The Historic Zisha Mines of Yixing

The Main Zisha Mining Areas

As discussed in my previous articles Yixing Zisha mines can be categorized as either Jiani or Nenni mines. (If you haven’t read that article before, I highly recommend to do so, to better understand this topic. Click [HERE]There are 4 major mining Historical areas, namely the two Jiani (甲泥) Mines of Huang Long Shan (黄龙山) and Qing Long Shan (青龙山) and the two Nenni (嫩泥) Mines of Zhaozhuang Village (赵庄山) and Hongwei Village (红卫山).

The Historical Zisha Mines of Yixing
The Historical Zisha Mines of Yixing

Each mining area has smaller mines in them, which can be two types, either open-pit mines or inclined shaft mines. Basically, with inclined shaft mines, they drill deep down in a narrow passage into the ground, while with open-pit mines they remove everything in a very wide area, but these mines are much more shallow than inclined shaft mines.

Usually, inclined shaft mines were more common in Jiani mines, because Zini, Lüni, Hongni, Tuanni lies much deeper in the ground, while most Nenni mines are open-pit mines because Zhuni and Xiao Hongni is relatively quite close to the surface.

The Zisha Jiani Mines of the Huang Long Shan Mining Area

Huang Long Shan Zisha Mining Area
Huang Long Shan Mining Area

Huang Long Shan Mine No. 1 (Inclined Shaft Mine)

Was constructed in 1958, a 1.8m wide and 2.2m high tunnel. The mining was carried out in a primitive way, with explosives and manual tools. In 1964 they modernized the mining equipment and the total yearly output reached 20 000 tonnes of ore. The mine stopped operating in 1965.

Huang Long Shan Mine No. 2 (Inclined Shaft Mine)

It was located about 30m east of Mine No.1. It consisted of a main and an auxiliary shaft. The auxiliary shaft is located 28m to the east of the main shaft. The yearly output of the mine was about 30 000 tonnes of ore and mining stopped in the early 1980s.

Huang Long Shan Mine No. 3 (Inclined Shaft Mine)

It was located 40 meters to the south of Mine No.5 and the entrance of the mine faced north, on the east side of Mine No.2. The two mines were interconnected. The yearly output of Mine No.3 was 10 000 tonnes of ore, and it stopped operating in the mid-1970s.

Huang Long Shan Mine No. 4 (Inclined Shaft Mine)

Made up of a Main and an Auxiliary shaft. The Main shaft was built on the west side of Huang Long Shan and the Auxiliary shaft is about 200m to the east of the Main shaft, in 1972. Initially, the depth of the mine was 36m, which they extended to 80m in 1982, due to technological advancements. The original output of the mine was 50 000 tonnes a year however, till 1987 it reached 70 000 tonnes of ore a year, due to improvements in mining. After 27 years of operation, the mine got sealed off in October of 1997, due to high cost, low yield and groundwater flooding.

Huang Long Shan Mine No. 5 (Inclined Shaft Mine)

Mine No. 5 was constructed in 1979, in the north part of Huang Long Shan. Similar to Mine No.4, it consisted of a main and an auxiliary shaft, which were 15m apart and parallel to each other. Originally the planned output was 20 000 – 30 000 tonnes a year however, due to bad mining conditions and mismanagement, the annual output was only 5 000 tonnes of ore a year. Mining stopped in 1999 due to groundwater flooding and the high cost of operations.

Qing Long Shan (青龙山) Mine (Open Pit Mine)

It’s located on the west side of Huang Long Shan. Open-pit mining started in 1987, with an annual output of 18 000 tonnes of ore. Mining stopped in 1994. Now it’s a lake and a park.

Taixi (台西) Village Mine (Inclined Shaft Mine at the bottom of the Hill)

Was constructed in 1992 at the Northern part of Huang Long Shan, at the bottom of the hill. It has consisted only of a single inclined shaft, which joined into Mine No. 5. Mining was stopped in 1999, due to flooding from Mine No. 5.

Taixi (台西) Village Mine (Inclined Shaft Mine at the top of the Hill)

It was constructed in 1996, 80m south of the Main entrance of Mine No. 5. and consisted of only a single inclined shaft. The mine was transformed into an open-pit mine in 2002 and stopped mining in 2004.

Taixi (台西) Village Open-Pit Mine

Its start of mining in 2002 was a result of the closure/transformation of the Taixi Village inclined shaft mine (Top of the Hill). The initially small scale open pit mine was transformed into a large scale mining operation in 2003 and got closed in 2004 by the government. Now the Taixi Open-pit mine can be seen as the huge pond in the middle of Huang Long Shan.

Baoshan (宝山) Mining Area

It’s located at the junction of north-west Huang Long Shan and East Qing Long Shan. The historic Tuanshan is part of the Baoshan Mining Area. They found two ancient dragon kilns here, one from the Ming Dynasty and one from the Qing Dynasty. It’s one of the oldest historic mining areas at the Huang Long Shan. It was a small scale, shallow open pit mine. Baoshan produced the largest variety of Zisha, such as Huang Long Shan Zhuni, Zisha Hongni, Muo Lüni, Jiangponi and Tuanni (Duanni). South of Baoshan is Mine No.4. Nowadays most of Baoshan was built over by roads, residential buildings and the Baoshan Industrial park.

Dashuitan (大水潭) Mining Area

It’s located in the southeast part of Huang Long Shan. Besides Baoshan, Dashuitain is the other historic mining location. It is where high-quality Zini was mined and used to make teapots in the Ming and Qing dynasty, such Zini is the legendary Tianqingni and Qinghuini. It was a small open pit mine however, due to the century-long mining, the mine got flooded by groundwater in the early 1900s, and is a small pond now.

The Zisha Nenni Mines of Hongwei Village

Hongwei Village Zisha Mining Area
Hongwei Village Mining Area

Mine No. 1: An open-pit Nenni mine created in 1955, northwest of Hongwei Shahan.

Mine No. 2: An open-pit Nenni mine created in 1956, at Yangmeiling of Hongwei Village.

Mine No. 5: An open-pit Nenni Mine created in 1970, at Shizhutou, Hongwei Village.

Xiangshan Nenni Mine: An open pit Nenni mine created in 1976, 100m north of Hongwei Xiangshan.

Chuanbu Township Xiaomeiyao Nenni Mine: It’s an open-pit Nenni mine north of Hongwei Xiangshan. Mining started in the 1980s and the mine has relatively abundant resources of Zhuni, which sits between the Nenni and the coal layer, and also called Xiaomeiyao Zhuni.

Hongwei Village Xiaomeiyao Nenni Mine: Located on the west part of Hongwei Xiangshan. Open-pit mining started in 1980. Between the Nenni and the coal layer is what’s called Xiaomeiyao Zhuni, which is a more pure, higher iron content version of Zhuni.

The Zisha Nenni Mines of Zhaozhuang Village

Zhaozhuang Village Zisha Mining Area
Zhaozhuang Village Mining Area

Zhaozhuang Nenni Mine: It’s a shallow open pit Nenni mine, the historic source of Shihuang and Zhuni. Located west of Zhaozhuang village, also called Zhaozhuang Shashan.

Hehuatan: And old open-pit mine on the east side of Zhaozhuang Shashan. Now it’s divided into two ponds, by the 104 National Highway.

Jiangli Nenni Mine: Located on the east side of Zhaozhuang Funiu Shan. After years of open-pit mining only a little hill left of it. 

Mine No. 3: An open-pit Nenni mine created in 1957, at Zhaozhuang Shashan.

Mine No. 4: An open-pit Nenni Mine created in 1968, at Zhaozhuang Funiu Shan.

In the late 1990s, demand for common daily use pottery products decreased. As a result demand for auxiliary Zisha ores such as Jiani and Nenni – the ores which constitute 70-80% of the ores produced from each mine – also plummeted. This caused the mines’ cost of operation to greatly increase and resulted in the closure of most of them.

In 2004 the Yixing Municipal Government issued a total ban on the mining of Huang Long Shan area (Including Qing Long Shan), to preserve Zisha ore for future generations after Factory 1 wasted most of them on cheap mass-produced teapots and other ceramic wares. Illegal private mining continued until 2010 when Huang Long Shan got walled off and security guards and cameras installed.

Since the closures of the historic mines, most of the materials are coming from new mines further away from Dingshuzhen, or the potters are using ores and processed clay from the 80s and 90s.

Hope this article helped sorting out some of the confusion about the more famous mines that you’ve may heard about, and put them on the map.

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