A Description of China. 1

  • Info
  • Pages
  • Transcript
  • Related
A Description of China. 1
A new general collection of voyages and travel: Consisting of the most esteemed relations, which have been hitherto published in any language:comprehending every thing remarkable in its kind, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America
John Green (?-1754)
London: Published by author
Page 1
Page 2

THE Chinese Politeness is, on all Occasions, very troublesome and
disgustful to the rough and unpolished Europeans; but in nothing so much
as in their Feasts: For the Whole is made up of Ceremonies and
Compliments. These Entertainments are of two Sorts; the ordinary,
consisting of about twelve or sixteen Dishes; and the more solemn, which
require twenty-four upon each Table, as well as more Formalities. When
the Ceremonial is punctually observed, three Tye-tse, or Billets, are
sent to those who are invited. The first Invitation is made the Day, or
two Days, before the Feast; but this last is rare: The second, in the
Morning of the Feast-Day, to put the Guests in Mind, and intreat them
not to fail coming: And the third, when every Thing is ready; and the
Master of the House is disposed, by a third Billet, carried by one of
his Servants, to let them know, he is extremely impatient to see them.

THE Hall, wherein the Feast is served-up, is commonly adorned with
Flower-Pots, Pictures, China Ware, and such-like Ornaments. There are as
many Tables as Persons invited; unless the Number of Guests obliges them
to set two at a Table; for they rarely put three at these great Feasts.
These Tables are ranged in a Row, on each Side the Hall; and the Guests
placed so as to face each other, fitting in their Arm-Chairs. The fore
Part of the Tables is set-off with Silk Ornaments of Needle-work,
resembling those belonging to Romish Altars; and though there are
neither Table-Cloths nor Napkins, the curious Japanning makes them look
very neat. The Ends of each Table are often covered with several great
Dishes loaded with Meats ready carved, and piled up like a Pyramid, with
Flowers and large Citrons on the Top. But these Pyramids are never
touched, being only for Ornament, like the Figures made of Sugar, at
Feasts in Italy.

WHEN he who gives the Entertainment introduces his Guests into the Room,
he salutes them all, one after another; and then calling for Wine in a
Small Cup, either of Silver, precious Wood, or Porcelain, placed on a
little japanned Salver, he takes it with both Hands, and, bowing to all
the Guests, turns his Face towards the great Court of the House, and
advances to the fore Part of the Hall; then, lifting up his Eyes and
Hands with the Cup, pours the Wine on the Ground, by Way of
acknowledging, that whatever he is possessed of, is the Gift of Heaven.
He next causes Wine to be poured into a China or Silver Cup; and, after
making a Bow to his principal Guest, places it on the Table where he is
to sit. The Guest returns this Civility by endeavouring to hinder him
from taking the Trouble; and, at the same Time, causing Wine to be
brought in a Cup, advances a few Steps, as though he would carry it to
the Place of the Master of the Feast, which is always the lowermost; and
who, in Return, prevents him, with certain common Terms of Civility.
Immediately after, the Steward brings two small ivory Sticks, (called
Quay-tse; and by the English, Chop-Sticks) adorned with Gold or Silver,
which serve instead of Forks, and places them on the Table, in a
parallel Petition, before the Chair, if there were not any placed
before, as there usually are. This done, the Host[1] leads the chief
Guest to a Chair, which is covered with a rich Carpet of flowered Silk;
and then making another low Bow, invites him to fit: But the Guest does
not comply, till after a great many Compliments, excusing himself from
taking so honourable a Place. He next prepares to do the same to all the
rest; but they will by no Means fuller him to take so much Trouble.

ALL these Ceremonies being over, they sit down to the Table; at which
Instant, four or five principal Comedians, in rich Dresses, enter the
Hall, and make low Bows all together, knocking their Foreheads four
Times against the Ground. This they perform in the midst of the two Rows
of Tables, with their Faces towards a long Table[2], set out like a
Buffet, full of Lights and perfuming Pans. Then rising up, one of them
presents a long Book, containing, in Letters of Gold, the Names of fifty
or sixty Plays, which they have by Heart, for the principal Guest to
choose one. He refuses, and fends it to the second, with a Sign of
Invitation; the second to the third, and so on. But they all make
Excuses; and returning him the Book, he, at last, consents, opens it,
runs it over with his Eyes in an Instant, and pitches on the Play which
he thinks will be most agreeable to the Company; who being shewed the
Title by the Comedian, they testify their Approbation by a Nod. If there
should be any Thing in it liable to Objection, such as one of the
principal Persons in the Play having the fame Name with one of his
Auditors, or the like, the Actor ought to apprize the Chooser of it.

The Representation begins with the Music; which are Bassoons or Brass or
Steel, whose Sound is harsh and shrill; Drums of Buffalo-Skins, Flutes,
Fifes, and Trumpets, whose Harmony can charm none but Chinese. There are
no Decorations for these Banquet-Plays. They only spread a Carpet on the
Floor; and the Comedians make use of some Rooms near the Balcony, from
whence they enter to act their Parts. There are commonly a great Number
of other Spectators in the Court, let-in by the Servants: And the
Ladies, who are willing to be present, are placed out of the Hall
over-against the Comedians; where, through a Lattice made of Bambû, and
a Sort of silken Net, they see and hear all that passes, without being
seen themselves.

[1] In the Original, it is the Steward, who seems to be confounded with
the Master of the House.

[2] This must be placed at the upper End of the Hall.