Rice Wine


This may end up turning out to be a legal matters question, but, let’s begin it here and see where it goes.

I had been meaning to post this for awhile now, the news is a little old, but still relevant. Starting over a ago the government required you to bring your household registration record with you to a special place to purchase rice wine. (I have since thrown away the newspapers, so if anyone knows more specific details please post them, or email me and I will change mine.)

So my question is did any of you try to purchase rice one at any one of these outlets? If so, what happend? Did they refuse you because you didn’t have a household registration record, or did they just give you a bottle to get you to go away? I was going to try it myself, but I didn’t know where to go to buy some.



Actually, this was the first item of important news that I noticed in late 2001 after the announcement of Taiwan becoming fully approved to enter the WTO.

So, as Taiwan was gearing up for WTO entry, the first thing they did was to make it impossible for foreigners to buy rice wine.

I complained to many of my neighbors about this: “Foreigners don’t have Household Registration, so how can they buy rice wine?” But no one was particularly interested. I went hiking in Da Hu Park one day and complained to a man I met there. He said that his relatives in Ilan were already making their own rice wine, and promised to deliver a big jug to my office. A gallon jug arrived about a week later. It is quite nice.

So, at the risk of seeming flippant, it appears that if you complain to the right people you can get action.

Looking at the official policy, I thought it was very poorly formulated. However, the English newspapers didn’t take up the “foreigners cannot buy rice wine” complaint at all, as I recall. CHINA POST had a few lines about it. There were no interviews with foreigners to get their impressions of the policy or anything.

Personally, I suspect this is because most of the reporters working for the English dailies are not really aware of how the Household Registration system works or how it affects foreigners.


Just to add a little controversy here. How many foreigners actually wanted to buy rice wine? A significant number? Or is all this basically about the fact that they couldn’t buy it? Why should the relevant government department go through all the hassle of providing a special arrangement for a tiny minority of the population, the majority of this minority not even being citizens, simply visitors? Before I get flamed, I’m not saying the policy is right or wrong, simply asking the question…



You bring up an interesting point. Although I am sure there were many foreigners who wanted to buy rice wine. I encourange people to post a yes or no here and add a little opinion. I for one wanted to buy rice wine. However, I didn’t know where to go and really didn’t have much time to cook anyway. But that’s beside the point. Anyone have a friend who made some besides Richard? I’d be interested as the price has tripled.

quote[quote] Why should the relevant government department go through all the hassle of providing a special arrangement for a tiny minority of the population, the majority of this minority not even being citizens, simply visitors? [/quote]

yeah like that would be really hard like to add a line to the regulations saying something like “foreign residents without household registration must show their passports”.

I don’t think they didn’t do anything about it becuase it was too difficult, but because either they didn’t care about foreigners or it jsut didn’t occur to them to realise that it could eb a problem.



As a matter of fact, 95% of the time when new policies are announced, there is no provision for the “inclusion” or “participation” of resident foreigners here at all.

This is the point. We live here, but are not recognized as living here by other departments. (It seems that only the departments in charge of issuing ARCs recognize foreigners as living in Taiwan…)

Consider the situation in the land of the rising sun. I remember that many Japanese people told me that the terms GwoMin and ShrMin are different in Japanese, i.e. different from Chinese. For example, in Tokyo, a Japanese person is a GwoMin (“person of the country”, i.e. citizen) and also a ShrMin (“person of the city”). A foreigner legally residing in Tokyo is not a GwoMin, but is a ShrMin. Hence, he/she is entitled to all benefits that ShrMin receive, (which can include old age pensions…)

In Taiwan however, a foreigner legally residing in Taipei is technically not a ShrMin.

So, this is the issue that rubs many people the wrong way: in all policy decisions, it appears that the foreign population here effectively does not exist, because its particular situation is rarely if ever addressed.


So, do the foreign domestic workers have to bring the housing registrations of the families who employ them?

It’s a very silly provision. I don’t understand it at all.

Luckily, I have two bottles of rice wine under my stove, which are at least a year old, so that’s how much I use rice wine.

BTW, what’s the population of foreign residents in Taiwan again? I forget.
And what percentage are here on their own accord, meaning, how many are NOT restricted by employment contracts, such as laborers or domestic workers? I imagine it’s relatively small.

Those who’re what used to be termed, ‘indentured servants’, would obviously have no voice…and they make up the highest percentage, am I right?


This is a good question, does anyone know the answer to Alien’s question or where we can find the answer? When including an answer here remember there are many types of foreigners in Taiwan, remember to include foreingers from ALL countries.


quote[quote]So, do the foreign domestic workers have to bring the housing registrations of the families who employ them? [/quote]

It would not do them any good, since their names are not listed thereon. Do you understand that?

(This goes back to what I mentioned above, namely: most people in Taiwan don’t know how the Household Registration system works or how it affects foreigners.)


If you’re married to a Taiwanese, your name is usually added onto their family registration.

I know my name was on my ex-husband’s ‘hu co ming bu’.

Actually, I still have a copy of that somewhere, and if it so behooved me to purchase rice wine, I guess I’d use it…I don’t think they expect you to update it every year, although the system is now computerised, as opposed to the mangled pieces of paper which served as such, 5 years ago.


There are 389,000 foreigners in Taiwan, including 130,000 Thais and 100,000 Filipinos. About 17,000 of the foreigners are believed to be overstayers and illegal workers, 16,000 are alien spouses of foreigners, and 20,000 are professionals.

found at:

Migration News, July 1999

more recent:

Report on Protection of Rights for Foreign Workers in Taiwan


quoting myself from an earlier thread (“what’s the composition of the expatriate community in taipei?”):

quote[quote]Of the 336,000 foreign residents in Taiwan at the end of 2000, 41.7 percent were from Thailand, 22.3 percent from the Philippines, 7.1 percent from Vietnam, 3.4 percent from Japan, and 2.8 percent from the United States.[/quote]

My source was the DGBAS.

Re. purchasing rice wine, I had intended to try to buy some, and knew where to go (in Banqiao, the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Board is across the street from the Far Eastern department store), but then I saw the line, which stretched out of the building, down the street, around the corner, and as far as I could see down a little lane.


are you sure you need household registration?
I thought that was just to stop rice winos stockpiling the stuff before prices leapt with WTO entry. Anyone can buy it now, just have to pay a lot. I think.

Incidentally, can anyone make sense of the WTO rules for me? Isn’t WTO supposed to be about lowering barriers to cross-border investment and trade?
In that case, surely individual countries should classify rice wine as they like, cooking ingredient, liquor, rocket fuel, and tax within the appropriate WTO level - as long as imported and domestically produced products are dealt with the same.

Or am i mixing the WTO up with a free trade organization?



Several weeks ago, well now, maybe several months ago, yes you needed a household registration record to by rice wine. As ponited out by cranky laowai the lines were extremely long. About two weeks ago it was available to the general public at grocery stores and other outlets at inflated prices due to the WTO entry.

The reason the price went up, as far as I can see, is because the rice wine is made in Taiwan. If anyone is clearer on this please post it, because I am not sure.


Something about equalising prices across the WTO. Not sure exactly how it works but the rice wine is considered alcoholic beverage, which has a high sales tax elsewhere, so Taiwan is not allowed to ‘subsidise’ (and so undercut foreign competition on) the rice wine by exempting it from normal taxes on alcohol, so now rice wine has the same high sales tax as plain old grape wine. More or less.



but there’s no subsidy involved so no one’s being undercut. Foreign rice wine producers should be able to sell in Taiwan on the same terms as Taiwanese producers.

WTO thinking must be either:

  1. if rice wine is cheap in Taiwan, rice wine consumers from other member nations will fly here en masse on binge shopping excursions. So Taiwan offers unfair competition to rice wine sellers elsewhere.
    Or 2) if rice wine is cheap in Taiwan, imported liquer sales will be at a disadvantage. Shopper goes into 7-eleven to buy a bottle of whisky and comes out with rice wine because it’s far cheaper and, hell, by the second half of the bottle, it all tastes the same anyway.


Yeah, that’s the bit I don’t understand. I guess that WTO has rules about what is classed as liquor and rice wine (it’s about 10% innit?) qualifies, so it has to be taxed at the same rate as all other liquor in Taiwan.

Actually I tried some rice wine once and it was rpetty nice. With a little of the rigth mixer you could make a drinkable wine cooler or something. In my student days I would hae jumped at the chance to get ratfaced for a few US dollars. Alchies in Taiwan have had it easy - they don’t have to drink meths.



I was up at La La Shan at the weekend and the rice wine they sell up there hasn’t gone up in price. Of course, its not “red label” – they make it by chewing and sucking on mouthfuls of dry rice and fermenting the accumulated spit (think I’m kidding?).

Tastes pretty good, too.