Random Facts: How the Chinese drink

Random Facts: How the Chinese drink

We’re starting a new category with just some interesting, random and/or funny facts, stories or pictures we come across. The first one is about drinking in China.

How the Chinese drink

Some of you might find it surprising to read about Chinese drinking habits in a post by me. I am a little surprised myself, but being sober when everyone else isn’t, gives you a certain edge for observations.

So here it comes.

To me it seems like you never drink by yourself, it is always through a drinking game or together with another member of your group. I have watched several drinking games being played all over the place. In bars, on private events, even in clubs.

Tiger, Tiger, Chicken

This is quite similar to rock, paper, scissors. There are: Tiger, Chicken, Stick. On the ‘count’ of ‘Tiger, Tiger, Chicken’ you say one of the three. Tiger eats chicken, chicken ‘destroys’ stick, stick beats tiger. Makes sense, right? I have heard there used to be four: Tiger, Chicken, Worm and Stick. Chicken eats worm and worm eats stick, but that would be to complicated for a drinking game, I guess. And the most important rule: The loser drinks.

Four x Five Fingers

Both players hold their hands behind their back. On the count of three, both players show their hands, either showing zero, five or ten fingers and have to guess the total number of fingers shown. Zero, five, ten, fifteen, or twenty. Easy enough. If you guess it right, the other person drinks.


We have not really been clubbing, but we have been inside a few. And literally everyone was playing with dice. They were all sitting at small tables, having loads of alcohol on the table and a cup with a hand full of dice. You roll the dice, not looking at them, and say something like:

There are at least three dice showing two pips!

The next player can either increase the number of dice or pips:

Hmm, there are three dice showing three pips!


There must be at least four dice showing two pips!

At some point, you call the bluff by checking the dice under the cup: if the claim stands, you lose. If there are not enough dice showing the pips, you win. Loser drinks.

This game is usually played by younger people, while the finger-game is played by older folks. A lot of people in clubs spend the whole night drinking, that’s why on some occasions we have been offered free alcohol – hoping to get us to dance and encourage others.


Gānbēi is the Chinese word for ‘Cheers’, but it can imply all kinds of things. Here are some of the observations I made:

  • Make eye contact, say Gānbēi, and you both drink
  • Make eye contact, say thank you for something, and you both empty your glass
  • At a large table, say Gānbēi very loudly, everyone drinks.
  • At a large table, make eye contact, say Gānbēi, you both drink. Life saving tip: touch the table with the bottom of your glass to encourage everyone else to drink as well, otherwise the others will take turns to make you drink.

Disclaimer: The behavior is not very consistent. I have seen all kinds of combinations, depending on the size of the group, where the people are from, how big the glasses are, what it is you are drinking… The most important thing is to not drink alone. You are also never wrong to empty your glass, because first, it is supposed to show respect, and second, that is the literal translation of Gānbēi: empty glass.

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