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What Is the History of Chinese Alcohol?

 

In the Xia Dynasty (2070 BC — 1600 BC), using grains to make alcohol, also called millet wine, was popular.

 

During this period, nobles used Jue, a type of exquisite bronze ware, to place alcohol in sacrificial ceremonies and to drink it on important occasions.

History
Bronze Wine Cup (Jue) Unearthed from Erlitou Site

Bronze Wine Cup (Jue) Unearthed from Erlitou, Believed the Relic Site of Part of the Xia Dynasty — Luoyang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

In the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC), agriculture and alcohol-making skills further developed. 

Chinese Character of Alcohol, on Unearthed Oracle of the Shang Dynasty

Chinese Character of Alcohol (on Right Side), on Unearthed Oracle of the Shang Dynasty.

When more types of grains were applied in the alcohol-making process, the ruling class tried to limit its production, save money and foodstuff, and avoid the chaos caused by over-drinking.

However, the alcohol industry kept developing in types and making techniques.

Bottle and Alcohol of the Warring States Period (403BC — 221BC), Unearthed from Tomb of King of Zhongshan

Bottle and Alcohol of the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC), Unearthed from Tomb of King of Zhongshan — Hebei Museum

After Zhang Qian (164 BC — 114 BC) opened up the Silk Road and introduced grape, grape wine became an important type. 

Gradually, alcoholic drinks became popularized on civilians' dining tables and used to cure disease or relieve pain.

About 1800 years ago, the limitation of alcohol production was finally removed. When people could freely produce, sell, and drink alcohol as much as they wanted, the industry became prosperous soon.

Part of Painting (Wen Hui Tu) by Emperor Zhao Ji (1082 — 1135) of the Song Dynasty, Presenting the Feast of Intelligent Scholars

Part of Painting (Wen Hui Tu) by Emperor Zhao Ji (1082 — 1135), Presenting the Feast of Intelligent Scholars — Taipei Palace Museum

Afterward, drinking is connected to nearly all important occasions, events, and holidays in Chinese culture.

Who Is the Sage of Alcohol in Chinese Culture?

 

Yi Di, an official of Yu the Great, is believed to have invented, organized, and developed alcohol-making technology. 

 

Du Kang, also named Shao Kang, is the most famous, well-acknowledged Sage of alcohol in Chinese Culture that invented alcohol using sorghum.

 

He was an official of the Yellow Emperor, or, in other historical documentation, a king of the Xia Dynasty (2070 BC — 1600 BC).

Sage

Alcohol Utensils in History, Photo by Dongmaiying.

Utensils

What Are the Main Functions of Alcohol?

Nowadays, alcohol is an important part of big ceremonies to celebrate happiness, forget sadness, and boost courage.

 

It was also widely used for medical purposes, such as disinfecting and curing diseases.

Function

When and Who Is Not Suitable to Drink Alcohol?

It is believed unhealthy for people to drink alcohol:

  • When someone is having bad emotions, such as being too sad or angry;

  • When physically uncomfortable;

  • With an empty or too-full stomach.

Taboo
Culture

Important Elements in Chinese Alcohol Culture.

  • Companion

Generally, drinking with family and good friends, people with noble morals, and loved ones.

  • Environment

Alcohol should be appreciated in beautiful and elegant places.

Spring in a pavilion, summer in the countryside, autumn on a boat, winter in the house, or nighttime under the moon. 

Painting "Lan Ting Xiu Xi" by Wen Huiming (1470 - 1559)

Painting "Lan Ting Xiu Xi" by Wen Huiming (1470 - 1559), Presents An Ancient Way for People to Drink from Cups that are Floating in River — Palace  Museum

  • Content

People would play wager games, have intelligent or close conversations while drinking, or write poems; many brilliant poems and articles in Chinese history were created when authors were drinking. 

Ivory Carved Cards Used in Drinker's Wager Games of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) — Shenyang Palace Museum

Ivory Carved Cards Used in Drinker's Wager Games of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) — Shenyang Palace Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Main Classifications of Traditional Chinese Alcoholic Drinks.

Classification

Fruit Wine, or Guojiu

Millet Wine, or Rice Wine, or Huangjiu

Millet Wine, or Rice Wine, or Huangjiu

Flower Wine