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The Salt Industry of China, 1644–1911: A Study in Historical Geography

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Title:The Salt Industry of China, 1644–1911: A Study in Historical Geography
Authors:Jiang, Daozhang
Chiang, Tao-chang
Contributors:Chang, Sen-Dou (advisor)
Geography and Environment (department)
Keywords:salt industry and trade
Ch’ing China
show 1 moresalt administration
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Date Issued:Aug 1975
Publisher:[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 1975]
Abstract:As a daily necessity and also as a taxed commodity, salt played an important part in the economic, political and social development of Ch'ing China. It was a leading imperial revenue source, a major industry, and an important factor in historical events. It was also an indicator of the spatial organization of the traditional Chinese economy. Ch'ing China's complicated system of salt administration was an historical inheritance from the past. Because of its inability to engage directly in the production and distribution of salt, the Ch'ing administration controlled the industry by assigning the production of salt to small producers and by subcontracting the distribution of salt to licensed merchants. Thus, the government, merchants and producers constituted the three components of the industry. The producers made the salt, the merchants distributed it, and the government supervised the production and distribution, prevented salt smuggling and, above all, collected a tax. Yen-ch'ang (saltworks) were the lowest administrative units. Their organization and composition varied with localities as well as with production methods. A saltworks might consist of only a few salt-producing households or as many as ten thousand or more. Ch'ing China's sources of salt were widespread. More than four-fifths of the salt produced came from the seacoast. The diffusion and spread of the production of salt in China paralleled China's territorial expansion and population movement. The industry reached its maturity in terms of areal extent and the system of public control in the Ming period (1368-1644).
After that time, a better natural resource base stimulated the more rapid growth of the industry along the North China seacoast than elsewhere in the nation. Several different production methods were used to adapt diversed natural environments and varied raw materials. The methods were primitive and inefficient. The simplicity of the boiling method favored its wide use, but as fuels became scarcer year after year, the solar evaporation method gradually replaced this system. Geographical changes in the quantity of salt production through time also reflected basic differences in regional population growth. Among other variables, the consumption of taxed salt by geographical region was associated with the spatial distribution of population, cultivated land, land tax quotas, population density and saltworks.
The salt industry in Ch'ing China was characterized by state control through six systems: the certificate system (yin-fa), the group system (kang-fa), the ticket system (p'iao-fa), the salt ration-tax system (kuei-ting-fa), the official transport system (kuan-yun), and the taxation at the saltworks (chiu-ch'ang cheng-hsui). Each of these was employed to cope with a different situation in order to maximize government revenue by eliminating the trade in untaxed salt. In the course of time, privileged salt merchants became so powerful financially that the public salt administration could only cooperate with them to ensure easy tax collection. The networks of the salt trade and the spatial organization of the market areas responded mainly to the geographical distribution of salt sources and inland waterways. Water transport was used mostly as it was the cheapest means through which the flow of salt could be controlled. As a quasi-government business, administration of the salt trade was influenced greatly by the structure of the civil administration, and the system of salt distribution paralleled closely with the administrative hierarchy.
Description:PhD University of Hawaii at Manoa 1975
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 279–338).
Pages/Duration:xi, 338 leaves : illustrations, maps
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Geography

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