Huizhou people were famous for their salt business. The salt merchants of Huizhou were not only the richest people in Huizhou but also the major force of salt merchants in Yangzhou, the major salt market in Qing time. Their capital was abundant and the salt tax they paid was the major income of the government in salt tax. The reason that Huizhou salt merchants became the most distinguished in salt business was the reform of salt regulations in the period of Chenghua (1465-1487) of the Ming dynasty. In that reform, the salt merchants were allowed to buy salt at the area of salt production. Since Huizhou was close to the area of salt production, Huizhou salt merchants were able to break the monopoly of salt business by the salt merchants from Shanxi and Shaanxi, and then replace them in this field.
The Chinese society had long been divided into four classes -- intellectuals, peasants, laborers, and merchants, while intellectuals, enjoying the respect by others, were placed on the top and merchants on the bottom. From Ming Dynasty on, with the increasing wealth, merchants had done their best to improve their status. Many intellectuals who gave up their official degrees and official career switched their interest to business and assisted the Huizhou salt merchants in reading various kinds of books, promoting the atmosphere of refined culture, and strengthening their management of business.
The strict and diligent clan education and family education in Huizhou had brought out many professionists who were able to run good business, to produce good reputation, to earn huge profit, and to win the favor of the imperial government. No matter in their home towns or in other cities they lived, Huizhou salt merchants donated money in building various kinds of schools and in establishing personal libraries for their huge collections. Under the influence of those merchants, the printing industry became prosperous and published ancient classics, governmental laws and regulations, and many good books related to civil service examination for those merchants’ descendants. The official career of their descendants would guarantee the continuity of their family reputation and the protection of family property. In fact, their descendants did not disappoint the expectation of their clan and had become distinguished in the fields of politics, commerce, and culture.||en_US|