Cast Iron: A Strong Energy Saver
The antique stove in your home. The skillet that has been passed down in your family throughout the generations. The irons used by Chinese laundries around the turn of the century in San Diego. What do they all have in common? They are all made of cast iron.
|This is an iron, made of cast iron circa the 1860s. It is currently on permanent display in SDCHM's Chinese Laundries exhibit.|
Cast iron was invented in China around the fourth century BCE, and did not even become readily available in Europe until 1380 (Temple 2005: 42). As early as the Shang Dynasty 商朝 (1766-1122 BCE) cast iron and bronze vessels were sacred symbols of authority used in state rituals and often included in royal burials. During the Han Dynasty 漢朝(206 BCE – 220 CE), cast iron manufacturing was nationalized so that the emperor could monopolize it and gain crucial revenue for the state. With production being overseen by the government in China, this material was used to make a wide variety of products including agricultural tools, building materials, weapons, cookware, and even toys.
There are environmental benefits to this multifunctional material, which we intend to highlight. For starters, cast iron is incredibly long lasting. Rather than creating excess waste by replacing household items such as cookware, cast iron can last hundreds of years if properly cared for. Secondly, cast iron possesses great heat retaining capability. Rather than constantly running your heat in the winter, using an old cast iron stove is a great way to stay warm. Likewise, instead of using excess electricity or gas while cooking a meal in a steel frying pan on the stove or in the oven, one can save energy by cooking with a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven as this material more efficiently retains heat.
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Temple, Robert. The Genius of China: 3000 Years of Science, Discovery, and Invention. Carlton Publishing Group: 2005, 42.