Chinese etiquette

In China, Chinese etiquette is regarded as the behavior reflecting the concept of ‘the elder for honor’, which is essential in business and daily life. The differences of table manner between china and other nations are not only on the tools of eating but also the sitting sequence, the culture of baijiu and the rules of eating. Thus, learning and mastering Chinese etiquette is considerable for foreigner to establish relationship with work partner on dinner party.

Sitting sequence

In China, there are two main kinds of feast including the dinner party with families or with colleagues, leaders and with contracting partner. The sitting rules of those are really similar.

The key points in the dinner party with families

** In China, there are several main seats that people cannot sit at random.

The seat which faces to the door is the place belong to hero, the person who has the highest status in the family hierarchy sits on the main seat rather than the person who is the oldest.

The seat which opposite with the hero belong to the person who occupies the bottom place in family hierarchy.Liyi 2.jpg

The seats near hero generally belong to guests, as Chinese are always hospitable. It is convenient for the honor to sharing with food or chatting.

For other seats, there is a rule that ‘left is important than right’ and the left and the right is based on the main seat.

People usually sitting down after the honor to show their admiration.

The key points in the dinner party with leaders

All of above rules are similar in the meal with leaders or working partner.

Leader should sit on the crucial place facing the door.

Guests sit down on the right or the left of leader.

Other people should respect the rule that ‘left is important than right’.

** The merely difference is the seat which is opposite with the leader, belonging to the person who also has a high reputation in company.

Tip In this process, people should be careful to choose the optimum seats. If they do not know which one is better, they can wait for the arrangement of the honor avoiding leaving a bad impression for others.

The culture of baijiu

In china, baijiu is an essential part on banquet, which lasting for thousands of years. It is usually called ‘rice wine’ in English speaking countries and is considered having strong taste of alcohol, but it a crucial part for business people in China. There are four main types of baijiu: strong aroma, light aroma, sauce aroma and rice aroma, having diverse kinds of tastes, ingredients, quality and price.Liyi 1.jpg

Taboo! People generally can choose a particular type of baijiu to drink before start drinking but cannot to change or reject to drink it (Mclaughlin 2015).

     ** The rules of drinking baijiu, including pouring part and drinking part.

     Pouring part rules

When eating in restaurant, merely in room, the waitress generally the person who pours the Baijiu for each custom.

If do not have waitress, the person who has lowest position should pour baijiu for each one, respecting the order from the main palace to himself (Jourdan 2013).

The people who receive this service should lift their glass and turn to the person who pouring baijiu to show respect or use the right hand knocking the table lightly beside the glass with three times.

     Drinking part rules

** In China, drinking baijiu usually have two parts: drinking together and drinking separately.

What should do when drinking together

Leader or honor usually leading six times to drink off one glass of baijiu before drinking separately, with some wishing or encouraging languages.

The others only need to keep step with honor.

What should do when drinking separately

People should drink with people according to the sequence of siting, from higher position to lower one.

One person should only drink with one person once, clinking their glasses once time and drinking two times with this partner.

The person who has lower position should put their glass lower than the other person when they clink their glasses, showing their respect (Sandhaus 2014).

During this process, the wishing languages are also required.

Taboo of drinking!

** People cannot just drink with several people, which is not polite!

** People cannot drink three times with a person as it only for the death!

Taboo of eating

** people should not eat before honor!

** people cannot stick the chopsticks straight in rice which for the death!

** people cannot knock the bowl with chopsticks!

** people cannot turn the fish over!

** people cannot talk when food in mouth!


Jourdan, N 2013, ‘China’s baijiu, drink of generals’, Journal of culture, vol. 1, issue 1, pp. 5-11.

Mclaughlin, SU 2015, ‘Baijiu: the Misunderstood Drink of China’, Journal of culture and society, vol. 1, issue 3, pp. 18-24.

Sandhaus, P 2014, ‘Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits’, Journal of culture and society, vol. 4, issue 2, pp. 67-74.

‘Related Reading’

“白酒” redirects here. It is not to be confused with 燒酒.

A Guide to Chinese Alcohol


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