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Chinese Drinks and Beverages

Water, Tea, and Alcohol stand as three common and incredibly popular drinks in China.


These drinks have not only quenched the thirst of countless generations but have also played pivotal roles in shaping Chinese culture and social rituals.

However, China's beverage repertoire extends far beyond these three.


Many other types of traditional beverages are not only delicious but also contribute to overall health.

Stewed Peach Gum

Stewed Peach Gum, Picture from Zaomi.

Characteristics of Traditional Chinese Drinks


  • Seasonal. 

Most traditional drinks are made of seasonal ingredients, besides those modern and industrialized ones. 

According to the Yin-Yang and Five Elements Theory, every season has some suitable drinks that are believed to be good for people's health. 

  • Regional Diversity. 

Most traditional drinks include diverse regional and not standardized or industrialized ingredients. 


Therefore, every region has its popular drinks, and one drink may not taste similar in different places. 


  • Functional.

According to Chinese medicine and diet therapy, many drinks serve specific functions, such as soybean milk for nutrition, sweet mung bean soup for detoxification, sour plum beverages for digestion, etc.

Sour Plum Soup

Sour Plum Soup, Picture from H~Moon.

History of Chinese Drinks


About 5000 to 6000 years ago, tea originated in China, and wine appeared around 3000 years ago.


The use of maltose, honey, and ice had been documented in the Classic of Poetry (or Book of Songs), which contains poems of the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 771 BC) and the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC — 476 BC). 

Bronze Container (Jian) that Could Place Ice Cubes to Cool Wine and Food, Unearthed from Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng (about 475 BC — 433 BC)

Bronze Container (Jian) that Could Place Ice Cubes to Cool Drink and Food, Unearthed from Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng (about 475 BC — 433 BC) — National Museum of China

In the Sui Dynasty (581 — 619), using herbs, fruits, and dairy to make different drinks were popular. 


Later, in the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907), people could easily make ice by dissolving saltpeter in water, which made it possible for civilians to enjoy cold drinks in summer. 


Therefore, many shops that specifically sold drinks during this period were welcome.


In the prosperous Song (960 — 1279), the only dynasty with no curfew in ancient Chinese history, more ingredients were applied to making different beverages.


From then time on, more tasty drinks have been invented, documented, and inherited. 

Part of the Painting (Qingming Shang He Tu) Along the River During the Qingming Festival by Artist Zhang Zeduan of the Song Dynasty

Shops on Main Street of Song's Capital City, Part of the "Qingming Shang He Tu" ( or Along the River During the Qingming Festival), Painted by Artist Zhang Zeduan (1085 — 1145) — The Palace Museum

Hot Water in Chinese Culture


In China, drinking boiled water (named Shu Shui in history) has been a popular tradition.


Today, most Chinese still like drinking boiled water and consider it good for their health. 


The most important reason is that boiling was the best way to sterilize water in ancient times; this made boiled water believed to be good for health in Chinese culture and preserved as an important tradition.

hot water

Classifications and Popular Traditional Chinese Drinks

Jiang: Juice that squeezed from fruits, vegetables, or flowers.

Lao: Traditional drinks that are made of dairy.

Tang or Geng: Soups that are made by boiling or stewing ingredients.

Jelly and Others.