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why does Huangjiu play an important role in Chinese banquets?


Mr. Yang Yi, a book lover, an active supporter of Huangjiu, and a person who was not born in the producing area of Huangjiu, is the founder of the China Jingdian bookstore and is a famous expert on Huangjiu culture. On January 20, at the time of the [Shaoxing Huangjiu Culture Exhibition" which was held in Shanghai, Mr. Yang Yi, as the keynote speaker, was also invited. And the author took the opportunity to interview him in his hotel.

The purposes of the banquet require us to be open-minded and not be rude.

Mr. Yang Yi believed that Huangjiu is the most suitable wine for Chinese banquets. Firstly, he talked about the history and customs of banquets. When the society and state came into being, banquets appeared. And you can find banquets everywhere nowadays. Compared with common parties with family members, friends and colleagues, banquets are more formal. Therefore, each country and nation has a set of banquet etiquette and customs. The more formal and grand the banquet, the more etiquette. A western scholar said that the difference of etiquette at meals is the most essential difference between human beings and animals.

The wine served at the banquet plays an important role on the dinner table, so many Chinese people call the banquet as the wine feast. Drinking at a banquet is normal. However, no one has ever asked that why people drink at a banquet? Or what is the purpose of drinking at the banquet? Some people think that these questions are ridiculous. However, if we don't figure it out, we will confuse that what kind of wine should be served at banquets. Nowadays, white spirits, wine, beer, medicine wine and other kinds of wine are all served at banquets. Sometimes, beer, wine and white spirits are even served at the same time. What's more ridiculous is that some people mix beer, wine and white spirits together, and call it the [deep-water bomb". It seems that people have forgotten their original purposes of drinking. There are mainly two purposes of drinking at a banquet.

The first purpose of drinking at a banquet is to boost the spirits. The alcohol can make the banquet active, harmonious and pleasant, break the impasse between guests, and facilitate the communication between guests. But we should not be over excited after drinking so as to avoid impolite behaviors, such as loud quarrels, crying, laughing, etc. So it's an art of knowing how to control yourself. And how to choose wine is very important. And the second purpose of drinking is to make food more delicious.

Therefore, in order to achieve these two purposes, we should choose the wine carefully. To be specific, we should choose appropriate wine according to different themes, guests' identities and food species.

For example, on the 10th anniversary of the National Day in 1959, the state leaders hosted a banquet for domestic and foreign guests and selected Shaoxing Huangjiu as the wine for the state banquet. At that time, the Shaoxing State-Owned Winery, the predecessor of Gu Yue Long Shan, was designated to select 400 jars of wine for the event. In 1988, the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse designated Shaoxing Huangjiu and wine as the standard wine for banquets.

Alcoholic beverages and spirits are not suitable for banquets.

Beer, wine and Huangjiu are the three oldest brews in the world. Huangjiu is a unique invention of the Chinese nation. It can even be said that Huangjiu accompanies or breeds the nation. Soldiers will drink Huangjiu when they go out to battle. People will share Huangjiu when they succeed or fail. And literati will enjoy Huangjiu when they compose poems. Huangjiu has been deeply penetrated into the marrow of the nation. Even the Mengpo soup on the Naihe bridge is also called the yellow soup, which is derived from Huangjiu. It is no exaggeration to say that Huangjiu is one of the symbols and representatives of Chinese traditional culture.

It's a pity that in recent decades, people who have been surrounded by white spirits, wine and beer have forgotten that Huangjiu is the most important wine for Chinese people. Just like in the 1990s, the Chinese zither was almost lost. It is so funny to persuade Chinese people to drink Huangjiu at banquets. But since Huangjiu has been forgotten, we have to pick it up.

Beer has a low alcohol content. Foreigners often call beer, especially Chinese beer the alcoholic beverage, which is suitable for drinking quickly and being served as a kind of beverage. Beer is suitable for the barbecue and hotpot with strong flavors. And it is not elegant enough to be used at banquets because it should be enjoyed quickly. If you drink beer slowly, it can not boost the spirits because of its low alcohol content. Third, due to the low alcohol content, beer will dilute tastes of foods and reduce aesthetic feelings of foods.

Spirits include Chinese liquor, European whisky and brandy, Russian Vodka and South American rum. The alcohol content of whisky and brandy is generally 40 degrees, and the alcohol content of Chinese liquor is generally 50 to 60 degrees which is quite high. Why are spirits not suitable for banquets? There are mainly two reasons. Firstly, spirits will stimulate the taste bud, which will make the tongue numb and people are unable to fully appreciate the delicious food. Secondly, due to the high alcohol content, spirits are easy to make people over excited and behave in a impolite manner. Thus, we seldom see spirits at banquets of western countries. However, spirits will be served at banquets of Russia or Scotland because there is no other brewing wine except spirits.

Here's a story: Premier Zhou Enlai went to Europe in the 1950s and drank vodka at a banquet with the leaders of the Soviet Union. And because he drank too much, he vomited on the spot. Thus, Premier Zhou made a profound self-criticism to the Central Committee of the Communist of China after returning home. And the event urged the state banquet in 1959 to use Huangjiu instead of Maotai liquor. In foreign countries, a few spirits plus ice are suitable after a meal or when friends gather at home or in a bar at night. However, we seldom see Chinese people drink Maotai liquor plus ice after a meal or in a bar.

Why should Huangjiu be severed in Chinese banquets?

As mentioned above, beer and spirits are not suitable for formal banquets. How about Huangjiu and wine? Huangjiu and wine are the two kinds of state banquet brews, which were determined in the norms of the state banquet in 1988. Why are wine and Huangjiu suitable for the banquet? Because these two kinds of brews can meet requirements of banquets. There are mainly two purposes of drinking at banquets. The first purpose is to make foods taste delicious. As we all know, it is wonderful to enjoy beef with red wine, and enjoy fish with white wine. And it is suitable for enjoying wine-saturated fish, duck seasoned with soy sauce and Huaiyang cuisines with Huangjiu. In fact, Huangjiu and wine can indeed make foods more delicious.

The second purpose of drinking is to boost the spirits. People will become excited after drinking. And there are four states of drinking, namely, elegance, slight drunkenness, drunkenness, and great drunkenness. People will fall asleep, lose consciousness and even be sent to the hospital if they are in the last state. And many people will fall under the table if they drink too much. In the third state, people will be very excited. Under the effect of alcohol, they may cry, laugh or call names. Their behaviors are out of order. How about the second state? There is an old saying in Caigentan (an ancient book): Flowers are half open, and people are slightly drunk. In the second state, people are drunk, but they are still rational. They are unpretending and good-mannered. The second state is the best state of drinking. And in the first state, people are a little excited under the effect of alcohol and they won`t drop their reserve.

According to Mr. Yang Yi's experience of drinking and observation, people will generally go through the following states after drinking wine, Huangjiu and spirits under the action of human body. People will be in the elegant state for a long time after drinking wine and will quickly get drunk after drinking too much. And Huangjiu can make people stay in the state of slight drunkenness for the longest time. Thus, it is suitable for interpersonal communication and literary and artistic creation. In fact, there are indeed many stories about Huangjiu and literature in the history of Chinese ancient culture. The white spirits can make people go through the state of elegance and slight drunkenness quickly and achieve the state of drunkenness. And people will be highly excited. Generally speaking, the banquet is a formal social occasion. At the banquet, people need to communicate with each other in a ceremonial way. And a banquet usually takes about two hours. Therefore, it is best to serve Huangjiu at the banquet to maintain a harmonious and pleasant atmosphere and to make people slightly drunk in this given time.

There manly three reasons for serving Huangjiu at the banquet. Firstly, the main purpose of drinking at the banquet is to boost the spirits. And the best state is slight drunkenness. In this state, people are unpretending and good-mannered. As we mentioned before, Huangjiu can make people stay in the state of slight drunkenness for the longest time, which our ancients have already realized. The era that requires courage and efficiency has already gone, and the life style which is slow, rational and elegant plays an important role nowadays. Therefore, spirits are particular at the banquet not only in Chinese history, but also in other countries.

Secondly, the characteristics of Huangjiu are tolerance, harmony and moderation, which are very in line with the spirits of traditional Chinese culture. Huangjiu tastes sour, sweet, bitter and astringent, and these flavors are harmonious, which is very in line with the spirits of Chinese culture. And compared with Huangjiu, sour is the main flavor of wine, and astringency is the main flavor of red wine. To be honest, the aroma of wine, especially red wine, is richer than that of Huangjiu. The aroma of wine can be more directly related to specific substances in real life, such as nuts, flowers, fruits and so on. Huangjiu are also very fragrant. However, it is hard to relate the aroma of Huangjiu to a specific substance.

Thirdly, Huangjiu is vey mild. It is more healthy and more suitable for Chinese and Chinese foods. Because the majority of Chinese people's body is cold, drinking Huangjiu can better warm the body of Chinese people. However, wine, especially red wine, is cold by nature. That's why Chinese people do not drink wine after the Yuan Dynasty. Up to the High Qing period, China was the richest country in the world. Chinese people could afford any kind of wine in the world at that time. Thus, the reason why Chinese people chose Huangjiu was that it was more healthy.

2019 is the year of changing drinking methods of Chinese people.

The banquet is the place that pays the most attention to etiquette, so there must be a set of rules for the wine at the banquet. After drinking Huangjiu for thousands of years, people began to drink white spirits suddenly within several decades. Is this era no longer need Huangjiu? Or the generation has evolved into a new species, so we don't need Huangjiu any more. As we mentioned before, spirits are not suitable for banquets. Then, why are spirits served in family parties and formal banquets within several decades.

Mr. Yang Yi believes that we should be aware of the history of spirits firstly. Kublai (the fifth emperor of the Yuan Dynasty) brought the distillation technology to China and created spirits. However, in the Yuan Dynasty, wine, instead of white spirits, was served at banquets at the local or national level. The phenomenon shows that white spirits were not the best choice for banquets. A man like Genghis Khan, who only knew how to shoot eagles with an arrow, would choose the elegant wine for banquets.

After the Yuan Dynasty, people began to serve Huangjiu at banquets again. And after the Ming and Qing Dynasties, because of the technological innovation and excellent quality of Shaoxing Jiu, Shaoxing Huangjiu can be seen at almost all important banquets in China.

In recent decades, why are spirits popular again? Mr. Yang Yi believes that this is due to the characteristics of spirits and the characteristics of the times. The alcohol content of spirits is high, which leads to two remarkable characteristics of spirits. Firstly, spirits are fragrant. Secondly, spirits can make people drunk within a quite short time. Once people drink spirits, their blood will immediately boil and they will be encouraged. Therefore, it is the characteristics of efficiency and courage that meet the requirements of that era. As we know, there is no precedent for reform and opening-up, and there is no theoretical guidance for reform and opening-up. People had to feel their way. The state and people needed courage every step of the way from theory to practice. And at that time, spirits gave people courage. In addition, spirits are essential in all wars, which is also related to the historical reasons of [crossing Chishui the fourth times".

The era of high efficiency is the era of fast development, and also the era of confusion and frustration. Thus, many people want to get drunk quickly. Spirits can boost the spirits and promote relationship within 10 minutes and 20 minutes. In this era, time is money, and efficiency is life, which is in line with the characteristics of spirits.

However, Mr. Yang Yi believes that the era is a particular ear. But we should never replace universality with particularity. As we mentioned before, the era that requires courage and efficiency has already gone, and the life style which is slow, rational and elegant plays an important role nowadays. Many things in this era are not in line with common sense, but they are in line with the characteristics of the era. Although we are used to drinking spirits at banquets, but this is wrong and unnatural. In 1976, we began to put things in order. In 1978, we carried out reform and opening up. And now, we need to put other things, including the economic growth mode and people`s drinking methods in order to welcome a new era.

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