Sort: Traditional Handicraft
Area: Shanxi Province Serial
No.: Ⅷ-59 Declarer: Fenyang, Shanxi Province
Jiu is the umbrella term for alcoholic beverages in China. Chinese spirits, a kind of traditional Chinese jiu, fall into several categories depending on flavor. Fen Jiu, produced in Xinghua Village, Fenyang, Shanxi Province, has been acclaimed as the forefather of Chinese spirits. Other famous spirits, such as Maotai jiu in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, and Xifeng jiu in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, are rumored to have borrowed their brewing techniques from Fen Jiu.
Fen jiu is a type of light-flavored spirit. The brewing process is characterized by double fermentation and double distillation in order to increase the yield of ethanol. Materials like sorghum, barley, and water are put into ceramic pots half buried beneath the ground for fermentation. The fermented grains will be distilled; the distilled grains will be fermented once more; the re-fermented grains will be distilled again.
'Pure' and 'clean' are the guiding principles behind brewing Fen jiu. For example, the husk (used as filling during the distillation process) is steamed to expel the unfavorable smell; the fermentation vessels are ceramic vats; the fermented grains, mixed with only a small amount of steamed husk, are distilled separately. Rich experience is required in the process of fermentation and distillation.
Archeologists discovered that the village of Xinghua was the site of the Yangshao Civilization that dates as far back as six thousand years ago. Judging from the unearthed articles in the village, they concluded that brewing spirits was a common practice at that time. In the village, there are still streets, breweries, wells, stones steles and tablets that show how spirits were brewed in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Today they are protected as cultural relics.
More brands of Fen jiu have been developed and the brewing industry has contributed a lot to economic growth in the area. However, the traditional brewing technique is being increasingly challenged by mechanization. Environmental deterioration and lack of high quality water and sorghum all stand in the way of preserving and passing down the traditional brewing technique.