Discovery of Ancient Brewery Dates China's Spirit-making Back 800 Years

Brewing spirits, long a good business in China, is even older than previously thought, after archaeologists unearthed the ruins of an ancient distillery dating back approximately 800 years.

Discovered in June in Lidu Town of Jinxian County, east China's Jiangxi Province, this is the oldest distilled spirit brewery ever discovered in China, said Huang Jinglue, an expert with the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

The Lidu brewery dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), while the brewery previously thought to be the oldest, discovered in southwest China's Sichuan Province, dates 200 years later to the middle of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Archaeologists have excavated 350 out of a total area of 15,000square meters, unearthing a series of facilities -- a cooking range, bodega, distilling facilities, ditches, an ashpit and brickpoles, as well as a wall base and road surface -- all of which point to it being used for making distilled spirits in ancient times.

Also found was an ancient well still filled with clear water, 350 utensils -- mostly drinking vessels -- and large number of pottery fragments at the excavation site.

Archaeologists even found active bacterium in lees and mud unearthed at the site. They predicted that further excavations might lead to the discovery of more ancient wine-making facilities.

The ancient town of Lidu has a wine-making history of more than 2,000 years.

Considering the age of the brewery, Zhou Henggang, an expert of distilled spirits, called it a "national treasure" of China's wine-making industry.

The finding confirms a record in the Compendium of Materia Medica, written by noted pharmacologist Li Shizhen of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), that China's distilled spirit industry began in the Yuan Dynasty.

China is the only country in the world which makes distilled spirits from fermented rice and other grains.



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