WINE has been called the “Water of Life”. In China, it could also be called the “Water of History” because stories about wine can be found in almost every period of China’s long history.
Nowadays, China is still a country which has a big consumption of alcohol. A few years ago, statistics revealed that the annual output of baijiu, a drink with a high alcoholic content, had reached 10 billion liters consumed annually.
Historically, alcohol pre-dates the formation of the Chinese character and it was around 4,000 BC that ancient China saw its first period of making alcohol. Read more on Baijiu History.
The ancestors of today’s Chinese people made alcohol from corn and they believed the drink had magic powers.
At that time, alcohol was not for ordinary people but was a monopoly of the monarchy. Kings set up special bureaux to take charge of the production and distribution of alcohol and it was a luxury drink reserved for the king and the aristocrats.
Stories from earliest times also associate alcohol with tyrants. A famous one is entitled “The Wine Pool and the Meat Forest”. Zhou, the last king of the Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 BC), was well-known as a tyrant. He was also addicted to alcohol.
He ordered people to make a big pool and had it filled with wine. He then ordered meat to be hung high like a forest and watched naked men and women chase after one another for his amusement.
Modern research has shown that people in early China kept their wine in bronze vessels which made the wine poisonous because the tin in the alloy would dissolve in the drink. So many drinkers were unaware they were poisoning themselves and this was a factor in bringing about the end of the last hard-drinking ruler of the Shang Dynasty.