We learned at the Imperial Palace in Shenyang that the left is the place of honor in Chinese culture. Begun in 1624, the palace was the original home of the Qing Dynasty emperors, who had roots in ethnic Manchurian culture. The plaques above the palace halls were thus in both Chinese and Manchurian languages, with the Manchurian text on the left — in the place of honor.
Lester Monts, U-M's senior vice provost, was wrapping up a speech at one of the university's we visited when he realized that some of the Block M / China pins we have on tour as small gifts were backwards. The position of honor on the left is suppsed to be given to the Chinese flag, thus honoring our hosts and putting an entire nation ahead of a single institution. However, most of the pins we had had the Chinese pin on the right. Lester quickly searched his bag to find the correct pin and placed that on the university president's lapel. Insult averted at the last moment, whew!