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Distilling Zinc in China: The Technology of Large-Scale Zinc Production in Chongqing During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (AD 1368-1911)

Zhou, W; (2012) Distilling Zinc in China: The Technology of Large-Scale Zinc Production in Chongqing During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (AD 1368-1911). Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Zinc made a relative late appearance in the metallurgical history of China. As a volatile metal, its production required sophisticated distillation installations. The production of this metal played a special role in both the technological and economic history of Ming and Qing China: as a key constituent of the copper-alloy brass, zinc was employed for coinage and also exported via long-distance maritime trade. Our understanding of Chinese zinc distillation technology has traditionally been limited by a lack of studies of production remains. Recent excavation of zinc smelting sites in Fengdu and Shizhu, Chongqing, provides an excellent opportunity to address this issue. This thesis presents the analyses, technical interpretation and socio-economic contextualisation of the production remains from three sites in Fengdu and one site in Shizhu. Zinc ore, zinc metal, retorts and slag were analysed by optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectrometry (SEM-EDS), electron probe micro-analyser with wavelength dispersive spectrometry (EPMA-WDS) and X-ray diffractometry (XRD). Following on a detailed technological reconstruction, some differences were found between the zinc distillation technologies in Fengdu and Shizhu, not only in technical efficiency but also in the organisation of production. These differences can be explained as adaptation of the zinc production for coinage to the different social, political and economic constraints affecting each group of sites. This thesis thus offers a first contribution towards a detailed comparative reconstruction of Chinese zinc distillation technology that considers both variations in time and space as well as common elements that characterise the Chinese technological style. The significance of Chinese zinc production is contextualised and discussed with reference to coinage in Ming and Qing China, but also by comparing it to other brass and zinc making technologies in China, India and Europe, and by assessing the influence of Chinese zinc in the international maritime trade.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Distilling Zinc in China: The Technology of Large-Scale Zinc Production in Chongqing During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (AD 1368-1911)
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Copyright restricted material has been removed from the e-thesis.
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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