A Millennium History of Salt
The Chinese discovered salt very early. In ancient times, people called natural salt “halogen”. “Shuowen Jiezi” also records that “natural salt is called bittern, and boiled salt is salt”, that is, “halogen” can only be called “salt” after processing.
As for the discovery of salt, there is another legend. The pre-Qin ancient book “Shiben” says that in the period of the Yellow Emperor, there was a prince named Susha who boiled brine with sea water and fried it into salt. Later, the legend about Susha became more and more dramatic: According to legend, one day, Susha brought half a pot of water from the sea and just put it on the fire to boil. . When he came back with the killed wild boar, the water in the tank had been boiled dry, leaving a layer of white powder at the bottom. Susha dipped her fingers in a little bit to taste, it was salty and fresh. He dipped it in the grilled pork and it tasted delicious. This white fine powder is salt, and the Susha clan who discovered salt was honored as “Salt Sect” by later generations.
There is also a view that “Susha” may not be the name of a person, but more likely the name of a coastal tribe who mastered the technology of boiling salt. Of course, the authenticity of ancient legends is difficult to study, and it is not ruled out that Susha’s story was edited and processed by later generations. However, according to archaeological findings, in China, salt has been used for more than five thousand years. At least during the period of the Yellow Emperor, the ancients had already mastered the technology of boiling salt with seawater. After thousands of years of development, the technology of boiling salt has been passed down from generation to generation and has continued to mature . In the Northern Song Dynasty, Liu Yong, a famous poet, wrote a song “Song of Cooking Salt”. Pure white table salt.
The development of sea salt is booming day by day. After the Tang Dynasty, sea salt was produced from Youzhou in the north to Lingnan in the south, among which “Liangzhe salt” and “Lianghuai salt” are the most famous.
China is also the place where well salt was invented. As a representative of Chinese well salt, Sichuan Salt has played an indispensable role in the long river of history.
At the end of the Warring States Period, Li Bing, the prefect of Shu County in the State of Qin, dug the Guangdu Salt Well in the Shuangliu area of Chengdu today. This is the first salt well in the history of China and even the world. Since then, one after another salt farms have emerged as the times require. Historically, the Zigong Salt Field was the most important salt production base in Sichuan. In the early years of the Republic of China, more than 12,000 salt wells were spread across the land of Zigong, the highest density in the country. The most famous of the salt wells is the Shenhai Well, which is 1001.42 meters deep and is the first large well over a kilometer in the world.
Salt was to the ancients what the refrigerator is to modern people. Salt can be used to preserve food such as vegetables, meat, fish, etc., because these foods are perishable and spoiled, unlike grains that can be preserved for a long time, but pickled with salt to make sauerkraut, ham, and salted fish, which can be preserved for months or even years .
In addition to eating, salt also has the functions of sterilization, tooth protection, skin cleaning, and decontamination. More importantly, salt is rich in sodium elements needed by the human body. If you do not eat salt for a long time, it is easy to cause muscle cramps, headaches, weakness, nausea and other symptoms. Therefore, human beings cannot live without salt. Among the “five flavors”, salt deserves to be ranked first.
Since salt is so important, rulers of many dynasties in history have controlled it.
According to the “Zhou Li” records, the Zhou Dynasty had set up “salt people” to manage salt administration. In the Spring and Autumn Period, Guan Zhong, a famous minister under Duke Huan of Qi, put forward the idea of ”Guan Shan Hai” for the first time. Guanshanhai, also known as “Guanshanhai”, the mountain is the mine, and the sea is salt boiled with seawater. Therefore, Guan Shanhai advocated that the government monopolize the salt industry and minerals. After the introduction of the policy, Qi quickly became rich. At the same time, Guan Zhong also strictly controlled the export of salt: in peacetime, salt was sold to vassal states that were located in the interior and produced little or no salt. In this way, Qi State not only earns money from other countries, but also subjugates others without fighting. If you are not obedient, you will not be given salt. This is also an important reason why Qi State can achieve hegemony.
A form of hard currency, salt was once used as money. For example, salt coins appeared in the southwestern region of my country in ancient times. The “Southwest Chronicle” written in the late Tang Dynasty records: “(in the Southwest at that time) each salt is about one tael or two taels, and if there is a transaction, it is counted by the grain.” This is the most direct record of the monetization of salt. Of course, the salt here is not the extremely fine, grain-by-grain loose salt in our impression, but unrefined coarse salt, whose quality is much greater than that of loose salt. Salt surpasses general commodities and becomes a special commodity that circulates in the market, acting as an equivalent to reflect the value of various commodities.