Annual Salt Distribution Quota (ASDQ) in Szechuan, and a Salt Capital Piece Relating to ASDQ Cast by its Officials 

四川綱銀與官鑄鹽本


No.Sc10/47

 

Weight: 398 grams/11- taels

 

Date: 1906 A.D.

 

Inscriptions: 邛州丙午鹽本

Chung District

Bin Wu (The celestial year Bin Wu, i.e., 1906)

Salt Capital

 

A reform of salt affairs in Szechuan took place in the 3rd year of Kuang Hsu. Accordingly, an annual salt distribution quota was set for each production area and market ("ASDQ").  ASDQ was reviewed and revised annually, and was renamed with the name of then current  celestial year.  This piece having the inscription of "丙午"(Bin Wu) was actually a name of ASDQ dating to that year, i.e., the 32nd year of Kuang Hsu or 1906 A.D., for the time being, it is the only surviving piece found relating to ASDQ.           

Also, according to that reform, the Szechuan officials undertook to pay the price of salt to manufacturers and transport it to merchants in each market. From the salt merchants, the officials were repaid for the costs and expenses of their entire service. This piece is also the only specimen of salt capital found cast by the officials as reimbursement to salt manufacturers. We learn from other salt capital pieces which were all cast by salt merchants that, in most cases, the officials were just by-passing them from the salt merchants to the salt manufacturers.         

 

《四川鹽法志》:光緒三年續定鹽務章程鹽務款項繁多,不立大綱,不惟場岸各局積欠易於牽混,即總局亦難得其要領。今仿兩淮鹽法,以甲子為總綱,如本年丁丑即丁丑綱俾各局咸知綱領,罔有紊亂,局事雖繁,條理自一。

本件「邛州丙午鹽本」(
398 克),應是四川仿傚兩淮推行綱鹽之制後所出現的鹽本實物。

銘文中的「丙午」即「丙午綱」之意。丙午綱,則是指丙午年(光緒三十二年,
1906)所配銷的鹽引之意。據四川鹽法志所載,該省丙午綱行銷正餘引九千五十一道。

鹽本,顧名思義,為購鹽之成本。四川官運鹽務局於光緒五年設立,嗣後,邛州行鹽亦採官運商銷,與其他引地相同,「均係官為購選,到岸發領」(《四川官運鹽案類編》卷
11) ,因此官運鹽務局需先撥給灶戶鹽本以作為薪材油炭之費。

鹽本雖由官局所墊付,其來源終究是鹽商。據記載:「官運現收岸鹽價銀,仍照運平。較現九七平每百兩加四兩二錢是謂之『運平』。其發諸場商也。由官運分局於每百兩扣銀數分,取其整件高色,攙雜低色零件始以給諸灶商」(宣統二年十二月《蜀根》第十期,轉引《清代四川財政史料》下冊) 官運鹽務局在經手鹽本的過程,透過平色的操縱,獲取許多陋規。本件應是該局收自鹽商後為了支付予灶商所自行改鑄的鹽本銀。其造型頗有特色,重量亦較大,但成色確實稍遜一般。

不過,官局謀利的手法可能是著重於平砝,較少投爐改鑄剋扣成色,因本件這類的官鑄鹽本,實不多見。目前存世的鹽本銀錠實物仍以商鑄為主。


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