Zinc for Coin and Brass

Bureaucrats, Merchants, Artisans, and Mining Laborers in Qing China, ca. 1680s–1830s


Author: Hailian Chen
Hailian Chen’s pioneering study presents the first comprehensive history of Chinese zinc—an essential base metal used to produce brass and coin and a global commodity—over the long eighteenth century. Zinc, she argues, played a far greater role in the Qing economy and in integrating China into an emerging global economy, than has previously been recognized. Using commodity chain analysis and exploring over 5,800 items of archival documents, Chen demonstrates how this metal was produced, transported, traded, and consumed by human agents. Situating the zinc story within the human-environment framework, this book covers a broad and interdisciplinary range of political economy, material culture, environment, technology, and society, which casts new light on our understanding of early modern China.

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Hailian Chen, Ph.D. (2018, Tübingen), is an engineer-sinologist trained at the Universities of Tsinghua and Tübingen. She is the author of several peer-reviewed articles on zinc and coal and, at present, teaches various courses on modern China at Trier University.
All interested in the history of Qing China’s political economy, institutions, society, environment, Southwest frontier, and material culture; especially scholars engaged in empirical research on miners, metallurgy, and global commodities.