For years now, China's wealthy have been exploring the subtler side of Western status, paying a premium to complement their taste for chauffeured Bentleys, Hermes handbags and world travel with the manners and the esoteric cultural knowledge to match.
More recently, though, as China establishes itself as a financial superpower, it has increasingly exerted its own force on the definition of global etiquette, with elites picking and choosing from a grab bag of norms; some all but excavated from Europe's aristocratic past, some from the playbooks of modern-day Emily Posts and, increasingly, casting their eyes closer to home, plumbing classic Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist texts for clues to a proper comportment that does not feel contrived.
"I have seen the Chinese elite learning so quickly," says Sara Jane Ho of the Institute Sarita, which offers courses in etiquette in Beijing and Shanghai.
In the past, most of her clients had never heard of the New England boarding school, Philips Exeter Academy, that Ho attended as a girl. "Five years ago nobody knew what Exeter was…They have become more exposed, so much more well traveled, so much better informed."
Such learning travels both ways. European aristocrats have discovered that Chinese customers will pay handsomely for courses in old world etiquette and a taste of the aristocratic life. Belgium's Atlas International Culture offers Chinese travelers the chance to clink glasses with royalty in grand residences and castles.
For half a day clients can spend a morning with a Marquis, touring the grounds of his estate and learning the history of his family before embarking on a two-hour lunch during which the Marquis explains the function of various pieces of cutlery and discourses on wine, food and the importance of putting others at ease.
"What we try to do is put Chinese in a real 3D environment in this castle with a marquis," said Atlas's head of cultural tourism, Lionel Kohn. "For the Chinese, it's about being able to talk and eat with a marquis and also for the status to say I have been studying European etiquette with a marquis."
It hasn't always gone so smoothly. When a group of bankers booked the Chimay Castle in Belgium for a lunch, Atlas invited a Belgian prince and princess to host. The bankers cleaned their plates and stood up. They were off to another meeting.
"The prince and princess were a bit shocked," said Kohn. "People just came to their castle, ate and left. Food and banquet culture here is still very important – but there is a difference between how they do it and how we do it."
And at iPony, administrators found that when it comes to teaching their children to ride, French and Chinese parents have much in common: a reverence for the horse, a playful approach and aspirations of grace and feats of derring-do.