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Tuesday, June 26, 2001, updated at 14:16(GMT+8)

Choosing Vinegar, Choosing New Life

Usually, people use shoe cream to polish their shoes. But, Wu Jiang, an employee with the Jindian Securities Network Company, based in north China's Shanxi Province, uses vinegar to polish his shoes every morning before he leaves home for work.

"A few drops of vinegar can make my shoes shine for a longer period of time," he said.

Chencu, or mature vinegar, which has been used as a kind of flavoring for more than 1,000 years in China, is being used for more other purposes by modern Chinese people, who are advocating a healthy lifestyle.

"Have you drunk vinegar?" has become a fashionable greeting among a number of young ladies in China's metropolis, Shanghai. Many of them are drinking vinegar to improve their looks.

Three or five of them are often seen sitting together, drinking "sour and sweety fairy," a kind of drink mixed with vinegar and

soda pop, and "hazy beauty," a mixture of Chencu and mineral water.

As the cradle of the Chencu, Shanxi Province has won the title of the "hometown of vinegar." Shang Shu or Book of Historical Documents, the earliest history book of China, records that people in Shanxi love drinking vinegar.

At present, it has become a routine procedure for a group of Shanxi people to drink a spoon of vinegar first before having a meal. They drink the vinegar heartily as if they were drinking Coca Cola.

Shanxi now has more than 100 vinegar factories, which produce more than 200,000 tons of vinegar annually or over one-fifth of the national total. They have developed more than 50 kinds of vinegar products which adapt to the food habits of different places, such as elite vinegar and vinegar drink.

Chencu is a kind of liquid which has a delicate fragrance and is the same color of Coca Cola. Scientific research shows that the vinegar contains 18 amino acids such as enzyme and lactic acid, and 17 kinds of microelements such as calcium, iron, zinc and manganese, needed by the human body. The content of the acetic acid in Chencu is the highest among all vinegar products.

Experts say that the acetic acid contained in Chencu is conducive to maintaining the balance of internal secretion and delaying senility.

Ancient Chinese medicine books have records which say that vinegar helps "hair grow, improves one's looks, drops blood pressure and reduces weight." During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a group of renowned Chinese doctors used more than 20 kinds of traditional Chinese medicines, which had been dunked in Chencu, to develop a kind of medicine effective for treating women's diseases.)

A folk saying in Shanxi goes like this: If one family has two taels (the name for a certain amount of something) of Chencu, the family members need not to see doctors.

One year ago, the Qingxu County Laochencu Plant, which is over 300 years old, carried out a survey among its workers of three generations, including retirees. It was surprised to find that none of the more than 600 surveyed workers have suffered from cancer and only less than 1 percent of the respondents is a patient of cardiovascular diseases. The sickness rate among the family members of these workers is much lower than other groups.

Nowadays, more and more people are choosing vinegar as a kind of drink which is good for ones health, than a kind of flavoring.

Besides Chencu and rice vinegar, pepper vinegar, ginger vinegar, pineapple vinegar, morning vinegar (for drinking in the morning), health vinegar for elderly people and many others can be found on the shelves in large supermarkets in Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an. The number of buyers is very large.

To attract more consumers, businessmen are making an issue of packaging. Instead of glass bottles, vinegar containers are made into the shapes of ancient Chinese coins and calabash. There are also bucket)-shaped jars containing 10 kilograms of vinegar and less than 10 milliliter bags.

Somebody uses vinegar to polish his shoes, and there are also people using vinegar to wash their faces. "It makes the skin more glossy," said Xu Dandan, a female teacher at Shanxi University of Medical Science, who loves to drip a few drops of vinegar into the water when she washes her face.

Vinegar is found to have more magical functions: it can help restore the original luster of copper and aluminum utensils; make permed hair black and shiny and can help hold the original color and luster of silk clothes.

Titled "Chinese Coca Cola," Chengcu, or mature vinegar, has been exported to the United States, Japan, Australia, the Republic of Korea, southeast Asian countries, Hong Kong and other countries and regions worldwide. European and American people called Chencu the "secret of the Chinese nation."

In This Section

Usually, people use shoe cream to polish their shoes. But, Wu Jiang, an employee with the Jindian Securities Network Company, based in north China's Shanxi Province, uses vinegar to polish his shoes every morning before he leaves home for work.

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