Shao-Hsing rice wine in Gourmet Club

“Gourmet Club”, which was published in 1919, was written by Tanizaki Jun’ichiro. This gourmet club was founded by five people who are crazy on fine cuisine. In addition, Tanizaki uses exoticism genre in this work, and lots of Chinese cultural are existing in his work. Shao-Hsing rice wine is one of the most remarkable Chinese cultural symbols, and it’s also providing an aesthetic effect in Gourmet Club.   

   First of all, Shao-Hsing rice wine is one of the most famous varieties of huangjiu, which is a traditional Chinese wine. Also huangjiu is three of the world oldest beverage as well as beer and grape wine. Shao-Hsing rice wine originally from Shao-Hsing city, in Zhejiang province of eastern China. This wine is widely used in both a beverage and a cooking wine in Chinese cuisine. People like to drink it at the beginning of a meal instead of eating rice. In addition, it will be drunk out of rice bowls and usually accompany with peanuts or other snacks. Besides that, Shao-Hsing rice wine contains six different tastes—sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, umami, and astringent. With those six flavors harmonious interaction and their mutual effect, it formed the unique of this type of wine which give people an unforgettable impression. Meanwhile, in the gourmet club, Count G. knows this special drink so that he can recognize it.

   Then, Shao-Hsing rice wine was mentioned when Count smells it from two Chinese, the narrator describes: “but at the instant they passed, a whiff of shao-hsing rice wine reached his nostrils. He turned and glanced at the others’ faces” (P107). Because of this, Count G could find the hidden Chinese banquet, and have a series of the stories about there. Furthermore, shao-hsing rice wine came up again in the following text. When Count gave a brief glance at this Chinese banquet, he saw that: “when it was at last placed in the middle of the table, one of the diners stood up and raised a cup of shao-hsing wine, whereupon those sitting with him also rose and, all together, drained their cups” (P120). It first confirmed that Count’s judgment of this type of wine was corrected. Secondly it represents how important of this beverage in Chinese culture.

Overall, with this narrow down exoticism of Shao-Hsing rice wine in Tanizaki’s text, it lend to the aesthetic of the story. The mention of this beverage is not only the symbol of Chinese cultural, but also foreshadowing the development of the story. Shao-Hsing rice wine is also an important setting in this work, which can give readers’ the sense of smell, so that Tanizaki refers twice in the text. Without this specific item, the development of the story is not that reasonable and credible.


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