If you have lived, studied or worked in China you may have seen Chinese people playing different drinking games in KTVs, bars and clubs. There are lots of different games and they are actually quite fun. If your a foreigner and you go out with a group of people you are not well acquainted with, or perhaps you are a little shy; it’s a kind of Chinese way of breaking the ice. I’d like to list a few and how to play them.
Game 1 – 吹牛
First of all, there is show-off 吹牛, it has many different names but this is the easiest one to remember. This is perhaps the most common game all around China as the standard rules can vary between the provinces and cities and there is no limit to the amount of players at one time. Each person has a plastic cup with 5 dice inside, each number is representative of its real value except for one which is random (anything you want it to be). The aim of the game is to guess the amount of dice that everyone has together by only looking at your own, although you can lie. However you are not allowed to have 5 dice of different values, there must at least be two of a kind. As a quick example, if there are only two people playing (10 dice), and I have a two 1’s, two 4’s and a 3 – I can say four fours as adding in the one I have four fours (as well as the unknown amount in my opponent’s cup). They may not believe that I have that many and can open (開!), but of course they have lost and they must drink. Similarly, if in the same situation I called 5 threes, and they opened as there cup did not have any three’s inside, then I have lost as I only have 3 threes (adding in the one). So, the aim of the game is to guess whether the other person is bluffing and catch them out or to guess the correct collected amount of dice. Although, Here is an OK explanation of the rules as I am sure many people are confused.
There are also some very specialised rules, for example when playing 吹牛, you can say two/three/four/five …. 1’s. Whenever, you say 1, it can no longer be a wild/random dice and it is only one. This rule continues to be in effect until someone doubles the amount of their next call. For example If player 1 calls four 1’s (three players), and the next person says five sixes only (栽)….that means that if player 1 or 3 were to open player 2’s cup, the collected amount of dice must total five sixes discounting one. However, if player 3 believed that five of the 15 die were sixes he could say 7 sixes flying (飛), as the wager has jumped from 5 to 7, they can now include one.
There are also lots of other rules, like reversing the order, playing with dead dice (nothing is the same), not looking at your dice/or only looking once, and jumping the queue but they are hard to explain at most Chinese people play with the standard rules. Another thing to remember is when the club/bar/ktv is noisy many people will use hand signs to denote their wager….
Game 2 – 青蛙青蛙跳
There are so many other games I could talk about – like 十五二十 (15/20), 美女/警察/流氓 (Beautiful woman/Policeman/Vagabond), 蘭州拳 (Lanzhou fist), 007啪 （007bang), 大西瓜/小西瓜 （big/small watermelon), lucky, clapping rock/paper/scissors, 過反 (pass/reverse),….in fact I think I know around 20 different games. However, I’d like to share one I learned recently, its really easy to play. Its called 青蛙青蛙跳 – froggy froggy jump. No matter the amount of players, each person puts one hand palm face down on the table with their fingers flat, whoever decided to call first must say 青蛙青蛙跳 and then raise one of their four fingers on their thumb whilst keeping the others pressed down on the table. If any one else raises the same finger or thumb as the person who called, they lose and must drink. Then it is their turn to call. Easy.
This is just a brief introduction to the thousands of games that are played throughout China, there a lots of different games and some people even mix the games together (for example 大戰遊戲 – big war game). If you learn just a few, you can have a really great time.
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China is famous for its traditional drinks and foods, especially in Sichuan where the food is notoriously spicy. China has a real knack of promoting and demoting local ingredients and local cuisine. Sichuan locals will laude their spices and complain about the salty food in the north. Vice versa, Chinese northerners complain about the sweet foods of the south and oily foods of the west, but shout loud and proud about their traditional ways of cooking. Chinese rice wine however, is something that can be appreciated by all the Chinese and us foreigners too!
A lot of tourists, expats and students who pass through or live in Chengdu also learn about the punchy Chinese white wine (白酒), with an average alcohol content of 50% and above, it is not for the faint of heart! It is sometimes said that because of its clarity, Chinese white wine is the vodka of the east. Yet, baijiu is much, much stronger. Indeed, only three summers ago I sampled homemade white wine from a farmer in southern Sichuan. I ended up sleeping in a cabbage field and I was drunk for two days!
Far less people have heard of Sichuan’s rice wine. I’m not talking about Sake or the Shaoxing wine used in the cooking of Chinese cuisines. I’m talking about the sweet, sometimes syrupy alcohol that goes with the Chinese food. With an average alcohol content of 15-20%, it’s much more enjoyable and perfect if you’re not a beer fan!
As a finished product, rice wine goes under many names as vendors choose to add local ingredients, and style their own product on the taste of the area. All rice wines however are made from gluttonous rice 江米, the same stuff you see in zongzi (粽子) eaten during the dragon boat festival. Rice wine is usually served in little clay urns, sealed at the top with red cloth with the waxy skin of the wine. It is drunk out of small porcelain bowls. Another important thing is that rice wine can be served cold. Unlike sake or soju, rice wine can be served with ice, making it a perfect summer drink!
To experience the heart of Sichuanese culture, it is important to try rice wine. Even though every provinces’ palates vary, and northerners scorn the sissy sweet alcohols of the south. The key to understanding Sichuan is through the stomach. Or out the stomach, if you down too much! Rice wine as a sneaky way of creeping up on you, especially when you’re drinking from tiny cups and relishing the sweet sugary flavour.
If you want to know where to drink Chinese rice wine with your friends, or for more fun city facts in Zhuhai, Chengdu and Qingdao; check out InternChina’s facebook page!
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China – the Kingdom of the middle- had a wide influence in Asia. In almost every neighboring country of China you can still find traces of Chinese Civilization from hundreds of years ago. However, you can also discover external influences in Chinese culture – customs, habits, products or even whole lifestyles have been imported from abroad and been integrated into Modern Chinese Culture. One of those neighboring countries which China always had a very special relationship to, is Japan. I had the chance to get a return flight for only 3.000,- RMB to Tokyo so I took advantage of it and explored a beautiful and fascinating place not far from China.
Even though, Japan is geographically located close to China, the cultures are differing a lot from each other. As a German I can see the parallels rather between Japanese and Germans… but then on the other hand, there are a lot of concepts and ideas which are shared by the Japanese and the Chinese and make them very similar from a Western perspective!
To give you an idea of similarities and differences between Japanese and Chinese Culture, I want to share my experiences and observations with you.
Traffic: A lot of foreigners perceive Chinese traffic as more chaotic than organized (see our blog: http://internchina.com/surviving-in-chinese-traffic/). When I arrived in Tokyo, it was the complete opposite picture. Even though, more people seem to use public transportation at the same time, everything was very organized, calm and people act very polite. For Chinese people it seems normal to use their elbows, don’t cover their mouths when they are coughing or sneezing in public and shout into their mobile phone on any possible occasion – Japanese people prefer their little space around themselves, nobody talks on the phone in the subway and avoid under any circumstance to run into each other even if it is crowded. It was very interesting to see that crowded doesn’t necessarily mean chaotic.
***Be aware though, that in Japan cars go on the left side of the street!
Language: Japanese on the first glance seems to be much easier than Chinese because you don’t have any tones that you need to take care of. If you know Chinese, you already can read a good part of the Japanese characters (not the pronounciation though, but you can guess the meaning!) which is very helpful in a country which is not using Latin letters. However, on a long-run mastering Japanese language seems to become a lot more complicated and rather difficult to master as grammatical rules are similarly difficult to German grammar. If you want to make quick progress on speaking learning Chinese seems to be the better choice (see our blog: http://internchina.com/china-vs-europe-reasons-to-learn-chinese-in-china/).
Saving/Losing face: Being in China for three years now gave me confidence to understand the idea of saving or losing face. For many westerners it is something very difficult to grasp and accept as a part of the Eastern Culture. It means a lot of rules, such as avoiding to name problems, not to negate or refuse anything directly or using a very flowery language. In business situations this can cause a lot of misunderstandings if you don’t understand these rules or are not be able to read between the lines. Japanese seem to follow this concept to an even further extent than the Chinese, so I can imagine that for Westerners doing business in Japan is even more difficult to adapt to than doing Business in China. More about cross-cultural communication: http://internchina.com/cross-cultural-communication-in-china-west-vs-east/.
Eating and drinking: Japan offers a wide variety of traditional Japanese dishes, but also international influences can be found. There are many restaurants offering fusion kitchen and the Japanese interpretation of “Western Food”. Very similar to Chinese food, you can offer several dishes, which you can share with your friends. Of course, the best way is to get up very early in the morning and enjoy the freshest sushi in the world at the Tokyo fish market. However, excellent sea-food can be found in China as well – especially in coastal cities (e.g. Qingdao) sea-food will be offered and is part of traditional dishes. In the West we hold the prejudice, Chinese and Japanese wouldn’t drink a lot as they are lacking an enzyme to process alcohol. It is true, that the digestion/processing for a lot of Asians is difficult, but that doesn’t keep them away from consuming good amounts of beer (e.g. Asahi in Japan, Tsingtao-Beer in China) and rice wine (Baijiu in China, Sake in Japan). “Cheers” sounds very similar in Japanese (“Kanpai”) and Chinese (“Ganbei”). More info about eating and drinking customs in Asia: http://internchina.com/how-to-say-bon-appetit-in-chinese/.
Religion/Beliefs: Chinese traditional beliefs are rooted in Confucianism, Daoism and the Buddhism which originally came from India to China. Japanese are traditionally Zen-Buddhists and Shintoists. Shintoists believe in “kami” (= spirits) which live in every tree, stone, house etc. Animism is a big part of Shintoism, which means, that each animal has its own spirit. That’s why you can find in Japan numerous parks with temples and shrines where people can pray to certain spirits. In China, there are only a few places left where Daoists and Buddhists can practice their traditional beliefs, modern culture dictates a very practical approach of practicing Buddhist and Daoist traditions. I was very fascinated by the parallels between Daoist beliefs and Shintoism. In both beliefs, unity and harmony of humans and animals and nature in general play a significant role. Each country though developed their own interpretation of a universal truth. More about Daoism: http://internchina.com/a-visit-to-qingyang-temple-back-to-the-roots-of-daoism/.
All in all it was a very interesting trip to Japan and I am sure to come back at a later point to enjoy the blossom of the Sakura trees (cherry trees) as it is said to be one of the most beautiful events in the world!