Why was salt more precious than gold in ancient times?

Salt has the reputation of “the king of all flavors”. As early as in ancient times, salt was a “thing hidden in the sky” that was more valuable than gold. “Descendants of Yan and Huang”, this Chinese specific title appeared precisely because of salt – the competition for salt led to the merger of Yan and Huang, and on this basis the “Huaxia Nation” appeared.

At present, with the popularity of the TV series “The Salt Merchant in Qing Dynasty”, many viewers are paying more attention to “salt”. It is said that water is the source of life, in fact, “salt” is also indispensable in our life. Moreover, salt played an important role in the formation and development of the entire Chinese civilization, and gradually formed a rich and diverse “salt culture”. In the eyes of the ancients, salt was regarded as an omnipotent “thing in the sky”, and the birth and formation of “the descendants of Yan and Huang” and the “Huaxia nation” were even closely related to salt…

The “contest for salt” led to the merger of Yan and Huang with “The Five Thousand Years of History of China”, which believed: “The bloody battle between Yan and Huang was actually caused by salt.”

Salt has the reputation of “the king of all flavors”. As early as in ancient times, salt was a “thing hidden in the sky” that was more valuable than gold. “Descendants of Yan and Huang”, this Chinese specific title appeared precisely because of salt – the competition for salt led to the merger of Yan and Huang, and on this basis the “Huaxia Nation” appeared.

Yandi and Huangdi were originally two primitive tribal leaders. According to the records of “Historical Records: The Chronicle of Five Emperors”, they were integrated after the “Battle of Banquan”. Next, Huangdi and Yandi joined forces to defeat Chiyou, the leader of the Jiuli tribe of Dongyi, through the “Battle of Zhuolu”. Since then, the large and small tribes on the land of China have moved towards unity and unity to form the “Huaxia Nation”, and then “China”.

Why did the Battle of Banquan and the Battle of Zhuolu break out? The reason given in “Historical Records” is that Emperor Yan bullied the surrounding princes and Chiyou was disobedient. In fact, these two battles were all caused by salt, a “battle for salt”!

The emergence of this point of view comes from the location of the battle. Where are “Banquan” and “Zhuolu”? The textbooks published in the mainland now believe that they are in Hebei, and Fan Wenlan’s “General History of China” also holds this view. However, many authoritative scholars in the field of history disagreed. The historian Qian Mu of the Republic of China passed research and put forward in his book “The Outline of National History” published in the 1940s: “The Ban Spring is located in the upper source of Yanchi, Jie County, Shanxi, and is close to Chiyou City, Chiyou Village and Zhuoze. Zhuoze, that is, Zhuolu.”

Mining and Processing of Salt in Ancient China

Xie County Salt Pond is one of the earliest natural salts discovered and utilized in China, referred to as “Jie Chi”, also called “Hedong Salt Pond”. In the “Introduction to Chinese Cultural History” published later, Qian Mu further proposed that Yanchi in Xiexian County “became a common target for all tribes in the Central Plains of ancient China. Therefore, whoever occupies Yanchi means that he has the qualifications of the common leader of all tribes.”

There is another historian Zhang Qiyun who directly proposed that the Battle of Banquan and the Battle of Zhuolu were “Battles of Salt”. Zhang Qiyun said in “The Five Thousand Years of History of China” published in Taiwan in 1981: “The Yellow Emperor defeated Emperor Yan in Banquan, and captured Chiyou in Zhuolu. rise”.

Although there are still doubts about the view of the “Battle of Salt”, it has been recognized and accepted by scholars of the history of Chinese salt industry.

Yao, Shun, and Yu both built a city near Yanchi in the poem “Confucius’s Family Language”: “When the south wind comes, it can enrich the wealth of my people.”

The Yellow Emperor launched a war against Emperor Yan and Chiyou, basically to control salt, an extremely important people’s livelihood and strategic material. After the Yellow Emperor killed Chiyou, he began to build a city on the mound near Zhuolu, the so-called “city in Zhuolu”.

Since then, salt still occupies an irreplaceable position in the process of Chinese civilization. Yao, Shun, and Yu became the emperors and queens who unified China successively, and invariably chose Pingyang (now Linfen, Shanxi), Puban (now Yongji, Shanxi), and Anyi (now the north of Yuncheng, Shanxi) near Yanchi to build cities. , Shundu, Yudu, so far the local historical records are referred to on behalf of them. Why did Yao, Shun, and Yu build cities in these places? It was out of the consideration of defending Yanchi. Zhang Qiyun said it was “obviously related to defending this important place in Yanchi”.

While salt brought forward strength to the Chinese nation, it also brought rich wealth, so the three emperors Yao, Shun and Yu were full of gratitude for salt. In today’s opinion, Emperor Shun is a very professional musician, or at least a super music enthusiast. He is good at playing the banjo, and he once composed a piece of “South Wind”, which poetically expresses the importance of salt to the people and the country. The “South Wind” in “Confucius Jiayu: Debate and Music Interpretation” is written like this: “The fragrance of the south wind can relieve the sullenness of my people, and the time of the south wind can relieve the wealth of my people.” Why Shun The emperor wants to sing the south wind? At that time, pond salt was produced naturally and depended on the sky for food. When the south wind blows, the salt water will quickly evaporate and condense into salt, which is the so-called “morning and evening life” in the “Three Qins”. At that time, pond salt had become an important source of income.

During the Spring and Autumn Period, the salt that triggered the war of primitive tribes and contributed to the formation of the Chinese nation continued to play a role in the progress of Chinese civilization and the integration of the national territory. At this time, Yanchi in Xie County was owned by Jin. “Zuo Zhuan · Chenggong Six Years” said that this pond salt is the “national treasure” of Jin. Jin State became rich and strong because of the pool salt, so Duke Wen of Jin was promoted to the list of “Five Hegemons of Spring and Autumn”. Yi Dun, a tycoon from the Jin state who was originally from Lu, was originally a poor scholar. He quickly became rich after running Jiexian Chiyan, and “Records of the Grand Historian·Huozhi Biography” called him “rich with the king”

HOAI NAM – LINKPIZ.COM

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