The Manchu and Han banquet was introduced during Emperor Kangxi’s reign at the government house and official residence of the upper strata. The Manchu and Han banquet derived from changes in the eating and drinking customs of the Manchus before and after the Manchu rulers moved to Beijing. Before they moved, the banquet had been called the “steamed bun banquet.” It was cooked simply and there was little variety in the food served. Most dishes were made of wheat flour and served in large quantities, as was typical of the dietetic customs of the nomadic people.
By the middle Qing Dynasty, the eating habits of the Manchus had been greatly influenced by the eating customs and cooking skills of other nationalities, especially the Han Chinese. For example, in the 53rd year of Kangxi’s reign (1714), he gave a “1,000 Elders’ Banquet” at the palace to celebrate his 60th birthday and the peaceful times under his rule. Actually, he gave the banquet on March 25th and 27th to honor all the elders in the country who were 65 years or older. The Manchu and Han banquet was attended by more than 2,800 people. The emperor dined with his guests and, in a joyful mood, wrote the four big characters, “Man Han Quan Xi” (meaning the Manchu and Han banquet), thus establishing the rare banquet’s place in Chinese dietetic culture.
The banquet featured many of the world’s edible delicacies from land and sea, famous mushrooms and fungi, and choice vegetables and fruits. Quality was the key selection criteria, and only the best were chosen. For example, the bear’s paw had to be the front paw of the black bear in autumn because then it had short sides and much gelatinous protein. Because the black bear has plenty of food to eat, its paws are strong and fat. The paw is delicious when cooked and contains many nutrients. Another example is the preparation of roast pigs. The pigs must weigh 12 to 13 catties and have been fattened with porridge for three to four days before being slaughtered so they would be more tasty. Moreover, Peking duck, roast chicken, and harba (pork leg) were requisite banquet dishes.