May 21 makes a funny homophonic of Wuliangye, the classic Chinese liquor meaning "five grain liquid", as the white spirit distils a mix of five different grains – sorghum, sticky rice, corn, rice and wheat.
Just like such daily necessities as rice, salt and oil, liquor also has a close relationship with Chinese people’s lives. China is one of the countries with the longest history (more than 7,000 years) of making liquor.
When I was young, people usually drank wine in festive or happy occasions together with tasty food.
Drinking takes an important place in Chinese banquets. Social dinners are usually a series of toasts with pauses to scarf down food in between. Toasting is mandatory, and the drinking of spirits commences as a toast is made at the beginning of the meal. After this initial toast, drinking and toasting are open to all. Subsequent toasts can be made from person to person or to the group as a whole. It is rude to refuse a toast, but not necessary to drain your glass, although to do so is more respectful. If you are thirsty, you can sip beer or a soft drink individually, but if you prefer to drink hard liquor, be sure to catch the eye of someone at your table, smile and raise your glass, and drink in unison. Beer or soft drinks can also be used for toasting. Also, it is impolite to fill your own glass without first filling glasses of all others. This applies to all drinks and not just to alcohol. When filling another’s glass, it is polite to fill it as full as you can without having the liquid spill over the rim. This symbolizes full respect and friendship.
In China, especially in the North, drinking with business partners or would-be friends is a way of solidifying the partnership. In Chinese drinking culture, you "lose face" (get embarrassed) for refusing to drink, but do not if you drink yourself into incoherence and throw up. Throwing up might even endear one to friends and colleagues because of the extreme discomfort endured to drink with and "give face" (show respect) to them. In the same way, prefacing a toast with "I do not like to drink" or "I have never drank this before" and then drinking anyway also really gives face!