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. This lumping together of all intoxicating beverages gives us great insight into the traditional use for alcohol, intoxication. Even in modern China alcoholic beverages are generally classed by the general population by how much intoxication it delivers for the money. From this point of view table wine is at the bottom rung of the consumer preference list, with brandy being much higher.
Water of History
In China, wine could also be called the "Water of History" because stories about wine can be found in almost every period of China's long story. The origins of the alcoholic beverage from fermented grain in China cannot be traced definitively. It is believed to have 4,000 years history. A legend said that Yidi, the wife of the first dynasty's king Yu (about 2100 BC) invented the method. At that time millet was the main grain, the so-called "yellow wine", and then rice became more popular. It was not until the 19th century that distilled drinks become more popular. Traditionally, Chinese distilled liquors are consumed together with food rather than drunk on its own. Although China has a 6,000 year history in grape growing, and a 4,000 year history in wine making, it was not until this century that Chinese wine was recognized in the West.