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probable that this province will be pre-eminent, not only for the quality of its coal, but also for its quantity.
The most observable particular relative to the use of coal in China is the insignificant quantity consumed by the people. It has been estimated from reliable data that this consumption does not annually exceed nine hundred thousand tons, and this estimate includes what is used in the foundries and distilleries. Great Britain, with less than one-twelfth the population, exceeds China in her expenditure of coal in the proportion of seventy-five
In their households, both in the North and South, the Chinese rarely use fire except for the preparation of boiling water for their tea, or for the cooking of the necessary meals, and for these, purposes a portable earthenware brazier and a little charcoal are found sufficient. The explanation of the slight consumption of coal lies in the simple fact, that to the majority of the people that kind of fuel is all but unknown. In the agricultural districts the farmers make considerable use of their refuse roots and stalks, and at some of the Northern markets compositions of coaldust and earthy substance, made into small square blocks, are exposed for sale and find purchasers among the village poor; but, in a general sense, the fuel almost exclusively burnt throughout China is charcoal.
Considering the violent changes of temperature to which their country is peculiarly subject, it is strange that the Chinese have not adopted some satisfactory method of heating their houses. Whether in the cold North or burning South, they build precisely upon the same plan, and utterly ignore the use of chimneys and open fire-places. Some of the houses in Shantung and Chihle have in the principal sleeping apartments a narrow brickcasing, inside which is burnt a small wood fire, the upper part of the casing serving the purpose of a bed-place; but, as a rule, the people are content to overcome the cold of winter by the unhealthy but economical plan of excluding the fresh air, and by wearing thickly padded clothing. Thus, so far as the Chinese themselves are concerned, it is not probable that any large increase in their present consumption of coal would be likely to take place; but, now that foreign steamers carry cargoes upon their principal rivers, they will soon discover that the native coal is likely to become valuable as an article of commerce. This fact, when clearly ascertained, will urge the inhabitants of the coal districts to devote more labour to their work, and, when aided by the mechanical knowledge of the West, we may expect to find them supply sufficient to meet the requirements of the vessels trading on the China Sea. As the seams become more deeply
worked the coal will be of a better quality than what is now produced, and will give engineers and stokers less cause for complaint.
In Shansi, the province that supplies the best coal, is also found the purest iron-ore. The methods commonly adopted by the Chinese for the production of cast and malleable iron, although in some respects imperfect, evince a considerable degree of skill. The rough ore is usually found in nodules, near the surface of the ground; these, after being roughly cleaned of all earthy substance, are thrown into small furnaces capable of containing about a ton; with the ore is mixed either charcoal or common pit coal in its ordinary state, and not, as in England, transformed into coke. The iron when melted is run out into moulds of sand, and left to cool. The principal objects cast are cinerary urns, braziers, incense-vases, idols for the Buddhist temples, large cooking pans, and bells, together with quantities of grotesque and intricate castings useful for garden or household ornaments. Guns of all sizes below forty-two pounders are also cast, but with less correctness and less finish than should be expected, considering the length of time that has elapsed since the art of gun-casting was introduced into the empire. To obtain malleable iron the workmen dig in the ground near the furnaces a circular space from four to six inches deep, and several feet in diameter. Round this space is built a wall about two feet high. The iron flows from the furnace into this reservoir, and is there allowed to rest for several minutes; men then station themselves on the wall, and with thick poles rapidly stir the molten matter at their feet for such time as experience has taught them is necessary. As the iron cools, some of the workmen separate it into small rectangular blocks, others work it into short round bars. The blocks and bars are then piled up, and eventually sent away for sale to all parts of the country, but chiefly to Tientsin and Hankow.
In the manufacture of their gun-barrels the Chinese have of late largely employed English bar-iron, which they find to be much more malleable than their own, and in consequence of this fact the importation of foreign iron has within the last few years considerably increased. The state of the native iron-trade is not, however, such as to give cause for the opinion that the import of foreign iron will continue to increase, as it is found that for all purposes of ordinary workmanship and all agricultural and farm implements the Chinese iron meets all the requirements of the people. In its rough state they purchase it at the moderate rate of about nine shillings per cwt., and, owing to the numbers and skill of the travelling blacksmiths, the necessary tools are
obtained at a very small cost. The total amount of iron used is, as compared with what is used by European nations, very insignificant, for the Chinese do not employ it except where absolutely necessary; and thus it is not surprising that such small quantities are found stored in the principal cities. The intro duction of foreign iron is chiefly dependent upon the use of firearms, and its demand will for many years be proportional to this want; but whenever the Chinese are enabled to produce wrought iron of equal quality and cheapness, they will return to their constant rule of trusting as far as possible to their own native
With regard to the relative importance of the precious metals, silver, in virtue of its general use as a medium of exchange, holds the first rank. It is principally obtained from some mines in the province of Yunnan, near the borders of Cochin China ; there are also said to be extensive Government mines in Shansi and Shantung, but our information with respect to them is at present incomplete, and we have no data from which it is possible to estimate the amount extracted. It is evident, however, judging from the quantity used and exported, that the mines both in the north and south are rich and extensively worked. Silver is brought into the market in variously sized ingots, which from their shape have been called shoes. These ingots represent certain fixed weights in Taels, and are stamped, as a guarantee for their purity, with the names of the chief workmen and bankers, and also the district from which they are sent, and the year in which they are cast.* This Sycee silver, so called from the combination of two Chinese words denoting fineness, is sold by weight, and in all transactions of importance is almost invariably employed for the purpose of exchange. The indemnities for the late wars have been paid in this form, and it is in Sycee also that all the taxes in money are collected, and forwarded to the provincial or imperial treasuries.
In those commercial ports now open to trade the ordinary coinage employed in the transactions with foreigners are Spanish and Mexican dollars. These, however, as they change their owners, decrease rapidly in value, in consequence of the Chinese custom of stamping on them the name of the last possessor or some other mark to prove their purity, by which process the coin in the course of time becomes flattened, and a certain quantity of the silver is lost. Eventually, when the original Spanish or Mexican stamps become effaced, and the dollars are no
*The Tael is a Chinese measure of weight, which in silver is equal in value to about six shillings and twopence sterling. The shoes vary in weight from five to fifty tacls.
longer recognisable, they are broken and sold by weight to the money-changers, and subsequently melted down into bullion. Dollars are almost entirely unknown among the inhabitants of the towns and villages in the interior, whose only currency consists either of copper cash, or pieces of pure silver valued according to weight.
Gold is obtained from Yunnan and Shansi, but not to any great extent. The streams in the first-named province and in Sz-chuen carry with them, in their rapid course from their sources in the mountains of Tibet, grains of gold in sufficient quantities to repay the labour of the gold-seekers living near their banks. The most important of these streams is the 'Kincha-kiang,' or "Golden-sanded river.' The Kincha takes its rise among the southern slopes of the Northern Tibetan range, and its course through Yunnan and Sz-chuen deposits such a considerable number of grains that a large proportion of the labour in the western portions of these provinces is devoted to the searching of its sand-flats and rocky crevices. The Kincha after receiving several tributaries changes its character and name, and before leaving Sz-chuen becomes the well-known river Yang-tze.
Gold is not employed in any form in the currency of the empire, and its use is chiefly confined to ornamental purposes. In many of the richer Buddhist temples there are a few gold images and grotesque figures, and at the Yuen-min-yuen Palace there were found several ornaments made from a native gold of great purity. Among the mass of the people, especially in the interior, this metal is almost unknown. The Australian and Californian emigrants are, however, beginning to create a change in this respect; and we hear that small ingots from two to three inches long, and containing about ninety-five per cent, of pure gold, are being sent down for export from the North-Western provinces.
The only coin that is universally current and well understood by all classes is the small circular copper piece called tsien, better known by foreigners by the general term cash. A considerable proportion of the copper found in Yunnan and Kwangsi is employed in the provincial mints for the purpose of casting this money. The cash are stamped with the title of the dynasty and the name of the reigning emperor, and are theoretically supposed to be pure metal; but they are invariably so much debased by the admixture of iron filings and sand that they practically lose onethird of their proper value. The Chinese in their currency adopt the decimal system. Each cash has in the centre a small square hole, through which are run strings. Ten cash thus strung together represent one candareen; ten candareens are called one
mace; and ten mace are supposed to represent the value of one tael of silver. At present, however, the cash have become so much depreciated that fifteen and even sixteen mace are usually demanded as an equivalent for the tael. Amongst a people so singularly constituted some great advantages are derived from the general use of a coin of such slight value as the cash. In European markets it would not be easy to find any equivalents for the fifth of a farthing; but in China, where everything is sold by weight-where pork, fish, and other necessaries are cut up in fragments according to the demand-there cannot be any coin so small that would not find its corresponding value in kind; and thus the labourer or mechanic goes to market with his string of cash, and is enabled to purchase his exact modicum of rice, his little ration of vegetables, the handful of ground-nuts, and, perhaps, a square inch of fish or pork, and returns home to enjoy a varied and nutritious meal at the smallest possible cost. The use of the cash is also of especial advantage among the crowded and under-paid working classes in the cities, as it enables them to buy precisely and exactly what they require, even to a single nail. It also fixes at a low sum the price of porterage and water transit. Next to coinage, copper is chiefly employed for the purpose of manufacturing gongs, bells, and ornamental figures or vases; it is also much used in making those tripod urns in which are kept the ashes of the incense-sticks consumed in the pagodas and temples.
Considering the well-known energy of the people, their aptitude for labour, and the presumed mineral and metallic wealth of the empire, the results obtained from the working of the mines fall much below what might have been reasonably expected; and it is remarkable that the Government are contented to receive, as the annual product of the taxation of the whole of the mines, the comparatively small sum of 700,0007. sterling.
The Chinese have, perhaps, made less advance in the various arts of working and casting metals than in any other branch of industry; they nevertheless deserve even in these respects more credit than is usually given to them. At the Taku and other forts bordering on the Pei-ho there were found, placed in battery, many most accurately cast brass guns, averaging in weight from nine to eleven tons, or more than double that of the Armstrong 100pounder. These guns evidenced most careful work; and although of great length, they exhibited no flaws, and were free from all irregularities of surface. Their projectiles, however, are not equal to the guns, for they have hitherto failed in their attempts to cast perfectly spherical shot, and thus the practice at long ranges is always necessarily indifferent.