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Xinghuacun a historical gem in alcohol production

By YUAN SHENGGAO | China Daily | Updated: 2022-04-22 09:48

The waving spindle-shaped bottle found at the Xinghuacun archaeological site. [PHOTO BY WEN ZHAOYAN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

China has an alcoholic beverage production history of about 6,000 years. That is according to an archaeological discovery made at the site where today's famous Shanxi distillery Xinghuacun Fenjiu Group is located.

Starting in July 1982, renowned Chinese archaeologists Huang Jinglue, Zhang Zhongpei and Wang Kelin led an excavation of ancient ruins in Xinghuacun township in the Shanxi city of Fenyang.

One of the remarkable findings was a waving spindle-shaped bottle with a distinctive feature of Yangshao Culture, an ancient civilization in the middle reaches of the Yellow River between 5,000 and 7,000 years ago.

The bottle features a small mouth and a tip bottom. Researcher identified it was an item some 6,000 years old but were not sure about its function at first.

Some guessed it was a utensil to fetch water. But the speculation was refuted by others as an experiment showed that it was inconvenient to fully fill and carry the bottle because the center of gravity was in the middle.

A comparison with many pictures of archaeological discoveries in China and the rest of the world made researchers believe the utensil was used to brew alcoholic beverages.

They found that in ancient Babylon, Egypt and Greece, tip-bottomed bottles were used in the fermenting process of wines. The utensil was made this way because it was usually buried in soil for better fermentation.

The speculation was also justified from the ancient Chinese pictographic character of jiu, or alcoholic beverage. After referring to many ancient books and records, archaeologist Su Bingqi found that the ancient character resembles a tip-bottomed bottle and thus he believed the utensil discovered in Xinghuacun was used for alcoholic beverage making.

A further discovery was made on the remains in the bottom of the bottle, which were later identified as a kind of cereal sprout wine.

Based on the findings and studies, Chinese archaeologist Bao Qian'an announced it was a discovery pointing to the earliest alcoholic beverage-making site and the earliest alcoholic beverage making utensil found in China.

The bottle is now displayed in the museum owned by Xinghuacun Fenjiu Group.

Xinghuacun is one of the pioneers in making white liquor, or baijiu, in China, with a production history dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

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