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CHINESE THEATRE AND DANCES. .77
addressing one of the principal guests, presented to him a book composed of long tablets, on which were written, in golden letters, the names of fifty or sixty comedies, which they knew by heart, and any of which they were ready to perform on the spot if desired; from this book they begged the guest to make a choice. The guest excused him-self and handed the volume politely to a second guest, with a sign of invitation; the second guest passed it to the third with the same ceremonies, the third to the fourth, etc. All excused themselves, and finally the book was returned to the comedian, who yielded at last, opened the book, and ran his eye over the list a moment, and then decided upon a comedy which he thought would prove agreeable to all the company. Should there be any inconvenience in producing any particular play, the comedian-in-chief is expected to announce it; one of these inconveniences would be, for example, that one of the chief characters of the play bore a name similar to that of one of the guests. After the choice the comedian shows to the guests the name of the play which he has chosen, and each one signifies by a nod of the head, his approval. The representation begins with some music which is essentially Chinese and noisy. It is performed with metal basins, drums flutes, fifes, and trumpets. The play is often performed at a banquet, and after the guests have finished their meal, the comedians take their places at the table; after a short refreshment the guests are recalled and the play proceeded wito.