a knife.
  • For Taiwanese oranges, peel them by hand and eat them by tearing off one slice at a time.
  • Juicy fruits like strawberries should be served on a small plate and eaten with a fork.
  • In Western dining, a finger bowl with water and flower petals is often provided for washing hands. However, remember to only wash the fingertips and not submerge the entire hand.
  • After eating fruit, do not wipe your hands with the napkin. Wash your fingertips first and then use the napkin to dry them.
  • Generally, cakes and pies should be divided with a fork and eaten. Harder ones can be cut with a knife and then eaten with a fork.
  • Sit upright with your feet under your own seat. Do not stretch your legs or place your elbows on the table or rest your hands on the back of the neighboring chair.
  • Maintain a calm and quiet demeanor while dining and avoid being impatient.
  • Pay attention to others at the table, especially those seated on both sides. Do not only focus on yourself.
  • Avoid talking with food in your mouth.
  • Do not use your personal utensils to pick up food from shared serving dishes.
  • Take small bites and do not stuff your mouth. Do not put more food into your mouth before swallowing what is already there.
  • When serving yourself food or scooping soup, use the communal chopsticks and spoon.
  • If you accidentally put something too hot in your mouth, you can cool it down by drinking water or juice.
  • When bringing food to your mouth, keep your elbows close to your body and avoid touching the neighboring seats.
  • Avoid talking to others or offering a toast while you or someone else has food in their mouth.
  • Good table manners include putting food into your mouth and not putting your mouth onto the food. If the food is juicy, avoid rushing it into your mouth, as it may cause the juice to drip onto the tablecloth, which is considered impolite.
  • Avoid picking your teeth with your fingers. Use a toothpick and cover your mouth or use a handkerchief.
  • Avoid coughing, sneezing, or farting at the table. If it happens unintentionally, apologize.
  • When drinking alcohol, do so in moderation and observe proper toasting etiquette. Avoid pressuring others to drink or engaging in loud behavior.
  • If a utensil falls to the ground, ask the waiter to pick it up.
  • In case of an accident, such as spilling wine, water, or soup on someone’s clothes, apologize without panicking or overcompensating, as it may make the other person uncomfortable.
  • If you need to reach for condiments placed in front of other guests, ask the neighboring guest to pass them instead of stretching across or reaching too far.
  • If the food is personally prepared by the host, don’t forget to express appreciation.
  • After finishing the meal, make sure the tableware is neatly arranged and avoid leaving it in a disorganized manner. Fold the napkin and place it on the table.
  • While the main course is being served, it is not advisable to smoke. If you need to smoke, seek permission from the nearby guests first.
  • When dining in a restaurant, avoid rushing to pay the bill or engaging in a tug of war over it. If you are a guest, do not insist on paying the bill without the friend’s consent or offer to pay on their behalf.
  • The pace of eating should be synchronized with the host and other guests, neither too fast nor too slow.
  • Avoid discussing sad or sorrowful matters at the table as it can spoil the pleasant atmosphere.
  • When eating meat, keep your lips closed and avoid making noise. Do not put more food into your mouth before swallowing what is already there.

table manners in ancient china

The etiquette of dining has a long history in China. As recorded in ancient texts, a fairly comprehensive system of dining etiquette was already in place during the Zhou Dynasty. Confucius, who served as a wine steward in the state of Lu, praised and admired this etiquette, which became an important aspect of the appearance of great nations, a civilized society, and proper manners throughout the successive dynasties.

As part of the traditional banquet etiquette of the Han ethnic group, there is a set procedure. The host sends invitations and welcomes guests at the entrance. When guests arrive, they exchange greetings, sit in the living room, and are served with tea and refreshments. After all the guests have gathered, they are led to the dining area. The seating arrangement follows a hierarchical order, with the left side considered the top, the seat opposite the host as the second seat, the seat below the second seat as the third seat, and so on. Once the guests are seated, the host offers toasts and dishes, and the guests express their gratitude. There are also certain etiquettes to serving drinks and dishes during the meal: elders and honored guests should be served first, and the host should be served last. This traditional dining etiquette is still preserved in many regions of China, such as Shandong, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and is often depicted in films and television shows.

During the Qing Dynasty, influenced by the introduction of Western cuisine, some Western dining etiquette was also adopted. Practices such as serving dishes, serving soup, and pouring wine were incorporated into Chinese dining etiquette for reasons of hygiene and proper eating habits. The exchange between Chinese and Western culinary cultures has made dining etiquette more scientific and rational.

Kitchen God

Chinese people not only greatly respect the art and etiquette of dining but even worship the “Kitchen God” derived from the “Fire God.” They believe that the Kitchen God can protect the kitchen from fires and various misfortunes. On the evening of the 23rd day of the twelfth lunar month each year, every family prepares a sumptuous feast to offer to the Kitchen God (also known as the traditional “Kitchen Sacrifice”). This feast includes a whole chicken, roasted pig, various vegetables, and rice, as a way to express gratitude to the Kitchen God for their blessings over the past year. The dining table is usually placed in front of the Kitchen God, with the delicacies placed on the left side of the table and left there for several hours before being taken away.


The Relationship Between Etiquette and Superstition

When dining with guests in a traditional Chinese household, it is important to respect their culture, etiquette, and customs and avoid violating various taboos. Chinese people believe that dining and personal destiny are closely linked, and violating taboos during a meal can bring bad luck. For example, when eating fish, one should not use chopsticks to flip the fish over after finishing one side, as it is believed that flipping the fish may lead to the overturning of fishing boats. This belief is rooted in Hong Kong’s early days as a fishing port, where fishermen were concerned about the safety of their boats. Additionally, it is considered inappropriate to serve exactly seven dishes during a meal because “seven dishes” is associated with post-funeral “consolation wine” rituals. It is also considered impolite to vertically insert chopsticks into the center of the rice bowl, as it resembles ancestral worship. After finishing a meal, one should avoid saying “I’m done eating” because it implies one’s own death and the inability to eat again. Instead, it is more appropriate to say “I’m full.” Making noise by clinking chopsticks against the bowl while eating is also avoided as it not only indicates rudeness but also signifies “having no food.” Cultivating the habit of finishing all the rice in the bowl, without leaving a single grain, is encouraged as a sign of respect for the hard work of farmers. These superstitious dining customs and taboos have been passed down and are still observed to some extent in Chinese dining etiquette today.

chinese table manners you are how you eat

Chinese Table Etiquette can be summarized as follows:

Seating Etiquette: Guests should be seated first, followed by elders, and then other guests in order of precedence. When taking a seat, enter from the left side of the chair and refrain from touching the chopsticks or making any noise. Avoid getting up and moving around once seated, unless necessary. If there is something to communicate with the host, do so politely.

Dining Etiquette: Guests and elders should start using their chopsticks first. When picking up food, take smaller portions each time, especially for dishes farther away from you. It is considered impolite to make noise while eating, including slurping soup. When drinking soup, use a spoon and take small sips instead of lifting the bowl to your mouth. If the soup is too hot, wait for it to cool down before drinking and avoid blowing on it. Chewing food loudly or making loud chewing sounds, especially with crunchy foods, is not in accordance with dining etiquette. It is particularly important to avoid such behavior when dining with others.

Avoid Disruptive Sounds: Avoid burping or making other disruptive sounds during the meal. If an involuntary sound occurs, such as sneezing or stomach rumbling, apologize by saying “I’m sorry,” “Excuse me,” or similar expressions to show remorse.

Serving Others: When serving food to guests or elders, it is best to use public chopsticks or deliver dishes that are farthest from them. According to Chinese customs, dishes are served one by one. If there are leaders, seniors, or guests at the table, it is customary to invite them to start using their chopsticks first when a new dish is served, or take turns inviting them to show respect.

Dealing with Fish Heads, Fishbones, and Bones: Place fish heads, fishbones, and other bones on your own plate or on a prepared paper before disposing of them.

Engage in Conversations and Maintain Etiquette: Take the opportunity to engage in light conversations with those around you to lighten the atmosphere. Avoid focusing solely on your own meal and being oblivious to others. Do not eat hastily or drink excessively.

Toothpicking: It is best to avoid toothpicking at the dining table. If necessary, use a napkin or your hand to cover your mouth.

Clarify the Purpose of the Meal: Determine the main objective of the meal, whether it is for business discussions, building relationships, or simply enjoying the food. If it is for business, consider arranging seats to have the main negotiators seated close to each other. If it is for building relationships, focus on basic etiquette and appreciate the dishes served.

Expressing Gratitude: Before leaving the table, express gratitude to the host and extend an invitation for them to visit your home as a gesture of reciprocity.

chinese table etiquette rules

Seating Etiquette

Table etiquette holds a significant place in the complete life order of the Chinese people, who believe that dining is not only a means to satisfy basic physiological needs but also a crucial social experience. Therefore, it is important to have knowledge of certain Chinese dining rules, whether you are the host or a guest.

● Round tables are highly popular because they can accommodate more people and allow everyone to sit face to face. Unlike on long Western-style tables, the identity of the host is not easily recognizable by their seating position. Guests should wait for the host’s invitation before sitting down. The host must be cautious not to let guests sit in seats near the serving dishes, as it is a major taboo.

It is necessary to wait for everyone to arrive before starting any form of dining activity, even if someone is late. Once everyone is seated, the host can give an opening speech. During the meal, the host should take an active role and encourage guests to eat and drink to their heart’s content.

● A typical Chinese dining table may appear quite empty, especially to Westerners. Each seat has a bowl placed in front of it, and to the right, there is a set of chopsticks and a spoon placed on their respective holders. In formal occasions, napkins may be provided and should be placed on the lap. In a formal banquet, the eating style resembles a slide show, with each dish served separately. Surprisingly, rice is not served together with the dishes, but it can be chosen to be eaten alongside them. Since each dish has its own unique flavor, it is recommended to taste them individually and only eat one type of dish at a time, without mixing them. Plates are not used; only bowls are used for eating. Bones and shells are placed in separate dishes. Unclean plates must be frequently replaced with clean ones.

● Except for soup, all food on the table is eaten with chopsticks. Knives and forks may be provided, but as a Chinese person, it is best to use chopsticks. Chopsticks are utensils for dining, so it is absolutely inappropriate to play with them—using them as drumsticks is highly disrespectful, and pointing or gesturing with chopsticks towards others is also forbidden. Moreover, it is strictly prohibited to suck on or insert chopsticks into rice, as it is a major taboo—resembling incense sticks used in funerals and considered inauspicious. Additionally, it is improper to constantly stir a dish with chopsticks; you should use your eyes to identify the food you want to take. When picking up a piece of food with chopsticks, try to avoid touching other food items. If possible, use the communal chopsticks and spoon beside you. After finishing the meal or taking food, return the chopsticks to the chopstick rest.

● A Chinese dining experience cannot be considered formal without tea. It is wise to have a variety of teas available to cater to different tastes and preferences. When it comes to tea, there are a few key things to note. From the eldest to the youngest, pour tea for others first, and finally for yourself. When someone pours tea for you, it is customary to lightly tap the table with your fingers as a gesture of thanks and respect to the person pouring the tea.

Dining is of utmost importance in domestic life, reflecting personal qualities and taste. The order of using chopsticks and pouring tea is carefully observed, starting with the eldest and ending with the youngest, and serving females before males. The reason behind hosting a banquet is that Chinese people have always given priority to food. Dining not only satisfies basic human needs but also upholds traditional customs and gathers loved ones around the table to enjoy a hearty meal. Banquets can be held to celebrate joyous occasions or to express grief. During the Lunar New Year, weddings, and Chinese festivals such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, families gather to celebrate together. Conversely, in the event of a death, the bereaved family may hold a “consolation banquet” after the funeral to express gratitude to relatives and friends who attended, highlighting the Chinese emphasis on coming together at the dining table to share joy and sorrow.

Banquet Etiquette

  • When you are invited to a banquet, you should be more interested in the people at your table and the conversations at the table than the food itself. Therefore, during the meal, try to minimize noise and excessive movements.
  • When the hostess picks up her napkin, you can also pick up your napkin and place it on your lap. Sometimes, the napkin may contain a small bread roll; if that’s the case, take it out and place it on the small plate beside you.
  • If the napkin is large, fold it in half and place it on your lap; if it is small, unfold it completely. Avoid tucking the napkin into your collar or vest, and do not crumple it in your hand. You can use a corner of the napkin to wipe any oil stains or dirt from your mouth or fingers, but do not use it to wipe knives, forks, or plates.
  • The main meal usually starts with soup. The largest spoon in front of you is the soup spoon, located next to your plate on the right side. Do not mistake the spoon placed in the middle of the table, as it may be for serving vegetables or condiments.
  • Guests should not start eating any dish until the hostess picks up her spoon or fork. The hostess usually waits for all the guests to have their dishes before beginning. She will not follow the Chinese custom of asking you to eat first. When she picks up her spoon or fork, it signifies that everyone can start eating.
  • If there is a fish dish, it is usually served after the soup. There may be a specialized fish fork on the table, which may resemble the meat fork but is typically smaller. Place the fish fork on the outer side of the meat fork, farther from the plate.
  • Usually, the fish bones are removed before the fish is served. If the piece of fish you are eating still has bones, you can hold a bread roll or a piece of bread in your left hand and use your right hand to remove the bones with a knife.
  • If you have a fishbone in your mouth, quietly and discreetly use your fingers to remove it, if possible, without drawing attention. Place the bone on the edge of your plate, not on the table or on the floor.

 Table Etiquette Taboos in China

  • The host should inform the guests in advance and specify the dining time as 6:00 PM. It is not appropriate to call the guests at 5:50 PM.
  • The host should not be late, and guests should also avoid being late.
  • If dining at a round table, the seat facing the entrance or with a *wall or counter behind it is the main seat. In more formal restaurants, the differentiation may be indicated by the placement of napkins. The highest position for the napkin should not be taken casually unless you intend to treat everyone.
  • The guest of honor sits to the right of the host, and the less important guests sit to the host’s left. The seat facing the host, near the entrance, is typically for accompanying guests who assist with serving.
  • As a guest, you should not directly order or instruct the waiter/waitress. Instead, wait patiently for the host to order. However, if you have specific dietary restrictions or preferences, politely inform the host, and they will accommodate your requests.
  • The host should not order or order fewer dishes that require eating with hands or holding, such as crabs, lobster legs, ribs, etc. It would be difficult to observe etiquette if multiple such dishes are served during the meal.
  • A small amount of drinking is not discouraged but not forced either. No banquet is complete without alcohol!
  • The beverages and dishes are served! While Westerners may boast about their cooking skills, Chinese guests generally do not brag about the dishes they ordered. The host carefully observes when all the cold dishes are served and each guest has a drink. At that moment, everyone should raise their glasses, make a toast, and welcome the start of the meal. The host may rotate a Lazy Susan or gesture for the guest of honor on their right to start eating. The guest of honor should not decline for too long, as everyone is hungry and waiting for them to begin. Don’t forget to praise the food after eating!
  • When each dish is served, although the waitstaff and host may present it to the guest of honor, it is not necessary to be too strict. If the dish happens to be in front of you without the Lazy Susan being rotated, you can take a small portion with your chopsticks and taste it.
  • The host should frequently rotate the Lazy Susan to ensure most guests are taken care of, while the accompanying guests provide additional service and attention. If guests can finish the whole meal without touching the Lazy Susan, it will be enjoyable for both hosts and guests.
  • If there are no waitstaff to serve the dishes or shared chopsticks and spoons, be cautious when picking food. Do not use your own chopsticks to pick and choose from the communal plate, or even stir the food. Not everyone is comfortable with others’ saliva on their chopsticks. Choose the portion closest to you.
  • It is best to let the food on the chopsticks transition to your own plate before placing it in your mouth. This can make the eating process appear less hurried.
  • While chewing food, remember to keep your lips closed to avoid talking, dropping objects, spilling juices, or making unpleasant chewing sounds.
  • Whether during the meal or before/after, maintain an upright posture and try to sit back in the chair instead of leaning forward. During the meal, keep both hands above the table.
  • A host with a big appetite and a guest who is currently on a diet may not be suitable for such a dining gathering.
  • When someone comes to propose a toast, everyone at the table should stand up.

Table manners often go unnoticed, but they are essential to follow.

Seating and Leaving the Table:

  • Wait for the elders to be seated before taking your seat.
  • If there are ladies present, wait for them to be seated before taking your seat. If a lady is seated at a neighboring table, acknowledge her presence.
  • After finishing the meal, wait for the hosts (both male and female) to leave the table before others can leave.
  • Sit with an upright posture and maintain an appropriate distance from the table.
  • When dining in a restaurant, follow the lead of the server to your assigned seat.
  • When leaving the table, assist elderly or female guests in pulling out their chairs.

Use of Napkin:

  • The napkin primarily serves to protect clothing and wipe off food stains from the mouth and hands.
  • Only unfold the napkin after everyone is seated.
  • Place the unfolded napkin on the lap, over the thigh, without attaching it to the belt or hanging it from the suit collar.
  • Avoid using the napkin to wipe utensils.
  • Do not crumple or leave the napkin carelessly; instead, fold it neatly and position the folded side facing others.

General Etiquette at the Table:

  • Maintain a proper posture with feet placed under the seat, avoiding stretching them out or resting hands on neighboring chair backs.
  • Eat with grace, composure, and tranquility, avoiding impatience.
  • Show consideration for others at the table, especially by interacting with guests on both sides.
  • Avoid speaking with food in the mouth.
  • Do not use personal utensils to take food from shared dishes.
  • Take small bites, avoiding stuffing food into the mouth and refraining from adding more when the previous bite is still being chewed.
  • Use communal serving utensils when taking dishes or serving soup.
  • Do not spit out chewed food, especially hot food. Instead, drink water or juice to cool it down.
  • When bringing food to the mouth, keep the elbows close to the body and avoid extending them outward to avoid touching neighboring guests.
  • Avoid talking or toasting while holding cutlery or when someone else is chewing food.
  • Properly handle food with gravy or sauce, ensuring it doesn’t drip on the tablecloth.
  • Refrain from picking teeth with fingers; use a toothpick and cover the mouth or use a handkerchief.
  • Avoid coughing, sneezing, or sighing at the table. If necessary, turn away, cover the mouth with a handkerchief, and apologize.
  • Drink alcohol moderately and toast within the appropriate limits, refraining from pressuring others or engaging in shouting or gambling games.
  • If any utensils fall to the floor, request assistance from the waiter.
  • In case of an accident, such as spilling wine, water, or soup on someone’s clothes, apologize and express regret, without panicking or feeling the need to compensate excessively.
  • When reaching for condiments placed in front of a fellow diner, politely request the assistance of the neighboring guest, avoiding stretching across the table.
  • If the host personally prepares the food, remember to express appreciation.
  • If encountering unclean or unpleasant-tasting food, discreetly remove it from the mouth with thumb and forefinger and place it on the plate. If you notice foreign objects or insects in the dish while it is still in the serving dish, discreetly inform the waiter to replace it.
  • After finishing the meal, ensure that the tableware is neatly arranged, and the napkin is folded and placed on the table.
  • While the main course is in progress, it is not advisable to smoke. If necessary, seek consent from nearby guests.
  • When dining in a restaurant, it is impolite to rush to pay the bill or engage in a tug-of-war to settle it. If you are a guest, avoid competing to pay the bill. Unless explicitly agreed upon, do not pay on behalf of friends without their consent.
  • Maintain a similar eating pace as the hosts, neither too fast nor too slow.
  • Avoid discussing sad or distressing topics at the table as it may dampen the joyful atmosphere.

Serving of individual dishes and combined meal system

Regardless of whether it is a separate dining system or a communal dining system, both are historical phenomena that objectively existed in history. In the late Qing Dynasty, some progressive intellectuals advocated changing China’s communal dining system to a separate dining system in order to be like the West, claiming that China’s feudal society could not be eliminated without this change. However, China had already practiced a separate dining system in primitive society, while the communal dining system emerged in the Song Dynasty and later periods.

China primarily practiced a separate dining system before the Song Dynasty.

In ancient primitive society in China, people relied on fishing, hunting, and gathering for survival. Food was often scarce, and there was a need for some form of equal distribution.

The economic form at that time was mainly collective economy within the communal system, and labor was also collective. Under certain material conditions, equal distribution became a necessary condition. Given the limited availability of food, a communal dining system was impractical. Moreover, people at the time did not have the concept of communal dining.

Therefore, a separate dining system gradually formed. To ensure equal distribution, people would often allocate equal portions of food to each individual’s plate to ensure fairness. However, this was a distribution model adopted due to underdeveloped material conditions.

During the civilized era, specifically the Xia, Shang, and Zhou Dynasties, China still adhered to the separate dining system. However, the reasons for this system were not primarily due to material scarcity but rather a means of social stratification based on status and hierarchy.

The ancient texts, such as the “Zhou Li” (Rites of Zhou), document that dining practices differentiated among different social classes. For example, the emperor’s meals were elaborate, consisting of multiple courses, while nobles and officials had fewer courses. The number of dishes and utensils used signified social status.

These records indicate that social attributes and hierarchy became increasingly significant during this period. The economic model evolved from a purely collective economy to an early form of individual economy.

Politically, a centralized monarchy system began to take shape, and human influence played an increasingly significant role. As a result, the aristocracy emerged. The aristocracy consisted of individuals who did not engage in productive labor but had access to abundant high-quality food and resources.

To maintain their privileged status, the aristocracy sought to establish an insurmountable gap between themselves and commoners. They employed elaborate ceremonial systems to display their exclusive privileges. The communal dining system did not serve this purpose effectively, as it did not visibly distinguish the social hierarchy. However, the separate dining system achieved this objective by clearly showcasing the disparities in food and dining arrangements at different tables.

Until the Song Dynasty, China primarily implemented the separate dining system.

Indeed, not only during the Xia, Shang, and Zhou Dynasties but also in the subsequent Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods, the separate dining system was practiced. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods, social status was still predominantly determined by blood relations, making kinship a crucial criterion for evaluating nobility. Although the Qin and Han Dynasties implemented a strict bureaucratic system and no longer solely relied on blood relations as the sole criterion for evaluation, kinship still played an important role in society.

For example, the successor to the emperor was still chosen from among the emperor’s sons or other members of the imperial family, rather than based on personal abilities. Family remained an important support system for individuals, and one’s influence and future position in the court largely depended on the strength and status of their family within the country. Individuals, to a certain extent, relied on their family and lineage. These are important reasons why the separate dining system continued to exist on a large scale even after the establishment of the bureaucratic system.

Common people continued to follow the previous customs and practiced the separate dining system. This was because during the Qin and Han Dynasties, and even in the previous three generations, clothing styles typically had wide sleeves. If a communal dining system were implemented, sleeves would easily dip into the food, disrupting others’ meals and hindering one’s own ability to eat. Thus, the separate dining system was adopted for the convenience of eating.

In addition, there was strict segregation between men and women in ancient times, and people of that era were averse to direct physical contact with others. Many traditional greetings and etiquettes involved bowing or saluting, with very few greetings involving direct physical contact (sitting next to someone being an exception).

Ancient people believed that touching others’ bodies without consent or rashly was impolite and could bring bad luck to both parties. Therefore, under normal circumstances, ancient people would not easily engage in physical contact with others. The separate dining system adhered to this characteristic as it avoided both physical contact with others and any potentially impolite behavior.

A communal dining system cannot achieve this, as physical contact is inevitable. Due to these reasons, many common people continued to adopt the separate dining system.

After the Song Dynasty, communal dining became the main trend in society.

In fact, the emergence of communal dining had already started before the Song Dynasty, but it had not spread extensively.

Before the Song Dynasty, during the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, the beginnings of communal dining emerged, but it did not spread widely. The period of the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties was relatively unique in Chinese history, characterized by hardships in people’s lives and ineffective ruling policies by the ruling class. In certain aspects, these policies fostered local powers, resulting in the exploitation of the common people and their longing for the Han Dynasty.

A dissatisfied segment of the middle and lower ruling class gradually emerged, giving rise to recluses and scholars known for their “Wei-Jin style.” These individuals advocated personal freedom and disliked the constraints imposed by material possessions. The viewpoint expressed by Jia Kang, “transcending names and teachings, and allowing oneself to follow nature,” was representative of this trend. However, beneath this movement, family-based collective powers continued to develop. In local regions, renowned families gradually emerged, primarily through monopolizing certain economic resources and benefiting from certain texts during the middle and late periods of the Han Dynasty. Eventually, these families gained dominance in a period of complete disintegration of the ruling class during the Han Dynasty. This was a remarkable era where individual freedom was valued, yet familial forces continued to strengthen.

These distinctive characteristics of the era indicated a gradual transition from separate dining to communal dining. However, during this process, the development of communal dining was not fully matured. In addition to the reasons specific to that era, there were also factors such as invasions by foreign tribes, which significantly influenced the political, economic, and cultural aspects of the Central Plains. The original clothing styles in the Central Plains mostly featured wide sleeves, but with the influx of nomadic tribes, clothing gradually changed and adopted narrow sleeves with distinct nomadic characteristics.

Nomadic tribes did not develop based on agricultural civilization; they valued hunting on the grasslands and the domestication of cattle and sheep. The broad sleeves of the previous clothing hindered their activities. Hence, narrow sleeves became a distinctive cultural characteristic of these nomadic tribes. Over time, the clothing culture of the Central Plains was gradually influenced by the clothing styles of the nomadic tribes.

The gradual shift from wide sleeves to narrow sleeves can be observed in the late Northern and Southern Dynasties and the popular clothing styles during the Tang Dynasty, which also featured narrow sleeves of the ethnic minorities. This facilitated the development of communal dining by resolving the previous issue of clothing that hindered the adoption of communal dining.

The significant economic development during the Song Dynasty created the necessary conditions for communal dining.

Although the Song Dynasty may not appear to have had a particularly strong national power in Chinese history and experienced multiple oppressions from neighboring ethnic states, it was indeed one of the rare dynasties in Chinese history with a well-developed market economy. Its economic scale even compares favorably to the modern era.

The rulers of the Song Dynasty did not impose strict demands like previous dynasties’ rulers. Their ruling style was rather unique, as they preferred to solve problems with money, whether it was bureaucratic issues or diplomatic matters with neighboring ethnic groups. Consequently, money became crucial to them, and they valued money more than any other rulers in history. The development of restaurants and other commercial economic activities thrived during this period.

With the advancement of architectural techniques, restaurants could now have three or even six stories, indicating the rise of large-scale restaurants. Restaurants and eateries, which generally practiced communal dining, occupied a significant area. If the separate dining system were employed, it would require a large amount of space. Moreover, having multiple people gathered around one table reduced food waste, as a single person dining inevitably leads to some degree of food wastage.

Additionally, one person requires a table and a chair, while ten people would need ten tables and ten chairs. If a group of people dine together, it is evident that only one table is needed. For the restaurant owners, this reduces costs. Those who had entrepreneurial acumen in opening restaurants would certainly consider this aspect. Clearly, the majority of restaurants at that time adopted communal dining. Over time, this habit influenced the surrounding population, and the practice of communal dining gradually spread.

Chinese table manners vs western

Chinese table manners and Western table manners differ in several aspects. Here are some key differences:

Seating arrangement: In Chinese dining etiquette, seating arrangements are often formal and follow a hierarchical structure. The host or the most senior person is typically seated at the head of the table, and guests are seated according to their rank or importance. In Western dining etiquette, seating arrangements are usually more flexible and informal, with guests free to choose their seats.

Use of chopsticks vs utensils: Chopsticks are the primary eating utensils in Chinese cuisine, and proper chopstick etiquette is important. Chinese dining etiquette emphasizes holding chopsticks correctly, not using them to spear food, and not pointing them at others. In Western dining, utensils like forks, knives, and spoons are used, and specific etiquette revolves around their proper use, such as holding utensils in the correct hand and using them for cutting, scooping, or eating.

Serving style: Chinese dining often involves sharing dishes placed in the center of the table, and guests use their chopsticks to take food from the shared dishes. This communal dining style encourages interaction and the sharing of food. In Western dining, individual plates or portions are served to each guest, and they primarily eat from their own plates.

Toasting and drinking etiquette: Toasting plays a significant role in Chinese dining culture. When making a toast, it is customary to raise glasses and say “Ganbei,” which means “bottoms up” or “empty the glass.” In Western dining, toasting is also common, but the focus is more on individual toasts and expressing good wishes rather than emptying the glass.

Noise level and conversation: Chinese dining etiquette tends to be more lively and noisy, with conversation and laughter encouraged. It is seen as a sign of enjoyment and a vibrant atmosphere. In Western dining, there is often an emphasis on maintaining a moderate noise level and engaging in more focused and intimate conversations.

Table manners and etiquette: Both Chinese and Western dining cultures have their own specific table manners and etiquette. For example, in Chinese dining, it is polite to leave a little food on the plate to show that you have had enough, while in Western dining, finishing everything on the plate is generally expected. Other etiquette differences include how to use napkins, when to start eating, and how to express gratitude to the host.

It is important to note that these are general cultural observations, and individual practices may vary within each culture.

Ordering dishes

If time allows, you should wait for most guests to arrive before providing them with menus and asking them to order. Of course, when hosting a business banquet, you may be concerned about the budget. Therefore, doing your homework and choosing a suitable venue within your budget is essential. This way, guests will understand your budgetary considerations.

Furthermore, generally speaking, if you are the one paying the bill, guests may hesitate to order dishes and leave it to you to decide. If your boss is also present at the banquet, do not let them order the dishes unless they specifically request to do so. Otherwise, they may feel it is not dignified, despite their experience in social engagements and ability to handle large meals.

If you are a guest at a banquet, it is important not to be too proactive in ordering dishes. Instead, let the host make the selections. If the host insists, you can choose a dish that is not too expensive and is generally liked by everyone. Remember to seek opinions from others at the table, especially by asking if there are any dietary restrictions or specific preferences. After ordering, you can ask for feedback such as, “I have ordered the dishes, but I’m not sure if they suit everyone’s taste,” or “Should we order something else?”

Three rules for ordering dishes

Consider the composition of the guests.

Generally, ordering one dish per person is a common rule. If there are more male guests, you may need to order slightly more.

Consider the combination of dishes.

It is generally recommended to have a variety of meat and vegetable dishes, as well as hot and cold dishes, for a well-rounded meal. If there are more men at the table, you can order more meat dishes, while if there are more women, consider ordering several lighter vegetable dishes.

Consider the importance of the event.

For a regular business banquet, an average price of 50 to 80 yuan per dish is acceptable. If the guests being entertained are more important individuals, consider ordering a few substantial dishes such as lobster, swordfish, or sablefish. If you want to elevate the level, you can choose dishes like abalone or shark fin.

It is also important not to ask the server about the prices of the dishes or bargain with them. Doing so may make your company appear small-minded in front of the clients and make them uncomfortable.

Three advantages and four taboos of ordering Chinese dishes

A standard Chinese meal usually starts with cold dishes, followed by stir-fried dishes, main dishes, and then dim sum and soup. If you feel a bit full, you can order some desserts after the meal, and finally, a fruit platter is served. When ordering dishes, consider the progression of the different courses.

Prioritize the following dishes:

Dishes with Chinese characteristics.

This is especially important when entertaining foreign guests. Dishes like fried spring rolls, boiled dumplings, steamed dumplings, lion’s head meatballs, and Kung Pao chicken may not be the most delicious, but they have distinct Chinese characteristics and are highly regarded by many foreigners.

Local specialty dishes.

For example, Xi’an’s lamb paomo, Hunan’s Mao family braised pork, Shanghai’s braised lion’s head meatballs, or Beijing’s hot pot lamb. When entertaining guests from other regions, serving these local specialty dishes may receive more praise than a generic selection of fresh seafood.

Restaurant’s specialty dishes.

Many restaurants have their own signature dishes. Ordering one of the restaurant’s specialties demonstrates the host’s thoughtfulness and respect for the guests.



Chopsticks are the primary tableware in Chinese cuisine. When using chopsticks, they should always be used in pairs. When using chopsticks to pick up food or during meals, pay attention to the following “small” issues:

Do not lick the chopsticks, whether there is food residue on them or not. Using chopsticks that have been licked to pick up food can be off-putting.

When talking to others, temporarily put down the chopsticks and avoid waving them like a conductor’s baton while speaking.

Do not insert the chopsticks vertically into the food. This method of insertion is only used during rituals for the deceased.

Stick to the proper use of chopsticks. Chopsticks are meant for picking up food. It is impolite to use them for picking teeth, scratching, or for purposes other than handling food.


The main function of the spoon is to scoop dishes and food. Sometimes, when using chopsticks, a spoon can be used as an auxiliary tool. Avoid using the spoon alone to take food. When using a spoon, avoid filling it too full to prevent spilling and dirtying the table or your clothes. After scooping the food, you can pause for a moment before moving it back to your own plate, allowing the soup to stop flowing.

When the spoon is not in use temporarily, place it on your own plate instead of directly on the table or leaving it standing in the food. After using the spoon to take food, immediately consume it or place it in your own plate, avoiding putting it back into the original container.

If the food is too hot to scoop or eat, do not blow on it directly with your mouth. Instead, transfer it to your own bowl and wait for it to cool down. Do not put the spoon in your mouth or repeatedly suck or lick it.


Smaller plates are called “dish” and are mainly used for holding food. They are used in a similar way to bowls. Plates should generally be kept in their original positions on the table and should not be stacked together.

One specific type of plate worth mentioning is the “food plate.” Its main purpose is to temporarily hold the dishes taken from the communal serving dishes. When using a food plate, avoid overcrowding it with too many dishes, as it can look messy and unappetizing. Do not pile different dishes together as they may mix flavors, which is unappealing and affects the taste. Leftover residue, bones, or thorns should not be spit onto the floor or table. They should be gently placed at the front of the food plate, avoiding spitting directly from the mouth onto the plate. If the food plate is full, you can ask the server for a replacement.

Water glass

Water glasses are primarily used for serving water, soft drinks, fruit juices, cola, and other non-alcoholic beverages. They should not be used for alcoholic beverages, and it is also improper to invert a water glass. Additionally, once something has been sipped from the glass, it should not be spat back into it.

Wet towel

In more formal Chinese dining, a wet towel is often provided for each diner before the meal.

It is only used for wiping hands. After wiping your hands, the towel should be placed back in the dish and taken away by the server. Sometimes, before the formal banquet concludes, another wet towel may be provided. Unlike the previous one, this towel is only used for wiping the mouth and should not be used to wipe the face or sweat.


It is best to avoid picking teeth in public. If absolutely necessary, use the other hand to cover the mouth while picking. Do not showcase or put the picked debris back into the mouth, and do not flick or spit casually. After picking teeth, do not hold the toothpick for an extended period, and do not use it to pick up food.

Eating Etiquette

Chinese people generally pay great attention to dining etiquette and table manners. With the increasing emphasis on business etiquette, proper eating and table manners have become even more important in business dining settings. Taking Chinese cuisine as an example, here’s how to behave gracefully and skillfully at the dining table.

At the beginning of a Chinese banquet, the first wet towel provided by the server is for hand wiping, not for wiping the face. When lobster, chicken, or fruits are served, a small bowl of water with lemon slices or rose petals floating in it may be presented. It is not a beverage but intended for hand washing. Dip your fingers in the water bowl alternately, gently rinse, and then dry them with a small towel.

During the meal, it is important to be courteous and polite. When dining with foreign guests, avoid repeatedly urging them to try dishes. You can introduce the characteristics of Chinese cuisine, but whether they want to eat or not is up to them. Some people may enjoy encouraging others to try dishes or even serving them directly. However, foreign guests may not have this habit, and if you insist too much, they might feel offended and think, “I already said I don’t want it, why are you forcing me?” Similarly, when attending banquets hosted by foreign hosts, don’t expect them to repeatedly offer you dishes. If you wait for others to serve you, you might end up going hungry.

When guests are seated, do not immediately start eating. Wait for the host’s greeting and for the host to raise a toast as a signal to begin. Guests should not start eating before the host. When picking up food, do so in a civilized manner. Wait until the dish is in front of you before using your chopsticks; do not reach in front of your neighbors, and do not take too much at once. Chew slowly and swallow gracefully. This is not only beneficial for digestion but also a requirement of dining etiquette. Avoid stuffing large pieces of food into your mouth or eating hastily, as it gives the impression of greed. Do not be picky and only focus on the dishes you like, or hastily pile all the favorite dishes on your own plate.

Maintain graceful movements while eating. Do not touch your neighbors when picking up food, do not push the dishes off the plate onto the table, and do not spill the soup. Avoid making unnecessary sounds, such as making loud gulping noises while drinking soup or making “chewing” sounds while eating. These are considered vulgar behaviors.

Do not eat while chatting with others. Bones and fish bones should not be spit onto the table; use a napkin to cover your mouth and remove them with chopsticks, placing them on the side plate. Do not eat food that has fallen onto the table. Do not play with bowls and chopsticks or point chopsticks directly at others. Avoid using your hands to pick at your teeth. When using a toothpick, cover your mouth with your hand or a napkin. Do not let the tableware make any noise.

After finishing the meal, you can use a napkin, tissue, or a small towel provided by the server to wipe your mouth, but avoid wiping your head, neck, or chest. Burping loudly or belching without control is impolite, and guests should not leave the table before the host signals the end of the meal.


Drinking Etiquette

As the saying goes, the more you drink, the closer you become. However, there are also many etiquettes and details to consider at the drinking table. Here are some small details you must pay attention to:

Detail 1: Wait for the leaders to finish their toasts before it’s your turn to offer a toast. When offering a toast, stand up and raise your glass with both hands.

Detail 2: Multiple people can toast to one person, but one person should not toast to multiple people unless you are the leader.

Detail 3: When toasting to others, if you don’t clink glasses, the amount you drink depends on the situation, such as the other person’s alcohol tolerance and their attitude towards drinking. Do not drink less than the other person, as you should remember that you are toasting to them.

Detail 4: When toasting to others and clinking glasses, a simple statement like “I will finish mine, you can drink as you like” demonstrates generosity.

Detail 5: Remember to frequently refill the glasses of leaders or clients. Do not randomly refill the glass for a leader unless they specifically ask for it, and even then, act as if you are doing it because you want to drink, not because you are refilling for the leader. For example, if Leader A cannot handle much alcohol, you can subtly intercept the person who is about to toast to Leader A.

Detail 6: When lifting a glass (or a beer mug), grip it with the right hand and support the bottom with the left hand. Always keep your own glass lower than others. If you are a leader, be considerate and don’t hold your glass too low, as it may affect the status of those below you.

Detail 7: Unless there is a special guest present, it is best to clink glasses in a clockwise order, avoiding favoritism.

Detail 8: When clinking glasses and offering a toast, there should be words accompanying it. Otherwise, why should I drink your alcohol?

Detail 9: Avoid discussing business matters on the table. Once everyone has finished drinking, the business discussions will naturally come to an end. Everyone will have a clear understanding, and people will be more open to drinking with you.

Detail 10: In the unlikely event of running out of alcohol, place the bottle in the middle of the table for people to refill their glasses themselves. Do not foolishly pour drinks one by one, as it may leave some people without any drink.


Tea Pouring Etiquette

The following guidelines for tea pouring apply both to when clients visit a company and to business dining:

Cleanliness of Tea Utensils:

After the guest enters the room, offer them a seat before preparing the tea. Before brewing tea, it is essential to clean the tea utensils, especially if they have been unused for some time and may have collected dust or dirt. Rinse the utensils thoroughly with clean water. It is also preferable to scald the teapot and tea cups with hot water before pouring the tea. This demonstrates hygiene and politeness. Pouring tea without considering the cleanliness of the utensils is impolite. If guests see stains or dirt on the teapot or tea cups, they may feel disgusted and unwilling to drink the tea. Nowadays, many companies use disposable cups. Before pouring the tea, remember to place a cup coaster under the disposable cup to prevent the hot water from scalding the guests’ hands and making it difficult for them to hold the cup.

Appropriate Amount of Tea:

Regarding tea leaves, they should be used in moderation. Avoid using too many tea leaves, as the tea will become too strong. Conversely, using too few tea leaves will result in a tasteless brew. If the guest indicates a preference for stronger or milder tea, adjust the tea accordingly to suit their taste.

When pouring tea, whether into a large or small cup, avoid filling it too full to prevent spills that could wet the table, chairs, or floor. Carelessness can lead to scalding injuries for yourself or the guests, causing embarrassment for both parties. However, it is also important not to pour too little tea. If the tea barely covers the bottom of the cup when served to the guest, it may be perceived as insincere and pretentious.

Proper Tea Serving:

According to traditional Chinese customs, tea should be served to guests using both hands unless one has a physical disability. However, some younger individuals may be unaware of this rule and simply hand the tea over with one hand. Even when using both hands, there are important considerations. When serving tea in cups with handles, hold the handle with one hand and support the bottom with the other hand to present the tea to the guest. For cups without handles, which may become hot after being filled with hot tea, it is improper to hold them directly. Some individuals simply pinch the rim of the cup with all five fingers and offer it to the guest to prevent scalding accidents. Although this method prevents burns, it is unsightly and unhygienic. Imagine having the host’s fingerprints on your lips from licking their fingers—hardly a pleasant experience.

Refilling Tea:

If your boss or client’s cup needs a refill, you should promptly offer to do it. You can either signal a waiter to refill the tea or leave the teapot on the table and personally refill the cups. This is an excellent way to cover any awkward silence. When refilling tea, remember to refill your boss and clients’ cups first before refilling your own.


Leaving a Gathering

During social events such as cocktail parties or tea parties, which often last for more than two hours, there may come a time when you wish to leave. Knowing some techniques for leaving mid-event is essential to avoid causing disruptions.

In a lively banquet, it can be quite troublesome for the host if people start leaving abruptly, leading to a sudden dispersal of guests. To avoid this undesirable outcome, when you decide to leave mid-event, it is not necessary to say goodbye to every person in your conversation circle. Instead, quietly bid farewell to two or three people nearby and then depart.

When leaving the event midway, it is important to inform and apologize to the host who invited you. Abruptly disappearing without explanation should be avoided.

After exchanging greetings with the host, it is best to leave promptly and avoid holding the host at the door for lengthy conversations. The host has many responsibilities that day and other guests awaiting their attention. Occupying too much of the host’s time would be considered impolite in front of other guests.

Some people, when preparing to leave a party or gathering, go around asking each person they know if they would like to leave together. This immediately disrupts the lively atmosphere and prematurely ends the event. Such behavior is difficult for the host to forgive, and a person with good manners should never commit this mistake.


Good etiquette and table manners go a long way, not only in China but in every part of the world.

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