Tequila shots with Qianlong

Emperador Qianlong

The conventional wisdom is that China invented just about everything – gunpowder, paper, moveable type, the Lazy Susan, etc. But despite the Chinese’s inventive prowess, the following claim in the People’s Daily took me by surprise:

Experts deduced that in the Qing Dynasty, tequila was produced at the site [Shuijingfang Street in Chengdu], and that the old technology is very similar to the new.

The article continues:

Archaeological studies show that China had developed mature tequila distilling technology in the late Yuan Dynasty or early Ming Dynasty. There are three types of Chinese tequila — one is very fragrant, the other is only mildly scented and the third is soy-flavored. The liquor brewed in Shui Jing Fang was the very fragrant variety, which is widespread spread in China. The most unique characteristic of the Chinese distilling method is that the liquor is brewed in earthen cellars. This type of liquor originated in the Chengdu Plain and Sichuan Basin.

Ancient Chinese tequila? And at Shuijingfang – literally just down the block from my apartment. Too good to be true, particularly because it lends historical credence to my last post’s claim about the connection between baijiu and tequila. Unfortunately, the Spanish invented tequila (the distilled variation of a traditional Aztec agave-based imbibe), but this has to go down as my favorite mistranslation of the word baijiu. Kudos to People’s Daily for the keeping things lively.

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