Salt Mining Technology in Ancient China

Well salt is one of the types of edible salt in China, in addition to sea salt, pool salt and rock salt. We can also analyze by name, they are mainly named according to different sources. Sea salt, as its name implies, is salt made from sea water; pool salt is based on salt water from salt lakes, and its composition is similar to sea salt; rock salt, also called mineral salt or stone salt, is a mineral formed by chemical deposition in nature. Salt; well salt is the salt formed after artificial brine is taken out and then artificially cooked. It is abundant in Sichuan, China.

Han portrait bricks from the well salt mining production scene were unearthed in Yangzishan, Chengdu, Sichuan. This Han portrait vividly reproduces the steps of brine extraction, brine delivery, and salt boiling in the production of well salt during the Han Dynasty in China.

The “China Light” exhibition hall of the China Science and Technology Museum also showed the visitors the model of the overhead crane (derrick) and sand salt production process used by Yan Jingkai. In the following, we will use a combination of Han portrait image records and science museum exhibits to briefly introduce the relevant steps and evolution of the production of salt in the well.

The lower left corner of the Han Dynasty Stone depicts very clearly the work scene of the ancients on the tall derrick. The derrick is divided into two upper and lower layers, and each two people are divided into a group; the upper beam of the derrick is equipped with a cymbal, two people on the left side lift the brine, and two people on the right side pull the rope. , And then injected into the halogen storage tank. This scene is the perfect reproduction of the brine extraction in the salt wells of the Han Dynasty in China.

The Skycar exhibition item in the Huaxia Light Exhibition Hall was restored based on the relevant descriptions in the “Gonggong Kaiwu” of the Ming Dynasty and belongs to the type of derrick in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. At this time, the salt well had developed from a large shallow well to a small deep well. The driving force of brine was gradually replaced by animal power since the Southern Song Dynasty. It was common in the Ming and Qing Dynasties to use cattle carts to move the brine well up and down.

The brine transfer process mainly refers to transferring the brine extracted from the salt well to the salt stove where the salt is boiled. In the portrait stone, there is a very obvious “M” shaped pipeline from the brine storage tank at the lower end of the derrick to the boiling salt. This is the stern tube used for brine transportation. In the Han Dynasty, bamboo was mostly used. Because the southern region is rich in bamboo, so the later generations of stubble are also made of bamboo.

On the salt well sand table in the “Huaxia Light” exhibition hall, we have added the “concrete nest” to the halogen pipeline. “Pit nest” is a storage tank in the process of transporting brine. It is made of wood and stone. Its purpose is to reduce the pressure on the stern tube caused by the long-distance transport of brine.

Boiled salt
In the lower right of the Han portrait, a man is squatting on the ground to add wood to the salt stove. Five pot-shaped “pot basins” are connected in parallel to the salt stove. This is the reproduction of the Han Dynasty cooking scene. In the upper left of Chai Zao, there are two scenes of returning with negative pay, echoing them.

The “deep basin” has a deep belly and flat bottom, and is made of iron. During the period of Emperor Hanwu of the Western Han Dynasty, the “salt iron official camp” system was implemented. The “baskets” were issued by the government in a unified manner. In the Eastern Han Dynasty, He Di abolished the “ban of iron and salt”, and the folk cooking atmosphere was relatively active. The Han portrait stone in this article was unearthed from the tombs of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

The invention of well salt not only provided the possibility for rich food, but also contributed a lot to the development of the feudal economy in Bashu region of China. In the process of producing well salt, the evolution of salt wells from large shallow wells to small deep wells, the rapid development of brine extraction power from manpower to animal power, and the increasingly exquisite salt cooking process have also demonstrated the innovative capacity of traditional Chinese technology, which has promoted China’s traditional deep well drilling, mechanical power and many other technological inventions are among the best in the world.

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