4,000 years ago, Chinese advances were backed up by the mass production of beer!

(ORDO NEWS) — What important forces and factors led to a remarkable evolutionary leap in Chinese culture over 4,000 years ago? One important cultural trend that has helped trigger high-level civilizational change has been identified by the new research, and it is clear.

The researchers argue that the significant innovation in brewing technology that made it possible to mass-produce beer had a profound effect on the ancient Chinese peoples, who sincerely rejoiced at the opportunity to consume this fermented drink at large-scale social events.

Red rice beer was considered desirable due to its taste, mind-altering effects, and “sacred” red color. A team of scientists from China and the United States published their study in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, and it showed that the technology of mass production of beer led to vigorous trading activity and the exchange of knowledge between Neolithic peoples in ancient China, the scientists write in their journal article.

And it was this general enthusiasm for the fermented alcoholic product that ultimately helped bring about the birth of dynastic Chinese civilization.

The new social bonds generated by certain cultural practices are the seeds from which larger, more advanced, and more ambitious civilizations can emerge. And the mass production of beer in China thousands of years ago became a key ingredient for large gatherings and, by extension, large social networks.

Ancient Chinese civilization began to become more cohesive and unified starting around the fourth millennium BC, as the earlier divisions were opposed by various centralizing forces and factors.

These circumstances set the stage for the rise of China’s first ruling dynasty, the Xia Dynasty, founded by Yu the Great around 2070 BC.

The leaders of the Xia dynasty were able to rule effectively in a country that now had a stronger sense of common purpose and identity. And the mass production of beer played an important role in this evolutionary leap in China about 4,000 years ago.

4 000 years ago Chinese advances were backed up by the mass production of beer 2

Alcoholic fermentation as a science was discovered in China at least 9,000 years ago. A Dartmouth College study published in 2021 found that ceremonial drinking vessels recovered from an ancient burial site at Qiaotou in China’s Zhejiang province contain preserved traces of red rice beer, confirming that the drink has been consumed for a very long time.

It took several thousand years for the knowledge of how to make alcohol to spread more widely. The impact of the mass production and consumption of beer in ancient China created the conditions for the rapid development of meaningful “mass” cultural exchange and knowledge transfer.

The Dawenkou culture of China, which was established by settlers in what is now Shandong Province in eastern China between 4,600 and 6,700 years ago, created a recipe and fermentation technique that facilitated the mass production of beer.

They brewed their distinctive red rice beer in large clay pools known as dakugangi, a great leap forward in alcohol production technology. It was this technology that was the focus of a new study that sought to find out exactly how dakugangs were used and for how long.

“Dakugangs were not made in every settlement, but mostly in large elite burials,” study co-author Li Liu, professor of Chinese archeology at Stanford University, told the South China Morning Post. “It is unclear exactly where dakugangas were made, how they were distributed, or whether they were traded as commercial goods.”

At that time, the elite fought for recognition by holding giant communal feasts. Red rice beer, a specialized product believed to have sacred properties, was highly coveted at such feasts, and consequently the daquganga-style fermentation technology was in high demand as knowledge of it quickly spread westward through growing trade networks.

“Individuals who could supply large quantities of such drinks were more competitive in the struggle for status and prestige in society,” the authors write in their article “Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.” “Especially if the drinks were of an exotic type.”

During feasts and other social events, dakugangas were put on public display. Enough red rice beer was poured into them to keep you in a good mood throughout the day.

“The feasts could help build an element of solidarity among the participants, convey various types of information to the participants and the wider public, and enhance the prestige of the hosts,” Professor Liu wrote in a separate article on the subject in 2021.

4 000 years ago Chinese advances were backed up by the mass production of beer 3

Chinese civilization changed six thousand years ago as a result of the development of what scientists call “the sphere of interaction.” The term was coined by archeology professor Kwang-Chih Chang in the 1980s and described a unique period in which previously separate societies became more complex, layered and interactive, gradually developing a more collective mindset.

In their Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences study, the scientists define the sphere of interaction as a period beginning in the fourth millennium BC, when Neolithic cultures in China “experienced increased trans-regional interaction, characterized by the spread of artifacts of striking similarity over an unprecedentedly large area, including certain forms of pottery vessels.”

These vessels were dakougans, which were discovered during excavations of elite burials in all parts of the country.

Until this new study, the actual purpose of the 16-28-inch (40-70 centimeter) tall dacougangs had eluded scientists.

To determine how they were actually used, the scientists analyzed the remains of microfossils of fungi, starch and phytoliths found in the found daqugangs, as well as in jugs and cups recovered during excavations at the site of the late Dawenkou culture in Yuxixi in Anhui province.

These analyzes showed that the large basins and drinking vessels did indeed contain the fermented drink. The drink was eventually identified as a red rice beer that was made from an eclectic blend of rice, millet, Job’s tears, Triticeae and snake gourd root. The fermentation starter called qu was created from a mold known as monascus, and this substance is still used to make this type of drink.

It was monascus that gave the strong alcoholic drink a red tint. This hue was considered metaphysically important due to its resemblance to the color of blood.

“The symbolic overtones of the color red, associated with the seemingly magical transformation of grain into alcohol, as well as the psychoactive effect of the drink, may have contributed to the significance of red rice beer, which was probably considered a sacred substance,” the co-authors of the article write.

That would be another reason why the country’s status-conscious elite would be interested in learning the secrets of mass beer production.”

Ultimately, the common interest in this drink contributed to the formation of culturally unifying bonds between different peoples. But in the context of these wider alliances, social stratification remained a very real thing, since the privilege of making this sacred drink belonged to the elite.

The community could enjoy mass-produced alcohol during the holidays. But ordinary citizens would not get the right to cook it themselves. People might enjoy attending the festive feasts of the local elite, but they were not in a position to sponsor such feasts themselves.

The mass production of beer would be useful as a way to increase power among the already powerful people, so the monopoly on its mass production would be jealously sought by rich and status people in every region of the country.


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