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Used exclusively for imperial golden dragon banquets, this vessel for serving fruit is designed as a canopy. During the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) at two o’clock in the afternoon on the first day of the first lunar month, the emperor would personally host his sons, grandsons, and certain imperial princes and dukes for a banquet in the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong). The emperor’s table was placed centrally with the other banqueters seated in pairs at smaller tables flanking the east and west.
According to imperial archives of 1783 (the forty-eighth year of the Qianlong reign, 1736–1795), the table cloths and skirts were made of yellow silk embroidered with golden dragons and inlaid with gems. The dishes on the emperor’s table were arranged in sets and rows from the outer edge of the table toward his seat on the inner edge of the table. The first set of dishes on the outer edge of the table comprised four fruit canopies, two vases, and five greenish-white jade plates. The second and third sets each had nine greenish-white jade bowls. The fourth set had two lacquered fruit boxes carved with designs and four small greenish-white jade bowls. The fifth through eighth sets each had ten greenish-white jade bowls. The inner edge of the table was set with six greenish-white jade plates, eight fruit cups, four greenish-white jade saucers, a pair of chopsticks, a spoon, and a fork. In total, ninety-six pieces of tableware were used.
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying