Tangut beer

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From Nikita Kuzmin:

The Chinese on the label says:

"Xīxià píjiǔ 西夏啤酒" ("Tangut beer")

The Tangutgraphs on the strip of paper around the neck of the bottle are equal to Sinitic xià 夏 ("summer; name of a dynasty") and zú 族 ("clan; race; nationality").  The corresponding Tangutgraphs are to be found here (phonologically reconstructed as dźjwij / jwe) and here (phonologically reconstructed as phe / phi).

"Xīxià píjiǔ 西夏啤酒" ("Tangut beer") is a joint venture between the Danish brewery Carlsberg and a partner in Yinchuan, Ningxia Province, which was the historical center of the Tangut empire (1038-1227).



  1. Dan said,

    October 13, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

    I've had this! It was decent, comparable to a generic lager. I smuggled a bottle home from China more than a decade ago.

  2. Jichang Lulu said,

    October 13, 2018 @ 10:55 pm

    Here’s a brief account of how Carlsberg marched West. This joint venture was seemingly established in ’06, which is indeed consistent with Dan’s comment.

    The truncated top left character could be 2945 lji / li ‘west’. Genuine Tangut, or just a literal translation of the Chinese name of the dynasty (and beer)?

    One wonders if the beer has a Tangut name. Tangut graphs for Chinese 酒 jiǔ ‘alcoholic beverage’ are known: Andrew West’s English index to Li Fanwen’s dictionary has five, including 2045 ˑo / o and 4324 tsew / tsew, seemingly a Chinese loan.
    Perhaps best consumed wearing a Tangut shirt.

  3. Laura Morland said,

    October 14, 2018 @ 1:54 am

    For those of us who are able to read neither Chinese nor Tangut, would you care to explicate the tagline in English: "Beer for the Northwest man"?

    They seem to be deliberately eschewing the other three quarters of the country, not to mention 50% of the population in the Northwest (the part that holds up half the sky).

    The beer is not sold in Beijing?

  4. Victor Mair said,

    October 14, 2018 @ 8:31 am

    @Laura Morland

    "For those of us who are able to read neither Chinese nor Tangut, would you care to explicate the tagline in English: 'Beer for the Northwest man'?"

    Good question, except that there's no direct Chinese or Tangut equivalent for "Beer for the Northwest man" on the bottle.

    In the o.p., I mentioned that the beer is produced in Yinchuan, Ningxia Province, which was the historical center of the Tangut empire, and that definitely is in the northwest. As for it's being for "the Northwest man", Chinese are not very PC about the matter of "man" vs. "woman", "person", etc. Moreover, "[Xixia / Tangut] Beer for the Northwest man" conjures up images of the hard-charging, hard-drinking male warriors who conquered large swaths of northern China.

    The other regional Chinese beer produced by Carlsberg that we featured on Language Log is this one for Hong Kong:

    "Token Cantonese" (5/16/15)


    I don't think anyone mentioned it in the comments, but when I first saw the photograph featured in that advertisement, it struck me as quite sexist, with the two handsome, smiling, seated men hefting large glasses of Carlsberg in their left hand, and the figure of a woman with a beautiful pair of legs standing in the background to the right serving them.

    Questions we now have to ask: what is the differential between male and female consumption of beer in northwest China? in Hong Kong? in Denmark? in the United States of America? I'm pretty sure that marketing and advertising people will know the answers.

  5. Jichang Lulu said,

    October 14, 2018 @ 11:43 am

    ‘Beer for the Northwest man’

    Indeed this is not visible in Chinese on the bottle. There have been many designs for different kinds of Xixia beer, so perhaps others say something about Northwestern men in Chinese. Anyway, the operative Chinese term is Xīběi hànzi 西北汉子 ‘North-West guy’ (cf. LL post on Han).

    These and other Carlsberg JVs target local markets and the branding and advertising clearly shows that (see the ‘marched West’ link in my previous comment). The Carlsberg China page on this brand says that “Xixia is a local beer brewed by Ningxia people themselves”; “tasting it sharing the feeling of happiness and pride it arouses”. The description of the taste plays with two meanings of chúnhòu 醇厚: ‘rich / mellow’ or (also as 淳厚) ~‘honest’, “straighforward and reliable, just like Ningxia men”. It’s “the beer that best suits local Ningxia people”, “as the slogan says: North-West blokes drink Xixia”.

    Ningxia folk-influenced rock singer Su Yang 苏阳 seemingly toasted to his fellow NW dudes in a promotional song for this Dano-Tangutic beer, but I can’t find a video that works.

    Questions we now have to ask: what is the differential between male and female consumption of beer in northwest China? in Hong Kong? in Denmark? in the United States of America?

    I don’t have answers for that. The best I can provide are these ratios of male-to-female per-capita consumption among drinkers (based on data from this WHO report.

    China 2.63

    Denmark 2.32

    US 2.35

    That only tells you that men who drink drink more than women who drink, and that the difference is more pronounced in China than in the two other countries. Perhaps more relevant to our purposes would be how many more men than women in each country drink regularly enough to be worth targeting in an advertising campaign. What matters most to a beer company, however, is probably how socially acceptable sexist marketing can be. The reasoning behind the campaign surely assumes that the benign stereotype of a Xibei hanzi won’t put off those who aren’t Northwestern men. Statistics aside, a campaign for beer ‘for local men’ would be problematic nowadays in many places, indeed including Denmark (cf. recent accusations of sexism against a ‘female’-themed beer there).

  6. David Morris said,

    October 14, 2018 @ 4:03 pm

    Where do 'west' and 'north-west' start in Chinese mental maps? Ningxia is east of the geographical centre, and is 'souther' than Beijing.

    Then again, the US Midwest is closer to the east coast, and the New South Wales Central West starts just over the Blue Mountains from Sydney.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    October 14, 2018 @ 4:27 pm

    From Marc Miyake:

    I am always fascinated by the modern commercial usage of ancient scripts.

    It is clear that the 'tangraphic' (my neologism) label is a calque of
    西夏 followed by a phonetic transcription of 啤. Jichang Lulu correctly
    identified the first character as 'west'. 西夏啤 in tangraphs is printed
    repeatedly and vertically, but the label is cut off so that only two
    of the three characters are visible in any row. I suspect the full
    version of the label is a fourth tangraph corresponding to 酒 that is
    not visible on the cut-off label.

    The character transcribing 啤, 2349 phi, is one of a large set of
    phonograms originally devised for Tangut polysyllabic surnames and
    also used for phonetic transcriptions of Chinese. 2349 is attested as
    the second syllable of the surnames 3341 2349 khyphi and 4031 2349
    nguphi and as a transcription of 披 (see p. 775 of Kychanov and
    Arakawa's 2006 dictionary). (Tangut surnames seem to be random
    syllabic sequences without any meanings, and I suspect they are
    ultimately vestiges of some substratal non-Sino-Tibetan language;
    there are many non-ST-looking words in Tangut which are candidates for
    substratal borrowings.)

    To the best of my knowledge, the calque 0071 2945 li jwe 'west summer'
    for 西夏 was not actually used by the Tangut themselves, though similar
    calques are attested: e.g., li my 'west heaven' for 西天 and the
    calque/transcription hybrid li tsin for 西晉 (both from p. 202 of
    Kychanov and Arakawa's 2006 dictionary).

    I just returned from the Sino-Tibetan conference in Kyoto this year
    where the plenary speakers were given Tangut and Khitan script
    T-shirts which can be bought online:


    I forgot about my plans to order them until I read your email.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    October 14, 2018 @ 4:43 pm

    @David Morris

    I've been doing research on China's northwest for half a century, and I still have the same problem you do.

    Anything north of the Yellow River is North China.

    Anything west of Xi'an (Shaanxi Province) is West China.

    Qinghai, Xinjiang, and Tibet are Ultra West, in a class by themselves — and late additions to the empire.

    When one thinks of "China Proper", it is the area between the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, and perhaps just a relatively thin strip of land to the north and south of that band.

    I call that the East Asian Heartland (EAH). Beyond that lies the Extended East Asian Heartland (EEAH).

    Sichuan, which you might consider to be fairly central, looking at the whole of the map of the PRC today, is actually thought of as being in Southwest China.

    It has to do with cultural gravity and history (formation / development of the country).

    BTW, I'm from Ohio, and I've always considered it a bit odd that I'm thought of as being from the Midwest.

  9. Hang Zhao said,

    October 15, 2018 @ 1:40 am

    I think base on my observation, that the official boarder of north and south China is Qing Mountains and Huai River is exactly ture. For example Xizhou and Yangzhou locate on the two side of Huai River while the culture is rather large, Xuzhou is a typical northern city with Central Plains Mandarin while Yangzhou is apparently a southern city with Lower Yangtze Mandarin. And it is the same with Hanzhong and Xi'an, the dialect in Hanzhong is southwest mandarin while Xi'an is also Central Plains Mandarin.

    Apart from that in the history the standard boarder of the north-south divide is also Huai River.

    River and mountain makes the different of culture and the Yellow River change its channel many times, between 1644 and 1855 the Yellow River took Huai River as its estuary so by that time the communication between two side of nowadays Yellow River is simple. For example the dialect of Dezhou and Jinan is quite similar.

  10. Rodger C said,

    October 15, 2018 @ 7:31 am

    I'm from Ohio, and I've always considered it a bit odd that I'm thought of as being from the Midwest.

    Growing up in WV just across the river from OH, I found that odd too. But I think that in the early republic, the "Near West" was Western New York, Western Pennsylvania, West(ern) Virginia, and Kentucky.

    In grad school in Indiana, I was bemused to find that locals still think of their state as "the very middle of the country."

  11. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    October 15, 2018 @ 9:32 am

    “BTW, I'm from Ohio, and I've always considered it a bit odd that I'm thought of as being from the Midwest.”

    If you’re from northern Ohio, you’re from the (Connecticut) Western Reserve!

    (I’m from south west Ohio. Warren County. But I’ve lived in California since 2002.)

    The Midwest is a big place.

  12. B.Ma said,

    October 16, 2018 @ 1:35 am

    When thinking about the "center" of the PRC, using the center of population makes more sense than the geographical center. Likewise, the US center of population is in Indiana.

  13. Rodger C said,

    October 16, 2018 @ 6:58 am

    Um, the US center of population was in Indiana a hundred years ago. It's now in Missouri, I believe.

  14. George said,

    October 16, 2018 @ 7:45 am

    Algeria is about 2,000 km from North to South. I used to live in a place called Djelfa, which is a little over 300 km from the coast. It was considered to be in the South…

  15. Andrew West said,

    October 24, 2018 @ 9:18 am

    The label on the back of the bottle I had in 2016 (https://twitter.com/BabelStone/status/1054887076561371137) gives the Chinese equivalent for "Beer for the Northwest man" as 西北汉子喝西夏 "Northwest man drinks Xixia" which is an interesting way of putting it.

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