Tour the World of Chinese Drinking Culture

While “葡萄酒 (pú tɑo jiǔ ) grape wine” culture is relatively new in China, it grew to be the 5th largest wine consumer in the world in a short period of time. Why would this matter? Because if you want to close a business deal, it might be done over drinks. So knowing your wines might just impress your partners as it is an important part of Chinese culture and knowing “商务就餐礼仪之敬酒 (shāng wù jiù cān lǐ yí zhī jìng jiǔ ) toasting etiquette at a business dinner could really pay off.

Types of alcohol

Although China is in the midst of a wine renaissance — Chinese people usually don’t drink grape wines, however. Chinese rice wine “米酒 ( mǐ jiǔ )” is preferred. There are some rice wines you probably don’t know about such as “花雕 (huā diāo ), “太雕 (tài diāo )”, “陈加饭 (chén jiā fàn )” and “金波 ( jīn bō )”. Rice wine was made around 1,000 BC in ancient China, and since then, it has played an important role in Chinese life.

烧酒 (shāo jiǔ ) and “白干 (bái gān )” are popular and commonly-used names for Chinese “白酒 (bái jiǔ )”, or clear spirit liquor. Whereas “黄酒 (huáng jiǔ )” is Chinese “yellow wine”, which is more sweet and not as strong as “白酒 (bái jiǔ)”. 白酒 (bái jiǔ) is liquor and spirits. Baijiu is sometimes called “white wine” due to translation, but it’s more like whiskey or vodka. Baijiu is a spirit usually distilled from sorghum or corn.

啤酒 (pí jiǔ ) beer is very popular in summer, especially in the northeast of China. The low cost of beer and its suitability with food makes it popular throughout the country today. Beer in China is usually not as strong as in other countries, so it’s a good choice if you want to drink slowly.

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How to “敬酒 (jìng jiǔ ) Toast”

An essential act of dinner celebrations and gatherings in China is “敬酒 (jìng jiǔ) toasting”, especially at business dinners. One should follow the basic rules when attending a business dinner. Firstly, one should stand up and use both hands as he or she toasts. Secondly, one should hold his or her glass with the right hand and use the left hand to support the bottom. Remember to always hold the glass lower than those of others to show respect. Finally, many people can toast to one person, but one should not toast to many people at once “除非 (chú fēi) unless” he or she is the leader. When a glass is empty, it is polite to fill the glasses starting with the person with the most money and filling one’s own glass last. It is considered rude to excuse yourself from joining in when offered a glass. If you do not drink alcohol or feel too intoxicated, then fill your glass with something non alcoholic so you can at least join in the toast.

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Once someone decides to “敬酒 (jìng jiǔ) propose a toast” you must know, that “Gan Bei!” in Chinese means “Bottoms Up!” or literally, “dry glass” and definitely does not mean just take a sip or two. Be prepared to take these words to heart! Because you might also hear “不醉不休 (bú zuì bù xiū )”. This means “drink until drunk” and is not looked down upon, especially at business dinners. Also, be aware that it is assumed that foreigners can drink more than the average Chinese person so If you can’t finish all the alcohol in your glass just say “Peng Bei!” – “Cheers!”


xīn  niáng  xīn  láng  xiàng  wǒ  men  jìng  jiǔ 。
新   娘      新      郎      向     我    们    敬    酒。
The bride and groom toast us.

Chinese people toast their glasses lower to indicate respect. Sometimes, a fight to lower toast glasses would end up equal on the ground! It’s a great scene to witness if you’ve never seen it before.

干杯! gān bēi

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“Food – the Be-all, End-all”
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