“The Use and Abuse of Wine in Ancient China” by Mu-Chou Poo Non-Western Approach to the World By Irina Saakyan
The Use and Abuse of Wine in Ancient ChinaAuthor examines wine use and abuse in China through:• Archeological and literary evidence• Wine manufacturing in ancient China• Use of wine in rituals and festivals• Use of wine in secular ceremonies• Government control of wine production and consumption• Wine in Daily Life
The Use and Abuse of Wine in Ancient China• The inventor is unknown• Compare to the rest of the world for the ancient China most important alcoholic drink was not fruit wine, but grain wine (wheat and millet)• Debate: “whether the production of grain wine was possible only when there was a considerable amount of grain surplus, and when the society had entered a stage of "class society” wherein only the chiefs who controlled the surplus grain had the means of wine production”
The Use and Abuse of Wine in Ancient China• Some scholars believe only during Neolithic Lung-shan period (c. 4500 B.C.E.-1000 B.C.E.) grain production was more effective and due to formation of more stratified society the production of wine became possible• However, existence of vessels for fermentation and filtering purpose give the evidence of earlier period wine use
The Use and Abuse of Wine in Ancient China• The production of grain wine was related to agriculture• For primitive minority tribes of southwest China the production of wine at the expense of staple food was common• In ancient time the fermented residue of grain was usually mixed with the wine and was edible
The Shang dynasty (c. 1750-1100 B.C.E.)• Wine vessels were important funerary objects, even for the poor• Large portion of potteries were designed for wine• Wine-related vessels and wine itself were very important items in this life-and the life thereafter• Contemporary and historical evidence suggests that the Shang people were heavy drinkers• Wine drinking became a social disease and finally caused the collapse of the Shang dynasty
The Chou dynasty (c. 1100 B.C.E.-221 B.C.E.)• Couldn’t forbid the abuse of wine and through implementation of rituals the society was differentiated and was regulated according to political status• Scarcity of wine vessels shows the change in the perception of wine use in the afterlife• The textual evidence of wine drinking are relatively abundant: wine-drinking was a normal social activity• The increase in the variety of wine indicates the use of wine was becoming more sophisticated which also indicates changes and complexity in the society
The Production of Wine• The most ancient two kinds of wine: li and chan• Li: cook germinated grain and then mix it with steamed rice and water and then allowed to ferment until it became wine. Japan: “chewed-grain,” the rice was chewed and after put in a wooden bucket and allowed to ferment for some day• Ch’an: was brewed using certain fragrant grasses mixed with steamed grain• The most common method of making wine in ancient China, was to utilize molds• Non of the methods of wine-making involves distillation
The Use of Wine• Wine is used to invite the blessings of the royal ancestors and to pray for rain or good harvest from the gods of mountains and rivers• Only the offering of wine uses the character “wine” to distinguish the offering itself• The reason of the wine importance in religious purposes lays in intoxicating effect caused by alcohol
Secular Ceremonies• The drinking of wine became part of a program of political-ethical control• The ideal state contains “wine-director” and other officials. In the “Drinking Ceremony of the Countryside” wine drinking is a strictly ritualistic activity or behavior prescribed by Confucian moral ideals• The ceremony to celebrate friendship with the help of wine was a symbol of social solidarity and amity among participants• The wine became a tool of social interaction and distinguisher of the social status• Han dynasty: wine is part of court ritual: performed with the expectation of reforming social morality; toasts from ranked officials• The purpose of ritual was not at enjoying wine but at restricting excessive drinking
The Control of wine Production in the Han Empire• Emperor Wu announced government monopoly on wine production to control the development of state economy, like salt and iron control• Wine nationalization was one of the series of economic measures to solve financial problems caused by military operations• Wine was considered a profitable industry due to mass consumption.• Sales tax was applied to the private brewers and restrictions were applied when natural disasters occurred since in case of drought grains better be used for food rather wine production
The Use and Abuse of Wine in Daily Life• The medical qualifications of wine were known in China from very early period: direct link between wine and medicine; antiseptic medicine and cure to ease urination• In Taoist tradition wine refers to longevity elixir. Wine was also used as a royal gift in a political sense with high value, indicating a special drink quality. Various games where wine drinking was treated in special way in banquets were created: social interaction.• Wine intoxication was a spiritual harmony with nature: Taoism philosophy• The use or abuse of wine was a tool of social protest and self-protection. Wine was an escape of real world of politics for some officials in trouble times• Juan Chi was drinking into a stupor to avoid the interaction in political affairs and “to ward off undesirable and uncontrollable political intrigues.” Drinkers sought liberation from the prevailing social norms by creating their own norms and isolate themselves from the ruling authority
Conceptions of Wine• Social behavior toward wine drinking reveals the nature of the society as a whole. Like in Egypt, wine occupied an important niche in cultural structures with religious symbolism. However, in China wine didn’t have mythological associations, but it was a prestigious drink derived from its use in the offering rituals and food of immortals• Wine in China can be categorized into 2 kinds: positive and negative- to conform to the good and evil nature of man• The drinker will decide whether wine is healthy and auspicious and this attitude reflects the idea held by Confucius• Use of wine an all kinds of social and religious occasions were rarely questioned• Analogy to the concept toward life and death: private and public. Publicly it was advocated a middle way by giving advice in moderation or prohibition. Privately, the standard of drinking was different: to resolve sorrow and enjoy life
Discussion• Does the evidence suggest wine is an important and significant segment in Chinese culture and socio – economic status?• Why is it important to examine the history of wine production and consumption?• Duality: while alcohol can be misused, it has clearly proved to be part of past and present life. Should the use and abuse of wine be legally controlled?• Would you agree wine plays a significant role in modern society?
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