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Project No. 5

The Zinc Administration in Southwest China, 1700-1850: Institutional, Economic and Social Case Studies


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.

Research team

Project leader

Prof. Dr. Hans Ulrich Vogel

Research fellow

Chen Hailian, M.A.

Assistant

NN


Project summary

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.


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