The fragrant “sucking wine” with endless affection

The Qiangs have had a long history for making wine, and one of reasons is that a branch of the ancient Qiangs was engaged in farming first. Another reason is that “Yu (the reputed founder of the Xia Dynasty) came from the western Qiangs”. The forefather in making wine was Yidi who was Yu’s official, and Dukang (a person who was famous for making wine in history) was Yu’s descendant. The Qiang men all have great capacity for liquor, so they like to drink heavily but they seldom get dead drunk and stir up trouble. Their unique way of drinking is sucking wine. The wine is made of highland barley, barley and corn, and is sealed in jars. When they drink it, they unseal the jar, pour boiled water in it, put bamboo tubes in the jar and suck in turn with one tube or one tube for each person. So it is called “sucking wine”. One tries to drink according to one’s capability and heart’s content and no behavior of forcing and making one drink. Pure water is poured in while drinking, until the flavor becomes light. Sucking wine is undecanted wine with low alcohol. When they drink, firstly the oldest at present says some lucky words as “words for proposing toast” that is composed of eight sentences with four words in each and are in rhyme. Then they begin to suck in turn according to age. When persons of the same generation suck wine together, each person put one bamboo tube into a jar and they drink together.

There are “Double Ninth Festival wine” and wine steamed by corn or wheat in the local Qiang region. Children and women often drink sweet wine added with honey.

There are such festivals of the Qiangs as “the Qiang New Year”, “the June Festival”, “offering sacrifice to the mountain”, “the Fifth of the Lunar May”, etc. When festivals come, people in the country get together. They sing and dance to celebrate joyously, and drink to express affection. If they dance and sing on open ground, the wine jars are put near the site; if they gather in watchtower, they put wine jars under tables or at the foot of walls. If someone gets tired in collective dancing and want to have some wine to rest, he (she) could suck wine near wine jars while chatting and watching the performance.

Drinking wine in wedding is a custom for most nationalities and the Qiangs are no exception. The night before the Qiang wedding, the two sides should give a banquet to entertain respective elders in their clan and suck wine together, which is called “drinking wine in unsealed jar”.

The Qiang wedding is divided into three steps in three days: flowery night, formal union and going back to bride’s home, but the bride’s side is more important. So it is also called “women’s flowery night”. In the rite, the “red uncle”(matchmaker and concurrently master of the wedding) would make a speech named “words for meeting the bride”, the main content of which is praising the characters of the two sides and the happiness of the marriage, emphasizing “the farmland and house property should not be taken into account and the marriage is good only if persons are good”. The head of the bride’s family make a speech with “Answering words” that is ” the two families have been relatives since ancient times, and don’t mention house and property. What we pay attention to is friendly feeling instead of betrothal gifts, and old relatives and family dependants are more intimate”. The girl who is leaving should do obeisance to family gods, members of her own clan and relatives, and give a basket of shoes, which have been made in recent years, to the master who presents thankfulness on behalf of the girl and distribute shoes to the elder and relatives. They suck wine to their heart’s content and dance Shalang joyously far into the night. The “Formal Union”, also called “Formal Feast”, is a big ceremony for the wedding and is the grandest. When the bride’s father offers sacrifice to the family gods, the bride begins to cry loudly, expressing her reluctance and regretfulness for departing her parents and relatives. When the bride is escorted by seven or eight bridesmaids and gets out of the door, relatives and friends sob with tears welling up and express their good wish continuously. Grief and joy are mixed and their feelings are mixed, too, which is so moving. When the bride reaches the bridegroom’s village, the whole village is rejoicing. Several gun salutes are fired firstly, then firecrackers are fired at the same time, the band plays happy music loudly, and neighbors shout and jump for joy. In the wedding, the main exhortation of the relatives to the new couple is that “respecting the old and loving the young are your duty. You should be modesty and amiable to others and shouldn’t dispute with others. Raise your children and keep your house well. Establishing family property relies on diligence”. The third day is for “going back to bride’s home”, which is also called “thanking guests” in some places. It is the day that the bride takes her husband back to her parents’ home to express appreciation to relatives and friends of the bride’s side. The power of the mother’s brother is conspicuous in the Qiangs, and instructions of theirs and the elders usually is “now you get married and things are not the same as when you always rely on your parents before. You should not only be diligent and work hard, but also be thrift to run the home”. The guests leave after lunch, and members of the clan and people who helped with preparation of the wedding stay to have dinner, sing and dance happily in the bride’s home.