Tai'an, 6 June (ZXS) -- Ningyang's "Four and Eight Seats": A Table of Eight Immortals to taste ancient and modern gifts

Authors: Liang Ben, Wu Xiaowen, Zhao Feng

With four plates, eight bowls, each table is limited to eight people, and 32 pieces of tableware, Shandong Tai'an Ningyang "Four Eight Seats", the table is rich, orderly and very Confucian. Diners sat around the Eight Immortals table, feeling the strong village drinking gift, tasting the joy of reunion, and enjoying the hospitality courtesy.

Ningyang County "four eight seats", has a history of more than 2000,2021 years, the "sweet and sour carp" in the banquet is the famous Qilu famous dish. In <>, "Ningyang <> Banquet and Wine Ceremony" was listed as the fifth batch of Shandong provincial intangible cultural heritage.

The township of Ningyang County, between Mount Taishan and Qufu, was once the place where Confucius led his disciples to practice and practice, and it is also the hometown of the only "township drinking ceremony" named after "Xiangjiu" in China. Zheng Xuan's note in "Liji Xiangji Drinking Righteousness": "The famous township drinking righteous, with the honor of the township doctor drinking in the order of the order, respects the righteousness of the elderly." The "four or eight seats" that prevail today are the evolution of this rural style of respecting the elderly, respecting the wise and harmonious countryside.

"Four Eight Seats" has 24 dishes. Namely: four tables, four pressed tables, two large pieces, eight large bowls, four small bowls, two pastries. Photo by Zhang Wenzhen

It is said that since the Tang Dynasty at the latest, the "four eight seats" have become a special banquet for Ningyang people to worship and thank the master, and then gradually become the highest standard banquet for entertaining VIPs.

"Our 'four or eight seats' eat is a particular one." Yu Chaomin, a township cook in Liuyun Village, Xiangjiang Township, said that "four eight" means "four peace and eight stability". Four tables, four pressed tables, two large pieces, eight large bowls, four small bowls, two pastries, a total of 24 dishes.

"The order of serving is also very particular." Yu Chaomin introduced that first go to the four bunk tables and four pressing tables, that is, four fruit plates and four cold dishes, which together are "four sweet and four salty". Then go to the first four bowls, which are shredded sea cucumber chicken, steamed tile fish, hibiscus buttoned meat, pork button, and then steamed whole chicken and sweet and sour whole fish.

"Four or eight seats" are mainly steamed. Most dishes are semi-finished and are steamed in baskets when they are served, and the old soup is poured over each dish. Photo by Chen Yang

This is followed by four small bowls, two pastries as an intermediate meal, followed by four plates of fruit. By the time of the seventh procedure, the last four bowls are ushered in: shredded agar chicken, fish with sauce, crystal balls, and sea rice cabbage. At this point, all 24 dishes are served.

After that, each guest will be served a bowl of "mouthwash" (also called "clear soup"), after gargling, they will leave the table (also called "flash table"), and then re-serve and enter the toasting session.

The eighth and final serving procedure allows the pasta and soup to "appear". Fruits, pasta and soup are not dishes, so they are not counted in the twenty-four dishes.

"Four Eight Seats" is mainly meat dishes, and the last dish is cabbage, pronounced the same as "hundred wealth", which means auspicious, smooth affairs, good luck, and bumper harvests in successive years.

In February 2023, the "Four Eight Seats" chef poured the boiled old soup on each dish. Photo by Chen Yang

"The toppings determine the taste of the dish." Yu Chaomin told reporters that the toppings are mostly made of fat chicken, fat duck, pork knuckles, supplemented by various condiments, soy sauce, vinegar, fungus, coriander, etc., and the steaming toppings are out of the pot, "clear to the bottom, delicious and mellow, can be used as soup dishes, but also as fresh seasonings."

According to local folklore scholar Wang Rucheng, the "four or eight seats" are carefully seated. Eight people sit at the Eight Immortals table, the most distinguished guests sit first, the most important of the accompanying guests sit first, and the rest are seated in order of generation and age. Before taking a seat, the host should prepare warm water, soap, towels, etc., and ask guests to wash their hands. In the "Li Ji Qu Li", there is "sharing meals and not hands", that is, washing your hands before eating with others.

In Wang Rucheng's view, tasting 48 is not only about dishes, but also about the long-standing food culture of the Chinese nation, as well as the traditional virtues of respecting the elderly, respecting morality, orderly and hospitable people.

In the cup of wine and reward that Ningyang's "four or eight seats" ushered in, every time a dish was picked and every toast, there was a set of conventional etiquette, and a happy atmosphere was achieved in respecting the elders and respecting each other. Jia Qingchao, a professor at Jining Vocational and Technical College, said that a "four or eight seats" has narrowed the distance between people, which is not only a pleasure on the tip of the tongue, but also a cultivation and upgrading of the traditional cultural spirit. (End)