Though many of the best beers of Europe traditionally had an abbot’s provenance, in Asia, beer and Buddhism are not usually found in the same sentence. Buddhists are not really known for drinking beer, though there’s a nice barley beverage brewed in Lhasa. According to James Carter, writing for The National Interest, these two objects of sacred devotion dovetail in Qingdao at Zhanshan Temple and the Tsingtao Brewery Museum.
“Neither beer nor Buddhism is native to China, but both have thrived and become essential aspects of the Chinese identity.”
– James Carter
Carter comments on differing perspectives of Qingdao’s German history, depending on where one sits. Battery Fort, known locally as Jing Shan and now formally as Qingdao Shan, is where the German “melon carvers” set up the big gun to protect their prize on the Jiaodong Peninsula. At this location, locals may not view the imperialist designs of Germany as a positive notion. Up the street on present day Dengzhou Lu is where these self same invaders and sewer builders designed a brewery that remains to the present the great pride of the town and sizable cash cow Chinese brand for the centuries. It is correctly presumed that over in Taidong and all over Qingdao, the yellow foamy Tsingtao Pijiu (青岛啤酒) is seen as an amber prize inherited from prescient Prussians, not the nasty by-product of nascent nationalism writ globally.
The author ties it all together into a pretzel fit to be dunked in a mug of the dark lager he recommends for a rainy day. He notes that the one thing united about Qingdao’s Zhanshan Temple and Tsingtao Brewery is the commercialization of each as a tourist attraction and commercial entity:
There were many similarities among visitors to both places. The beer museum was a purpose-built tourist attraction. Yet its crowds resembled those at the temple—a structure devoted, in theory at least, to antimaterialism. At both, visitors enthusiastically, if awkwardly, approached cultures perceived as exotic, if somewhat alien, parts of China’s past that were finding new utility (and profitability) in the present. Money changed hands readily as visitors bought souvenirs to authenticate their visits: incense and prayer beads for Buddha, commemorative bottle openers for beer.
Read more about James Carter’s trip to two of Qingdao’s sacred sites in his piece called Taprooms and Temples: Beer, Buddhism and Tourism in China.