Saturday, March 5, 2011
Back in Xi’an. In advance of tomorrow’s exhibition opening, we hosted a dinner for around 15 local VIPs. Formal dining is a big round table in a large private room in a posh restaurant (often in a hotel). The room will have a receiving area with sofa and a few armchairs. There will be a large painting of a Chinese landscape, usually misty hills with waterfalls, portrait format. It will have a private toilet, cloakroom and a TV for karaoke, two waitresses and a kitchenette. Dishes will be placed on a lazy susan in the middle of the table which you take with one pair of chopsticks but eat with another. Wine is served, usually red and never more than quarter full. The host gives a fairly short speech at some point and glasses are clinked, drained and re-filled immediately. The most important guest may reply. The host will then make their way round the table clinking glasses and exchanging small talk, tailed by the glass-replenishing waitress. More dishes are served, ending with fruit. Then there’s a final toast, coats on and the host escorts everyone to the front door. It rarely varies and I’m always hungry at the end of it, usually for chocolate.