Wednesday, February 11, 2009

About last night's post: I blame baijiu

So, among the many interesting facets of traveling with Dad's entourage are the meals, where the ancient Chinese tradition of drinking baijiu -- correction: binge drinking baijiu -- is always practiced. Here's how it works: first, before any of the food can be touched, everyone drinks; then one person -- usually the host, which in our case was Shaanxi's provincial head -- will go around tributing each of the guests (or select guests, but to be polite he usually gets everyone); then, random people will get up out of their seats and do the same. This ritual is simultaneously ridiculous and awesome, as you basically have a bunch of accomplished old men trying to get -- forgive the expression -- shit-faced while both saving and giving face -- an even more ancient Chinese concept closely tied with pride, honor and respect.

In Shanbei (which literally translates to "North Mountain," referring to northern Shaanxi Province), apparently the tradition is to "give two, drink one." In other words, if you're a target of a tribute, you drink two by yourself, then another with the tributer. This makes for very, very messy afternoons and evenings, considering baijiu -- Chinese firewater -- is always upwards of 60 proof and tastes like the color purple, as one of my friends so aptly put it. (Another of my friends described it this way, which I think is also surprising appropriate: "rotten candied vagina." Or maybe it was "candied rotten vagina." Either way, you get the point.)

I bring this up because I had at least 22 and a half shots of baijiu -- in the above-pictured porcelain cups, which are small, thankfully -- at lunch yesterday in Yanchuang. I say "at least" because I lost count somewhere along the way, even though I was keeping a log in my notepad. Anyway, 22.5 eclipses my old record of 21.5 shots of Soju (Korean firewater). I don't say this to brag -- not at all -- but to point out that after taking at least five more shots of baijiu plus red wine at dinner that night, I think I can be excused for making any factual mistakes in anything written later that night. I wrote in my notepad at about 6:20 p.m., "Feels like someone punched me in the face."

Yes, there was a big factual inaccuracy in my previous post: the city I was in was Suide, not Yenan. And it's not Yenan -- it's Yanan, which is where I'm writing from now. But the stuff about Mao, the bridge guy, et al. are all correct.

If I may add something about Mao: it was in Yanan that he prepared to fight the Nationalists, except the two sides reconciled and agreed to ally against the Japanese. Later, Yanan held the Seventh National Congress of the Communist Party, and it was there, in 1945, that delegates elected Mao Zedong as Secretary General, then the highest position in the CCP.

I think that's correct. Then again, I had eight or nine baijiu shots from a larger glass at dinner tonight, so I won't know until tomorrow afternoon.

3 comments:

Kevin Collier said...

I'm famous!

The Tao said...

So Kevin, you were voicing your approval for baijiu by calling it candied rotten vagina, yes?

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