Friday, March 30, 2012

Xianshi Ancient Town and Shenhai Salt Well

Day-tripping from Zigong to Xianshi is easy. We walked for about 30 minutes to the Zigong Train Station. Just west of the station, buses to Xianshi (2.5 RMB pp) leave from almost right under a sign that says "Xianshi 11 kms". The end-of-the-line is at the top of the Xianshi Old Street.

Xiasnshi has spruced itself up for tourists and is building a river walk. Highlights are the 2 old guild halls, each with a temple and stage, that are bisected by a street instead of being inside compound walls. Neat! The guild halls are almost adjacent and both face the river. And no admission fees for any of the attractions.

Heading back to the top of the Old Street, we took the bus back to the train station and walked home, taking a pesdetrain tunnel that was full of posters explaining what to do during a nuclear attack. Hmmm.

After a quick lunch of boiled corn-on-the-cob, salted duck eggs, and oranges, we rode bus #35 east about 8 stops to the Shenhai Salt Well, admission 22 RMB pp. This well is over 100 years old, reaches 3000 ft deep, and still produces salt, mainly as a working museum. The wooden winch is idle except when energetic tourists give is a spin. The water buffalo have long been retired, replaced by a modern motor.

Salt brine is not pumped out of the well. A steel rope lowers a slim tube, about 4 inches in diameter and 30 feet long, that fills with brine. The tube is then winched up to the surface and the brine discharged into a tank. The brine is then transfer to the rendering house where it is boiled down into salt crystals.

The vats of salt brine are boiled over flames powered by the natural gas that also comes out of the well. At one point in the process soybean paste is used to draw off impurities. The Shenhai Well is well worth a visit.

After the well, we rode bus #35 4 stops west to a site with 4 more wells; none are working but they are in pretty good shape with derricks intact. At least one wooden winch survives as well. We poked around a bit. Having just visited a working well, we knew what to look for. The government owns the site and it looks like it will be developed for tourism as rubbish has been removed, and a distillery has been thrown out of one of the buildings.

Guild Hall Stage - Xianshi.
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Old street.
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Woman carries a child on the street that bisects the guild hall.
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The wedding banquet will fill the street. At back is the "tunnel" through the guild hall.
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The kitchen for the wedding banquet spills out onto the riverside path.
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Shenhai Salt Well.
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The old wooden Winch.
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Wellhead and brine tube.
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Boiling down the brine looks to be a mellow job.
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The brine tube is dangling from the derrick (left). The brine rendering house in at right.
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Three non-producing salt wells.
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Capped and idle.
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1 comment:

Crash Eddy said...

Sort of amazing that the mechanics have never been converted to pumping.