White Pottery Gui， unearthed at Dawenkou Site of Shangdong province， is on display at China National Museum. (PHOTO:VCG)
By BI Weizi
Chinese rice wine occupies a significant place among the world’s three major brewing wines—rice wine, grape wine and beer. Ancient Chinese brewing technology was unique and has become the representative model of the Oriental brewing world.
Instead of using fruit, which is the usual ingredient for wines, grains (rice, wheat, sorghum, etc.) are fermented to produce Chinese wine. Historically, the raw material for the production of rice wine is mainly corn in the north and rice in the south. Due to the political, cultural and economic centers moving south at the beginning of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the production of rice wine was limited to several southern provinces. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), Shaoxing rice wine in south China’s Zhejiang province gained popularity at home and abroad.
Ancient China’s brewing technology, before written records, can only be analyzed from its brewing appliances. In 1979, archaeologists discovered a 5,000-year-old set of wine-making equipment in the burial site of the Dawenkou culture in Linyin River, Shandong province. This provided valuable information to unravel the mystery of wine-making technology at that time. The set of brewing utensils includes a pottery tripod for cooking, a large-mouthed Zun for fermentation, a leaky jar for filtering wine, a pottery urn for storing wine, and drinking utensils such as single-ear cups and high-handled cups, totaling more than 100 pieces. According to the archaeologists, the tomb owner might have been a professional winemaker during his lifetime.
The above archaeological data confirm the existence of a brewing industry during the time of the Yellow Emperor.