The God of Wine

David LeffmanUncategorized Leave a Comment

The Venerable Wine-Making Immortal, inventor and patron of brewing and distilling (most Chinese “wines” are spirits), shown stroking his beard, surrounded by wine jars. According to some accounts the immortal was a legendary character named Du Kang (杜康), while others identify him as Shao Kang (少康), one of the kings of the Xia era (2070–1600 BC).

The couplets either side of his head translate roughly “From house to house, three families get drunk; On opening the jar, the fragrance spreads ten miles”. The labels on the two large jars form another phrase, 瓊漿玉液, something like “Exquisite Jade-like Liquid”, a cliché used to describe the finest wines. Labels on the small jars read “clear”, “spirits” and “fragrant” – either three separate wines, or collectively meaning “The Scent of Clear Spirits”.

The style of this print is from Yuhang, just to the northeast of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province (浙江余杭). The basic outline was woodblock printed, and the colours – including the distinctive red eye blotches – painted on using stencils. Red is a lucky colour in China but I have no idea what these blotches represent; they only appear on woodblock prints from this region.

The print would have been put up at a wineshop or vintners at New Year, in honour of the patron deity. Probably made around 1930.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *