Man-Han Banquet

Publish Time:2016-05-04 10:13:14Source:WTCF

【Introduction】:Man-Han Banquet, a kind of huge feast integrating the features of Manchu food and Han food, derives from the imperial palace in the Qing Dynasty

Man-Han Banquet, a kind of huge feast integrating the features of Manchu food and Han food, derives from the imperial palace in the Qing Dynasty. It was the feast to celebrate the Emperor Kangxi’s 66-year-old birthday, with the aim to defuse the tension between the Manchu and Han. The later generations carried on this tradition and added some rare confections, which was very extravagant and luxurious. The famous feasts during the Qing Dynasty also included the feast for the Mongolian relatives who had connections with the imperial families through marriages. There is also feast for the officials, the feast for the birthdays of the imperial family members, the feast for the old and the feast of nine white (one white camel and eight white horses). There are 108 kinds of dishes which includes all kinds of tastes and various kinds of ingredients in the Man-Han Banquet. The cooking ingredients are very exquisite and include many precious foods from soup to nuts. And the banquet is served for the duration of three days. It’s indeed a treasury of Chinese cuisine culture. On the 66th birthday of the Emperor Kangxi, he once ordered the kitchen to prepare 6 feasts in 3 three days for the Manchu and the Han, offering more than 300 delicious dishes. It’s said the Emperor Xuanye was the first person to taste the feast and wrote down the words “Man-Han Banquet,” which made it gain considerable fame in the past. At that time, the banquet was divided into two types, one was inside the palace, and the other was outside the palace. The one inside was specially made for the emperors and their uncles or brothers, the empress’ mother and the queen and maids of honor of different ranks. Only the imperial offspring and the honorable statesmen (if they were Han people, they should rank second in the official grade or they were the trusted subordinate of the emperors) were qualified to attend the banquet inside the palace. The outside banquet was usually for the primary or the secondary Manchu officials who held the imperial examinations and local conferences to serve the imperial envoys. When they attended the banquet, they should wear the court beads and official uniforms.

In 1764, the painter Li Douzhi described carefully the spectacular situation of the banquet in his Records of Yangzhou Huafang (gaily-painted pleasure-boat). In the six luxurious banquets, thousands of the famous dishes of Manchu and Han were presented together, which included birds’ nest soup with shredded chicken, sea cucumber with pig’s sinew, seaweed soup with pork tripe, Abalone with loose strife, mussel soup with shrimp roe, fin soup with crab, fish maw with steamed hump, pear chip with Pagumalarvata, steamed deer’s tail, tongue of the golden carp with bear’s paw, hilsa herring steamed in clear soup, plaice liver, globefish’s milt, Huozhihaerba Pig (the pig cooked specially), fried pork and mutton, grilled chicken, goose and duck, pig giblets and sheep giblets. There was the word “32 treasuries,” in which the “8 mountain treasuries” referred to the hump, bear’s paw, monkey’s brain, orangutan’s lips, leopard’s embryo, rhinoceros’ tail and deer’s tendon. The “8 earth treasuries” referred to Chinese brown frog, dried mushroom, Yuhuang Mushroom, Fengzhua Mushroom, corn conjee, Shafeng Chicken, Grouse. The “8 sea treasuries” referred to the bird’s nest, shark fin, black ginseng, fish maw, fishbone and the abalone’s skin. During the cooking process, the skills of steaming, boiling, burning, stewing, simmering, frying, roasting, braising were put to use. And there were totally 196 dishes, 124 kinds of desserts, and 320 kinds of delicacies, all of which can be served for 3 days. The appliances were generally made of copper, and the carvings were very subtle and exquisite. The pastel longevity tableware was used during the meal. And the big porcelains had various forms mitigating the chicken, duck, fish and pig. In addition, the hot pot was adopted there, which held the dish in the upper layer and the wine to set the fire in the under layer. The water cookware were made of tin, and it was divided in two layer, the inside layer was for the soup while the outside layer was for the boiling water to preserve the heat.

When people attended the Man-Han Banquet, they will firstly eat the Manchu food, and then eat the Han food subsequently. In this process, the table top needs to be cleared away, and this is called “Fantai,” When the guests attend the banquet, the music would be played first. Then they began to sit down to enjoy the desserts. When all the guests arrived, the four big fresh would be removed, and the guests should propose a toast to each other, then the main courses would be offered. In the whole process, the table top needs to be cleared for a total of four times to offer the Manchu dishes and the Han dishes, and this is called “fanzhuo”(change the dishes). After that, this tradition was gradually spread to the folk society and became a symbolic of luxury manifested by the high officials and noble lords.

Man-Han Banquet can be divided into two kinds, one is the big Man-Han Banquet, and the other is the small Man-Han. The big one is composed of 108 dishes while the small one 64 dishes. The general dishes were mainly the Shandong cuisine in the early times, and Tianjin cuisine was also offered. After the spreading from place to place, the different area created different versions on the basis of the original banquet according to their own tastes, available ingredients and cooking methods.

In the early Republican period, the Man-Han Banquet was renamed as Big-Han Banquet. Soon the name was replaced by the names such as eight big and eight small. And in 1930, it was changed as the big 8.

On the 2 and 3 of November, 1977, the Guobin Restaurant in Hong Kong (known as Federal Restaurant now) was commissioned to make a Man-Han Banquet of 108 dishes with a budget of 100,000 HKD by the TV station TBS in Japan. The restaurant resorted to more than 160 people and spent 3 months to prepare the banquet. And the whole process was on live broadcast in Japan through the satellite TV. Because some animals have become the protected animals and some cooking skills have been lost, it’s impossible to make a Man-Han Banquet in the same way during the Qing Dynasty.

In 1983, the Man-Han Banquet displayed on the “exhibition of the dishes in Guangzhou” held in Guangzhou can be divided into the four important banquets Yutang banquet, Longmen banquet, Jinhua banquet, and Luming banquet. The banquet included a total of 128 dishes, among which were 64 famous dishes, 28 famous desserts, 28 fruits, 5 side dishes, and 3 main desserts.

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