King Wen of Zhou. Public Domain

Episode 16: Beer & Alcohol in China

Join Meredith as she discusses the twisted history of alcohol in Ancient China, from wild excess to strict prohibition.


Links and Additional Content:

World’s Earliest Tipple Discovered in China

3,000 Year Old Bronze Trove Found in Chinese Tomb via The History Blog

“I have heard it said likewise, that the last successor of those kings was addicted to drink, so that no charges came from him brightly before the people, and he was (as if) reverently and unchangingly bent on doing and cherishing what provoked resentment. Greatly abandoned to extraordinary lewdness and dissipation, for pleasure’s sake he sacrificed all his majesty. The people were all sorely grieved and wounded in heart; but he gave himself wildly up to drink, not thinking of restraining himself. but continuing his excess, till his mind was frenzied, and he had no fear of death His crimes (accumulated) in the capital of Shang: and though the extinction of the dynasty (was imminent), this gave him no concern, and he wrought not that any sacrifices of fragrant virtue might ascend to Heaven. The rank odour of the people’s resentments, and the drunkenness of his herd of creatures, went loudly up on high, so that Heaven sent down ruin on Yin, and showed no love for it – because of such excesses. There is not any cruel oppression of Heaven; people themselves accelerate their guilt, (and its punishment)).”

“If you are informed that there are companies that drink together, do not fail to apprehend them all, and send them here to Zhou, where I may put them to death. As to the ministers and officers of Yin who were led to it and became addicted to drink, it is not necessary to put them to death (at once); let them be taught for a time. If they follow these (lessons of mine), I will give them bright distinction. If they disregard my lessons, then I, the One man, will show them no pity. As they cannot change their way, they shall be classed with those who are to be put to death.”

-Excerpt from Announcement about Drunkenness, purportedly made by King Wen of Zhou

Chinese Text of the Announcement about Drunkenness with English translations via The Chinese Text Project

Excerpt from A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization by Brian Griffith via Google Books about Prince Ji Fa

ISBN-10: 1935259148
ISBN-13: 978-1935259145