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the nominal head of the whole concern, is desirous of avoiding riots and scandals. The troubles of this particular salt interest are illicit evaporating flats, and the attempts made by the rival systems of Shan Si, Shan Tung, and Kiang Su provinces to encroach upon its consumption ground. Most of the salt is obtained by simple evaporation ; but as the southern parts are very reedy indeed the words ch'ang-lu mean “long reeds,” the old Tartar dynasty name for the present Ts'ang Chou), a good deal is also made (according to the Chinese priest, Father Hoang) by boiling, with these salt reeds, the ashes of the same reeds soaked with sea-water. I have also seen a method closely akin to this last system followed in the island of Hainan, in the extreme south of China.
The Two Hwai, i.e. the Northern and Southern Hwai, is, and within strictly historical times always has been, the largest saltproducing interest in China. I have its modern history before me, year by year, ever since 1645; but as the veteran viceroys Tsêng Kwofan and Tso Tsung t'ang thoroughly re-organised and overhauled the business after its virtual collapse during the T'aiping Rebellion of forty years ago, it is unnecessary for present purposes to go into historical detail. The name “ Two Hwai " is derived from the once important river of that name, which at times has been identical with the Lower Yellow River; but since that last-named erratic watercourse took its final plunge north in 1851, the Hwai has never succeeded in reaching the sea as such : it has lost itself in the Canal, the lake district, and the marshy region generally where the salt-pits are. A glance at Dr. Bretschneider's recently published excellent map of China, which shows the levels and the comparative breadth of the watercourses, will enable any one to grasp the situation more clearly. The salt-flats are all between the Grand Canal and the sea. The Grand Canal (very roughly) is the western frontier of Kiang Su. The Salt Commissioner resides at Yangchow, opposite Chinkiang, and from that point up to the Old Yellow River mouth, from the Canal due east to the sea, is the reedy southern Hwai region, where the salt is obtained by boiling brine obtained from salt earth or salt reed-ashes. It is sold in three or four qualities, according to the amount of filtration and purification it undergoes, and serves considerable portions of Hu Peh and Hu Nan, and even those parts of Kwei Chou belonging to the Hu Nan river system. The Northern Hwai region lies between Shan Tung, the Canal, and the River Hwai : here the salt is evaporated in the sun, and this region is supposed to supply the greater part of the provinces of Kiang Si and An Hwei. The areas of Ho Nan and Kiang Su over which Hwai salt ranges are apportioned between the northern and southern varieties, but these minutiæ do not fall within the scope of this paper. At different times during this century the revenue derived from Hwai salt has reached as much as 5,000,000 taels a year; but likin had not then been invented. Since the Great Rebellion of 1855-63, and the subsequent reorganisation, the total has once more reached very nearly that sum ; but, a large proportion of the receipts being in the shape of likin, the taxation falls much more oppressively and directly upon the people than in former days. A large number of influential officials-notably Li Hung-chang's family ---are sleeping partners in this speculation, and any British syndicate hoping to come to terms with the Chinese Government would do well to begin by interesting these individuals, whose "sleep" becomes abnormally active when their pockets are threatened. The only possible way to secure their suffrages would be to capitalise the concern according to Chinese ideas of what interest is due upon investments; guarantee them, as original shareholders, the interest to which they are accustomed, besides a percentage of profits on the takings from reconstructed capital; introduce foreign supervision at the main distribution centres, with foreign control at the salines; and set foreign machinery and capital in motion. No scheme could possibly succeed which should involve a sharp rise in retail price, or ignore the interests of the present monopolists.
The Shan Tung salt enterprise is by far the oldest of all, and certainly dates back for over 4,000 years. The salt is obtained by evaporation from places in what may be styled the German sphere, that is from the lowlands of Kiao Chou and the two districts south of it, and from the four districts around the present (and ancient) mouth of the Yellow River. There is no salt on the peninsula itself. Besides supplying the whole of its own province, Shan Tung salt has easy river communication from the southern salines to those three wedges of Kiang Su, Ho Nan, and An Hwei (Suh Chou) which together form part of the valley of the Old Yellow River (i.e. the one previous to 1851); and these districts, being more or less inaccessible by water from the Hwai system, are therefore supplied by Shan Tung. Up to 1837 the Salt Commissioner at Tientsin used to manage the business, but in that year it was transferred to the Governer, under whom a Salt Commissioner now works at Tsi-nan Fu. The revenue derived therefrom does not exceed 300,000 taels a year; moreover, the population is dense, poor, and in scme parts in a chronic state of starvation from the effects of flood. Under these circumstances no one need grudge any welldeserved honours or emoluments the Germans may gain by taking the matter thoroughly in hand.
The lake salt works of Shan Si province are perhaps the next in order of antiquity, for it is known from the old histories that they used to supply the extreme west, until the hydrogen wells of Sz Ch’wan were discovered 2,200 years ago. Up to A.D. 506 the former were a Government monopoly; but in that year a large number of them were thrown open to free exploitation by the Tartar dynasty then ruling in the north. At present the chief production area concentrates round the great lake in the extreme south, near the city of Kiai (Chou); and the “ official lands," as they are now called, date from about 1,000 years ago, when the Chinese dynasty which ultimately succeeded
after the expulsion of the Tartars placed eighteen salt marshes under Government control. In 1792 the salt dues were merged in the landtax over a considerable area, so that free trade in salt was to a certain extent restored. In 1846 it was proposed to abandon even the official lands to public competition; but, as it would then have been nobody's duty in particular to look after the complicated system of mud walls and conduits which protect the pits, this idea was given up. At present the Government derives a revenue of about 500,000 taels from what is called the Ho-tung system (Ho-tung, or “ East of the River," being the old name for Shan Si), and the Salt Commissioner resides at P’u-chou. His salt, owing to ancient chartered rights, has only a limited circulation in the southern half of his own province; in the lowlands of Shen Si (along the River Wei); and in the western half of Ho Nan. A close watch has to be kept to prevent this salt from working its way into Hu Peh by the tributaries of the River Han. As the Shan Si salt lakes all fall within the sphere of the so-called Rothschild Syndicate, and as the industry has long been in a moribund state, no time should be lost by a British syndicate in getting "home" in this matter.
A formidable rival of the above monopoly has always been in recent times the salt from the Mongol Lake Ghilen-tai, which at one time was allowed to come down the Yellow River from Alashan right down into the heart of China. In 1806 the Mongol Prince Mahabala of Alashan was induced to offer his lake to China in exchange for a fixed salary, and arrangements were made to allow the Ho-tung Syndicate to take his business over and supply the northern area of Shan Si themselves, paying the Government 63,580 taels a year for the privilege of monopolising Mongol salt in addition to their own, and establishing stores and stations at Tokto, and at other suitable points on the river in the Ordos region : but this plan was soon found impracticable on account of the great distances involved; so in 1812 Mahabala's salary was stopped, and his lake was once more put under his own management. Salt river carriage beyond a certain distance has since been forbidden, and free trade is allowed not only in North Shan Si salt from the minor lakes scattered about, but also in Mongol salt from Ghilen-tai, so long as it comes into China proper on the backs of men or animals, and not by water. The well-known customs station at Shahu K'ou taxes it on the way, and it is at liberty to travel thence within the enclave formed by the two Great Walls eastwards to Chih Li province. Besides the Ghilen-tai Lake, there are minor salt marshes in the Ordos Mongol “Loop” country, and in the pasture lands of the Sunid Mongols, commanding the desert road to Uliassutai. As Uliassutai collects a considerable sum in dues on salt, it is probably this Sunid salt carried thither on camels; the portion which goes through the ultramural steppe east to the enclave is taxed at the customs station of Kalgan (a Russian treaty “port”). ·
The salt organisation of the Two Chêh is a very important one, and dates from the time when East Chêh included that part of Kiang Su south of the Yangtsze, the delta of which river then included Hangchow (Polo's Kinsai). Shortly before the date of Marco Polo's arrival, East Chêh Kiang province extended from Shanghai south to Wênchow and west to Chin Kiang, whilst West Chêh Kiang included Nanking and Hangchow. Consequently we still find that the Two Chêh system includes all the above (except Nanking), and also the wedges of Kiang Si and An Hwei provinces lining the Chếh Kiang frontiers. The evaporation and boiling of salt are carried on along nearly the whole coastline. During the eighteenth century there were a good many changes, in consequence of the Governor not possessing sufficient military control over the preventive service; in 1736 the Provincial Treasurer was placed in charge; in 1793 the Silk Commissioner or Imperial Tailor at Hangchow : but at last in 1821 the responsibility reverted to the Governor, who is still supervisory chief over the Salt Commissioner at Hangchow. During the Taiping Rebellion in 1855-63 it was found necessary to authorise temporarily the consumption of Chêh Kiang salt in the valley of the higher Yangtsze, that river being as far as Yo-chou practically under the control of the rebels; it found its way into Kiang Si by the route of the Poyang Lake, for the Imperialists managed to hold on to Kewkiang. The island of Tinghai (near Chusan) produces a salt of its own, and enjoys free consumption in exchange for a small addition to the land-tax. This salt is known as Tai salt, and in 1851 showed a tendency to encroach ; but in that year official arrangements were made to buy it up and place its distribution under traders' control. The Government derives about 500,000 taels a year from the taxation of Chêh Kiang salt. There is a good opening here for a British syndicate, for all the places of production are on the coast, and easily accessible to steamers and lighters : but the network of rivers, lakes, and canals is such that the Hwai and Chêh systems would be more conveniently dealt with by a British company together as one concern, the natural area for the united supply being the Yangtsze delta and valley up to Yo-chou (now a treaty port); the whole drainage system of the Poyang and Tungting Lakes; and the jumble of irregular water-courses formed by the River Hwai, the Grand Canal, and the Hungtsêh Lake.
Fuh Kien salt has a comparatively modern history, that province not having been brought under the full control of the imperial system during more than a thousand years. It must always be remembered that the Chinese race has spread outwards, like a fan, towards the sea. Consequently, whilst we Europeans regard the coasts as the first and most progressive places, because first touched at by our ships, the Chinese regard them as the remotest and latest conquests of their civilisation, where alone rude and incomprehensible dialects are spoken. In the interior of China there is practically but one tongue. There are accordingly only half the number of salines in Fuh Kien that there are in Chêh Kiang, and the province has never supplied any other area than itself and parts of Formosa (which island was part of administrative Puh Kien until it became Japanese). The Salt Commissioner is a comparatively subordinate officer, who has always been in charge at the same time of the "ship-building yards”-referring, I suppose, to the large junk navies which used to be kept up to watch the commerce with Loochoo, Japan, the Philippines, Siam, and foreign countries generally. Although no mention is made of the fact in any official papers, or, indeed, anywhere, I myself discovered, and watched step by step, when travelling in those parts, an enormous clandestine trade in Fuh Kien salt up the river between Wênchow and Lung-ts'üan on the inner frontier, amounting (I calculated) to over 70,000 tons a year. I now find, on reference to the Manchu Annals, that even in 1851 this region was overrun with clandestine salt,"'-doubtless the thousands of small boats, each carrying one ton, I actually saw in 1884. The trade is now connived at, and pays the people, the speculators, and the officials all very handsomely. There being no telegraph at Wenchow, the mandarins can hoodwink as much as they please.
I published a very detailed account of the celebrated salt-wells of Sz Ch’wan in Chambers's Journal for August, 1896, and there is a still more detailed account in the China Review for 1881-2.
It is certainly (at its chief centre in Fu-shun district) one of the most marvellous industries in the world, and one in connection with which machinery and foreign management would work the greatest economies and reforms. There is enough hydrogen gas wasted to light the whole province, and enough waste or wear-and-tear in the shape of human and cattle labour to support the most expensive machinery at an ultimate gain. Out of 8,000 wells, 5,000 were working when I was there, most of them day and night, and producing, I calculated, at least 600,000 tons a year. At that time the viceroy Ting Pao-chên had just reformed the entire system, which now supplies the whole of Sz Ch'wan; the greater part of Kwei Chou; a wedge of Yün Nan; and certain districts in Hu Nan (Li Chou), Hu Peh, and even Tibet. The provincial government collects at least 2,000,000 taels in dues and taxes, besides smaller sums on behalf of other provinces, which, in consideration, pass it freely. Sz Ch'wan salt received a great fillip during the Taiping Rebellion, when the Hwai system was blocked, and it was then that the well salt had to be admitted into the north part of the Tungting Lake region, from which it has never since been completely ousted. The result is a fearful complication of accounts, each of the two syndicates having its officers to collect " compensation ” in the hostile camp. The official supervision for Sz Ch'wan is in the hands of an official known as the “tea and salt intendant," subject, of course, to the Viceroy's supreme control.
The Black Salt Wells of Yün Nan have a very old history, extending back to the time when the Siamese races were in sole possession of those parts.
The wells have had their vicissitudes during the present dynasty, first during the satrapy of the rebel Wu San-kwei 200 years ago, and again during the Panthay Rebellion of the sixties. According to the most recent accounts (1897), they were doing remarkably well