June 4, 198brew

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A tweet from Cherie Chan:

The label says:

Bā jiǔ liù sì
Zhōngguó Běijīng
yǒng bù wàngjì
yǒng bù fàngqì
27 nián jiàocáng


eight brew six four
China, Beijing
Never forget
Never give up
Cellared for 27 years

The first line is perfectly homophonous with bā jiǔ liù sì 八九六四 ("June 4, 1989"), which is universally known as the date of the Tiananmen Massacre.  This event has been "cellared" for 27 years, because the Chinese government denies that it ever happened and prevents its citizens from knowing anything about it.  Consequently, it is against the law to mention or allude to the deaths of hundreds in Beijing and other Chinese cities at the hands of government troops on that day.

The picture on the label, of course, echoes the iconic photographs of the "tank man" that are seared on the world's conscience.  (video)

A man named Fu Hailin, who allegedly shared pictures of the bottles that got passed around on WeChat, the social media platform, has been taken away by Chinese security forces on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power" (shāndòng diānfù guójiā zhèngquán zuì 煽动颠覆国家政权罪).

For a fuller account of the incident, see Chris Buckley, "Chinese Worker Detained for Photos of Liquor Labels Marking Tiananmen Crackdown" (NYT, 5/30/16).


  1. William Locke said,

    May 30, 2016 @ 11:59 pm

    This is a trifling vocab question next to the subject matter, but wouldn't 永不忘记 be "Never forget" (as opposed to "Never forgive")?

  2. richard said,

    May 31, 2016 @ 2:56 am

    Interesting to note that this version of the tank man has him sitting on the ground with a laptop, and that the cannons on the tanks have a reflection in the barrel, making them look like video cameras.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    May 31, 2016 @ 5:26 am

    @William Locke

    You're right. I've made the suggested change.

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