Project No. 5
The Zinc Administration in Southwest China, 1700-1850: Institutional, Economic and Social Case
Illustrations of zinc-copper ore exploitation and zinc smelting, early seventeenth century
The methods of zinc ore mining and zinc smelting as shown in these famous early seventeenth-century illustrations did not change substantially until the early twentieth century.
From Song Yingxing 宋應星. Tiangong kai wu 天工開物 (Heaven, Work, and the Inception of Things). Preface 1637. Reprint Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1954. Chap. 14.
Project leaderProf. Dr. Hans Ulrich Vogel
Research fellowChen Hailian, M.A.
The alloy used for casting Chinese cash coins during the Qing period (1644-1911) consisted of 30
to 50 percent zinc. This project will complement research on the Qing monetary administration that hitherto has
largely concentrated on copper, the largest in volume and most expensive of the monetary metals. Zinc production
probably at least equalled that of copper and the metal was important not only as a mint metal but as in private
domestic and international trade. This project will analyse data on zinc transportation preserved in palace
memorials, regulations governing zinc procurement as specified in a recently discovered manual on mint metal
administration, and specific information on zinc transports and refining contained in documents of the local
archive of the Baxian magistracy (modern Chongqing). Gaining a better understanding of the role of the state in
administrating, furthering or hampering zinc mining, smelting, and transportation, its use for minting and for
the production of other objects therefore provides a fruitful field of exploring state capabilities in the
economic arena. A comparative investigation of selected mines in Guizhou, transport routes in and out of the
province, zinc smelting and refining as well as zinc shipments will be carried out that reconstructs the whole
range of the "zinc administration", exploring its similarities with and differences to the copper administration.