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Tonglushan Ancient Metallurgy Museum
Zigong Salt Industry History Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tonglushan Ancient Metallurgy Museum

Tonglushan Ancient Metallurgy Museum
The copper mining tools of the Spring and Autumn period

Tonglushan or Tonglu Mountain is 28 kilometers from the important heavy industry town of Huangshi in Hubei Province. It is on the banks of Daye Lake which connects via waterways to the Yangzi River. Archaeologists discovered several hundred mining pits in this location and a number of copper-ore smelting furnaces that date from the early period of Western Zhou (around 3,000 years ago) to the Han dynasty (around 2,000 years ago), or over a period of one thousand years. Tonglushan is considered to be the cradle of ancient bronze culture in China.

The crisscross mining lanes in the Ancient Copper Mine Site.
The crisscross mining lanes in the Ancient Copper Mine Site.

In the process of extracting ore resources from under Tonglu Mountain, it was discovered that this was a large-scale refining or smelting site from ancient times. Archaeologists have to date excavated and evaluated remains from Western Zhou to Western Han periods. They have found different mining structures and support systems for several hundred wells that include vertical wells, slanted wells, blind wells and so on, as well as more than one thousand implements for mining and ore production and various implements of daily life. In addition, they discovered seventeen Song-dynasty smelting furnaces. On entering the front door of the Museum, one passes around a mammoth malachite boulder. The 1, 100 square meter main hall of the site is then before one's eyes. Below the railing, looking down, one can see more than one hundred relatively well preserved vertical wells or shafts, level corridors or lanes, blind wells, slanted wells, criss-crossed mine tunnels. There are twisting channels for waterways and wooden water troughs, there are various implements of the trade spread below one's eyes. All of this makes one feel as if the workers in had just departed.

The exterior of the Tonglushan Ancient Metallurgy Museum
The exterior of the Tonglushan Ancient Metallurgy Museum

In certain places, pits and corridors have been reconstructed to allow visitors to go inside and experience for a moment the sensations of those who worked here 2,000 years ago. On walls surrounding the main hall, traditional architectural techniques have reconstructed the original posts and brackets of the Spring and Autumn Period in Chinese history.

Due to the wealth of copper ore in this location, and the long history of refining ore here, the amount of waste ore from the process is noticeable. To this day, on the surface of the ground surrounding the ore lode, there are more than 400,000 tons of ancient remains of slag. It is estimated that this site produced 8-100,000 tons of copper. The quantity of materials at the site are testimony to the outstanding technology of refining and production methods of ancient China.

Most of the ancient wells or pits that have been excavated are situated in regions that are rich in natural copper, cuprite or red copper ore, and malachite. Since the copper content of some ore taken from the wells reaches 12-20%, it can be seen that ancient craftsmen possessed the ability to read indications of promising locations. In terms of prospecting, they did shallow well testing and used washing and other methods to find high-quality ore buried beneath the surface of the earth.

In terms of extraction, under non-mechanized conditions, craftsmen used the most simple tools and materials to dig wells that were more than fifty meters deep. They created effective ways to combine vertical, slanted and blind wells with horizontal corridors; they resolved to a certain degree the problems of supporting the wells, creating air ducts, allowing for light, and expelling water. Their solutions to complex technical issues were sometimes later found in use in Europe, therefore it was once believed that some techniques had been imported. From this archaeological research it is now clear that certain structural supports and technical solutions were in use in China 2,500 years ago.

In terms of refining, the distribution of the smelting slag is extensive: the thickness of the resulting slag layer approaches three meters so that it even buries abandoned refineries that once existed here. Because of this, the slag layer preserved the surface of the land in its original state, and kept this sole example of ancient mining technology intact.

Address: Hubei Province, Huangshi City, Daye County,Tonglushan Town

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