Chinse culinary history

Nothing rivals a traditional Chinese banquet for opulence

In February 1985 I had the good fortune to be a guest in Hong Kong at the Mandarin hotel’s 21st birthday celebration, a lavish three-day reconstruction of the sort of imperial banquet given during the Qing dynasty by the Kangxi emperor (1654-1722) and his grandson the Qianlong emperor (1711-1799). Kangxi started the custom of banqueting during his tours of southern China – he made six between 1684 and 1707. These provincial feasts were relatively informal affairs, often held in a tent, quite different to the stifling protocol of the imperial court at Beijing, and combined some aspects of the ruling Manchu ‘Man banquet’ with the native Han Chinese ‘Han banquet.’