truth in facts’ has been an important rule throughout the Chinese
Communist Party’s history, and numerous investigations of local
conditions were undertaken by activists in various places in the
party’s early years. Mao Zedong’s report on an investigation of Xunwu
County in 1930 has been
published (in 1982) because it was written by him, long before he
a leading figure in the party; undoubtedly many other reports, equally
valuable for historians, lie unread in the archives. The Chinese text
of the report is 141 pages long and gives a detailed description of
social and economic conditions in the county and its most important
city, also called Xunwu. The part translated here is Section 17 of
Chapter 3, ‘Trade’. For the places mentioned see the map.
17. Iron production
There are three blacksmiths’ shops in Xunwu, with Master Ye, Master
Yang, and Master Li. Master Yang is from Anyuan, Ye and Li from Yudu.
Each shop has a capital of about 50 yuan.
crafts, and cooking, including . . . [The original lists 26
implement types, difficult to translate], sabres, swords, pocket
knives, nails, door hinges, and barrel hoops. With the exception of the
three types of weapon the products are ordinary articles of everyday
use which are sold in Xunwu City and the vicinity. Both the products
and the way they are made are traditional.
Iron is smelted in six places . . . [the places are
listed]. In each place there are furnaces for iron smelting and for the
casting of woks, ploughshares, and mouldboards. It is not only in Xunwu
that the iron is sold; most is sold in Huizhou and Shilong [both in
Guangdong, about 250 km away and connected to Xunwu by the Dongjiang
River], and some in Menling [in Jiangxi, 30 km away]. About half of the
woks are sold in Huichang and Ganzhou [in Jiangxi, 50–100 km away], and
a small proportion in Chaoan and Shantou [in Guangdong, ca. 200 km
away]. Ploughshares and mouldboards are only sold locally.
Each furnace requires the following labour force:
- 20 charcoal bearers. Charcoal is used in both smelting and
- 15 colliers, who produce charcoal from wood. Each charcoal
kiln requires 3 workers, and 5 kilns serve each furnace.
- Ironsand bearers. Ironsand comes from erosion in the
mountains; peasants [sluice it and] carry it to the ironworks. These
workers are difficult to count.
- Workers at the ironworks itself: furnace tenders, 10;
finers, converting cast iron to wrought iron, 12; founders, casting
woks, 12; stoker, 1; manager and his assistants, 3.
An ironworks employs in all about 200 workers.
A furnace for iron smelting alone requires an investment of
about 1000 yuan; a furnace
for casting woks another 1000 yuan.
of 2000 yuan. The greatest
expenditures are for ironsand and charcoal, but there are also board
and wages for the workers.
Some ironworks are owned by individuals, others by
partnerships. The furnace master is paid 1.20 yuan per day, while workers
are paid 0.30 yuan and board.
The manager is paid 70 yuan
per year. The workers are paid daily, the manager annually. The works
also pays for religious sacrifices, bonuses, and
transportation for the workers.
The furnace master has high status; if he is not treated well
he can sabotage the works and ruin the firm. A furnace master can earn
as much as 500 yuan in a
year. An ironworks can produce iron for 4000 yuan per year; thus the six
ironworks in the county can produce for 24,000 yuan per year.
Before the Republic  either no foreign iron or very
little came to the county, and wages were also lower. Iron production
was much greater than now, and an ironworks could produce for over
20,000 yuan per year.
Under the Qing dynasty [before 1912] there were only two ironworks in
Xunwu, producing for a total of 40,000 yuan per year. Today the number of
ironworks has increased, but total production has fallen; the reason
for this is that workers’ wages are higher (because the price of
foreign industrially-produced goods is high), and there is competition
from foreign iron.
Of the three blacksmiths’ shops in Xunwu city, two of the
masters are from Yudu and one from Anyuan. The itinerant smiths in
rural areas are all from Yudu. In Yudu there are numerous ironworkers.
There are 3800–3900 ironworks; the large blast furnaces are operated by
4 men, the dwarf furnaces by 3, so that there are about 13,000
ironworkers. [A little algebra shows that these figures imply 1300
large blast furnaces and 2600 dwarf furnaces.] Men from Yudu work as
smiths not only in Jiangxi but also in Guangdong and Fujian, and a few
in Southeast Asia.
Translated from Mao Zedong
nongcun diaocha wenji, Beijing
1982, pp. 89–91. There is an English translation by Roger
Xunwu, Stanford 1990, pp.
105–107, but the translator did not understand the metallurgical
terminology in the text.]