Donald B. Wagner, Background to the Great Leap Forward in Iron and Steel
Description of a blast furnace in Sichuan, by the Hungarian traveller Béla Széchenyi, 1877
[Huangnipu is a village in modern Yingjing County.]
Hoani-pu [Huangnipu] lies in a narrow valley, and bears
stamp of a typical mining district. Everything here is black with coal
dust from coal mining and iron industry. In the neighbourhood chain
bridges cross over the streams. Coal and iron occur together in the
On the opposite bank is a blast furnace, ca. 8–9 m high and 5.5–6 m broad at the base. In form it is quite similar to a European blast furnace; it is built of stone and held together by an external wooden construction.
The blast is provided by a [piston-]bellows 1 m in diameter and 3.5 m long. This bellows, or rather, cylinder, is constructed on the same pattern as the common Chinese kitchen blowing cylinder, except that the piston is driven by a water-wheel. For the tapping of both ore iron and slag there is only one opening, at least I did not see a special opening for the latter.
The ore smelted here is an ironstone (blackband) with 40–60
per cent iron which occurs between the coal measures. Next to the
shaft of the blast furnace the ore is first mixed with charcoal and
roasted. As the works stood empty and out of operation, I was unable to
obtain further data on the smelting process. I give the construction of
the furnace in [the illustration above].
In the storehouse of the works was a large number of cast iron
slabs measuring 1 m long, 0.60 m broad, and 0.02 m thick [these would
weigh about 100 kg each]. The surface of this cast iron is very slaggy
because of the lack of a separate outlet for the slag; its fracture is
steel-grey and full of blow-holes throughout.
Next to the blast furnace was the foundry, which however was
also out of operation. . . .
der Reise des Grafen Béla Széchenyi in Ostasien, Bd.
1: Die Beobachtungen während der Reise. Wien 1893, pp.
678–679. Dr. Katalin T. Biro of the Hungarian National Museum
corrected my translation from German against the Hungarian
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