It is not known how many thousands of years ago the first Chinese subject kowtowed before his emperor, but the word itself describes the act: literally it means to knock one’s head upon the ground.
This show of prostration was eradicated in the more egalitarian world of post-1949 China, but according to the Shenyang Evening News the kowtow has been making a comeback. The newspaper has reported on a kowtowing ceremony among catering staff outside a hotpot restaurant in Shenyang. Of course, Shenyang has some royal form in this regard as the city from which the Manchu emperors originated and later founded the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). In this case the kowtowing seems to have been more a reflection of a weak labour market than an effort to recall Manchu glories, however. The newspaper says employees of the restaurant were seen in Kaixuanmen Square, dressed in red shirts and black pants and holding banners. After holding a ceremonial tug of war competition, they then began to kowtow before the boss, chanting “Thank you, president, for giving me a job!” Photos of the scene were posted online by bemused onlookers. When a reporter from the Shenyang Evening News later visited the restaurant, a member of staff described what had occurred as “a normal staff meeting”.
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