Sunday, June 08, 2008


(This photo is from Daniel Yiek - Sarikei-Time-Capsule.) My maternal grandmother from a very early age was helping my grand uncle Kang Chu Lau Kah Tii, in business. One of her duties was to wrap nipah salt in the nipah leaves and to tie up in bundles the nipah leaves for rokok to be sold to the Malays and Melanaus along the Igan and Rejang. According to her, it was a very back breaking job and furthermore,she was very fastidious at her work, together with her sister- in -law, Mrs. Lau Kah Tii who was a good manager and leader. In those days, salt and sugar for the Foochows came from the nipah palm.

A Foochow woman must always have some salt of any kind in her kitchen. Salt is the cheapest household item a woman can buy so it is a great embarrassment if she does not have any in stock. In olden days, the whole village would be wagging their tongue if the neighbours found this out.

This photo above starts my discussion on salt. It is always interesting to draw academic references from Chinese historical records on any topic. You are free to think that I am terribly biased.

Firstly, a reference to Chinese academic studies on salt draws this text and an amazing photo .

A Chinese worker cuts up the pieces of salinated salt from Lake Qinghai, in northern China's Qinghai province 19 May 2007. Salt was first mentioned in China in the annals of the Emperor Yu, (BC 2205-2197), and the cause for many wars fought to the control the salt resources, as it has always been the lifeline in China's history, for "Whoever controls salt has the power to decide his own fate and that of all others

And also this text (
Salt (NaCl) has been in great demand at least since Neolithic times when humans took up a plant–based diet. Whether we actually have a physical need for an added complement of salt is still disputed; many nutritionists believe there is already enough salt in the food we eat. Still, there is no doubt that humans crave salt to make their food more tasty and for a host of other uses such as preserving food, tenderizing meat, and tanning leather. Since salt resources that could be exploited with premodern technology are very unevenly distributed, salt was important early on as a commodity.

There is extensive textual documentation on salt manufacture in ancient China, with reliable records going back to the fourth century bc. At that time, the salt industry was already well developed, and its origins certainly go back to much earlier times. Until very recently, though, salt making in China had never been addressed through archaeological research, in marked contrast to the West, where exploration of salt–producing sites has been an important topic for over two hundred years. In Europe, for instance, extensive work has been done on coastal salines in England and France and on inland salt-production sites in Lorraine (eastern France), central Germany, and, perhaps most famously, Austria, where extensive Late Bronze Age saltworks at Hallstatt have given their name to an important archaeological period. Closer to China, a great deal of excavation of salt-making workshops has taken place along the coasts of Japan. Reconstruction of prehistoric salt-making techniques has been facilitated by anthropological fieldwork in such areas as New Guinea and Africa (Mali, Niger, Chad), where salt was still manufactured by traditional pottery–using technologies until very recently.

Secondly, in secondary school I studied "King Lear" by William Shakespeare. No one can forget the answer given by Cordelia that she loved her father, king lear , as much as salt, sealed her tragic fate.

Thirdly, the Bible said that we are "the salt of the earth".

Fourthly, the Bible also told us the story of how Lot's Wife was turned into a pillar of Salt because she regretted leaving Sodom and Gomorrah.

Finally, salt is so important in our lives that we simply cannot live without it. It is a preservative, an enhancer of our food tastes, an antibiotic,health giving as it helps our body to remain strong,etc.

We cannot live without salt.

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