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 throughout the 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 immediate vicinity.

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.

Szechenyi højovn
Drawing and section through a water-powered blast furnace in Yingjing county, Sichuan.

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.  . . .

Translated from Béla Széchenyi, Die wissenschaftlichen Ergebnisse 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 kindly corrected my translation from German against the Hungarian original.

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