Proper Manners Begin at the Dining Table

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China is a nation that very much values rituals and good manners. It isn’t surprising therefore that the very origin of rites regarding manners arose from the Chinese ancestors’ dietary behaviors. In the Book of Rites, a classic of the Confucian canon, it is clearly written that proper manners were born out of the standardization of eating activities. Confucius, a record keeper and retransmitter of the theology and values of the Zhou Dynasty, propagated his teachings not only in the classroom, but also at the dining table. According to him, there was a close relationship between the culinary art with a set of standard behaviors that he promoted, practiced, and recorded in the many ancient books that he collated.

Rules and manners practiced up to today

In the chapter “Rules of Propriety” from the Book of Rites, one excerpted section recorded these rules, which are still being learned and practiced by modern people:

When eating together, don’t just care about your own stomach
Check if your hands are clean when you eat with someone
Don’t rub rice into a ball with your hand
Don’t put too much rice into your bowl
Don’t spill when you drink
Don’t make sounds when you eat
Don’t gnaw bones
Don’t put back food that you have bitten
Don’t throw bones to dogs
Don’t monopolize food
Don’t winnow your rice
When eating steamed millet, use hands but not chopsticks
Don’t gulp your soup
Don’t season your soup in front of the host
Don’t pick your teeth in public
As you may have noticed. Many of these manners, though they may be centuries old, are still very applicable today.

古人是這樣吃飯

中國是禮儀之邦,而禮儀的發端卻是從飲食起始的。

作為儒家經典的《禮記》明確指出,飲食活動中的行為規範是禮制的發端。而一生以恢復周禮為己任的孔子,自然對於飲食禮儀高度重視,餐桌就是他除杏壇之外的另一處課堂。孔子把烹飪藝術同注重禮儀緊密地聯繫起來,並通過飲食推行和貫徹下去。《論語》之外,包括他整理過的諸多古籍都記錄了非常繁瑣詳細的餐飲禮儀。

而《禮記・曲禮》紀載某段的大意是講:大家共同吃飯時,不可只顧自己吃飽。如果和別人一起吃飯,就要檢查手的清潔。不要用手搓飯糰,不要把多餘的飯放進鍋中,不要喝得滿嘴淋漓,不要吃得噴噴作聲,不要啃骨頭,不要把咬過的魚肉又放回盤碗裡,不要把肉骨頭扔給狗。不要專據食物,也不要簸揚著熱飯,吃黍蒸的飯用手而不用箸,不可以大口囫圇的喝湯,也不要當著主人的面調和菜湯。不要當眾剔牙齒。這些餐桌上的文明禮儀,到我們今天有依然些還在學習和延續。

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