Alcohol is part of Chinese folklore. In modern China, alcohol remains its important role in folklore despite many social vicissitudes. It still appears in almost all social activities, and the most common circumstances are birthday party for seniors, wedding feast and sacrifice ceremony in which liquor must be the main drink to show happiness or respect.
In ancient China, since alcohol was regarded as sacred liquid only when people made sacrificial offerings to the Heaven and the Earth or ancestors was it used. After the Zhou dynasty, alcohol was deemed as one of the Nine Rites and every dynasty put much emphasis on alcohol administration to set up special ministries to manage alcohol producing and banqueting. Later, along with the development of zymotechnics and brewery, alcohol became ordinary drink. Thus, many customs concerning alcohol formed and evolved which had and have various relationships with our daily life.
Alcohol and Social Activities
These activities enable people of different cultural backgrounds to understand Chinese alcohol culture and folklore.
Drinking Game (Jiuling)
It is a very traditional Chinese game. Learning about the cultural facts of the game may interest your drinking in China. It is much more interesting than dicing.
Like tea wares, drinking vessels have a long history as a part of Chinese alcoholic culture. All the way, drinking sets witnessed formation and development of it and the vessels may vary from the alcohol classfication.
According to history record and archeological discovery, there were dozens kind of vessels except cups we use today. The earthen wares archeologists discovered in Shaanxi province in 1983 were authenticated to be the oldest drinking vessels revealed. During the Shang dynasty and the Zhou dynasty, bronze vessels were popular in the north while porcelain vessels with figures carved debuted in the south. Vessels further developed between the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period, from pottery to porcelain with thin coat of enamel. Later in Qin and Han, glass vessel and whelk vessel appeared, and gold and silver cups decorated banquets of the despots. Till the Northern and Southern dynasties, drinking vessels became more delicate and tasteful since intellectuals liked drinking that time. During the Sui dynasty and the Tang dynasty, porcelain pots and cups were common. Then after the Song dynasty, drinking vessels had a big family, consisting of porcelain vessel, bronze vessel, tin vessel, gold vessel, silver vessel, cloisonne vessel and rhinoceros horn vessel. Chinese drinking vessel won a lot of appraisals. Great poets like Li Bai, Wang Changling and Wang Han all wrote poems about liquor of taste and vessel of finesse.
In ancient China, people had strict request for drinking vessels for different liquors. Here are some choices from an ancient researcher for you.
Red wine: if you want to enjoy life, you are suggested to use Luminous Cup which is made of jade produced in Qilian Mountain. It is said that in the cup the liquid looks like blood and reflects moonlight.
Fenjiu (liquor produced in Shanxi): Fenjiu in jade cup looks like amber.
Guanwai liquor (liquor from regions outside of Shanhai Pass): rhinoceros horn cup will enrich 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.