A Chinese puzzle

Andy bought a bottle of some unknown alcoholic substance at considerable expense in a local shop. It was a stumpy ceramic bottle, kind of earthenware in appearance, and its glazed exterior covered the whole vessel, from top to bottom. No sign of a lid, or screwtop, or cork, or any such bourgeois convenience. When Andy first opened the decorative box it came packaged in, a cigarette lighter fell out. That should have been a clue to us, but it wasn’t. Various suggestions – “Maybe we’re supposed to bang it carefully on the edge of something, to break the ceramic top” – were proffered, and attempts at brute force were made at unscrewing the (imaginary) lid. Eventually three of us trooped downstairs to the hotel lobby to see if the Chinese bar staff had any ideas about how to open it.

Ceramic bottle, far left

Examining the artefact

Downstairs we found a bar tender who knew what to do. He got a cigarette lighter and heated up the base of the ceramic top (the point where you’d expect a screwtop to start).

Then he prised the top off with a bottle open, and, now that it was hot, it just cracked neatly and popped off.

Sadly, after all that trouble, it tasted rather vile.

Still, it is clearly a significant beverage here. As I wandered through the Airport Duty Free shops, awaiting my flight back home on Sunday, I saw several shelves worth of these ceramic bottles, all with the same ceramic tops. I just hope they contain some instructions in English for the unsuspecting visitors who might choose to buy based on its aesthetically-pleasing outward appearance alone.

Kampei! [Cheers!]


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