Chinese Jiu Culture2016-05-10 15:07:44Share:
Jiu (liquor in English), the history of which is as long as that of mankind, has a close connection with cultures in china.
According to the legend, Chinese people began to make liquor with grains seven thousands years ago and even earlier with animal milk. No one knows precisely what kind of liquor the early Chinese poets celebrated, but various types made from fruit (especially plums), rice or sorghum are likely.
One poem from the early tang dynasty is specific, however, its first line reading “beautiful grape wine in a moonlit cup”. The wonders of the tang dynasty poetry would be unimaginable without liquor. Drinking liquor could stimulate some poets’ inspiration.
Take Li Bai, an unconstrained man for instance, only when he got tanked up could he compose so many marvelous works. Clearly, the association between liquor and literature in many cultures is seemingly a given.
But the relationships are especially acute in the case of china: in the poetry of Li Bai, who was famously drowned in a drunken attempt to embrace the moon reflected in a river. John C.H. Wu observed that “while some may have drunk more wine than Li Bai, no-one has written more poems about wine.” Classical Chinese poets were often associated with drinking, and Li Bai was part of the group of Chinese scholars in Chang’an his fellow poet du fu called the “eight immortals of the liquor cup.” Chinese generally did not find the moderate use of alcohol to be immortal or unhealthy. James J.Y Liu comments that Zui(醉) in poetry “does not mean quite the same thing as ‘drunk,’ ‘intoxicated,’ or ‘inebriated’, but rather means being mentally carried away from one’s normal preoccupations”. Liu translates Zui as “ rapt with wine.” The “eight immortals,” however, drank to an unusual degree, thought they still were viewed as pleasant eccentrics. Burton Watson concluded that “nearly all Chinese poets celebrate the joys of liquor, but none so tirelessly and with such a note of genuine conviction as Li Bai.”
Drinking Alone Under the Moon (Li Bai)
With a jug of wine among the flowers,
I drink alone sans company.
To the moon aloft I raise my cup,
With my shadow to form a group of three.
As the moon doth not drinking ken,
And shadow mine followeth my body,
I keep company with them twain,
While spring is here to make myself merry.
The moon here lingereth while I sing,
I dance and my shadow spreadeth in rout.
When sober I am, we jolly remain,
When drunk I become, we scatter all about.
Let’s knit our carefree tie of the good old day;
We may meet above sometime at the milky way.
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