What Is Chinese Drinking Culture? (10 Answers)

China, with its rich history and vibrant traditions, boasts a fascinating drinking culture that is deeply ingrained in its social fabric. From elaborate banquets to casual gatherings, drinking in China is not merely about consuming alcohol, but rather a reflection of social connections, customs, and hospitality.

what does Chinese drinking culture?

Chinese drinking culture is rooted in the concept of togetherness. The act of sharing a drink is seen as a way to strengthen relationships, build camaraderie, and promote harmony among friends, family, and colleagues. It serves as a means of bonding and celebrating both joyous and solemn occasions.

One of the central elements of Chinese drinking culture is the tradition of toasting, known as “Ganbei.” When toasting, it is customary to make eye contact, raise your glass, and express a heartfelt sentiment or wish. The clinking of glasses symbolizes unity and mutual respect. It is essential to remember that when toasting, higher-ranking or older individuals are often honored first as a sign of deference and courtesy.

Baijiu, a potent distilled liquor, holds a prominent position in Chinese drinking culture. Known for its distinct aroma and robust flavor, baijiu is often enjoyed during formal banquets and special occasions. It is customary to pour baijiu into small cups and offer them to guests as a gesture of hospitality. Sharing a toast with baijiu is seen as a way to express gratitude, build trust, and foster a sense of community.

Another integral aspect of Chinese drinking culture is the appreciation of tea. While not alcoholic, tea holds immense cultural significance in China. Tea houses and ceremonies are places where friends and acquaintances gather to enjoy various types of tea while engaging in conversations and relaxation. The preparation and serving of tea are highly regarded arts, embodying elegance, respect, and the sharing of wisdom.

In Chinese drinking culture, moderation and respect for others’ limits are also highly valued. It is considered polite to offer drinks to others but never to pressure someone into drinking beyond their capacity. Understanding and accommodating different preferences and tolerances is a mark of consideration and social etiquette.

Furthermore, Chinese drinking culture encompasses a range of traditional practices and customs. During festive occasions such as Chinese New Year or weddings, there are often designated rituals and toasts to honor family elders, celebrate prosperity, and convey good wishes for the future. These rituals not only strengthen family bonds but also uphold cherished traditions passed down through generations.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend toward health-conscious drinking habits in China. Many individuals are opting for non-alcoholic beverages or choosing lower-alcohol options. This shift reflects an increased awareness of well-being and a desire to maintain a balanced lifestyle while still participating in social gatherings.

how to say cheers when drinking in Chinese?

When raising a glass to toast in Chinese, the common phrase used to say “cheers” is “干杯” (gān bēi). The term “干” (gān) means “dry” or “empty,” and “杯” (bēi) refers to a cup or glass. Together, “干杯” expresses the idea of emptying your glass in celebration. It is the equivalent of the English toast “Cheers!” or “Bottoms up!” and is commonly used during social gatherings and formal occasions in China.

Chinese drinking age

China’s history is intertwined with the history of alcohol. The origin of brewing dates back 5000 years, although there are various theories and no definitive conclusion has been reached.

5000 years ago: Brewing beer. Archaeologists from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology discovered brewing-related artifacts in Mijiaya, Xi’an. These artifacts, including wide-mouthed jars, funnels, small-mouthed pointed-bottomed bottles, and portable stoves, date back to 3400 BCE to 2900 BCE.

During the time of the Yellow Emperor: Brewing Li liquor. The Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon) records a discussion between the Yellow Emperor and Qibo about brewing, mentioning an ancient liquor called “Li,” which was a sweet beverage made from animal milk.

During the Xia Dynasty: On August 23, 1987, the newspaper “Xinmin Evening News” reported the discovery of 5000-year-old brewing utensils in Juxian County, Shandong Province. These utensils included pottery vessels, gui (a type of vessel), tall-footed cups, gu (a type of goblet), jue (a type of wine vessel), hu (a type of wine container), and jiao (a type of wine cup). Numerous pottery and exquisite bronze drinking vessels were found.

During the Shang and Zhou Dynasties: Brewing medicinal wine. Archaeological excavations and research indicate that during the Shang Dynasty, social activities, from the royal and noble classes to the common people, were governed by rituals, with wine playing a significant role. There were even specific officials responsible for the brewing and use of wine to ensure the needs of rituals and feasts were met.

During the Han Dynasty: Distilling liquor. Bronze distillation devices consisting of a steamer and a pot emerged. In Peng County, Sichuan Province, and Xindu, there have been two discoveries of brick paintings depicting distillation workshops during the Eastern Han Dynasty.

During the Tang Dynasty: Evidence from poetry. The line “自到成都烧酒熟,不思身更入长安” (After arriving in Chengdu, I drank matured liquor and no longer desired to enter Chang’an) by Tang poet Yong Tao suggests that distilled liquor, known as baijiu, was already prevalent during the Tang Dynasty. In Tang Dynasty relics, small wine cups with a capacity of only 15-20mL have been found.

During the Song Dynasty: Brewing Daqu liquor. Tian Xi, a scholar from the Northern Song Dynasty, mentioned in his book “Qu Ben Cao” that after 2-3 rounds of distillation, the liquor had a high alcohol content, and even a small amount would make one intoxicated. The “Liquor made in winter and sold after summer” mentioned in the “Song Shi” refers to the traditional method of producing Daqu liquor.

During the Yuan Dynasty: Solid-state distillation. Li Shizhen’s “Compendium of Materia Medica” describes a method of distillation using concentrated liquor and lees in a vessel called a zeng. The vapor is collected using a utensil, and all types of sour and spoiled liquor can be distilled and burned. This distillation method is similar to the current practice of solid-state distillation using zeng barrels.

Chinese drinking etiquette

Etiquette and Virtues

Wine Etiquette

Drinking wine in ancient times formed a significant part of Chinese culture, accompanied by a set of etiquette that was sometimes elaborate. Some of the wine etiquette in ancient China included:

When the host and guests drank together, they would bow to each other. Younger individuals drinking in front of their elders, known as “shiyin,” would typically have to first perform a bow and then take a seat in a lower position. The younger individual could only raise their cup after being instructed by the elder. The younger individual should not finish their drink before the elder does.

There were approximately four steps in the wine ceremony: bowing, offering, tasting, and finishing the cup. It began with a bow to show respect, followed by pouring a small amount of wine on the ground as an offering to express gratitude for the blessings of the earth. Then, the wine would be tasted, and compliments would be given to please the host. Finally, the cup would be raised and emptied.

During a banquet, the host would offer wine to the guests (called “chou”), and the guests would reciprocate by offering wine to the host (called “zuo”). When offering wine, it was customary to say a few words of tribute. Guests could also offer wine to each other (called “lüchou”). Sometimes, wine would be offered sequentially to individuals (called “xingjiu”). When offering wine, both the person offering and the person receiving should stand up and “evade the seat.” Typically, three cups were offered as a standard measure.

Among the 56 ethnic groups within the Chinese family, with the exception of the Hui ethnic group who follow Islam and generally abstain from alcohol, all other ethnic groups have their own unique drinking customs.

Virtues of Wine

Throughout history, Confucianism has been regarded as the orthodox ideology for governing the country and society, and the customs related to wine have also been influenced by Confucian views on wine culture.

The term “jiude” (virtues of wine) can be traced back to the “Shang Shu” and the “Book of Songs,” implying that those who drink wine should possess moral character and should not behave like King Zhou of Shang, who “overturned his virtues and indulged in wine.” The “Jiu Gao” section of the “Shang Shu” embodies the Confucian virtues of wine, which include: “Drink only for sacrificial rituals” (wine should only be consumed during rituals), “Avoid excessive drinking” (one should not frequently indulge in drinking and should only drink moderately, saving food resources, and it is advisable to drink only when ill), “Prohibit drinking in groups” (it is forbidden for people to gather and drink excessively), and “Prohibit excessive indulgence” (excessive drinking is prohibited). Confucianism does not oppose drinking, as wine can be used for sacrificial rituals, honoring the elderly, and entertaining guests, all of which are virtuous practices.

Ancient Literature and Drinking Culture

1.During the Wei and Jin dynasties, literary figures indulged in wine, but as “refined scholars and guests,” they had unique pursuits in terms of the drinking environment, drinking partners, and drinking style.

In terms of drinking style, they pursued an elegant realm where the qin and se played harmoniously, and poetry and wine were enjoyed together. This involved playing the qin, singing and dancing, drinking wine, and composing poetry simultaneously. Ji Kang said, “With a cup of wine and a tune on the qin, my aspirations are fulfilled.” This simple and ideal life was likely the aspiration of many scholars at the time.

2.The peak of the integration of poetry and wine culture was during the Tang Dynasty. In Tang poetry, the culture of wine, emotions, and poetry intertwined and complemented each other. Tang poets expressed their disillusionment with official careers, their frustrations with unacknowledged talents, their lamentations about the hardships of life’s journey, and their unrestrained sentiments. All these emotions were eventually poured into the wine cup, using wine to express emotions, convey thoughts through objects, and resulting in numerous timeless poems on wine.

For example, “I stop drinking and cannot eat with chopsticks, I draw my sword and gaze around, my heart lost in confusion.”

3.Wine is one of the most frequent imageries in Song Dynasty ci poetry. Unlike in Tang poetry, where wine culture was often used to express national grievances, Song ci poetry mainly revolved around the personal lives of the poets to depict wine culture. Wine was closely related to the lives of Song literati and scholars, who enjoyed drinking wine and composing poetry, while martial artists and wanderers liked to socialize with wine, and officials entertained guests with wine.

For example, “In this world, what can retain the spring? Only a clear song and a cup of golden wine.”

4.The wine culture of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties was not only reflected in the poetry, lyrics, essays, and dramas of literary figures but also permeated the classical masterpieces of that period.

“This wine is made from the essence of a hundred flowers and the sap of a myriad of trees, blended with the fermentation of unicorn marrow and phoenix milk. It is called ‘Ten Thousand Charms in One Cup’.”

Ancient Chinese Wine Culture: Ancient Drinking Games

Drinking games, also known as “wine commands” or “drinking orders,” are games played during a banquet to liven up the drinking atmosphere and encourage participation. The common practice is to appoint one person as the “commander” while others follow the orders. Following certain rules, participants may make hand gestures, guess dice outcomes, cleverly compose verses, or engage in other recreational activities. Those who fail, break the rules, or cannot complete the tasks do not face penalties in terms of drinking. However, when there are joyful events or occasions, all participants celebrate together, encouraging and toasting one another. Drinking games serve as an important means of implementing wine etiquette.

  1. Gesture-based Games

One little bit.

“Ge Liang Hao” (Chinese for “two good things”).

Three fingers (the three stars align).

Four seasons wealth (four toasts to wealth).

Five leaders.

Six, six, six.

Seven clever ones.

Eight horses.

Drink quickly.

Everyone, gather.

2. Dice-based Games

Dice used in drinking games are small cubes with sides measuring about five millimeters. They are made of materials such as bone, plastic, or jade. They are typically white and have six sides, each with a circular pit representing one to six dots. Dice are commonly used to play drinking games at banquets.

A popular variation involves painting one side red (in modern times, sometimes the side with a single dot is painted red), while the rest remain black. Players hold the dice in their hands and throw them onto a tray, rotating them in the process. Alternatively, the dice are placed inside a dice cup and shaken with the lid on. Once they come to rest, the outcome determines the winners and losers according to the game’s rules. Therefore, dice are also known as “colorful cubes.”

3. Domino-based Games

Heaven tile: Both sides have six dots.

Earth tile: Both sides have one dot.

Man tile: Both sides have four dots.

Harmony tile: The upper side has one dot, and the lower side has three dots.

4. Riddle-based Games

Riddle-based games involve the use of riddles as drinking commands. There are various methods, such as the “Seek the Answer” game, where the commander presents a riddle, and participants take turns providing different answers. Those who cannot provide a suitable answer or fail to match the riddle face drinking penalties. If the commander uses the idiom “Hōng táng dà xiào” (causing a loud laugh), participants can come up with riddles within a specific range of topics. They first provide the riddle and then reveal the answer. Here are a few examples:

Literary term riddle: Yuefu (a type of Chinese poetry)

Music term riddle: Chamber music

Water Margin (a classic Chinese novel) character riddle: Yue He

Film title riddle: Happy Times

Heilongjiang (a province in China) place name riddle: Qiqihar

Ancient Etiquette of Drinking

The ancient etiquette of drinking consisted of four steps: Bai (salutation), Ji (libation), Cui (tasting), and Zu Jue (emptying the cup). Specifically, it began with a salutation gesture to show respect. Then, a small portion of the wine was poured onto the ground as an offering to express gratitude for the blessings of the earth. Next, the wine was tasted, and its flavor was praised. Finally, the cup was raised and emptied in one gulp.

During a banquet, the host would offer wine to the guests (called Chou), and the guests would reciprocate by offering wine back to the host (called Zuo). When toasting, it was customary to deliver a few words of tribute. Guests could also offer toasts to one another (known as Lv Chou). Sometimes, toasts were made in a specific order (known as Xing Jiu). Both the person offering the toast and the recipient would stand up and “step aside” from their seats. Three cups of wine were typically offered during the toasting ceremony.

During the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period, there were customs of singing and composing poetry during drinking sessions. The game of “pitch-pot,” derived from archery rituals, was essentially a form of drinking game. During the Qin and Han dynasties, following the customs of earlier periods, people composed verses spontaneously at banquets, known as “on-the-spot singing and harmonizing.” Over time, this practice became more elaborate and gradually evolved into drinking games.

The Tang and Song dynasties were a peak period for the development of game culture in China, and drinking games flourished accordingly. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, drinking games reached another peak, with a wide variety of game types that encompassed all aspects of life, including objects, people, flowers, trees, insects, birds, music, lyrics, poems, dramas, novels, traditional Chinese medicine, seasons, the eight trigrams, and dominoes, as well as various customs and festivals.

The earliest form of drinking games was primarily aimed at maintaining ritual and etiquette at banquets, serving as a transformation, enrichment, and development of wine etiquette. It was an important means of enhancing the enjoyment and liveliness of the banquet, blending culture with wine and infusing wine with culture. In ancient times, there were officials assigned to supervise and enforce the rules of drinking games, known as “Li Zhi Jian” (supervisors of drinking games), who were responsible for maintaining order. These drinking games were meant to regulate drinking rather than encourage excessive consumption.

As history progressed and time went on, drinking games increasingly became a form of entertainment and amusement during banquets, to the extent that some of the original ceremonial elements were lost. They became more focused on revelry, competition, and encouraging drinking, even serving as a means of punishment.

Chinese drinking culture business

Here is the English translation of the seating arrangements at the dining table:

Seating Arrangements at the Dining Table

Family Gathering

During a family gathering, seating arrangements are typically based on seniority and age. The eldest or most senior member sits at the prominent position facing the entrance. The rest of the seating can be arranged in a left-right order according to seniority or age.

Friend Gathering

Seating arrangements at a friend gathering also have certain considerations. Generally, the host or the person who invited the guests sits in the position facing the entrance, known as the “eastern seat” or “host seat.” Since it’s a friendly gathering, sometimes these rules are not strictly followed, but others would avoid taking the host’s seat.

Business Reception

“Respect the left and honor the east,” and “the position facing the entrance is the most esteemed.” If it’s a round table, the position directly facing the entrance is for the honored guest, and the positions on the left and right sides of the honored guest are determined by their distance. The closer the position is to the honored guest, the more respectful it is. If the distances are the same, the left side is considered more honorable than the right side.

Please note that the translations provided are general interpretations. Specific situations and contexts may vary.

 Ordering Dishes Before the Meal

If you are the host, wait until most of the guests have arrived, then provide the menu for the guests to peruse and ask them to order dishes. If you are a guest, allow the host to order the dishes. If the host insists, you can suggest ordering a dish that is not too expensive and is agreeable to everyone.

The general rule is to have one dish per person. If there are more men at the gathering, you can consider ordering a slightly larger quantity.

Have a variety of dishes, including meat and vegetables, hot and cold dishes, to ensure a comprehensive selection. Men tend to prefer meat dishes, while women prefer vegetable dishes.

For a regular business banquet, an average dish priced between 50 to 80 yuan is acceptable. If the guest of honor is a significant person, it is appropriate to order several substantial dishes.

When ordering dishes, avoid asking the waiter about the prices or bargaining. After ordering, you can inquire, “I have ordered the dishes, but I’m not sure if they suit everyone’s taste. Should we order anything else?”

Dining Etiquette

After taking your seat, wait for the host to raise their glass as a signal to begin before you start eating. Avoid being too eager and respect the host. Practice good manners during the meal.

When picking up food with your chopsticks, wait until the dish is in front of you before you start. Do not reach over or touch the food of others, do not flick food onto the table, and avoid spilling soup. Handle your chopsticks delicately, and refrain from constantly stirring or flipping them in the food dish.

Chew your food slowly and swallow before taking another bite. Avoid stuffing large chunks of food into your mouth and making unnecessary noises while eating. When picking your teeth or using a toothpick, cover your mouth with your hand or a napkin.

After finishing the meal, use a napkin, tissue, or a small towel provided by the waiter to wipe your mouth. Avoid belching or burping without control.

Toasting and Pouring Drinks

As a gesture of courtesy, approach the person you are toasting to and pour their drink, rather than pouring it while holding their glass across from you.

Younger generations should pour drinks for their elders. Generally, at a table, pour drinks for the elders first. If they are seated on your left, pour with your right hand, and vice versa.

Pour drinks for friends in a sequential order from left to right. Use your right hand to pour for those on your left, and use your left hand to pour for those on your right.

It is preferable not to touch someone else’s glass. However, for hygienic reasons, if it is an elder, you may pick up their glass to pour, handling it gently.

Do not fill the glass too full. For red wine, fill the glass to about one-third capacity, and for white wine, fill it to about seven or eight-tenths full.

When lifting the wine bottle, rotate it slightly to let the wine flow naturally along the bottle’s neck.

Pouring Drinks Etiquette

Toasting sequence: The host toasts the guest of honor first, accompanying guests toast the guest of honor, the guest of honor reciprocates, and accompanying guests toast each other.

Gesture while toasting: Stand up, hold the glass with your right hand, and support the base of the glass with your left hand. Your own glass should always be lower than others’ glasses.

It is preferable to use respectful words while toasting and avoid comparing the amount of alcohol consumed with others.

Multiple people can toast to one person, but one person should not toast to multiple people unless they are leaders or elders.

Offer refills to leaders or clients, but do not pour on their behalf without their explicit consent.

If there are no specific guests of honor, it is best to toast in a clockwise order and avoid favoring certain individuals over others.

Toasting technique: If there is not enough alcohol, place the bottle in the middle of the table and pour for yourself as needed.

Tips for Declining Alcohol

Explaining the situation:

If you cannot drink alcohol, proactively request a non-alcoholic beverage and explain the reason for abstaining.

Techniques for refusal:

Ask the person to pour a small amount of alcohol into your glass, and then gently push the bottle away with your hand. According to etiquette, the alcohol in your glass can be left untouched.

Polite refusal:

When the person offering the toast pours alcohol into your glass, lightly tap the edge of the glass with your hand. This gesture signifies “I don’t drink, thank you.”

Avoiding alcohol taboos:

Do not hide or deceive, and avoid flipping the glass upside down or secretly pouring the drink offered by others onto the floor. These actions would be considered impolite.

Effective Communication Skills

Choose appropriate language and employ humor:

The way you speak and your ability to use humor can showcase your talent, cultivation, and social grace. It is important to know when to say what.

Focus on the host and grasp the overall situation:

Most banquets have a theme. When attending a gathering, first observe the expressions and attitudes of the attendees to determine their importance and hierarchy.

Join in the merriment, avoid whispering:

Try to engage in discussions that involve the majority of people and avoid whispering conversations with others, as it may give the impression of exclusivity.

Observe and understand others:

In social interactions, it is essential to understand others and adapt to different perspectives in order to play your role effectively at the dining table.

Etiquette for Leaving the Table

When leaving in the middle of an event, do not bid farewell to each person in the conversation circle. Simply greet two or three people near you quietly and then depart.

If you need to leave the venue during the event, be sure to inform and apologize to the host who invited you. Avoid lingering and engaging the host in conversation. Occupying too much of the host’s time may cause embarrassment in front of other guests.

Some people, when leaving a party or gathering midway, will ask everyone they know if they want to leave together. This suddenly disrupts the lively atmosphere and prematurely ends the event. This kind of disruption is difficult for the host to understand and forgive. Therefore, a person with grace and manners should never commit such an error.

Chinese drinking vessel

Ancient Chinese Bronze Drinking Vessels

In ancient China, bronze vessels, particularly those associated with wine, held a significant proportion in terms of variety and quantity. For example, the burial objects found in the “Fu Hao Tomb” in the Yin ruins consisted of more than 200 items, with wine vessels comprising over 70% of them. These vessels included jue, jiao, he, gong, and more, totaling over ten different types. This indicates that the aristocratic class of that time had a strong affinity for wine. During the Shang and Zhou periods, wine vessels were not only diverse but also crafted with intricate details.

In the book “Comprehensive Discussions on Yin and Zhou Bronze Vessels” by Rong Geng and Zhang Weizhi, wine vessels from the pre-Qin period are divided into three categories: cooking vessels, also known as warming vessels, including jue, jiao, he, and gong; wine-serving vessels, including zun, gong, yi, you, and hu; and drinking vessels, including gu and zhi.

The hierarchical ranks of ancient titles corresponded to the types of wine vessels. The most prestigious individuals used jue, which could hold one unit of wine; the next rank used zhou, which could hold two units; the third rank used gu, which could hold three units; the fourth rank used jiao, which could hold four units; and the fifth rank used bei, which could hold five units. The smaller the capacity of the wine vessel, the higher the social status.

There were also distinctions in the containers used for pouring wine. Vessels of the third rank and above used da zun (large zun), while others used da hu (large hu). Towards the end of the Spring and Autumn period, these intricate wine rituals were greatly simplified, and people used jiao or gu vessels for gatherings, while high-ranking officials used jue vessels.

The character “尊” (zun) is often used in modern Chinese to convey respect or nobility. However, in ancient times, “尊” was also a type of wine vessel, similar to “樽” (zun). The phrase “人生如梦,一尊还酹江月” (Life is like a dream, offering a toast to the river and moon with a cup) mentions “尊,” which refers to a wine vessel.

The use of “尊” began in the early Western Zhou period, typically in a circular shape, while square zuns had a square mouth and body. The Four Sheep Square Zun earned its reputation from the figurines of four sheep and four dragons facing each other, symbolizing the supreme status of wine ritual vessels.

In the Guangdong Museum, there is a bronze he with dragon motifs from the Western Zhou period. It possesses a graceful shape, substantial body, intricate patterns, and fine craftsmanship, making it a treasured piece in the museum.

So, what exactly is a “盉” (he)? It is, in fact, a mixing vessel used for blending drinks, somewhat similar to the later Western-style punch bowls or cocktail shakers. Ancient people would mix wine and water in the he and then pour it into cups. The purpose was to control the concentration of the wine.

Chinese drinking game

Prohibition of drinking

In ancient times, there were approximately four types of alcohol prohibition. The first type was for the sake of a strong nation. When Yi Di made wine, Yu tasted it and said, “In the future, there will be those who ruin their country due to alcohol.” Duke Zhou also warned, “Do not indulge in excessive drinking; bring restraint back to Zhou.” Duke Zhou issued strict orders to prohibit alcohol, fearing that it would corrupt the morals and harm the vitality of the people. This type of prohibition was intended for the strength and well-being of the nation.

The second type was for the conservation of grains. Brewing alcohol requires a significant amount of grains. During the Eastern Jin Dynasty, a county implemented a one-year alcohol ban, which saved a million bushels of rice. Liu Bei, while serving in Yizhou, once banned alcohol due to drought. Throughout history, alcohol bans were often implemented during times of famine and scarcity, but they were usually temporary. Due to the long-standing tradition of alcohol consumption, long-term prohibition was difficult to enforce.

The third type was for monopolistic purposes. It was recorded in the Book of Han that Emperor Wu “banned the brewing of alcohol among the people and monopolized the production and sale of alcohol, similar to claiming ownership of wood found on the road, solely for personal profit.” This type of prohibition was not genuine but rather a government monopoly on brewing and selling alcohol for its own profit. The previous prohibitions were intended for the people, while Emperor Wu’s prohibition was driven by personal gain, clearly distinguishing the two.

Later, during the Jin Dynasty, the court implemented a tax system on alcohol, similar to Emperor Wu’s monopolistic alcohol production system. This demonstrates that alcohol consumption was prevalent, customs were widespread, and state regulations adjusted to prioritize governmental profit, a phenomenon that has occurred throughout history. It is not unique to alcohol culture.

The fourth type of prohibition was in response to alcohol-related incidents. In the fourth year of Emperor Wen of Northern Wei’s reign, after a successful harvest, peasants engaged in drunken disturbances. Emperor Wen issued an order to ban alcohol, stating, “Those involved in brewing and selling alcohol shall be executed.” In reality, the prohibition applied to the people but not to the officials, as it was difficult to enforce openly.

drinking Games

Regardless of the circumstances, people are directly or indirectly involved with alcohol in social life. The materialization of this involvement is manifested in the joy of alcohol. Alcohol games are an integral part of alcohol culture, where culture is infused into alcohol. As early as over two thousand years ago during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, alcohol games appeared at banquets in the Yellow River basin. Alcohol games can be divided into popular games and refined games. Guessing games represent popular games, while refined games involve written prompts and are usually popular among individuals with rich cultural knowledge. Bai Juyi once said, “Leisurely invite refined games to challenge the officials, getting drunk while listening to new poetry is more enjoyable than music.” He believed that refined games at banquets were more interesting than musical accompaniment. Refined games include word puzzles, riddles, and strategy games.

drinking game activities

Alcohol games are the combination of alcohol and games. For example, during the Spring and Autumn period, there was a game called “throwing the Hu” (a type of pottery vessel), and during the Qin and Han dynasties, there was a game called “spontaneous singing and harmonizing.” However, when games developed into activities with a compulsory and conclusive nature, they became a cultural phenomenon that was both relaxed and serious. During the Western Han Dynasty, Empress Dowager Lü held a grand banquet and appointed Liu Zhang as the overseer of alcohol games. Liu Zhang proposed that military commands be used as the rules for alcohol games. During the banquet, some of Lü’s relatives attempted to leave, and Liu Zhang beheaded them with a sword. This event, where people lost their heads due to a drinking game, might be considered a play within a play. This gave rise to the saying “alcohol games are like military commands.”

The Tang and Song dynasties were the most adept at playing games in ancient China, and alcohol games were naturally diverse. Bai Juyi has a poem that goes, “Insert a red conch shell into the wine cup, and the wine vessel flies like a white jade goblet.” Alcohol games reached their peak during the Ming and Qing dynasties, becoming multifaceted and captivating. During the Qing Dynasty, Yu Dunpei categorized alcohol games into four types: divination games, refined games, common games, and strategy games. Strategy games were the main attraction among alcohol games.

One of the central elements of Chinese drinking culture is the tradition of toasting, known as “Ganbei.” When toasting, it is customary to make eye contact, raise your glass, and express a heartfelt sentiment or wish. The clinking of glasses symbolizes unity and mutual respect. It is essential to remember that when toasting, higher-ranking or older individuals are often honored first as a sign of deference and courtesy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top