Chinese Alcohol Culture

In Chinese the word for alcohol "jiu" is used to mean all types of alcoholic beverages, from 'pijiu' (beer) to liquors (just called 'jiu') to grape wine ('putao jiu'). The same character is used in Japanese and Korean, for that matter.

The symbolic serving and drinking of wine on various occasions and in different places can convey many meanings.It can express either joy or sorrow. In China, there is a saying that 'a thousand cups of wine is not too much when bosom friends meet together', which indicates the happiness between two confidants.

Nearly all important occasions are celebrated with alcohol. The Spring Festival, which is a favorite time for family reunions, is probably one of the most significant when rejoicing is expressed by social drinking. During the Double Ninth Festival, people drink chrysanthemum wine to ward off evil and to wish their elders good health and longevity. Of course, no wedding ceremony is complete unless the happy couple symbolizes their love for each other by linking their arms to drink to their future happiness (jiaobeijiu), after which they offer a dutiful toast to their parents to thank them for the care they have given to them as children.

When drinking wine or spirits at table, both the host and the guests are expected to observe certain rules of etiquette and behavior. The glass should be full of wine, else the guest will think they are lacking due respect. The elders and superior person or persons present should always be served first. 

A toast represents esteem, while refusing to participate in a toast shows the great irreverence and a lack of politeness. Should a guest be genuinely unable to take a drink then he has to find another to do it for him in order to save face.