Regarding a Szechuan Salt Merchant-大生厚 (Da Shen Ho)


 

Weight: 336 grams/9+ taels

 

Date: 1891 A.D.

 

Inscriptions: 大生厚/光緒十七年富官引局/同春元

Da Shen Ho (Salt merchant)

The 17th Year of Kuang Hsu, FuSoon Official License Bureau

Tong Chun Yuan (Silver shop)

 

 

 

At the 7th day, the 11th month of the 12th year of Kuang Hsu (1886), the chief of the General Bureau of Salt Affairs and Official Transportation in Szechuan made a report to his superior officer, in response to a complaint filed by 李大生厚 (Li Da Shen Ho) and other salt merchants who accused then prevailing policy of salt transportation damage their business. 李大生厚 was the salt merchant who consigned to cast the drum piece and submitted it to 富官引局 (FuSoon Official License Bureau ) for acquiring licenses (, Yin) for the sale of salt. Through that report, we are now able to know more details about the roles played by a salt merchant and his business activities.

 

The inscriptions of this drum are「大生厚光緒十七年富官引局同春元」(Da Shen Ho -The salt merchant, the 17th year of Kuang Hsu FuSoon Official License Bureau, Tong Chun Yuan-The silver shop). 大生厚 hereof is the same salt merchant mentioned in the above report as 李大生厚. In order to explicitly show the ownership as well as responsibility of a salt dealer and silver firm, it became a general practice in Szechuan to put the family name of a business owner in front of his firms name in many occasions, and the first 2 characters of the firm's name were usually the first name of the owner. This rule of naming was also applied to many other salt merchants and silver firms, such as

 

「李大生厚」(Li, Da Shen Ho)

 

Name of the owner―李大生 (Li Da Shen)

Name of the firm―大生厚 (Da Shen Ho)

 

「王廣生同」(Wang, Guang Shen Tong):

 

Name of the owner―王廣生 (Wang Guang Shen)

Name of the firm―廣生同 (Guang Shen Tong)

 

「王裕國泉」(Wang, Yu Guo Chuan):

 

Name of the owner―王裕國(Wang Yu Guo)

Name of the firm―裕國泉 (Yu Guo Chuan)

 

「袁恒泰裕 (Yuan, Hen Tai Yu):

 

Name of the owner―袁恒泰 (Yuan Hen Ti)

Name of the firm―恒泰裕 (Hen Tai Yu)

 

「周義源和」(Jou, Yi Yuan Ho):

 

Name of the owner―周義源 (Jou Yi Yuan)

Name of the firm―義源和 (Yi Yuan Ho)

 

「謝恒足生」(Hsieh, Hen Ju Shen):

 

Name of the owner―謝恒足 (Hsieh Hen Ju)

Name of the firm―恒足生 (Hen Ju Shen)

   

The report is an allegation defending the Official Transportation Bureau against 李大生厚and some other salt merchants which the reporter alleges attempt to dominate the sales of Szechuan salt to the two neighborhood provinces- Kueichow and Hubei by filing a complaint to run for abolishing the salt official transportation policy. At that time, the policy was to transport the Szechuan salt to Kueichow and Hubei simultaneously by the official transportation bureau and the salt merchants which the salt merchants complained prejudice to their reasonable profits.

 

It is intriguing to learn from this report the identities of 李大生厚- Li Da Shen Ho, that  firm was not only a 行商 (salt merchant) as we are generally aware of, but also a 灶商 (furnace merchant, i.e., salt producer) and a 井商 (salt well operator) in 自流井 (Ze Liu Well) which was located in富順縣 (FuSoon County) and has been one of the major salt mines in Szechuan. It seems to reveal a fact that this firm had dominated the salt business under its local government's jurisdiction.

 

The result of the debate between the official transportation bureau and the salt merchants is beyond our understanding, however, because of the existence of this drum piece cast by 大生厚 in the 17th year of Kuang Hsu, we know that 大生厚 was still under the license of the salt business 5 years later.    

      

The report:

 

<<光緒十二年十一月初七日,四川官運鹽務總局夏時詳文>>:據富順縣自流井濟楚行商職員李大生厚等呈, 懇賞查楚計偷漏,以清引界而維鹽法等情控由。.查湖北咸、來等八州縣例配川鹽,因軍興後梟販充塞,引積課懸,口岸直同廢棄。前督憲丁始於光緒六年課奏設萬縣分局,將該案提歸官運,歲於額行水陸折合水引一千九百餘張外,帶銷積水引四五千張,每引攤徵正雜各款銀五十三兩有奇, 外官運收納庫平,每引實大於商平八兩左右。此平餘一項之所由來。此比濟楚行商上納渝釐及稅羨各項共銀五十二兩者,實覺有盈無絀。奏銷六屆,久為定章。款既由局徵收,商號無從偷漏。今井商李大生厚等呈內矇以偷漏渝釐為題,意圖聳聽,使以後官運成本加重,商運可以獨銷,覬覦之情,實在於此。.查當年濟楚之議,其要在化私為官,無論何商之鹽,但在鄂局納釐者,即為官鹽。宜、沙系淮商引地,本非李大生厚等認定引岸,計商同系川鹽,同納鄂釐,豈得謂之攙越。且前督憲丁所以必設萬局,以兼辦湖北八州縣者,苦衷實非得已,請為憲台縷晰陳之:

 

當辦黔邊時,自流井灶商如李大生厚、王廣生同等皆以飭改包斤,嚴禁夾帶,破其平日積弊,遂敢多方擾阻。黔省向食巴鹽,彼則巴圈改作花圈,盡燒花鹽運楚, 幾使黔民淡食。自萬局設而官商並運,花鹽只需此數,餘則無所用之,於是巴圈始多得以接濟黔岸,此不得已者一。

 

商人趨利本屬恆情,惟李大生厚、王廣生同等專利無忌,尤出恆情之外,當官運未開楚岸時,鹽價起跌無常,伊等有時將楚價提高,則廠價因之而高,其灶即獲利數倍,有時將廠價陡漲,則楚價因之而漲,其店亦獲利無涯。即如光緒四年有星使來川查辦事件,伊等趁機抬價,每鹽一張,忽漲價至一百六七十兩,較之近年幾多一半,邊民皆苦食貴,官運疲滯萬分,上下皆為所困。自萬局設而官商併行,互相維制,從前壟斷諸弊,漸次廓清,利權略分。商運不得抬價,並無大損於商人,而鹽價常平,民皆食賤,引銷課裕,為益實多,此不得已者又一。

 

今若禁止官運不至,宜、沙渝釐即有所增,而局款所損甚鉅,彼者小盈,此則大絀,奏銷時必至比較不敷,似非計之得者也。總之,川省行鹽應以有無利益為斷, 即楚岸銷引數目衡之,官運歲銷六七千張,商運亦六七千張,較前專由商運不足萬引者,實多銷三四千引。又即入款言之,官運攤徵及平餘共六十兩零,較商運一引,統僅五十二兩者,多寡判然。且多銷一引,即有一引入項,三四千引,計可多入二十萬兩上下。成案俱在,非可虛言支吾。<<清鹽法志>>252,四川9, 22-23 轉引<<清代四川財政史料>> () 233-234,四川社會科學院出版社1988


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