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Xi'an savours ancient alcohol
( 2003-07-14 09:33) (China Daily)

A symposium on a type of liquor made 2,000 years ago was held on Saturday in Xi'an, the capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, where an insoluble mystery was the talk of the conference.

A 26-kilogram container of ancient liquor was found in a tomb from the West Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD) in Xi'an, and made a great stir in Chinese archaeological and wine-making industrial circles by creating an insoluble mystery after it was unearthed in June.

Therefore, the local government and cultural relics administration held this symposium to attract some 40 experts of archaeology and history, as well as authorities from the food testing and wine-making industries all over the country to appraise the value of the unearthed liquor and how to preserve it, said Sun Fuxi, director of the Xi'an Archaeological Research Institute.

At the symposium, the Xi'an Municipal Cultural Relics Administration declared that the testing results from the China Food Ferment Industry Research Institute on the ancient liquor revealed the unearthed matter is a wine-based chemical composition.

"After the liquor was unearthed, some experts decided it was water, not liquor, but the testing results relieved such suspicion," Sun said.

And because there are more than 1,800 milligrams of copper in the liquor, its colour had turned green, a definite change from its original hue, Sun said.

At the symposium, experts did not reach a conclusion that the liquor was made of grain or fruit, and decided that further research was needed, Sun said.

Experts paid great attention to the unearthed liquor's preservation, figuring that it must have done some harm to the substance when it was removed from its original container.

"At present, the unearthed liquor is packed in medical glass bottles with solid seals, and kept in an icebox with a constant temperature of 4 C," said Sun. "These are the initial protecting measures, although how to protect it permanently needs to be thoroughly researched."

And there is another problem requiring attention. At present, China has no standard to measure cultural relics in a liquid form and though it is rare, there is no standard to classify it as a cultural relic, Sun said.

The symposium made an authentic conclusion that the unearthed substance is the best-protected and largest-amount of an ancient liquor found so far, and is a very important discovery for China's archaeological and scientific circles, as well as its wine-making industry. It also provides important material for researching Chinese history and wine-making technology.

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