7 Must-Know Taboos for Chinese Table Manners

In China, whether attending an informal gathering or a formal banquet, understanding and adhering to table manners is vital. Here are seven table etiquette taboos that you must know:

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1.  Allow Elders to Begin Eating First

The essence of Chinese table manners lies in respecting elders. Waiting for elders to start eating first symbolizes their leadership within the family and society. Additionally, placing the main or meat dishes in front of the elders is a way to show special care and respect. When a new dish is served, it is customary to invite the elders to taste it first or to take turns offering them the first bite.

2. Use Serving Chopsticks

At formal banquet tables, you will typically find two pairs of chopsticks: one for eating and the other for serving food, known as “serving chopsticks.” This practice is more hygienic, as using personal chopsticks to serve food might leave an impression of disregard for cleanliness.

3. Chopstick Placement: Avoid Crossing

Crossing chopsticks is generally considered inauspicious, as it symbolizes death. Therefore, chopsticks should always be neatly placed beside or on top of the bowl or plate.

4. Do Not Stir the Food, Particularly Fish

Stirring food during the meal is seen as a sign of poor manners and may suggest pickiness. Additionally, in Chinese culture, the word for ‘fish’ (“鱼”, yú) sounds the same as the word for ‘surplus’ (“余”, yú), which symbolizes wealth and prosperity. Turning over the fish is believed to reverse this good fortune and bring poverty.

5. Avoid Smacking Lips

Eating quietly is considered polite; smacking lips or chewing loudly is seen as a sign of poor upbringing. Try to keep your mouth closed while eating to prevent food and saliva from splashing and to avoid making excessive noise.

6. Do Not Shake Your Legs

Shaking legs is often seen as impolite and a sign of bad manners. Maintaining a proper sitting posture at the table is a reflection of personal cultivation and respect for others.

7. Pass Items with Both Hands

At the table, whether passing food, utensils, or participating in toasts and other social activities, using both hands is a traditional way to express respect and sincerity.

In addition to these seven points, are there any other Chinese table etiquette taboos you are aware of? If you are interested in Chinese culture and want to learn more, please click here to register for free and receive a one-on-one Chinese trial lesson now.

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