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Alcohol always accompanies delicious & sumptuous dishes either when people first meet or when old friends have a reunion. China produces liquor, beer & various types of wine, like yellow wine, and fruit wine. However China mainly produces distilled liquors. The most famous Chinese liquor is Maotai, a 55% spirit made of wheat and sorghum that, for centuries, has been produced in Maotai Town, Guizhou province. Besides, Wuliangye and Erguotou are also popular among the Chinese people.

In ancient times, wine seldom dominated, although there are evidences suggesting it had a long history. Wine and its brewing technology were once introduced from the neighboring regions in the Han, Tang and Yuan dynasties. During the Tang dynasty, wine was popular and was highly praised by many famous poets. It was served as the designated offerings for the Royal Ancestral Temple during the Yuan dynasty, since the ruler was addicted to it.

The amber colored yellow wine is unique product of China and is deemed as one of the three ancient alcoholic beverages in the world.

Alcoholic beverage like today's beer called Li was produced long ago, but supply was very limited though. When maiden were to become adults, they would drink Li to celebrate it as a special occasion.

Alcohol and Arts

Alcohol, more than any other beverage, had a great impact on Chinese artists as it seems that many of them produced their peak masterpieces in states of drunkenness. Being drunk, and so being released of inhibition, was and is an important way for Chinese artists to unleash their artistic and creative talents. After drinking the mysterious liquid, many famous poets, such as Li Bai and Du Fu, excelled in writing and left us surprisingly marvelous poems. Not only poetry but also painting and calligraphy were elevated to new heights with the consumption of alcohol. Wang Xizhi, the famous Chinese calligrapher respectfully called the Saint of Calligraphy, tried dozens of times to outdo his most outstanding work, Lantingxu (Orchid Pavilion Prologue), which was finished when he was drunk, but he failed. The original one was the best.

Alcohol and Health

Chinese people believe that moderate drinking is good for health, but excessive drinking will jeopardize one's physical constitution. As a result, few Chinese will cling to the bottle. However, many Chinese do sip a little alcohol periodically to maintain their vitality and health. Some even soak traditional Chinese medicine in liquor to achieve a better effect, which has proven to be beneficial.

Alcohol and Social Life

In China, alcohol plays an integral role in social life. Drinking provides more chances for one to make more friends. As the old saying goes, "Frequent drinking makes friends surrounding". Moreover, social drinking also effectively serves to deepen and strengthen the bonds of friendship. Since it shows one's friendliness, Drinking symbolizes one's sociability and is always used as a way to relieve misunderstanding and hatred no matter how tense the situation may get.

Alcohol and Business

Banquets are occasions where businessmen search for new business opportunities, try to discover the slightest changes in business trends or uncover their rivals' business information thus possibly giving them the edge, and increasing their chances of future success. Certainly, banquets form, strengthen and consolidate business partnerships and alcohol, of course, plays a key role.

Alcohol and Entertainment

Most people drink alcohol just for the fun of it. Due to its intoxicating effect, alcohol enhances the happy and exciting moments during festive occasions and adds to the merriment. Gathering around tables and playing drinking games, people will become bolder both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, there are always some people who get drunk after indulging too much.

Alcohol and the Military

Drinking alcohol was the only form of entertainment for the military in the time of handheld weaponry. It was used to stimulate and reward army men. Its stimulating properties could make cowards brave, invigorate the exhausted and heighten the morale of the army. Therefore it was the most important and effective substance employed to raise morale before and during a campaign, and to reward a military victory afterwards. According to historical records, during the period of the Warring States, Qin Mugong of the Qing kingdom poured the insufficient liquor into the Yellow River and drunk with his soldiers. here were many stories like this, and generals who did this always won their battles. In historical novels, alcohol and battles frequently went hand in hand. For example, in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Guan Yu, the Chinese Ares, chopped Hua Xiong's head off while his wine was still warm; Zhang Fei, pretending to be drunk, captured his enemy's fortress easily. In this novel, almost every chapter is associated with alcohol.

Alcohol and Its Uses in China

Ceremonial rites -alcohol was first used as a way to show respect to ancestors and gods. This custom still remains today.
Farewell toast to warriors - Chinese usually will toast their warriors' victory before their departure.
Victory celebration - a military tradition held after triumphing over the enemy.
Banquet - alcohol consumption during state and business banquets and family feasts.
Resistance to cold temperatures - Chinese people have used it to resist cold for thousands of years.

Drinking Game (Jiuling)

Originally alcohol was mainly a beverage used in ceremonial rites. Drinking games, called in Chinese Jiuling , were just aids for drinking. Certainly there were other aids for drinking, such as archery, chess and arrow pitching. Aimed to restrict overdrinking, and to keep drinkers behaving as gentlemen, there were even special designated officials to manage these aids for drinking. Later, drinking games, which added entertainment to rites, gradually became an artifice to encourage, wager and force overdrinking. Jiuling is a unique part of Chinese culture.
Now Jiuling has many forms, depending on the drinker's social status, literacy status and interests, which can be classified into three categories - general game, contest game and literal game.

General game includes those games every body can play, such as joke telling, riddling and Chuanhua (passing flowers one by one). This category is usually played by ladies when attending a banquet.

Contest games consist of archery, arrow pitching, chess, dicing, finger guessing and animal betting. Among these, the latter two are common.

In finger guessing, two players stretch out their right hands, with several fingers sticking out while the others closing to their palm and at the same time, each of them, usually roars a number from nil to ten. If fingers sticking out adds up to a player's number, then he wins and the loser will have to drink. There are many variations in different regions.

Animal betting is a very interesting game played by 2 people, everybody in China can play. In the game, one uses his Chopstick to tap the other player's chopstick and at the same time speaks out one of four terms. The other does the same. There are four terms: stick, tiger, cock and insect. The rules are simple: Stick beats tiger; tiger eats cock; cock pecks insect; insect bores stick.

Literal game is mainly popular with bookworms and by intellectual people since they receive good education and have refined knowledge and know the essence of Chinese traditional culture. Intellectuals sometimes play the other two category drinking games too, however they consider those games vulgar. Literal gentlemen, poets and writers, and cultured ladies prefer the elegant game, literal game.

Literal game is unique and artful literal contest, which requires superior wisdom, broad knowledge and fast response. In order to animate atmosphere, players will do their best to produce original, novel, unpredictable and extremely fine literal pieces improvising with quotations from scriptures, history, poems, proverbs, and fairy tales embedded. Many Jiulings of this category, very artistic, are pleasingly worthy of literary appreciation. Bai Juyi, one of the greatest Chinese poets, even thought elegant Jiuling was much more interesting than music accompaniment.

Drinking Vessels

Like tea wares, drinking vessels have a long history as a part of Chinese alcoholic culture. Drinking sets evolved hand in hand with the stages of Chinese cultural development.

According to historical records and archeological evidence, there were dozens of types of vessels excluding the cups we use today. The earthen wares archeologists discovered in Shaanxi province in 1983 were authenticated to be the oldest drinking vessels revealed in China. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, bronze vessels were popular in the north while porcelain vessels with carved figures were introduced in the south. Vessels developed further during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period, from pottery to porcelain with thin coat of enamel. Later in the Qin and Han dynasties, glass and whelk vessels appeared, and gold and silver cups decorated the lavish banquets of the despots. Drinking vessels became more delicate and tasteful during the Northern and Southern dynasties since drinking was an intellectual activity during that time. During the Sui and Tang Dynasty porcelain pots and cups were common. After the Song Dynasty, drinking vessels had evolved into a big family consisting of porcelain, bronze, tin, gold, silver, and cloisonne vessels and vessels made of rhinoceros horn. Chinese drinking vessel won a lot of praise from great poets like Li Bai, Wang Changling and Wang Han who all wrote poems about liquors of taste and vessels of finesse.

In ancient China, people had strict requirements for drinking vessels for different liquors. According to ancient research, here are some favoured combinations:

Red wine: if you want to enjoy life, you are suggested to use a Luminous Cup which is made of jade produced at Qilian Mountain. It is said that in this cup the liquid looks like blood and reflects moonlight.

Fenjiu (liquor produced in Shanxi): Fenjiu in jade cups has the look of amber.

Guanwai liquor (a drinking vessel used in ancient dynasties): a rhinoceros horn cup will enrich the fragrance of the liquor.

Kaoliang spirit: Chinese believe it is the oldest liquor, so that it should be drunk in bronze Jue (drinking vessel in ancient dynasties) to feel ancient life.

Herbs wine: since it is made by marinating various kinds of herbs in wine with natural fragrances, it is recommended to use ancient rattan cup to strengthen and enjoy the ancient flavor. 

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