Chinese liquor culture refers to both the tangible and intangible values of liquor, as is embodied in the process of production, sales and consumption. This kind of culture includes the brewing techniques, tastes, function and history of Chinese liquor. Chinese liquor culture enjoys a time-honored history in China. A number of men of letters and refined scholars have paid a tribute to superb liquors, composing a wealth of poems related to liquor, covering a wide range of occasions ranging from banquets to ceremonies. As an important carrier of culture, liquor plays a unique role in the interactions between people. Chinese liquor culture has found its way into every sector of the society, contributing enormously to the development in such areas as literature and arts, medical science, and industrial and agricultural production.
The Origin of Chinese Liquor
In time immemorial, people would store fruits as food. But when the fruits were successively stored, they would go bad and ferment. People accidentally came to discover that the fermented fruits contained substances that could make them have an amazing feeling. This was how liquor came to be discovered. With the development of agriculture, there was the excessive supply of grains, which would also go bad like the fruits. Then people found that grains could be also made into liquor. As time elapsed, people started to know how to control the fermenting process, giving rise to brewing techniques. This is usually regarded as the origin of Chinese liquor.
The Medical Value of Chinese Liquor
The combination of liquor and medicine is thought to be ground-breaking in the history of traditional Chinese medicine. Tonic liquor can be used to prevent diseases, therefore enjoying a position of influence in the history of Chinese medicines. It is often regarded as one of the treasures in Chinese medicines, and has been further developed with the improvement of the brewing techniques. Scientific evidence shows that if used properly, tonic liquor can help enhance blood circulation and work for the benefits of human health.
Types of Chinese Liquor
The raw materials for brewing Chinese liquor are various, including sorghums and rice. The leavening agents are also rich in their varieties, among which some are made from barley, some wheat, and some rice. The vessels for fermentation can be also different, including pottery jars, cement pool, brick pool, box and mud cellar. The brewing techniques can also vary a great deal, such as steaming, solid fermentation and liquid fermentation. The weather conditions in which the liquor is brewed can be either humid or dry with different temperature ranges. So, different liquor brands have their own unique flavors. Generally, Chinese liquor can be categorized into the following seven types:
Maotai flavor: The most famous liquor of this kind is Maotai, produced in Huairen, Guizhou Province. This type of liquor is made from sorghum, either colorless or yellowish in general. It brims with the flavor of sorghum, and renders you rich tastes once you take a sip of it. The fragrance and taste will just linger in your mouth for a while. Alcohol content: 43% or 53%
Fen flavor (Fen refers to Fenyang in Shaanxi Province): The most renowned liquor of this kind is Fen liquor, produced in Xinhua Village, Fenyang, Shaanxi Province. This type of liquor is made from sorghum, crystal and brimming with mild fragrance. Alcohol content: 40% to 54%, 55% or 65%
Lu favor (Lu refers to Luzhou in Sichuan Province): The most famous liquor of this kind is Luzhou liquor, produced in Luzhou, Sichuan Province. This type of liquor is made from sorghum and rice and fermented with the leavening agents made from barley or wheat. It is either colorless or yellowish, and clear and crystal. It has a strong taste that will linger in your mouth for quite a while. Alcohol content: 40% to 60%
Rice flavor: The most famous liquor of this kind is Sanhua liquor, produced in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. This type of liquor is mainly made from rice, crystal and fragrant. Its taste is quite pleasant with a little bit sweetness. Alcohol content: 40% to 57%
Liquor and Its Culture
Banquets are often the occasions where people can relax and gather together with their friends. More often than not, people would sit by the table and make a toast. In such a context, liquor serves to spice up the atmosphere.
When people host a farewell dinner for their friends, they would gather together to celebrate their friendship and share their visions for a brighter future. On such an occasion, good wishes are to be expressed and tears to be shed. Sitting by the table, they would drink to their heart’s content as a way of saying goodbye. Not knowing the date when they will meet each other again since the departure, they would drown their sorrows in the liquor and hope for the best.
On such traditional holidays as the Spring Festival, Pure Brightness Day, Mid-Autumn Festival and Double Ninth Day, more than ever one thinks of one’s dear ones far away. So they would drink liquor as a way of releasing their emotions.
Drink Alone or Drink Down Sorrow
In their spare time, poets would drink alone, with all sorts of feelings welling up in their mind. They would also reflect on themselves and seek aspirations for moving on. When confronted with setbacks, whether in their career or relationship, they would drink and release their pent-up feelings by composing poems, many of which are considered superb works.
The occasions where sacrifices are performed can be quite lively. People, men and women, young and old, would gather together to honor the ritual. During some traditional festivals, people would offer sacrifices to the town god. Such occasions can be all packed with people, echoed by the sound of gongs and drums. People would definitely drink to their heart’s content as a way of celebrating such an occasion.
If you visit a Chinese family, you will be treated to the best liquor. This shows that they treat you as their dear friend. You can also drink to your heart’s content with the host if you are willing to.
Why would people take drinking as a treat?
The traditions mentioned above have been passed down from generation to generation. At the end of the year and at the dawn of the coming Spring Festival, people would be invited to all sorts of parties and banquets where they are supposed to drink liquors as a way of socializing. In this context, people drink for multiple reasons, some for a promotion and some for a smoother official career. In this case, liquor is more of a tool for people to obtain their goals.