The Legend of the Historic Liquor "Du Kang"

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The famous liquor Du Kang is ranked high in the culture of Chinese liquors. It is characterized by a light yellowish, nearly transparent look, and a hot and smooth taste, as well as its prolonged alcoholic effect. Du Kang is a very popular liquor, and people like to talk about its derivation. Here is a legend of how Du Kang came to exist as written by Ronghe Yu.

Legend of Du Kang

It was said that once there was a child named Du Kang, who lived in the ancient Zhou Dynasty (1104 - 221 BC). He was born into an officeholder's family, but unfortunately, his family was involved in criminal activities. At one point all the members of his family were killed by the emperor, with the exception of Du Kang and his uncle. The pair fled to a distant place to hide from the Imperial court. Alone and without friends or family, they were forced to beg for food.

Eventually, they came to a desolate place called Ru Yang, where they decided to settle down by a fountain in the mountains. Unfortunately, they were discovered by the landowner. At first, he threw stones at them. Later, he insisted they come work for him to compensate for occupying his land and burning fires at night. Despite working day and night for the landlord, Du Kang and his uncle were given very little food.

Du Kang loved his uncle dearly. When he realized that his uncle was never getting enough to eat, he decided to save a little from his part, hiding it secretly in the hole of a tree. He thought he would surprise his uncle. However, when the uncle saw his nephew's pale face, he suspected indigestion. He gave the child some ferment, which at that time was considered to be a cure for indigestion. Of course, the child, Du Kang, knew perfectly well that he wasn't ill, just pale from hunger. Instead of swallowing the ferment, he simply threw it into the hole of the tree.

A short time later, Du Kang and his uncle went to help with the landlord's harvest. When they returned several weeks later, a miraculous transformation had occurred. The first thing they noticed was a fragrant odor, which they traced to the hole of the tree. The uncle reached in and pulled out a piece of something sticky, like the millet bread they usually ate. The ferment had become that way after getting rained on. The uncle was touched by his nephew's kindness. Du Kang was even more excited by the yellowish liquid that bled out of the food. Tasting it, he discovered it was wonderful to drink. The Uncle and Du Kang offered the liquid to people nearby. Eventually, they opened a workshop to make the liquor by fermenting the steamed millet powder with water. The liquor came to be named after its inventor, Du Kang.

Taste and Usage of Du Kang Liquor

The best place to read a legend on how a famous liquor came to be invented is while sitting and having a taste, with the liquor, of course, being served in pretty bottles rather than taken from the hole of a tree. In many restaurants, you can find a quotation on the wall taken from Cao Cao, a famous Chinese general, and poet: "What's the remedy for my grief? Of course, it's Du Kang!"

Today, people appreciate Du Kang for both its historic fame and reasonable price. In recent years, there has been a trend in China toward drinking more moderately priced liquors and even soft drinks on formal occasions. Still, Du Kang is always a welcome addition at private parties, during festivals, and for those who are fond of strong liquor with an alcohol level above 50 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 100 proof). Du Kang is especially popular in northern China, where people enjoy getting additional warmth from the strong liquor.

Interesting Facts

  • The Chinese do not drink wine cold or put ice in their drinks. They believe warm wines improve blood circulation and aid digestion.
  • They prefer to drink wine straight, and not mixed in a drink.
  • The custom of cocktails before dinner doesn't exist in China. In general, they prefer to enjoy wine with a good meal.