Edward Harper Parker.

China, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day online

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A.D. 1900-1910] SIR RICHARD DANE AGAIN 229

it rescued from the miseries of " insipid food "
during the long Taiping anarchy ; and so as at
the same time to arrange that the relative
prices of the rival salts should not be too high
for the indigent people, or too lightly taxed to
admit of a substantial revenue ; and also that
the general revenue systems of the three great
Yang-tsze compound states- — Sz Ch'wan, the
Two Hu, and the Two Kiang (half the area
and half the population of all China Proper) —
should be sufficiently elastic to provide the usual
remittances for Peking, and for the support of
their own several armies, navies, and arsenals.
In accordance wdth this complicated arrange-
ment, the Governors of the Hu Peh, Hu Nan
(Two Hu) ; Kiang Su, Kiang Si, and An Hwei
(" Two " Kiang) ; and Ho Nan had no say at
all in " high policy " questions of salt ; the
whole gabelle was under the administrative
control of a First Class Commissary at Yang-
chow, who again was in Manchu times under the
supreme " diplomatic " and (in this case rather
more than) nominal supervision of the Viceroy
at Nanking; this latter was de facto, but not
de jure, in regular consultation with the Viceroy
at Wuch'ang (Hankow) in matters affecting the
Ausgleich. Each of the above six provinces
(except An Hwei which had none, and Kiang
Su which had two) had a Second Class Commis-
sary ; and there are thirty-four subordinates,
but all attached to headquarters alone. Thus
each province (except An Hwei, which is quite
close to both Yangehow and Nanking) has an
imperial accountant for purposes of local finance,
but no control over distribution. The great
central depot for stored salt is Icheng, between
Chinkiang and Nanking. Of course all the above
takes no account of Sir R. Dane's reforms,
under the Republic, of which more anon.



230 THE SALT GABELLE [chap, xi

It would weary the reader were I to state the
names of each producing " yard " ; the pecuhar
system of land taxation modified to suit the
producing districts ; the way " warrants " are
issued to speculators, salt is weighed out, gross
and tare distinguished, order of precedence in
sales arranged, dues, likin, and other charges
apportioned, and so on. As the merchants who
practically farm the industry " offered as bene-
volences " 8,000,000 taels during the period
1880-1900, over and above the sums which the
business was bound under regulation to yield- —
in other words, as the Government has dared
to " squeeze " an average of 400,000 taels a
year besides its regular income of 5,000,000 or
6,000,000 taels (in 1911 nearer 10,000,000 taels)
< — it may well be imagined that the wealthy
owners of *' perpetual warrants " must have
made a large profit. As many distinguished
families used to invest in this syndicate, just as
we Europeans invest in Consols or Rands, there
was, of course, a universal conspiracy not to
disclose to outsiders the real profits ; and, as
the Viceroys at Nanking had to defend the
interests of their provinces against Peking
rapacity, such profits and revenues as were dis-
closed to them by their subordinates beyond the
regular figures never reached the Peking Board's
ears officially. Therefore, of course, I could not
in 1900 prove by documentary evidence what
everyone knew, and what Sir R. Dane has
proved, namely, that this great organisation is
capable of great and beneficial developments in
honest hands.

Hwai salt, of two main kinds, is consumed in
those very limited parts of Kiang Su south of
the Yang-tsze not already described as appro-
priated to the Two Cheh trade ; in all Kiang Su
north of the Yang-tsze, except the wedge served



A.D. 1132-1900] INTERESTING SALT WELLS 231

by Shan Tung ; in all An Hwei, except the two
corners also above mentioned, and except also
in one district (Suli-chou) in the extreme north
not drained by the ITwai River, and served
from Shan Tung ; in that south-east corner of
Ho Nan which is drained by the head waters
of the Hwai River ; in all Kiang Si, except the
corners served by the Two Kwang and Two
Cheh systems ; in all Hu Peh, except (a) the
extreme south-west corner, where no navigable
stream communicates with the Yang-tsze ; and
(b) (to a limited extent, but not as a trade)
even in those districts of the same corner which
have such navigable communication ; also (c)
only concurrently, since 1870, with Sz Ch'wan
salt in the six prefectures west of the Han River ;
and (d) subject to some tolerated encroach-
ments of local well-salt in the extreme north-
west. It is also consum.ed in all Hu Nan,
except the parts appropriated to Canton salt ;
and except in the extrem.e north, where, since
1870, it has run concurrently with Sz Ch'wan
salt ; finally, in the four eastern prefectures of
Kwei Chou, these being drained by the head
waters of the Hu Nan rivers. In a word, Hwai
salt serves nearly the whole Valley of the Yang-
tsze, up to the gorges and the mountains.

The great Sz Ch'wan salt industry, first
organised in 1132, is totally different from all
those described, and the brine is extracted from
very deep Artesian wells, which also produce un-
limited quantities of hydrogen gas, thus always
gratuitously at hand as fuel for treating the salt ;
in some cases speculators distribute this fuel,
like our coal gas, in long bamboo pipes. ^ The

^ I have frequently described these wells at length, but perhaps

the condensed account given in Chambers's Journal for 1896 is

^the most accessible to European readers, though since then

several enterprising travellers have given further and perhaps

more up-to-date descriptions.



232 THE SALT GABELLE [chap, xi

interests involved are almost as great as in the
case of the Two Ilwai, and the secrecy observed
{i.e. beyond the stereotyped official point) is
quite as impenetrable to those not " in the
swim." Yet there is only a Second Class Com-
missary in charge, with seven subordinates ; but
in Manchu times the Viceroy, who had nominal
supervision of the whole, exercised a much more
direct controlling influence over the well-salt than
did even his sea-salt colleague at Nanking, with
whom, as with the Viceroy at Wu-ch'ang (Han-
kow), he had to fight out his financial battles.
In wandering over the provinces of Sz Ch'wan,
Kwei Chou, and Hu Peh, I had good oppor-
tunities for studying the working of this wonder-
ful industry. In many places the salt, especi-
ally when of the hard kind like blocks of stone,
is practically small money, and its retail value
varies unerringly so many fractions of a farthing
per pound according to the freight rates of boats
in demand, and the number of miles coolies
have to walk. A lost traveller could almost
grope his way about the country by simply
asking the retail price of salt at each village and
at the next one in any direction. The waste of
fuel, of human and beast labour, of time, and of
patience is of course gigantic, but it might have
serious effects upon the popular economy of the
province were machinery suddenly introduced,
carriage cheapened, and strict honesty incon-
tinently insisted upon.* The nominal yield in
taxes to the Government was in 1899 about
2,000,000 taels a year on salt taken out of 5,000
Artesian wells actually working (over 8,000 in
existence). Probably 10,000,000 taels would be
nearer the mark for 1911, subject, of course, to
damage done to trade by revolutions and rebel-

^ The Germans, I understand, recently obtained a contract for'
an Electric Power Plant, but it was annulled.



A.D. 1350-1890] TIBETAN SALT 233

lions. The reason there are so few officials in
charge is that large stocks, which are ignored
by the administration when they reach the
middleman's hands, can only travel by water ;
and the water-ways are few, shut in, uncon-
nected by canals, and easily controlled. There
is really, as I pointed out (p. 168) when I spoke
of the three great trade drainage areas of China,
only one great exit eastwards from Sz Ch'wan,
as there is only one from Kwang Si. The salt
service of course covers the whole of Sz Ch'wan
province, and (concurrently with or indepen-
dently of the Hwai salt) those parts of Hu Nan
and Hu Peh above specified; all Kwei Chou
province, except the eastern area reserved to
the Hwai system of Hu Nan, and the corner
appropriated to Canton as explained ; and the
north wedge of Yiin Nan which communicates via
Lao-wa T'an with the highest navigable part of
the Yang-tsze. The Governors of Yiin Nan and
Kwei Chou had (and perhaps have) each nominal
supervisory control in their own provinces ; but
there was no Kwei Chou staff at all, and no Yiin
Nan staff for this particular salt ; the Yiin Nan
officials were there for the management of quite
another branch, now to be separately described.
As to Tibet, which receives from Sz Ch'wan
endless human caravans of tea by way of Ta-
tsien-lu and Kwan Hien, I presume it must also
take some of the Sz Ch'wan salt ; if it does, I
cannot find trace of it, though I see that in 1180
trade with certain " Tibetoid " tribes was
sanctioned. There are some very ancient wells
close to Tibet in the extreme west near Ya-chou
(the great entrepot of the tea trade with the
Tibetan tribes) which were working 570 years
ago ; but as Tibet is a brackish and nitrous
country throughout, I expect it supplies itself,
and needs no Chinese salt : in fact Tibet used to



234 THE SALT GABELLE [chap, xi

supply Nepaul with salt and butter in exchange
for grain, and no doubt does so still. In any
case plentiful supplies for the northern frontier
of Tibet can be obtained from Mien-chu city in
Sz Ch'wan.

In the days, over a thousand years ago, when
a Shan empire ruled in Yiin Nan, there was
already mention of the local Black Salt-wells,
and in Kublai Khan's time (thirteenth century)
there is frequent allusion to trouble with the
" barbarians at the salt wells." At the com-
mencemicnt of the Manchu dynasty, their hench-
man, the Chinese satrap Wu San-kwei, was
allowed to increase the salt dues for a time in
order to pay his Yiin Nan troops; and in our
own days (1864-1874) the Panthay Mussul-
mans held profitable possession in their turn.
Except in the north corner of the province,
devoted to the Sz Ch'wan m.onopoly, Yiin Nan
salt is free all over the province (with the further
exception of the corner appropriated to Canton)
after it has been purchased from the private
proprietors of the wells and has paid Govern-
ment dues ; unde^ the Manchus a Second Class
Commissary and twelve subordinates used to
manage the business, and the annual yield to
government account was about 500,000 taels ;
in 1911 nearer 1,000,000 taels. Towards the
Burm.ese and French frontiers- — at Muang-u for
instance— there are a few other unimportant
wells, but the population there is too scant and
" barbarian " for Chinese officials to make much
out of that or any other industry, as we have
seen under the heads of Momein and Sz-mao
trade (pp. 173, 174).

We have now nothing left to consider but Old
China, all the salt systems above described
dating subsequently to the beginning of our
era, at least so far as any known official or-



B.C. 200-A.D. 19C0] MONGOL SALT 235

ganisation of them is concerned. In the earher
editions I left Manchuria out of consideration
altogether, as the salt revenue collected there
in the twelfth century by the Niichen officials
(twelfth century) never amounted to much ; and
the same could be said of Manchu times, previous
to the reforms of the Viceroy of Manchuria,
Ikotanga, twenty years ago : indeed, until 1887
salt was free altogether; but even in Niichen
and Mongol times (1150-1350) there was some
official control of the Liao-yang salt flats ; how-
ever, I find that under pressure of "Boxer"
legacies and exigencies a very large official con-
sumption is now recognised, as to which more
further on. It is still hardly necessary to do
more than, as before in 1900, merely mention
Mongolia, which produced in Manchu times no
revenue to the Central Government of any
kind, salt or otherwise; and, now that Outer
Mongolia is partly "independent," cannot well
fall under Sir Richard Dane's reforming hand.
There is, however, a Mongol-owned salt lake,
called Ghilen-tai, in the Desert to the west of
the Alashan Mountains, which presumably still
supplies the v/ants of what may be called the
Great North Road, from the Yellow River at
Baotu, or at Tokto, where it is discharged from
boats and carried east right away to Kalgan
and Siian-hwa north of Peking ; and also in the
other direction north-west to Uliassutai. Som^e
restraint had to be placed upon this Mongol
salt, which was almost free in Kan Suh, so as
to prevent encroachm.ent upon the Shan Si
system. It is by no means improbable that
this Lake Ghilen is the identical place men-
tioned in 200 B.C., and stated to be near modern
Lan-chou, where the inhabitants, as I have
stated in the third chapter, throve famously in
the salt and iron trade. The Piebald Horse



236 THE SALT GABELLE [chap, xi

Pond salt (Hwa-ma Ch'i) from a place just south
of the Great Wall, where the Kan Suh and
Shen Si frontiers join, has the run of the greater
part of Kan Suh, and also part of Shen Si,
concurrently with Mongol salt ; but the entire
revenues derived from both the above industries
are exceedingly small ; so much so, that the
management of them was left to two executive
taotais in Kan Suh and Shen Si, of course in
Manchu times subject to the Viceroy. There
are also some wells in South Kan Suh, probably
geologically connected with those of Sz Ch'wan :
however, the whole of the salt service super-
ficially described in this paragraph rather sur-
rounds than belongs to Old China, which is
thus hemmed in on all sides by areas supplied
from wells or flats dating from some tim^e subse-
quent to our era. It is well to note once more
how every subject, be it trade, language, salt,
or geography, tends to accentuate this one
salient point^ — that the Yellow race or Chinese
are essentially a Yellow River people, and that
the disastrous irregularities of that stream are
rightly termed " China's Sorrow " in a very
special and literal sense. At the same time it
must not be supposed that the term " Yellow "
languages (first used, I believe, by myself),
Yellow race. Yellow peril, and so on has any-
thing to do with the Yellow River : it refers to
the human complexion.

The oldest salt industry of all is, as we might
expect, that of Shan Tung : there is no salt
to speak of on the peninsula itself ; it is all
derived from coast places north and south of it,
round about the present mouth of the Yellow
River, and about the former German " sphere "
of Kiao Chou, now in Japanese keeping. What
with the Grand Canal, the River Wei (from Wei-
hwei city, not to be confused with the Wei of



A.D. 1180-1912] CHIH LI SALT FINANCE 237

Shen Si, pp. 14, 76), and the canals connecting the
various Yellow River beds, Shan Tung has
unrivalled facilities for distribution, and, as
might be anticipated, consumes not one pound
of any salt but its own. The trade is di-
vided into two branches, called respectively the
" warrant system " and the " north and south
freights," the latter being half in official hands
and half in mercantile, the two working to-
gether. The warrants seem to run over the
mountainous peninsula and its base down to
the extreme south frontiers. The north freights
evidently refer to Shan Tung itself, or the
greater part of it ; the southern freights to the
extraneous parts of Ho Nan, Kiang Su, and An
Hwei. The whole administration is under a
First Class Commissary and thirteen subordin-
ates, of course under the nominal supervision
in Manchu times of the Governor. Up to 1837
the centre of the Commissary's operations was
Tientsin, which I suppose means that the Viceroy
of Chih Li had until then general supervision
over two commissaries ; but the distance was
found inconvenient, and so in that year the
Governor was made supreme responsible chief
over his own commissary. I notice that the
Mongol dynasty made several similar changes
(1260-1338), and recast more than once the
organisation established by the Sung house in
1181. I have no doubt the vagaries of the
Yellow River often decided to which adminis-
tration this or that part of the distribution
service should belong. After the Japanese war
of 1894-5 the retail price of salt was raised
here, as elsewhere, and efforts were made to make
the dues account contribute more money to the
public chest. Perhaps the total credited to the
Government would in 1899 have reached 400,000
taels : in 1911 nearer 4,000,000 taels' — if we



238 THE SALT GABELLE [chap, xi

include the gains credited to all provinces in
which Shan Tung salt circulated.

In the chapter on " Early Trade Notions " it
was mentioned how tradition says an ancient
statesman once utilised the charms of woman as a
lure to catch the gold of strangers. This man,
usually known by his popular name Kwan Chung
(700-645 B.C.), was premier of the state of Ts'i
(Shan Tung), whose salt business we are now
discussing ; he was also the first to conceive
the notion of a Government monopoly in salt
and iron, based upon an average annual mini-
mum consumption per individual of 30 lbs. of
salt, and upon the indispensability of plough-
shares, axes, pans, knives, and needles. But
the Sang Hung-yang mentioned at the head of
this chapter, a man celebrated for his mental
arithmetic, was the first to tax salt en route.
Thus it is plain other people knew how to make
money out of salt and iron besides, and maybe
before, the men of the Ordos Desert. The wealth
thus brought to one vassal state was shared by
the feudatory powers in the vicinity, who soon
took to imitating so lucrative a policy. It was
evidently under this first stimulus that the Sz
Ch'wan salt wells were discovered (330 B.C.),
and possibly the Ghilen-tai industry also : a
large export to the steppes of the Hiung-nu
grew up, and to those states as well which
were dependent upon Ts'i for their salt supply.
By the time the First Emperor came into
power (B.C. 220), the salt and iron revenues
of China had increased twenty-fold. Ever
since those days the Shan Tung salt admini-
stration has had a steady history, but perhaps
rather as an appendage of the one about to
be described than as a separate organisation of
its own.

The "Ch'ang-lu," or Long Rush or Reed system,



A.D. lSOO-1900] HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS 239

derives its name from the city Ts'ang Chou,' on
the Grand Canal (south of Tientsin), once so
called. In 1285 Kublai Khan " once more
divided the Ho-kien (Chih Li) and Shan Tung
interests," which, as above explained, are really
one in working principle. Passing to our own
days, we find in 1900 a First Class Commissary
at Tientsin, with sixteen subordinates, and the
Viceroy (who until about 1870 resided at the
provincial capital of Pao-ting) had in Manchu
times nominal supervision. The yield was about
500,000 taels a year ; but here again the mer-
chants were viewed as a milch cow, being second
only to the Hwai traders in point of yielding
capacity, if we may judge by the " loyal benevo-
lences " which were frequently exacted, and the
fact that nearer 8,000,000 taels were extracted
in 1911. One of the latest Manchu Govern-
ment plans for raising money was to issue
" manifest faith " bonds, repayable after a term
of years, and bearing interest ; of course all
loyal officials and salt merchants were expected
to subscribe ; naturally their exuberant loyalty
was too much for them, and most of them
" begged not to receive interest," and even " pro-
tested that they did not w^ant even the capital " ;
a fortiori they did not expect ".recognition in the
shape of rank." The price of salt had been
thrice raised, one centime a kilo since 1895, and
about 100,000 taels were added by the above
benevolence to the 500,000 previously yielded.
The service (speaking of sixteen years ago) in-
cludes all Chih Li, except those parts north
of the innermost Great Wall, which use Ghilen-
tai salt ; and there are special arrangements
for the city of Peking. It also covers the
whole plain of Ho Nan, except the south
wedge belonging to the Hwai system, i.e. the

^ Now that chou are abolished, Ts'ang Men,



240 THE SALT GABELLE [chap, xi

level tract bounded on the west by the base
of the mountainous triangle served by Shan Si
salt, and on the east by An Hwei, Kiang Su,
and the small Ho Nan wedge supplied by Shan
Tung salt. Thus Ho Nan is rent by many rival
salt masters, but in Manchu times had none the
less a Second Class Commissary of her own to
look after both her grain and salt interests, and
to arrange accounts. The harassed people in
the north of China, alternately under Tartar
and Chinese rulers in the remote past, never
took kindly to the taxation of salt, which was
every now and then abolished, and anon re-
established, for various reasons, by dynasty
after dynasty; but there is specific mention
of salt-works near Tientsin when North and
South China became reunited in the seventh
century ; and a century after that the great
financier Liu Yen so developed the Government
monopoly in salt that it produced half the
total revenues of the empire. It may be men-
tioned that the " Long Reeds " of the locality
bearing that name are useful as fuel for boiling
the salt.

There now only remains to be examined the
very ancient Shan Si salt organisation at present
known as Ho-tung or " East of the (Yellow)
River." The extreme west of China used to
consume this lake salt until the Sz Ch'wan wells
were discovered, and it remained a Government
monopoly until a.d. 506, when the Tungusic
dynasty then ruling North China threw open to
free exploitation a number of the works. In 924
the Turkish reigning house representing Central
China placed an official taxing superintendent
over the official ponds of An-yih and Kiai city —
names which exist to this day- — near what is
known as the Lake of Kiai. After the expulsion
of the Tartars, the Sung dynasty placed eighteen



A.D. 1000-1900] MODERN REFORMS 241

of the marshes under Government control. In
1010 and 1116 the '' red salt " of this locality is
spoken of officially. In 1178 the Sung dynasty,
driven south, prohibited the import of Shan Si
salt from the Niichen dominions into Ho Nan.
Kublai Khan's villainous " Saracen " (Ouigour)
adviser Achmac, mentioned by Marco Polo,
increased the dues very heavily ; but still a few
ponds were left free to the public. The Manchus
merged the salt dues in some districts into the
land-tax, so that wherever this took place the
people became entitled to free salt. In 1846
the heavy cost of keeping the works in repair
led the Government to consider once more the
advisability of putting them up to public auction.
The result of all this was that Shan Si salt had
only a very limited circulation in that province ;
but it supplied, and still doubtless supplies, all the
western half of Ho Nan- — south of the Yellow
River only- — and the valley of the River Wei
in Shen Si : this arrangement bringing it near
the head waters of the River Han, precautions
have to be taken to keep it out of the Hwai
preserves. There was a Second Class Com-
missary for the province, who in Manchu times
resided at P'u-chou in the extreme south, far
away from his nominal superior, the Governor
at T'^ai-yuan ; and he had eight subordinates.
The revenue in 1900 was about half a million
taels, and there are perhaps thirty districts pos-
sessing salt ponds ; so that the whole region
must be very sahne. For 1911 3,000,000 taels
would be nearer the mark.

In 1904 the pressure of indemnities became so
great that the late Sir Robert Hart proposed a
scheme for increasing the land-tax on a uniform
scale throughout the length and breadth of
China ; but this fell through, chiefly through the
opposition of the viceroys Wei Kwang-t'ao and



242 THE SALT GABELLE [chap, xi

Chang Chi-tung. Simultaneously the (now well-
known mercantile) statesman Chang Kien sub-
mitted a scheme for reorganising the Salt
Gabelle. Year after year the " three good vice-
roys," in drawing up their drastic schemes of
general reform, gradually acceded to proposals
for raising the price of salt throughout the
Empire at the rate of so many copper cash the
Chinese pound ; in such wise that, although
no one has yet dared to touch the land-tax, by
degrees everyone has come round to view with
equanimity considerable additions to the price
of salt, which, after all, is a fleeting form of Mr.



Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day → online text (page 20 of 35)