First state banquet in China
Updated: 2014-09-24 07:05
File photo of the banquet dishes [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
One of the essential ingredients of a popular story is mystery. The uncertainty leaves room for the readers’ imagination and discussion. This becomes prominently true when the story happens to concern celebrities, especially those powerful figures whose lives are always shielded from the public. The first state banquet in China has long been one such intriguing topic among history enthusiasts. Several versions have been brought back into the spotlight as this year’s National Day is just around the corner.
The most controversial thing is what can be defined as the first state banquet. Two banquets were held, respectively, on Sept 30 and Oct 1, 1949, both including vital people in the politics. The latter won more supporters because it was held right after the founding ceremony.
In 1949, Oct1, Chairman Mao declared the establishment of People’s Republic of China in Tian’anmen Square. That evening the banquet was held to celebrate the rebirth of China.
The banquet was organized by the late Premier Zhou Enlai. Considering that the guests were from different areas, Zhou decided to use Huaiyang cuisine to serve the people, which is moderate sweet and salty.
There were nine chefs, and it took them almost three months to prepare the banquet. The banquet began at 7 pm on that night and lasted for two hours.
The second controversy lies in the venue. It’s known that the banquet on Oct 1 was held in the Beijing Hotel but most people think the banquet hall would naturally be the venue. But the hall was in fact only built in 1954.
Considering the memoirs and interviews with former hotel employees, the most likely venue would be on the seventh floor where the lobby, the ballroom and the Western restaurant could be joined into a perfect banquet hall.
But unfortunately, the renovation in 1998 gave the place a face-lift and no trace can be seen from of the original layout any more.
Content provided by Peng Xiaodong, former accountant at Beijing Hotel, food culture and Chinese painting enthusiast.