Backyard furnace

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Workers tend backyard furnaces (1958)
Backyard furnace
Traditional Chinese土法煉鋼
Simplified Chinese土法炼钢
Literal meaningprimitive steelmaking

In China, backyard furnaces (土法炼钢) were small blast furnaces used by the people of China during the Great Leap Forward (1958–1962).[1][2] These were constructed in the fields and backyards of communes to further the Great Leap Forward's aims of making China the top steel producer in the world. However, most furnaces were only capable of producing pig iron.

Atypical fuels were often used to fire the furnaces, such as the wood of coffins. Where iron ore was unavailable, various steel and iron items were smelted for the intended result of manufacturing steel or more useful creations.

The productivity of backyard furnaces was highly variable across China. Many regions experienced a renewed interest in traditional metalworking practices, and successfully produced steel and copper. Nonetheless, backyard furnaces were largely an improvised and undisciplined pursuit in much of the countryside. In 1958, the Communist Party funded the production of dozens of documentaries on metalworking in an attempt to counteract widespread ignorance and further promote the practice.[3]

Peasants were encouraged to prioritize iron and steel production over agricultural obligations, which may have been a contributing factor in the severity of the Great Chinese Famine.[4] The widespread popularity of the practice led to the mass destruction of Shengbao iron cash coins from the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.[5]

Mao Zedong defended backyard furnaces despite the shortcomings, claiming that the practice showed mass enthusiasm, mass creativity, and mass participation in economic development.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tyner, James A. (2012). Genocide and the Geographical Imagination. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 98–99. ISBN 9781442208995.
  2. ^ Cook, Ian G.; Geoffrey Murray (2001). China's Third Revolution: Tensions in the Transition Towards a Post-Communist China. Routledge. pp. 53–55. ISBN 9780700713073.
  3. ^ Qian, Ying (March 1, 2020). "When Taylorism Met Revolutionary Romanticism: Documentary Cinema in China's Great Leap Forward". Critical Inquiry. 46 (3): 578–604. doi:10.1086/708075. ISSN 0093-1896.
  4. ^ Stanway, David (May 2, 2012). "Factbox: A history of China's steel sector". Reuters. Archived from the original on June 16, 2021.
  5. ^ Ashkenazy, Gary (June 1, 2011). "Taiping Rebellion Coins Saved from Furnace". Archived from the original on March 10, 2013. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  6. ^ "The Great Leap Forward in China (1958): Chairman Mao's Catastrophe - Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières". July 29, 2020. Archived from the original on July 29, 2020. Retrieved April 5, 2021.