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Traditional Technology for the Production of Salt in Daning Saltworks: The Influence of Technology on Society

Boqin Liao (Southwest China Normal University)

Based on my field work and a close examination of writing sources, This paper is an investigation into the history of the Daning saltworks (吹撙鹣演), currently situated on the boundary between Sichuan and Hubei. It discusses the traditional technology for producing salt, analyzes the influence of this industry on social development, and searches for the reasons behind the survival of Daning saltworks up to the present day. According to archaeological finds from tombs dating from the Stone Age in Daxigou of Wushan County, it can be deduced that the Daning Saltworks were already in existance in the Stone Age. Later, when salt was traded as commodity, the remote districts along the Daning River, became a major cultural center along the middle and upper reaches of the Yangzi River. This was the central region of the Ba and Chu cultures. To gain possession of the various salt springs in the eastern region of Ba (two in the mountains, others in the Daning riverbed), the states of Qin and Chu warred against each other for a long time. During the Qin Dynasty, Li Bing (�詐) bored the first salt well in the west of Sichuan. Later, when the technology for the thick bamboo tube well was invented, the salt output in Shu (賣) became greater than that in the eastern Ba region. Natural salt springs were used by the Daning Saltworks (It is known that Daning Saltworks still produces salt. In dry seasons, the salt content is 5-6%, in rain seasons, the content is 2-3% ). Because of the special geographical conditions of the Daning River which crosses between salt springs and people's living places, a particular kind of installation for transferring salt water, called Jiaohong (絞扰, some kind of suspension bridge for transferring salt water) was invented, and the first day in October was chosen to be the annual "Jiaohong Festival". The saltworks changed gradually fuel from firewood to coal in Ming and Qin Dynasty. The trade of the salt not only made plank roads (永劊) built along the face of a cliff between Daning River but also diffused the civilization of Ba and Chu to districts along the Yangzi River. The survival of the Saltworks can be explained by the specific natural environment of the region and the quality of the salt produced by the saltworks. Although the traditional technology was simple, it suited local people's style of life. This is a example of the way in which traditional technologies adapt to the natural geographical and human environments.

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