This paper discusses the historical evolution of the salt trade system in Chaozhou in Ming and Qing. In the mid-fifteenth century, when the sale of salt from Guangdong Province across provincial boundaries was legalized, sea salt from Chaozhou began to be sold in the border regions of Fujian, Guangdong and Jiangxi. This led to the emergence of a salt trade system in the sixteenth century. The salt merchants of Chaozhou paid levies in exchange for the privilege to engage in the salt trade. These levies supported both military expenses and local river-works. Merchants' payments of a nominal grain tax was an expression of the late Ming simplification of local government finance. In the Qing, the salt merchants of Chaozhou made donations to support local infrastructure, for military expenses, public granaries, schools and ritual expenses. Beginning in the nineteenth century, the salt merchants of Chaozhou fell into fiscal difficulties because of the conflicting fiscal reforms implemented by senior provincial officials.