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Rules And Taboos When Dining In Guangzhou

Oct 01, 2017

Guangzhou is well-known for its cuisines. But when dining in this "food paradise," you need to pay attention to some rules and taboos which are part of the local culture.
First of all, never order seven dishes for a table, because seven dishes are for a funeral dinner. The best way is to order nine dishes, as "nine" has the same sound as another Chinese word meaning "long time" and is hence a lucky number.
People from other provinces, especially from north China, may feel surprised to find a dish of whole chicken in every formal dinner. For Guangzhou locals, a banquet is not complete without chicken. And when the dish is served, make sure the chicken head is facing the main guest, a way to show respect.

A local dish in Canton——Roast Chicken
When there is a dish of whole fish, the fish belly should be placed toward the main guest to show good will. Although it is not always practiced in today’s Guangzhou, this tradition has a long history and dates back to the ancient Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.), when a man called Ji Guang prepared a home banquet for the king but hired an assassin, who grabbed a knife from the fish belly and stabbed the king to death. A more popular custom to observe is not to turn over the fish, or turn it over together with some others. This is somewhat linked with a lifestyle in Guangzhou long ago, when people could cross the Pearl River only by ferries and many Guangzhou residents even lived on boats. Turning over a fish may resemble the overturn of a boat and should be avoided as an ill omen.


A Cantonese custom
Do not stick your chopsticks straight into the rice, as this may be associated with the gesture of sticking the incense to worship ancestors.
If someone accidentally drops the chopsticks onto the ground, some Guangzhouers on the same table would immediately say "chopsticks fall" (similar sound as "happy") as a blessing; however, this custom is rarely practiced nowadays. In case a bowl is dropped and broken, many Guangzhou people would still say "flower fallen, splendor and fortune" or "safe and sound forever" ("broken" in Chinese has the same sound as "year").    
The last taboo in dining, which is actually a practice throughout China, is not to tap your bowl with your chopsticks. Beggars tap on their bowls, so this is not polite. Also, tapping the bowl was a method in ancient times to prevent other people from putting poison into the food, so it is like insulting the cook or other people on the table.
Clear about the dining etiquette in Guangzhou? Pick up your chopsticks and enjoy the food!

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