In China when somebody says, “Thank you,” (Hsieh, Hsieh) the answer is, “Bu Yao Keh Chi,” which means, “Don’t put on the air of a guest.”
As a child, I remember my parents always giving or going to dinner parties. They would usually play mahjong games that started in the early afternoon. Tea was served around four. Dinner, always a banquet, would be served around eight o’clock and lasted for several hours. Banquets consisted of twelve to fifteen dishes, and only the very best was offered. It would start with four cold dishes of fowl, meat, seafood and vegetables. After these dishes were sampled, the waiter would remove the dirty dishes and replace them with clean ones. The hot dishes would then begin, and are served one at a time. I remember our famous chef wanted to know precisely how long it would take a dish to be carried from the kitchen to the dinning table, so he would know when to have it ready.
With each dish a toast would be offered, either to the hostess or the honored guest. It would be “Gan Bei” (bottoms up) or “Swei Bien” (as much as you want). Occasionally, toasting games were played. Two players would both call out numbers from one to five and each would throw out his hand showing the corresponding number of fingers. The winner who called the correct total of both hands would be the winner, and the loser would have to drink a “Gan Bei” toast to the winner. Consequently, the party tends to get nosier and happier with each dish. I remember many foreign guests who were attending a Chinese banquet for the first time, literally being carried out. They did not realize how many dishes would be served, nor the number of times they would be required to swallow their drinks, “bottoms up!”