Early Mining

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Zisha mining in Yixing did not arise in isolation, independent from the extent mining-technology and mining-governance in place across China. Metal and clay mining were already a well-developed industry in the late Ming[1], with state sponsored specialization in mine construction and management across geographic regions and target materials. The Qing dynasty inherited much of the bureaucracy and institutions of the preceding Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644 CE), including state ownership or support of mine governance, trade-networks, and workshops. The government mining bureaucracy and private enterprises coordinated, under government direction, the systematic acquisition, transmission, and systemization of artisanal knowledge for the collection, refinement, and use of extracted ore. The resulting distribution of knowledge and technology increased mine efficiency and the resulting quality of the refined ore[2] into usable and desirable material for coinage, bullion, art, and wares. Government mandarins[3] in the Qing were the main inheritors and progenitors of the evolving state-philosophy of Neo-Confucianism (宋明理學, SongMing LiXue)[4] and its systemization of rational knowledge[5]; the Qing government performed systematic studies on mining: creating sketches, models, and documentary descriptions of the processes, for empire-wide distribution via gazetteers, court materials, and manuscripts[6]. The knowledge of the miners and craftsmen were frequently oral-transmissions in the local vernacular; the literati created new characters and pronunciations in literary Chinese to communicate the ideas and concepts to other scholars.

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