Traditional brewing artistry (Shiwan Yu Bing Shao)

Foshan Lingnan Cultural Institute & 2017-05-19


According to historical records, Guangdong rice wine is originated from Song Dynasty. As the birthplace of Guangdong rice wine, Shiwan, Foshan has a flourishing brewing industry with a long wine-making history. The artistry of making Shiwan Yu Bing Shao (石湾玉冰烧) was created by Chen Ruyue (陈如岳) in 1895, the third successor of Chen Taiji distillery (陈太吉酒庄). The artistry has been inherited till nowadays. In 2009, it was selected into the Guangdong intangible cultural heritage catalogue. Shiwan Yu Bing Shao is the only representative product of soy-flavor white spirit which is the sixth flavor of Chinese white spirits. It is also awarded the titles of national high-quality wine and Chinese historical and cultural wine.

In the Daoguang period of Qing Dynasty (1830), Chen Ruyue got the second prize in the imperial examinations. In 1898, he resigned and went back to hometown to manage his family business. In order to stand out in all the distilleries, Chen studied new brewing artistry on the basis of inheriting rice wine brewing artistry that had been handed down for generations. Inspired by the custom that local people liked making rice wine with medicinal materials, snakes, etc. and pot ale is used to feed pigs, he tried to add fat pork into the rice wine. It turned out that rice wine made by fat pork and jars had a different flavor. The wine was soft and sweet with a fermented-soy flavor and a full body. And the wine was clear (at that time wine was sold after evaporation and simple mixture so it was milk white). After many experiments and comparisons, Chen confirmed that adding fat pork could greatly improve the aroma, flavor and clarity of rice wine. Based on this, the unique rice wine brewing artistry of Chen Taiji distillery was created. Because the fat pork added into the rice wine looked like a crystal clear ice soaking in the wine and distilled rice wine was called shao jiu (烧酒) in the folk, Chen creatively named it Rou Bing Shao (肉冰烧). The character  was then replaced by  (means jade in Chinese) in the name because  was more elegant in Chinese with the same pronunciation in Cantonese (Chen’s mother language is Cantonese) and the wine was as clear as a jade. This was the origin of the name Yu Bing Shao. Since then, the rice wine produced by Chen Taiji distillery became popular among local people.

In May, 1974, Guangdong Shiwan Wine Group Co Ltd (GDSWG) independently designed the first horizontal rice cooker that could realize sequential placing, cooking, cooling rice and mixing yeasts in the mid-south region of China. It improved the production efficiency and scale without changing the artistry characteristic and wine quality. In 1979, GDSWG independently designed the first pool fermentation equipment. It had automatic temperature control and three-dimensional sufficient fermentation that could realize more scientific and stable operations.

The raw materials of Yu Bing Shao are rice and saccharifying leaven. The leaven is made of rice, soybeans, wine yeast leaves, Chinese yeast and Shiwan rice wine yeast with a secret recipe. The leavening artistry is to cook the rice, cool it, mix it into the powdery leaven, add proportional water and saccharify and ferment for 15 to 20 days with a temperature between 28℃ and 36℃. After distillation, low-alcohol liquor, zhai wine, with about 30%vol is made. Put zhai wine into made-in-Shiwan ceramic jars that contain fat pork. More fat will be added into the jars without being taken out. It will turn into grease that gives the wine a soy flavor. Liquid is extracted from the fat pork and goes through a process of aging, blending and filtration. Finally, Yu Bing Shao is finished and ready to be enjoyed.

Since 1982, GDSWG has discovered 152 aroma components in Shiwan Yu Bing Shao and set whole brewing artistry standards with many scientific research institutions. In 1996, based on the brewing artistry standards of Shiwan Yu Bing Shao, GB/T 16289——1996 national standards of soy-flavor white spirits drafted by GDSWG were officially issued and implemented. Since then, taking Shiwan Yu Bing Shao as a representative, soybean-flavor white spirits become the sixth odor type of Chinese white spirits besides soy sauce flavor, lu-zhou flavor, fen flavor, feng flavor and rice flavor, making contributions to Chinese wine-making industry.


Shiwan, one of the important ceramic production bases in Lingnan, is well-known for its ceramics with a good reputation Shiwan ceramics rank No. 1 in the world. Shiwan Yu Bing Shao uses ceramic jars made in Shiwan ancient kilns in Qing Dynasty, the Republic of China and modern times. The jar has good breathability and is a natural thermostat. And the wine moss on the jar wall for years is good for the aging of wine and volatilization of impurities, which has great effects of aroma enhancement and alcoholization on Shiwan Yu Bing Shao. It gives Shiwan Yu Bing Shao a special flavor, which tastes pure, mild and smooth with a sweet aftertaste.


Written by Arrietty