On the seventh day of the Chinese New Year, Tai Po District Council invited about 6,000 elderly people to “longevity” banquets in 12 locations across the district. Attendees aged 97 and older were given gold pendants and lai see packets. The oldest person at the party was a sprightly 114-year-old woman.
Such banquets were also thrown during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), and were hosted by the emperor himself. The Kangxi Emperor held the first one in 1713, when he was 60, and he decreed that anyone older than 65, whether they were officials or commoners, could come to Beijing for the party. Thousands from across the country attended the banquet. Kangxi hosted two more qian sou yan (“banquets for a thousand elderly persons”) in 1722 during the New Year. At these events, the emperor’s sons and grandsons served drinks to the elderly guests.
More than half a century later, Kangxi’s grandson, the Qianlong Emperor, threw two more parties for his elderly subjects, one in 1785 and the other in 1796, after he announced his abdication. At the latter banquet, the retired Emperor Qianlong and his son, the reigning Jiaqing Emperor, personally poured drinks for guests aged over 90, who were also presented with the type of hat ornaments typically worn by officials of the sixth and seventh ranks.
The Qing dynasty began its gradual decline after the Qianlong period and such banquets were never hosted by the emperor again.