The Meaning of "鹽庫"(Salt Treasury) Inscribed on a Szechuan Drum


 

Weight: 371 grams/10 taels

 

Date: 1908 A.D.

 

Inscriptions: 三十四年/鹽庫/羅裕川亨

(Kuang Hsu) The 34th Year

Treasury of the Salt Affairs and Official Transportation Bureau

Lo (First name of the owner of the silver shop), Yu Chuan Heng (The silver shop)

 

There is a kind of Szechuan drum with the inscriptions of 三十四年.鹽庫.羅裕川亨as shown above, and surviving specimens are extremely scarce. What is the meaning of“鹽庫”(Salt Treasury)? Experts have proposed a number of different explanations, such as an inventory of salt tax silver or a territorial license for the sale of salt. None of the speculations are definitive because of a lack of supportive evidence. Another explanation just joined the debate; based mostly on the literal interpretation of 鹽庫, it urges that 鹽庫 was an abbreviation of 鹽庫平 meaning the weight scale of the Salt administration. The conclusion is still uncertain.  

According to my research, 鹽庫 means the silver treasury under 四川鹽務官運總局(the Szechuan Salt Affairs and Official Transportation Bureau, abbreviated as“the Bureau” below). The piece shown represented various taxes and add-on tax imposed on salt productions and sales, and was to be submitted to the central government, directly or indirectly. This piece, and others like it, was cast in the 34th year of Kuang Hsu, i.e., 1908 A.D., when the Szechuan governor 趙爾豐 initiated a financial reform in the province.               

1.    Background of the Bureau

In the 3rd year of Kuang Hsu (1877), based on a proposal from 唐烱, Governor丁寶禎 adopted a practice of salt affairs “Transported by Officials and Sold by Merchants”, the headquarter of the Bureau was located at 瀘州 (Lu Districxt) in central Szechuan, and branches were established in each of salt production sites and major markets.

2.    The major financial incomes were under the Bureau’s control

According to a document dated the 14th day, 2nd month of the 5th year of Kuang Hu (1879) in the files of the Bureau,  the turnover of the treasury of the Bureau totaled more than 3 million taels of silver, even though it had just started up and the business covered only the Kueichow market. Later, the Yunnan market was included, the amount grew to around 4 or 5 million taels of silver; it was about the same as the treasury of the provincial board of revenue, or a few times greater than the treasury of the provincial salt administration.

3.    Treasury of the Bureau used to be named “鹽庫”        

As indicated by 四川鹽務報告書(Report of the Szechuan Salt Affairs), in its 2nd chapter.

4.    In the 34th year of Kuang Hsu, the Bureau went through a financial reform

In the 34th year of Kuang Hsu, when Szechuan Governor 趙爾豐 was reorganizing the tax system, 經徵總局 (The Tax Levy General Bureau) was established in the capital city of Chengdu, and branches were opened in each county and district for the purpose of consolidating the collection of all kinds of taxes in the province. As a result, all the financial resources were focused on the new organization, and most of the treasured silver of 鹽庫 was deposited in there, too. Does this explain why this specimen and its counterparts were cast? And, why almost all of them were cast only in the 34th year of Kuang Hsu?(Until now, only one specimen is found dated the 1st year of Hsuan Tung, i.e., 1909 A.D.)    

5.   Why not 鹽庫平(The weight scale of the Salt Administration)?

It was a general practice for official sycee to be pressed with a stamp of “Place Name”, rather than “Name of a weight scale”. Moreover, 鹽庫平(the weight scale of the Salt Administration) was usually used in accounting books for the purpose of computation; as for casting a virtual Szechuan drum, the scale of 97, not 鹽庫平, would be adopted, even though such a name of scale would not be stamped on the surface of the sycee.   

存世有「三十四年.鹽庫.羅裕川亨」圓錠一種(如圖示)?瑪盗繋紫 F洹耕}庫」之涵義為何? 多年來曾引發各家之議論。論者有以儲放鹽稅銀的庫房、鹽岸之另稱等推論,由於證據薄弱而不足採; 另有以「鹽庫」為「鹽庫平」之簡稱,一時之間,眾說紛云,莫衷一是。

管見以為,「鹽庫」是指四川鹽務官運總局轄下的銀庫之意; 而本件應即該局上繳或轉解鹽茶道的引鹽課、稅、羨、截、加釐、併各票釐局解款。其時機是在光緒三十四年川督趙爾豐推行財政改革之際。

一、四川鹽務官運局成立的背景

光緒三年,總督丁寶禎因後補道唐烱請,變為官運商銷法,於瀘州居中置官運總局,於井灶所分置廠局,於各岸分置岸局.詳定章程十五條.奏既上,事下戶部,議如所請。(《四川鹽法志》,卷13,官運上,頁1-2)

二、該局掌握四川的主要財政收入

<
光緒五年二月十四日,官運鹽務局請添設吏書以昭慎重詳文>即記載,.開局之始,僅開辦黔邊,而一年局庫出入款項已有三百餘萬兩之多,現復兼辦滇岸,通計每年收發鹽本及一切雜款數目不下四、五百萬兩,實與川省藩庫相埒,而較鹽道庫不止倍加。

三、該局成立之後以至民國之初,該局的銀庫曾被簡稱為「鹽庫」

《四川鹽務報告書》即有關於「鹽庫」的記載,其第二編,「反正後之鹽政部,鹽庫之損失」即載明:鹽運司庫存儲經征各歸丁州縣引鹽課、稅、羨、截、加釐、併各票釐局解款。自前清署運司尹良詳准統一鹽政,所有一切收入之出,概歸鹽政公所,均有簿據可查。待去歲十月初七日反正前一日,其票岸公款應存庫平銀四十三萬零七百一十六兩二錢八分八釐以四零四申,合九七平銀四十四萬八千一百一十七兩二錢二分六釐.(轉引《清代四川財政史料》第299-300頁,四川社會科學院,1988.12ISBN7-80524-093-0)

四、光緒三十四年該局受新政之影響

光緒三十四年,四川推行新政,川督趙爾豐整頓稅務,於省城設立經徵總局,各州縣設立分局,將從前歸地方官經徵的地丁、津貼、捐輸、契稅、肉釐、酒稅、油捐、等稅改交委員統一徵解,剝奪州縣官吏財權.光緒末,四川藩署設立財政清查局.這些於同一時間發生的一系列財政改革,對於該局原有業務可能產生相當大的影響,這亦可從《四川鹽務報告書》有關宣統三年公款僅餘四十餘萬兩,與早年的四五百萬兩不可同日而語。因此,本件應是鹽庫在光緒三十四年四川實施財政改革之際所移交出的庫銀,這也解釋了何以這類鹽庫實物幾乎都是三十四年一種(樹蔭堂藏品中有一件宣統元年的鹽庫實物, 是目前唯一的例外)。

五、何以「鹽庫」不是「鹽庫平」

清代四川官錠的戳印習慣,排除存留銀不談,應加蓋解銀單位的名號,鹽庫在此不宜指鹽庫平,一方面即是因此之故,另一方面,是將使用的平砝標示於錠面,此作法亦不符慣例,顯得多此一舉。更進一步說,川錠鑄行慣用九七平銀,即使涉及與外省有關的鹽務而有必要載明()庫平,在四川方面亦應會換算回九七平銀,以便以本地平色鑄行。 這點在三、所揭示的《四川鹽務報告書》中可獲證明。


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