By Bao Congying

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In China, wine can be called the "water of history" because stories about it can be found in almost every period of the country's long history. Undoubtedly, wine occupies an important place in the culture and life of the Chinese people. It is well acknowledged that wine was intimately connected with most Chinese men of letters. There were many famous Chinese poets and artists who crafted their masterpieces after getting drunk. The famous poet Li Bai of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) is known as the "Immortal of Wine" because of his love of alcohol.
And among thousands of wine brands in China, Maotai, which is brewed in Maotai Town on the Chishui River in Renhuai City, Guizhou Province, is crowned as the national drink.

web_entrance_of_museumEnterance to museum

Guizhou Maotai Company established China's biggest wine museum - the Wine Cultural Museum - after a three-year effort. It occupies an area of [3,600 square yards] and has seven exhibition halls for different periods. It is an important stop on our exploration of "China's enchanting Maotai Town".

We learned from the local people that the museum has many fascinating displays about the production of Chinese wine throughout the centuries. It has hundreds of artifacts about the country's wine culture and about Maotai in particular. The exhibits cover folklore, history, the economy, literature, art and medicine and cater the tastes of tourists and wine enthusiasts alike.

On August 11, 2009, we finally got a chance to go to the museum and experience the colorful and legend-rich history of Maotai liquor.

"Maotai has a long history of being brewed, dating back to the Han Dynasty. More than 2,000 years ago, a type of fruit liquor was produced, which was called 'ju jiang'. It was sweet and tasty. One court official took a sample of it to Han Wudi, the emperor of the Han Dynasty, who called it 'honey-like nectar.' It became the first recorded case of Maotai," our guide gave us a history lesson about Maotai.

The museum traces Maotai's history of development, from a simple wine maker to a world-renowned liquor brand name, through paintings, old photos and some famous historic models and statues.

As early as in the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Maotai became the first excellent wine brand in large-scale production. It had an annual output of 170 tons, which was very rare in China's wine-brewing history.

Before 1949, there were three main wine factories in Guizhou, whose products were called Hua Mao, Wang Mao and Lai Mao. Among them, Hua Mao was the predecessor of today's Maotai liquor.

Three families dominated the production and sale of Maotai for about 50 years. Later, the government bought their companies, and today the drink is produced by state-owned Guizhou Moutai Company.

web_maotaiMaotai has gained recognition from national leaders for its contribution to China's diplomacy and economic growth. It was often served at National Day celebrations. And today, Maotai is still served when top-level foreign officials are received by the Chinese government.

As the national drink of China, Maotai has won numerous international awards. The earliest prize can be traced back to 1915 when Maotai liquor was featured at the Panama World Exposition and won the gold medal.

Maotai is not only a wine enjoyed by the Chinese, but also a favorite among socialites, politicians, diplomats and foreign dignitaries. There is a well-known legend recalling a meeting between English comedic actor and film director Charlie Chaplin and former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Both men were known to be able to drink large amounts of liquor. Chaplin was very fond of the Chinese brew and told the press it was the "drink of real men."

For those who live in Maotai Town, the "Wine Capital of China", Maotai is an inseparable part of their lives. They drink it to celebrate happiness and share sadness. This reminds me of a very common phrase exchanged during gatherings: "If we are good friends, then bottoms up; if not, then just take a sip."

So, my friends, after this delightful tour of the museum, let's say, "Bottoms up!" in the Wine Capital!

Source: english.cri.cn / People’s Daily Online

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