It was a wedding banquet fit for an emperor.
Mountains of delicacies sat on each table, along with wine bottles and large slices of flowery wedding cake.
There was enough food in the banquet room to feed a Red Army detachment. Yet there was something missing: wedding guests.
In fact, the wedding was over. The confetti had been tossed in the air, the guests toasted by the bride and groom, the happy couple linking arms to drink to their own bliss, and now the guests had gone home with bright smiles and full bellies, I was among the last to leave, wanting to savor every moment of my first invitation to a traditional Chinese wedding.
Yet I was leaving a room piled high with so much uneaten food that it looked like the wedding had yet to begin. The tables were still set with a sumptuous feast of Peking duck, jumbo shrimp, fish delicately sliced into flower blossoms, "Dragon and Phoenix" appetizers, slivers of lamb and pork, sea morsels and sweet rice cakes dusted with sesame seeds.
It amazed me that for a wedding with 200 guests, there was enough food for 400 and that all these gourmet left-overs would probably be dumped into garbage cans.
When I asked why, a friend simply drew his hand over his face to suggest the loss of face if a Chinese wedding guest should ever go home hungry. This must be a nightmarish hallucination that makes families of a bridal couple wake up in a cold sweat.
To me, it still seemed a terrible waste of food in a land where two young girls are fined 6,000 yuan for shoplifting a steamed bun that costs one kuai.
None of my friends leaves left-over food at a restaurant, always asking for a doggie bag, a curious English phrase that masks embarrassment by suggesting you are feeding the left-overs to your dog instead of yourself.
The wanton waste of food is the same sin in working class America, where parents have for years shamed their kids into eating everything on their plates because "children are starving in India."
Da Bao, or "wrap it up!" is a more honest Chinese expression for taking home what you haven't eaten at the table, because you don't want to waste food – except at a wedding banquet.
I realize, of course, that there are cultural differences to explain the grandeur of a Chinese wedding feast.
I just wish the family of the steamed bun thieves could share in the extravagance. （Global times)