Chinese Dining Culture

Chinese people love to eat and China boasts one of the world's greatest cuisines. During the long development of Chinese eating culture, many practices have evolved that foreign visitors may find quite different from what they are used to and even consider weird. These pages have been written to help those from other parts of the world to understand Chinese eating culture.

China is a country with a long history of ritual and etiquette, and eating is highly important feature of China’s culture, so naturally dining etiquette has developed to a high degree. Dining etiquette is said to have its beginnings in the Zhou Dynasty (1045-256 BC). Through thousands of years of evolution it has developed into a set of generally accepted dining rituals and practices. However, there is still variation in table etiquette according to the character and purpose of a banquet and great differences regionally.

Eating Ambience

Being surrounded by much loud talking and laughing is a typical ambience at a Chinese restaurant. (This goes against what you will see on the dining etiquette page about talking little and quietly and laughing reservedly, as will many other things you see in restaurants.) Chinese people like a noisy and upbeat atmosphere when having a gathering and meals are no exception. People regard it as a rule of thumb that if the dishes of a restaurant are good and tasty then the restaurant will be noisy and busy. The crowds at a restaurant indicate the deliciousness of the dishes. If you want a quiet place to enjoy your meal, some restaurants provide private rooms with one or more tables.

Seating Arrangment of an Banquet

The seating arrangement is probably the most important part of Chinese dining etiquette. Dining etiquette in ancient times was enacted according to a four-tier social strata: 1. the imperial court, 2. local authorities, 3. trade associations and 4. farmers and workers. The respect structure in modern dining etiquette has been simplified to: 1. master of the banquet and 2. guests. Read more

Dining Etiquette

Chinese Dining EtiquetteChinese Dining Etiquette

As a guest at a meal, one should be particular about one’s appearance and determine whether to bring small gifts or good wine, according the degree of relationship with the master of the banquet. It is important to attend and be punctual. On arrival one should first introduce oneself, or let the master of the banquet do the introduction if unknown to others, and then take a seat in accordance with the master of the banquet’s arrangement. The seating arrangement is probably the most important part of Chinese dining etiquette. Read more

Eating and Drinking in China

Eating and drinking in China can be a mind-broadening and enjoyable cultural experience. However, there are likely to be many surprises along the way. We would like to prepare you for, and even warn you of, the main differences between eating and drinking in China and in the West. (Some of the things mentioned below you will (fortunately) not experience if you don’t eat with Chinese people and stick to the largest restaurants.)

Odds and Ends of Chinese Food Culture

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. Read more

Hi, I'm Ruru Zhou
I updated this article on June 6, 2013
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Questions and Answers About Chinese Dining Culture

Lawrence 2013-01-30
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How does drinking 酒精 work in China. How would one experience it? Is there a age limit like in 美国? what''s the best way to experience this part of the culture.

Hi Lawrence, everyone has his own way to experience the alcohol in China. And there is no age limit like in America.

Whitney Liao replied on 2013-01-30
sunny mukherjee 2011-06-24
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does chinese people eat cat or dog??
Yes, Chinese eat cat and dog in China, but it is not widely accepted by all Chinese people as porl or beef, only exit or popular mong few people or specific regions. This is just a different custom, like Korea eat raw squid or Janpanese eat Puffer fish. Karen Karen Yang replied on 2011-06-24
Jordan 2010-11-09
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why are round tables used in chinese culture?
Hello. In traditional Chinese culture, the round shape implies harmony, so they are often used for family dinners to wish for harmony within the family. Nowadays either round or square tables are used based on if their exterior or design fit the house decor, so this meaning has gradually faded. Mia Yang replied on 2010-11-15
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