was used by the Venetians during the thirteenth century as an equivalent for money, and the Abyssinians have employed bars of rock-salt. See Amoles. Marco Polo in his Travels (Bk. ii. 38), in describing the Chinese province of Kaindu, remarks as follows:
" In this country there are salt-springs, from which they manufacture salt by boiling it in small pans. When the water has boiled for an hour, it becomes a kind of paste, which is formed into cakes of the value of twopence each. These, which are flat on the lower, and convex on the upper side, are placed upon hot tiles, near a fire, in order to dry and harden. On this latter species of money the stamp of the grand Khan is impressed, and it cannot be prepared by any other than his own officers. Eighty of the cakes are made to pass for a saggio of gold. But when these are carried by the traders amongst the inhabitants of the mountains and other parts little frequented, they obtain a saggio of gold for sixty, fifty, or even forty of the salt cakes, in proportion as they find the natives less civilized, further removed from the towns, and more accustomed to remain on the same spot; inasmuch as people so circumstanced cannot always have a market for their gold, musk, and other commodities. And yet even at this rate it answers well to them who collect the gold-dust from the beds of the rivers. The same merchants travel in like manner through the mountainous and other parts of Thebeth (Tibet), where the money of salt has equal currency. Their profits are considerable, because these country people consume the salt with their food, and regard it as an indispensable necessary; whereas the inhabitants of the cities use for the same purpose only the broken fragments of the cakes, putting the whole cakes into circulation as money. "
In a note to the foregoing passage the translator adds: " The saggio of Venice was the sixth part of an ounce, and consequently the cake of salt was in value the four hundred and eightieth part of an ounce of gold, which, at the price of four pounds sterling, is exactly two pence for the value of each cake; a coincidence that could hardly have been expected. Its precision, however, must depend on a comparison between the English pence and Venetian denari of that day. "
Up to modern times salt cakes have been used as money on the borders of Yunnan.
Source: Frey's Dictionary (American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. 50, 1916)