In China, historically, alcohol was sanctioned for religious ceremonies, especially ancestor worship. Today, in China and among Chinese immigrants, alcohol is commonly served at celebrations and banquets, and some people consume alcohol at meals—beer, wine, brandy, or whiskey. Drinking-centered institutions, however, are absent (Hsu, 1955; Singer, 1972; Wang, 1968). In Chinese tradition, moderate drinking is believed to have medicinal effects, but excessive use is believed to bring on ''nine-fold harm'' (Yu & Liu, 1986/87) and is condemned in folk culture as one of the four vices. Many hypothesize that cultural influences are important in shaping drug-use patterns as well as beliefs about drug use. Some research ties cultural beliefs to differences in drinking patterns, despite similarities in availability (Glassner & Berg, 1980; Mizruchi & Perrucci, 1962).

Chinese cultural beliefs regarding the religious and medicinal benefits of moderate drinking and the harm associated with excessive use may control drinking patterns in China, but when people move into a new cultural setting, their alcohol use may be influenced by the extent to which they adopt the values of the surrounding culture. Sue (1987) states that alcohol abuse is more congruent with American than Chinese values, since Chinese values are antithetical to alcohol abuse. This ''acculturation hypothesis'' (Austin & Lee, 1989) has received mixed support with respect to the experience of Chinese Americans. This suggests that more investigation is necessary to help determine which influences result in the retention of cultural values and which result in adaptation to the new culture.

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