THE ANCIENT CHINA NUMISMATIC HISTORY COLLECTIONS PART ONE

The Chinese Ancient Numismatic History collections

 

Created By

Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA

Copyright@2012

Private Limited Edition In CD-ROM

FORWARD

I have collecting china numismatic including coins and papermoney7 from ancient to modern era almost 50 years, and starting to study the collections in 25 years. At first very difficult because during President Suharto era 1966-1998 forbidden to read and collected Chinese literatures but the china numismatic could found easily with cheapest price until 1988 after the open diplomatic relationship between Indonesia and China I can found a little informations.

Since the President Gus Dur Era the Chinese overseas origin or Tionghoa ethnic became the Indonesian Ethnic nationality in the years 2000 I can found some informations and I could study in legal.but the collection very difficult to find because many chese nationality visit Indonesia and they swept all the Chinese numismatic collections.

I have visit china three times, first in 2007 to south china from Hanoi to

 

 Nanning of Jiangsi autonom province by Bus and Train ,  in 2008 visit

 

Book store near my Hotel where I found Chinese coin catalogue

 

Native market like in Indonesia

 

 

 

 Xianmen with beautiful Gulangyu island, by bus to

 

 my grandpa homeland

 

 Chiangzhou city to find more info and look

 

 

 the amazing tallest pagoda Kai yuan with

 

 oldest turtle stone and

 

 

 

 

old village where my grandpa was born , from Xiamen by flight to

 

 Beijing by China Airlines to look

 

olympic games station,

 

 

With my wife Lily

 

 

forbidden city,

 

 great wall ,and at least in 2009 by flight and bus to

 

 

Guangzou(canton),Hangzou to

 

 

 

 

Guillin to look the amazing dancer on the river,

 

 

 

 

Shi ba sui water fall and

 

 

 

 

amazing crown cave.

I have write in e-book CD-ROM about this and upload the sample in my web blog with caption  the dr iwan Adventure in China.

I bought the first catalogue Krause in 1989, in 2008 the Chinese coin catalogue with Chinese character,in 2008 my son Anton bought the best coin catalogue that made more understand how to read the chine native script  and in the same years I found several numismatic catalogue at Guangzhou.

I am starting writing about Chinese numismatic in my old web blog hhtp://www.iwansuwandy.wordpress.com which visit by 80.000 collectors.

This day I just found very best information about Chinese numismatic collections,and with this informations my study finish and I have writing the amazing e-book in CD-ROOM about the report of my study with notification which coin ever found in Indonesia with mark @,this the first study ever report,and this informations will be the fact related to Chinese traded in Indonesia, the sample I upload in my other web blog hhtp://www.Driwancybermuseum.worpres.com which visit by 210.000 collectors from all over the world. The complete e.book in CD-ROM exist with full info and illustrations which made everyone can understand about the Chinese numismatic including the value ,but this only for premium member of the blog,that is why please subscribed via comment.

I understand that this study not complete,more info and correction still need,please send your comment,for that thanks very much.

Jakarta April 2012

 

Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIS E-BOOK IN CD-ROM DEDICATED TO MY SON

 

 

 

ANTON JIMMI SUWANDY

WHO HAVE INTEREST OF THE COIN AND PAPER MONEY COLLECTIONS

 

 

 

 

DR IWAN NOTES

PLEASE REMEMBER THE MAR @ MEANS THE COIN FOUND IN Indonesia

 

which related with Chinese traded

with Indonesia,the earliest I found during Han Dynasty in Bali, many Chinese ancient cash coin found there because until 1952 the Chinese cast coin still used there.

 

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The Chinese cast coin during Yuan dynasty not many found In Indonesia because after

 

 emperor Kublai khan sent the army to subdue

 

Java King Kartanegara  of Singosari due to he tattouge the face of Chinese emperor envoy Meng Chi at his face,and

 

 

Raden wijaya of Mojopahit  (Kertarajasa)sent back the Mongol army lead by Khausing cs back home no communication between china and Indonesia until the early Ming dynasty with admiral Zheng Ho visit Indonesia during

 

 emperor Hung wu and

 

 emperor Yongle, and then during Ming Dynasty the emperor forbidden to export Chinese coins which made no Ming cast coin found in Indonesia until Qing Dymasty ,due to the lack of coins,local. Indonesia kingdom produced their own cast coin like

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 Aceh tin and gold dirham coin,

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Palembang tin pitis coin,Bangka , Cheribon and West borneo Chinese marchant Tin Coin.

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Bantam cast coin Also cast coin produced by

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 VOC(Dutch east Indiea company) coins and

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 EIC(British East Indie company ) coin.also

 

Portugeus Malacca  Tin coin

About this local cast coin just still in study and after finist will upload  in e-book CD-ROM later.I hope the new collections will found and the informations will be more complete.

 

INTRODUCTION

The chinese cultural collections consist many items like the sample below

CHINESE CULTURAL ITEMS

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18th Century Qing Dynasty gilded carved wood panel

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A second longer 18th Century Qing Dynasty gilded carved wood panel.

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Closeup of left side of the second panel

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Closeup of the right side of the second panel

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8″ Mid-19th Century Qing Dynasty engraved brass lock with hidden keyway

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In order to open the lock you must push down on a buttom on the opposite end while pulling out against the way you are pushing, this releases the lock bolt 1/2″ which allows you to turn the other end piece 90 degrees exposing the keyway. When the key is inserted the bolt opens the rest of the way. Purchased from a Chinese Government antique store.

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Qing Dynasty carved ivory dragon, you can see the ivory grain on the back.

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A string of 19 beautiful 18th Century Qing Dynasty ivory Buddha beads. The top bead represents Buddha and the other 18 each represent one of his disciples. Each ivory bead is 1 1/8″ in diameter with a scrimshaw likeness of Buddha and his disciples on one side and one of the sayings attributed to them on the opposite side in very tiny Chinese characters. The ivory has obtained a beautiful golden patina with age and the grain shows up wonderfully. The workmanship is absolutely superb. Purchased in Wuhan, Hubei Province from a Chinese Government antique store.

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Qing Dynasty sliding top carved bone box with scrimshaw scene, held together by brass pins.

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Qing Dynasty carved bone container with agate ring and scrimshaw scene on one side and Chinese characters on the opposite side.

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Qing Dynasty carved wood panel with a Phoenix

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Some detail on the left side of the carved panel.

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Some detail on the rigfht side of the carved panel.

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Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 A.D) carved wood Foo Dog, or Foo Lion. Foo Dogs are frequently found at the entrances to temples, gardens and homes as protection against evil spirits They are found as a male and female pair, the male having a ball under one foot and the female having a young pup. This example is a female. .

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Rather than purchase the usual tourist trinkets we decided to seek items with both historic and cultural significance that we hope will someday give our daughter some connection to, and understanding of, her Chinese heritage. We have purchased a variety of items from the Chinese Neolithic Period through the 1980s. Starting with stone and bone implements to 4,000 year old painted clay pots, we added numerous pottery items from different dynasties through the Qing Dynasty in the 1800s, to typify common goods. Other items include various bronze artifacts from the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1100 BC) and Zhou Dynasty (1122-256 BC) through the Song Dynasty (926-1121 AD), of both a common household and military nature. We also obtained a variety of more than 200 old bronze, copper and silver coins beginning with the earliest bronze currency through the Chinese Republic of the 1930s, as well as paper money starting with 1912.. Other items include wood carvings, various old Buddhist items, fine porcelain, ivory and bone carvings. We are also collecting such daily use objects as old postage stamps and food, fuel and cloth rationing coupons from the 1950s through 1980s. Shown below is a sampling of our Chinese cultural items..

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Bronze Halberd, Zhou Dynasty (1122 – 256 B.C.)

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Bronze Arrowhead, Warring States Period (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Bronze Spearpoint, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.), Hubei Province

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Bronze Zodiac Charm, Song Dynasty (926-1121AD)

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Bronze Dragon Bridge Coin, 5th Century B.C.

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Bronze Dragon Bridge Coin, 5th Century BC

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Ming Hua Coin, Zhou Dynasty
          4th Century B.C.

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Rebel Shun Tian Moon / Yuan Bao Coin, Tang Dynasty (762 A.D.)

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Da Guan Tong Bao / Ten Cash Coin,      North Song Dynasty, 1101 A.D.

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Silk Road Silver Hao Han State Coin, 25-220 A.D.

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Kia Yuan Tong Bao Fu Coin Tang Dynasty 840 A.D.

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Zhi Zheng Tong Bao Ten Cash Coin,
        Yuan Dynasty, 1331 A.D.

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Guang Ding Yuan Bao Coin,
West Xia Dynasty, 1211 A.D.

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     Pincer Money,
Spring-Autumn Period,      (770 – 476- B.C.)

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Qian Heng Zong Bao lead coin, Five Dynasty Period, 934 A.D.

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Glazed Pottery Jar, Late Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644 A.D.

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Pottery Hu, Han Dynasty 206 B.C.-220 A.D.

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Pottery Jar, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Porcelain High Bottom Dish, Qing Dynasty 1700s

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Porcelain Spoons, Qing Dynasty 1700s

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Bronze Horse Bridle Bit, Warring States Period  (475-221 B.C.)

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Glazed Cake Stamp, Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 A.D.)

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Bronze Ornaments, Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.)

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Porcelain Weight, Ming Dynasty            (1368-1644 A.D.)

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Cross Bow Trigger Mechanism, 2nd-3rd Century B.C.

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Cross Bow Trigger Mechanism, 2nd-3rd Century B.C.

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Cross Bow Dart, 2nd-3rd Century B.C.

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Bronze Ax Head, Han Dynasty
       (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Bronze Fish Coin ,12-8th century B.C.

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Qi Dao Wu Bai Key Coin
  Xin Dynasty 9-22 A.D.

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Bronze Mirror, Song Dynasty
          (926-1121 A.D.)

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Bridge Coin, Warring States, 475-221 B.C.

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San Zhu, Western Han Dynasty 140 B.C.

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Bronze Shell Money, Zhou Dynasty                    1100 B.C.

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Qing Dynasty Porcelain Plate, 1800s

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Chang Ming Pai Sui Silver Amulet, Qing Dynasty

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Pai Chia Sho Silver Amulet, Qing Dynasty

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Black Glazed Pottery Jar, Qing Dynasty, 1700s

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Carved Bone Shell Money, Zhou Dynasty                    (1122-256 B.C.)

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Bronze Decorated Mirror, Song Dynasty (926-1121 A.D.)

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Bronze Axe, Han Dynasty      (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Bronze Decorations, Warring States Period (475 B.C. – 221 B.C.)

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Glass Beads, Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368 A.D.)

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Bronze Buckle, Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 A.D.)

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     Bronze Chisel
Warring States Period
(475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Decorated Bronze Chariot Part, Warring States Period
                        (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Brass Lock & Key, Qing Dynasty, 1800s

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Glass Beads, Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 A.D.)

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Glass Bead, Liao Dynasty (916 -1125 A.D.)

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Glass Bead, Liao Dynasty (916 -1125 A.D.)

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Glass Beads, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Glass Beads, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Silver Belt Ornament, Liao Dynasty (916-1125 A.D.)

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Cross Bow Dart, 2nd-3rd Century B.C.

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Decorated Silver Chopsticks, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

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Bronze Axe, Warring States Period (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Bronze Adze, Warring States
Period (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Bronze Belt Ornament, Liao Dynasty
             (916 – 1125 A.D.)

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Bronze Bell, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Bronze Bell, Warring States Period
  (475 – 221 B.C.) Hubei Province

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Bronze Armour Ornaments, Warring States Period
                        (475 – 221 B.C.)

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       Bronze Zhun
    (Pole Arm Foot),
Warring  States Period
      (475 – 221B.C.)
      Hubei Province

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Bronze Axe Head, Warring States Period
   (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.) Hubei Province

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Bronze Chariot Axle Hub, Warring States Period
                    (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Bronze Zhun (Pole Arm Foot)
    Warring States Period
     (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)
         Hubei Province

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Wood Moon Cake Mold (Foo Dog), Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911 A.D.)

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Bronze Bell, Warring States Period
          (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Gold Earring, Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 A.D.)

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Glass Bead, Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 A.D.)

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Gold Bead, Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 A.D.

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Glass Beads, Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 A.D.)

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Glass Bead, Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368 A.D.)

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Painted Pottery Jar, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Bronze Axe Head, Warring States Period
              (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Bronze Chisel, Warring States Period
           (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Porcelain Plllow, Qing Dynasty, 1800s

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Glazed Pottery Cup, Song Dynasty 906 -1279 A.D.

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7 1/2″ Bronze Belt Hook, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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        Bronze Chisel
  Warring States Period
   (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Bronze Belt Hook with Inlaid Silver Design, Han Dynasty 206 B.C.- 220 A.D.

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      Bronze Fork     
Warring States Period
  (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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.Bronze Pole Arm Foot
Warring States Period
  (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)
     Hubei Province

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Bronze Mirror with Grape & Fish Design        Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 A.D.)

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Bronze Mirror, Tang Dynasty ((618 – 907 A.D.)

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.Bronze Bracelet, Warring States Period 
(475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Bronze Neck Ring, Laio Dynasty (916 – 1125 A.D.)

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Detail on Ivory Bead

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Text Detail on Ivory Bead

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Detail of Buddha and Two Disciples

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Detail of Six Disciples

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Cowrie Shell Money,  Approx. 2100 B.C.

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Feng Hua, Jin Dynasty (265 – 420 A.D.)

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Spade Coin, Zhou Dynasty

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Knife Money, Spring & Autumn Period (770 B.C.- 476 B.C.)

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3-Character Khife Money, Zhou Dynasty

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Qing Ning, Laio Dynasty (916 -1125 A.D.)

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1902 – 1906 Hunan Province 10 Cash Dragon Coin

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1902 – 1905 Hu-Peh (Hubei) Province 10 Cash Coin

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1909 – 1911 Hu-Peh (Hubei) Province Silver Coin

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1913 Szechuan Province 50 Cash Coin

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.1916 China Republic 1 Fen Coin

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1915 Kwangtung Province 1 Cent Coin

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1934 Manchuokuo 1 Fen Coin

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1938 Meng Chian 5 Chiao Coin

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1911 Empire 10 Cash Coin

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1937 East Hopei Province 1 Chiao Coin

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Shansi Provincial Bank, 1919

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Bank of Chihli Province, 1 Yuan

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Charhar Commercial Bank, 1 Yuan, 1933

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China Provincial Bank of Chihli, 1926

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China Provincial Bank of Chihli, 5 Yuan, 1926

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China Shansi Provincial Bank, 1 Yuan, 1930

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National Industrial Bank of China, 5 Yuan, 1931

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Manchuria Center Bank, 100 Yuan

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Bank of China, 5 Yuan, 1926

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Bank of China, Shanghai, 1 Yuan, 1935 (front & back)

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Bronze Chisel, Warring States Period (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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.Bronze Chisel, Warring States Period (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Bronze Chariot Axle Hub, Warring States Period
                    (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Bank of Shantung, 5 Yuan, 1925

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Bronze Sword, Warring States Period (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.)

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Bronze Bell, Song Dynasty (906 – 1279 A.D.)

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Bronze Buckle, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Silver Duck, Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911)

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Silver Crane, Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911)

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Silver  Figure of Chinese Official, Qing Dynasty

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Silver Longevity Amulet, Qing Dynasty

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Silver Hairclip, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

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Silver Foo Dog, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

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Silver Ornament, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

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Silver Foo Dog, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

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Silver Hairpin
Qing Dynasty
( 1644-1911)

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Silver Hairpin Closeup

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Hairpin, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

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Silver Ornaments, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

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Bone Dice, Qing Dynasty           1644 – 1911

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Bone Dominos, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

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Bronze Mirror, Warring States Period 
(475 B.C.- 221 A.D.)

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Glass Bead, Dynasty Liao (916 -1125 A.D.)

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Carved Jade Bead, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Carved Jade, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Bronze Spoon, Western Zhou Dynasty (1100 – 770 B.C.)

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Bronze Pot, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Bronze Weapon, Shang Dynasty (1600 B.C.- 1100 B.C.)

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Bronze Weapon, Shang Dynasty (1600 B.C.- 1100 B.C.)

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Cross Bow Trigger Mechanism, Han Dynasty (206 A.D.- 220 A.D.)

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       Glazed Pottery Vase  Song Dynasty (906 – 1279 A.D.)

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Bronze Decorated Bangle, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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2 Wood Moon Cake Molds, Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911 A.D.)

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Jade Huang, Western Zhou Dynasty (1027 B.C.- 771 B.C.), Xianjing Province

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6″ Jade Double Dragon Bi, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)
                              Xianjing Province

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7″ Jade Double Phoenix Round Pei, Yuan Dynasty                         (1279 – 1368 A.D).

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12.5″ Jade Huang, Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911)

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Opposite side of Jade Huang

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A jade bi is a round, flat piece of jade with a circular hole in the center. The ancient Chinese called the hole hao and the wide border around it rou, stipulating that the width of the rou must be at least twice the diameter of the hao. According to the Book of Zjou Rites, bi were used in sacrifices to Heaven

A jade huang is a semi-circular ornament used as pendants or in larger forms as wall decorations. Although primarily for decorative purposes, jade huang were used as ritual objects in court ceremonies, and during sacrifices and funerals.

A jade pei is a double huang in a circular pattern, and used for the same purpose, such as the example below..

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Hollow-Handle Pu with character Pu
  Zhou Dynasty 5th Century B.C.

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Rare MOP Gaming Counter Inscribed with Chinese Characters

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12-sided Plate, Qing Dynasty, Kangxi Period                         (1662 – 1722)              

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1920 Republic 10 Cash Coin

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Pottery Jar, Song Dynasty (906 – 1279 A.D.)

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Glazed Bowl, Song Dynasty (906 – 1279 A.D.)

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Porcelain Jarlet, Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368 A.D.)

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Glazed Jar with Chinese Character, late 1700s

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Neolithic Carved Bone Harpoon Point

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Neolithic Carved Ivory Amulet

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Neolithic Carved Antler Amulet

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Neolithic Carved Bone

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Glazed Jar, Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 A.D.)

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Glazed Tea Bowls, Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 A.D.)

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Neolithic Carved Bone

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          Bronze Jar with Lid
Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.)

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Ivory Carving – Guanyin, Chinese
  Buddhist Goddess of Mercy
         Mid to Late 1800s          

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             Bronze Arrow Point
Shang Dynasty (1600 B.C.- 1100 B.C.)

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            Bronze Arrow Point
Shang Dynasty (1600 B.C.- 1100) B.C.

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Signed 7 1/2″ Ivory Dragon Carving
       Qing Dynasty Mid-1800s

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MOP Fretted Gaming Counter, ca. 1800 – 1840

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24″ gilded country scene wood carving with woman riding a water buffalo, Qing Dynasty

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Full set of 19 Ivory Beads

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Jade Carved Bead
   Han Dynasty

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Bone Artifacts, Yuan Dynasty

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Jade Bi, Huang and Pei

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Bronze Bangle, Song Dynasty (926 -1121 A.D.)

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Bronze Decorated Bangle, Song Dynasty (926 – 1121 A.D.)

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Bronze Decorated Bangle, Song Dynasty (926 – 1121 A.D.)

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Bronze Knife, Warring States Period (475 – 221 B.C.), Hubei Province

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Bronze Arrow Point, Late Spring & Autumn Period (770-456 BC)

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Bronze Arrow Point, Late Spring & Autumn Period (770-456 BC)

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               Bronze Arrow Point
Shang Dynasty, (1600 B.C.- 1100 B.C.)

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Bronze Arrow Point, Spring & Autumn Period (770 – 456 B.C.)

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Bronze Arrow Point, Spring & Autumn Period (770 – 456 B.C.)

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   Bronze Arrow Point
Spring & Autumn Period
       770 – 456 B.C.

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Bronze Arrow Point, Western Zhou Dynasty (1100 – 770 B.C.)

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   Bronze Arrow Point
Spring & Autumn Period
       770 – 456 B.C.

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Pottery Amphora – Siwa Culture
1300 – 1000 B.C. Gansu Province

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Celadon Spoons, Song Dynasty (906 -1279) A.D.)

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Bronze Arrow Point, Western Zhou Dynasty (1100 B.C.- 770 B.C.)

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Bronze Arrow Point, Early Spring & Autumn Period (770 B.C.- 456 B.C.)

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Pottery Jar, Han Dynasty 206 B.C.- 220 A.D.

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Underglaze Blue Minyao Bowl, Wanli Reign (1573-1620) Ming Dynasty

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Pottery Jar – Warring States Period
               475 -221 B.C.

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Glazed Pottery Vase
    Song Dynasty
    906 -1279 A.D.

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Glazed Pottery Granary – Song Dynasty
                 906 -1279 A.D.

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Hand carved deep relief ivory calling card case made in Canton, circa 1850-1870, from the height of the “Old China Trade”. Measures 4 9/16″ high.

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Cloisonne Dragon Bowl – late Qing Dynasty,Circa 1900

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Neolithic Pottery Jar, Majiayao Culture, Machang Phase                 3000 – 2000 B.C. Gansu Province

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10 1/2″ Ivory Carving of the 8 Immortals – Qing Dynasty (mid to late 1800s). Legendary Taoist Immortals, seven male and one female, are said to have originated  in the Han dynasty ( Western Han, 206 BC- 240 BC) .  The figures are recognizable by their attributes: Zhong Liquan with a fan; Zhang Guolao with a frog-shaped musical instrument; Lu Dongbin  with a sword and a fly-whisk; Cao Guojiu with a pair of tablets resembling castanets; Li Tieguai with an iron crutch; Han Xiangzi with a flute; Lan Caihe with a flower basket;  and He Xianggu with a lotus .

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The Ancient China numismatic  collections relatted to the history and culturalvery interesting because related with the the ancient china trading and communications with foreign country especially Asia country including Indonesia,look the collections below.

 

Ancient Chinese Cash Notes – the World’s First Paper Money – Part I

 

 

China has had a long and diversified numismatic history. From the dawn of antiquity onward, early Chinese traders used money in one form or another. It was not long after the Chinese invention of paper that the first paper money came into existence, making it the oldest paper money to be found in the world.

Part I discusses the evolution of the copper cash coin – the mainstay of the Chinese people for two thousand years – the invention of paper, the discovery of the use of paper money in China by Marco Polo and the various cash notes issued by the Tang, Liao, Sung, Hsia, Chin and Yuan dynasties.

 

Ancient Chinese Cash Notes – the World’s First Paper Money – Part II

 

 

Part II describes Ming dynasty paper money issues and identifies the coins depicted on the 1 kwan bank note of emperor Hung Wu (1378 A.D.)

 

Money of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace

 

Few people, if asked today, could identify the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace, tell you where it was located, or how or why it came into existence. The Kingdom of Heavenly Peace, founded in 1850, started as a noble experiment with great promise, which soon turned into outright rebellion against the Chinese Empire. The movement went terribly wrong, ultimately claiming the lives of 25 million Chinese before government troops, aided by Western forces, restored order.

During their fifteen year civil war the T’ai P’ing rebels, as they were called, formed a government which included an army, a civilian civil service bureaucracy, treasury and even a postal system of their own. This article studies the money of the T’ai P’ing rebels including both coins and bank notes. Few specimens of either survive today. The coin issues are varied and interesting. The bank notes, although referenced in various old numismatic books, are completely unknown to Westerners, have never been cataloged, and to my knowledge appear here for the first time..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANCIENT CHINESE CASH COIN AND NOTES ’S

FIRST PAPER MONEY

PART I

 

INTRODUCTIONS

 

China has had a long and diversified numismatic history. From the dawn of antiquity onward, early Chinese traders used money in one form or another.look the picture of

 

 

Chinese trader at Bantam Indonesia in 14th century and

 

in Tibet and

 

 phillipine

 

Ancient Chinese paper money

 

 has always held a fascination for me partly because, without question, it is the world’s oldest.

 

Not only is the ornamental format of these ancient notes aesthetically pleasing , more importantly they represent an esoteric subject area into which few collectors have ventured.

 

We know of them not only through rare surviving specimens, but also through ancient Chinese works on numismatics.

 

These e-books occasionally illustrated the specimens under discussion, and in this way their history has been preserved down through the ages to the benefit of modern scholars.

 

 

 

 

In recent years

 

 

Chinese archeologists

 

 

 

 have had great success

 

 

in documenting archeological sites

 

 

in which ancient relics including

 

 

 

coins and paper money have been found.

 

The history of ancient Chinese paper money is, unfortunately, not a happy one.

 

Initially the notes were accepted as a great convenience, partially because they were backed by cash reserves. Over time the authorities greatly abused and misused the right of note issue, sometimes for personal gain, until the notes became so inflated the people would not accept them.

 

Paper notes were viewed by the peasantry as a form of

supplemental taxation, as the government ultimately refused to acknowledge responsibility for cashing them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the mid-15th century

 

 a popular uprising was in the making.

 

 

To avoid rebellion,

 

the Ming emperor Jen Tsung

forbid further circulation of paper, thereby reverting to a specie economy. China did not have a paper currency again

 

 

 until 1853, when

 

 the Ch’ing emperor Hsien-feng re-authorized the issue of paper money to meet the escalating cost of suppressing

 

 

the T’ai-ping Rebellion.

 

 

 

 

The Evolution of Copper Cash

 

Cowrie shells

 

were the first items to be used in Chinese commerce.

 

Archeological excavation of ancient tombs has revealed their wide use as early as

 

the 16th century B.C.

 

These items, due to their small size and portability, proved more

popular than animal hides, jade and silk, bartered. These shells, originating in far off seas, were not native to China; hence they acquired a certain value of their own.

 

 

 

The ancient china cowries coins

 

 

used in trade eventually evolved

Into Bone

 

 

,

Clay heaven currency

 

and

bronze replicas.

 

 

 

It wasn’t until the end of the Chou dynasty (1000-400BC) that

 

 

 

the first metal currency was developed.

Read more info

 

CHINA, cowrie imitations and derivatives, including the bronze “ant-nose” coins
    Let’s call the stone and shell imitations, Shang-Zhou, c. 1400-900 BC in round numbers, and why not attribute the much more common bone imitations to early-middle Zhou, c. 1100-500 BC?  Of course if we knew what grave they were, uh, taken from, then we’d know, but we don’t.  The bronze “realistics” are probably contemporary with the bones or later.  The various “ant-nose” coins are c. 400-300 BC.

CCSL1) CHINA, cowrie & imitation lot:  6 pieces of cypraea moneta shells with filed backs, 6 imitations in white alabaster 12x17mm with 2 holes, & a teardrop shaped shell bead with a face carved on it & hole at pointy end, from unknown location in south-central China, 10 pcs total, $185.00
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CCS9) CHINA, white sandstone cowrie imitation, 26x17mm, $24.00

 
 
 
 
 

CCS10) CHINA, white sandstone cowrie imitation, bit of original red paint, $27.00 sold 7/18/2011
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CCS8) CHINA, translucent alabaster cowrie imitation, 35x22mm, cleft, hole, nice $35.00 sold
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CCS16) CHINA, alabaster cowrie imitation, 30x19mm, crude $31.00 sold 4/13/2010

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCS7) CHINA, stone cowrie imitations
a) coarse white sandstone, 31x26mm, $24.00 sold 7/18/2011
b) another, 29x24mm, $22.00 sold 4/13/2010
c) fine off-white sandstone, 19x15mm, $19.00 sold
d) another sandstone piece, $19.00 sold
e) translucent alabaster, 15x15mm, $33.00 sold
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CCS13) CHINA, marble cowrie imitation, 24x18mm, carved cleft & center hole, $35.00 sold 4/13/2010
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CCS14) CHINA, marble cowrie imitation, 28x22mm, $38.00 sold 7/18/2011
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCS11) CHINA, cowrie imitation in fine white sandstone, 29x22mm, $24.00 sold 4/13/2010
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCS12) CHINA, cowrie imitation in fine white sandstone, 31x21mm, 12mm thick, light chipping on back, $14.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CCJ4) CHINA, jade cowries, ~32x18mm, nice, any of these at $85.00 each b is sold, I have several more unpictured.  They are quite beautiful, polished, special pieces
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCJ3) CHINA, jade cowries, ~29x13mm, carved as a “bottom” on both sides, $85.00 each b sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCJ-S2) CHINA, jade cowrie, 14x21mm, 2 holes, VF $120.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCJ-S5) CHINA, jade cowrie, ~31x23mm, mottled whitish color, nicely made, $65.00  sold 7/18/2011
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCJ-S6) CHINA, jade cowrie, ~25x23mm, $45.00 sold 7/18/2011
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCJ-S9) CHINA, big jade cowrie, 50x31mm, 3 tiny holes, mottled tan & olive color with soft inclusions, $95.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.  Several of these are available.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCJ-S7) CHINA, jade cowrie,  20x15mm, 2 tiny holes, highly polished white & tan, $90.00 sold 12/21/2009
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CCJ-S8) CHINA, jade cowrie, 20x14mm, 2 tiny holes, highly polished white with a bit of green, $70.00 This one sold, others available
Click picture for enlargement.  Several of this type are in stock.
 
 
 
 

CCJ-S3) CHINA, grayish jade cowrie, ~23x15mm, that’s a bit of carnelian in the cleft, $90.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CCS4) CHINA, stone cowries from same batch as above, but these are soft soapstone or similar. Any of these @ $55.00 each.
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCS5) CHINA, stone cowrie, 19x14mm, $36.00 sold 4/13/2010
Click image for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CCS6) CHINA, stone cowrie, 24x16mm, $45.00 sold 4/13/2010
Click image for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCS18) CHINA, soft stone cowrie, 1 big hole in back, 18x26mm, $35.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCS15) CHINA, stone cowrie, soft, fine tan stuff, 29x18mm, $30.00 sold 7/18/2011
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCM2a) CHINA, cowries carved from mother of pearl with a hole at either end, @ $11.00 each sold

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCM1) CHINA, cowrie carved from giant clam or similar, 43x31mm, 2 holes, small edge chip on back, $35.00 sold 4/13/2010
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCM3) CHINA, cowrie imitations in mother of pearl
a-c) ~28x15mm, diamond shape, hole at top, no cleft, crude, @ $15.00 each a,b sold
d) sim., but with a cleft, $18.00 sold
e) similar, hole broken, $5.00 sold
g, h) similar but no iridescence, @ $12.00 each g sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 

CCM2) CHINA, cowrie imitations carved from mother of pearl
 a) ~25-30×12-16mm, diamond shape, hole at top, $21.00 sold
 b) sim., $15.00 sold 4/13/2010
 c, d, e) carved from shell, 23x15mm, diamond shape, cleft, chips, @ $5.00 each
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 

CFD2) CHINA, bone cowries, aa & ab have no holes for stringing, ba & bb have one hole @ $13.00 each, the rest have two holes, @ $11.50 each sold
Picture is actual size.
2008 I’ve acquired several more batches of these, mostly with 2 holes.  Buy an unpictured 2-hole type for $15.00.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

s8) CHINA, green glazed porcelain cowrie, ~30x18mm.  Several people have opined that these are funerary “Hell money,” and perhaps that is so.  Or then again, maybe not.  “F” $34.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CCC-sc1) CHINA, clay cowries.  What else could these be but Hell money?
a) ~28x18mm, decent F $6.00
b) VG $3.00
c) sim., smaller F $6.00
d) VG $3.00
e) worn, chips $2.00
all sold as of 7/18/2011
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 

CFD3s9) CHINA, bronze shell, ~20x17mm, FD-3,
a) nice, $45.00
Picture is a sample.  You may or may not get it.
 b) crack, $12.50 sold 9/15/2010
 c) repaired, $10.00
 
 

CFD3v3) CHINA, bronze cowrie, FD-3v, gold plated hollow shell, almost all of gold plating remains, @ $120.00 EACH all of these are sold.  Ask me if I have any in stock.
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 

CFDH3) CHINA, bronze cowrie, FD-3v, 24x17mm, 4.9g, ridged & pierced cleft, thick & heavy, crusty, lightly chipped edges, VG $33.00 each sold 7/18/2011
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CHINA, ant-nose series, Coole= Tang Ban Liang, FD= “Jin?,” H1.4, FD-4, 2 triangles, no lines, 3.0g, VF $21.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CYB4a) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Coole= Tang Ban Liang, FD= “Jin?,” S-unc. 15, FD-4 var., eyebrows above triangles, 2.8g, VG $15.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 

CYB4b) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Coole= Tang Ban Liang, FD= “Jin?,” S-unc. 15, FD-4 var., eyebrows above triangles, 2.7g, VF $46.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 

CYB4e) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Coole= Tang Ban Liang, FD= “Jin?,” S-unc. 15, FD-4 var., extra line below triangles, 4.43g, VF $43.00 sold 7/19/07
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 

CYB6a) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Tang Go Liu Zhu, FD-6, Coole-98+, S-unc.14, 2.97g, aXF $36.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 

CYB6b) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Tang Go Liu Zhu, FD-6, Coole-98+, S-unc.14, 2.97g, aXF $27.00 sold 7/19/07
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CYB4e) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Tang Go Liu Zhu, FD-6, Coole-98+, S-unc.14, 0.9g, and made of lead, VF $40.00 sold 7/19/07
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 

CYBXa) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Jun, H1.12, FD-5, Coole-117+, 3.38g, VF $40.00 sold 7/19/07
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CYBXb) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Xin, FD-nl, Coole-123, S-nl, 4.71g, VG $70.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CYBXc) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Xing, FD-nl, Coole-127, 3.89g, all of this type are crude, VG $48.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CYBXd) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Qin (metal), FD-nl, Coole-129, 2.30g, VF $60.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CYBXe) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, Tao (kiln), FD-nl, Coole-nl, S-nl, like Coole-128 but different, 2.51g, aG $65.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 

CYBXf) CHINA, bronze ant-nose series, unpublished (Yong?), 4.18g, F $180.00 sold

 
Ancient Chinese Coins

  

In the late Neolithic China, precious stones, brick tea, silk, and cowry shells were used as a medium of exchange. About 4000 years ago, Chinese coins were cast and widely circulated in the Zhou Dynasty . Ever since then, the cast coins became the most common form of ancient Chinese currency. After Qin’s unification of the country in 221 BC, the round coin with a central square hole superseded all previous types of cast metal coins. They circulated continuously till the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911), though the style varied with time. By the Song Dynasty (960-1279) paper notes had appeared and were used in the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties (1279-1911). Silver coins appeared in the Daoguang reign of the Qing Dynasty, and minted silver and copper coins circulated in the Guangxu reign of the Qing Dynasty (1875-1908). The development of monetary system in ancient China has a close connection with the history of Chinese economy and politics.

 

Different ancient Chinese coins

Cowry shells
Cowry shells were used as the medium of exchange in the late Xia Dynasty (21st century BC). Those from the Shang Dynasty (16th century BC to 11th century BC) usually had teeth on one side and a hole for stringing on the flat polished other side. As natural cowries were limited in quantity, copies made of stone, other seashells, bone and bronze were also in circulation. Bronze replicas of cowries became the first Chinese cast coins.

Weighted metals
Smelted metal pieces without any denomination were used as money in commodity exchanges. They were valued according to the weight and material quality. Gold plates were used in the Chu State during the Warring States period (475- 221 BC).

Spade-shaped coins
Cast coins in the shape of a spade were developed in the early days of metal coin usage, and were still used sporadically until the early part of the Han Dynasty. In the beginning they had a hollow handle, but during the Warring States period (475-221 BC), the handle was solid.

Sword-shaped coins

Sword-shaped coins were a cast coin in a sword shape with a ring at the end of the handle.

Round coins
There are two types of cast round coins in ancient China: one with a round hole in the center like a ring, the other with a square hole in the center.

Minted coins
During the Guangxu reign period (1875-1908) of the Qing Dynasty, western coin minting technology was introduced into China. Zhang Zhidong, the governor-general of Guangdong and Guangxi regions, set up a mint in Guangzhou with some machines brought from Britain and made the first Chinese minted coins-silver and copper dollars-in the fifteenth year of Guangxu’s reign (1889).

Cowry-shaped bronze coins
Cowry-shaped bronze coins were cast in the Chu State during the Warring States period (475-221 BC). They usually had inscriptions of strange characters. One character, often seen, looks like an ant, another one like a monster’s face.

Gold coins
The Chu State was the first in ancient China to cast gold coins. Both have the stamped inscription “Ying Cheng.” Ying was the capital of the Chu State, and “Cheng” was read as “Yuan,” a metric unit of weight and was also used as the name of the money. So it was called “Yuan Jin” meaning gold coins. They were valued by their weight in circulation.

Spade-shaped coin

Among the spade-shaped coins, there is a rare type that has three round holes. It carries over 20 kinds of inscriptions on its face and a denomination of “Liang” (teal) or “Shi Er Zhu” (12 Zhu) on the back. It is the earliest Chinese coin with a determined denomination.

“Ban Liang” (half teal) coin
The Qin Ban Liang (half teal) coin, is round with a central square hole. It became the national legal currency after the first emperor united the country (221 BC). The denomination Ban Liang, refers to its weight, which equals 7.5 gram.

Wu Zhu coins
Wu Zhu (five Zhu) coins, weighing about 3 gram each, were cast in the Wudi reign period (140-135 BC) of the Han Dynasty. They were continuously used till the Sui Dynasty (581-618).

 

Xin Mang coins
As a result of four reformations of the monetary system by the Xin Mang government (9-23), the Wu Zhu coin system was abolished and a great variety of currency appeared in the country. The newly issued coins were odd-shaped ingots of silver, gold or bronze. The bronze coin inscriptions were especially fine.

Kai Yuan Tong Bao coins
In 621, the 4th year of Tang Emperor, Wude, Kai Yuan Tong Bao coins were formally issued and the former Wu Zhu coin system was abolished. As the major currency of the Tang Dynasty each Kai Yuan Tong Bao coin weighed one-tenth Liang. Tong Bao and Yuan Bao were other coins minted during this period.

 

Jiao Zi paper notes
In the early Song Dynasty iron coins were popularly used in Sichuan province. Because they were small in value and heavy to carry, merchants issued a paper note called Jiao Zi, the earliest paper note in the world.

 

Silver ingots
Since the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279), silver had been used as money. It was cast in various forms, with ingots being the most common one.

 

 

 

 

CHINA, “Hell” money
    Perhaps you are familiar with the modern imitation paper money burned in Chinese funerals.  At some of these functions miniature papier mache models of cars, TV sets, etc. are also burned as part of the proceedings.  These modern versions are survivals of practices that began thousands of years ago with the interment of real objects, animals, and even people at the funeral.
    These things are “Hell” money.  Seems reasonable to assume that the cowries are late Zhou, perhaps 300 BC, when they were using cowries and cowrie imitations for money.  The others were described to me as “Han dynasty or later.”

CHINA, clay cowries, 3 different styles, VG-F @ $6.50 each sold 10/14/2009
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CHINA, ZHOU Dynasty, 1122-255 BC, ant-nose series, “Jun,” H1.12, FD-5, clay, aVF $9.50 sold 6/7/2008 
 
 
 

CHINA, HAN Dynasty, c. 200 BC – 200 AD, clay funeral offerings.  I am advised that all of the following are from the general vicinity of Hangzhou:
CH2) clay cakes?
a) 38mm cross shape with floral design & 2 small holes, F-VF $18.00 sold
b) 38mm cross shape with floral design & 4 small holes, F-VF $18.00 sold Click image for enlargement.
 
 
 

CH3) 32mm unglazed circular flat thing with slightly coin-amulet design on square base, not sure what it represents, chip on base, otherwise F $14.00 sold 1/7/2008 
 
 
 
 

CH4b1) glazed plate of food, avg. 50-60mm dia., round things in “sauce,” from Hangzhou area, F-VF $24.00 sold 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CH4b2) another, F-VF $24.00 sold 6/5/2009 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CH4b3) another, F-VF $24.00 sold 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CH4b4) same, few chips around edge, F-VF $20.00 sold I have some more of these, now $70.00 7/18/ 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CH4b5) sim., but crescent shaped “slices,” edge chips, F-VF $22.00 sold 10/14/2009
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CH4b6) ~65mm, round, unglazed, possibly represents a plate of noodles, aVF @ $25.00 each “a” sold 10/14/2009 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CH9) CHINA, c. 300 BC-500 AD, clay Hell money, ~45mm round, represents a plate of food, F $25.00 sold 6/5/2009 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CHINA, rough clay lumps ~35mm diameter with 4 seal characters arranged in a square.  Supplier calls them “Ni Feng.”  I believe they’re seal impressions, token of attendance at the funeral or some such, F @ $15.00 each sold.
 
 

CSY6) CHINA, 19th c., lead sycee, 126g, lump shaped with flat face, 3 characters, crude F $68.00

 
 
 
 
 

CHINA, “Hell” money
    The offering of goods and money to the departed has been a feature of Chinese funerals since the beginning.  Clay cowries, clay food, probably most of the lead versions of cast coins, etc. are funerary.  Since paper money began about 1500 years ago imitation banknotes have been offered, usually, in latter centuries they are burned.  If you go to any oriental store anywhere in the world you will find packets of “joss paper” for sale.  There are thousands of different types made today.

229-49. CHINA, Hell note, 5000 yuan year 31 (1942) in style of Japanese puppet Federal Reserve Bank, rare WWII item,
 a) AU $20.00 sold
b) off center, AU $20.00 sold
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

HONG KONG, Hell note set of 8, same blue back on all of them, 1960s, AU-Unc, $3.00
Click picture for enlargement.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CHINA, a set from the Mongol Autonomous Region, acquired 1998, set of 10, Unc $6.50 a few of those are sold out & replaced with pieces from Thailand
Click picture for enlargement.
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the Warring States Period (400-200 BC)

 

 

. These “coins” resembled actual tools in everyday use, such as

 

 

spades,

 

 

hoes

 

and

 

 

 

knives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare with ancient knife below

 

 

 

The prominent role agriculture played in the lives of

the ancient Chinese is reflected in the choice of the spade to represent civilization’s first metallic currency.

 

Bronze spades evolved from hollow-handled ones, which were

miniature replicas of the real thing, followed by

 

 

the smaller bronze “pu”

 

consisting of round-shouldered and square foot spades.

 

Everyone, whether or not they could read or write, instantly recognized the inherent value of a spade. Reducing the spade to a

miniature pu representing the actual tool, not only made them convenient to carry, but greatly facilitated trade.

 

 It was now possible to place a value on commodities: for example, ‘ten spades or two hoes for a sheep’ using coins to purchase necessities. In time, pu spades were supplanted by knife money. (Although some would argue that the knife came first.)

 

 

 

 

This form of coin was introduced by the kingdom of Ch’i, a

practically independent state under Chou. The earliest Ch’i knives were approximately seven inches long. The knife blade often carried inscriptions indicating its origin and trade value.

 

Later on, smaller knives, known as Ming knives made their appearance.

The term “Ming” when used in association with knife money is not to be confused with the Ming dynasty (1368-1644AD); rather these knives received their name from the town where they were made.

Eventually knife money evolved into round coins with center holes known as “pan-liangs” which were to become the prototype of all coins to follow.

The Chinese coinage system

The Western, Greek, coinage system

 

was based on precious metal coins

 

struck between two dies.

 In contrast, Chinese coins

 

were made from copper-alloy,

 

 and

 

were cast in moulds.

The Chinese tradition flourished until the early twentieth century, when it was replaced by the European system.

 

 

 

 

Before 1000 BC,

 

cowrie shells were used for payments, gifts and displays of wealth.

Later these were replaced by substitutes made out of

 

bone, bronze or jade. By the seventh century BC cloth and bronze tools such as hoes and knives were also being used as money. The first Chinese coins were produced when these objects were transformed into models representing their standardised value. ‘Spades’ and ‘knives’ were the standard currency in China until the second century BC.

   

Jade imitation
of cowrie shell,
10th-6th cent. BC.

Spade money,
6th-5th cent. BC.

Read more info

ANCIENT CHINESE COINAGE
700 BC TO 255 BC

 

This is a reference guide to

 

the cast coins of China from the Zhou Dynasty, including knife and spade coins,  a listing of examples we currently have available can be viewed.

 

Images represent the types and may be larger or smaller than the actual coins.

Read more info

Chinese Charms with Coin Inscriptions

 

The mythical power of the written Chinese language along with the authority of the Chinese empire have traditionally combined to make Chinese coins into something more than just a form of currency.

For this reason, people believed that by utilizing the inscriptions (legends) of certain Chinese coins, the power of charms would be further enhanced.

Some coin inscriptions are used on charms because they have an inherent auspicious meaning. For example, the inscription on the Liao Dynasty (916-1125 AD) qian qiu wan sui (千秋万岁) coin at the left expresses the hope for longevity with the meaning of “a thousand autumns and ten thousand years”.  This Liao Dynasty coin is described in more detail below.

Another example would be the zheng de (正德) reign title of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) Emperor Wu Zong.  Zheng de (正德) means “correct virtue”.  The inscription zheng de tong bao (正德通宝), meaning “currency of correct virtue”, became a very popular inscription on Chinese charms even though no actual coins with this inscription were ever cast by the government!  Please see the examples below.

Other Chinese coin inscriptions seem to have been used on charms because the coins were issued during a time of disunity and unrest which the Chinese people, unfortunately, have faced many times throughout their history.  Charms using the coin inscriptions of Wang Mang (7-23 AD), whose monetary reforms brought unprecedented disorder, belong to this category.  Several examples are illustrated in the section below.

Still other Chinese coin legends were used because of a perceived force in the metal used in the casting of the coins of that era, such as the Later Zhou Dynasty (951-960 AD) zhou yuan tong bao (周元通宝) charms.

Examples of these and other charms with coin inscriptions are discussed in more detail in the sections below.

Wang Mang

(7-23 AD)

Wang Mang usurped the throne in the year 7 AD and proceeded to institute a number of monetary reforms which became extremely unpopular.

One of the first coins Wang Mang introduced had the inscription da quan wu shi (大泉五十) and the coin with the colorful and heavy patina at the left is an example.  The character above the square hole is da (大) meaning “big”.  The character below the hole is quan (泉) which translates as “coin“.  The character on the right is wu (五) which means “five” (5).  The character on the left is shi (十) meaning “ten” (10).  The value is therefore 5 x 10 = 50.  The inscription thus means “large coin fifty”.  The coin was declared to be the equivalent of 50 of the Han Dynasty wu zhu (五铢) coins which were the prevailing currency up to this time.

The reverse side of this coin is blank.

The coin has a diameter of 31 mm and a weight of 9.3 grams.

The “coin” to the left is not to scale.

It is actually a charm that has the same inscription (da quan wu shi 大泉五十) and resembles the coin above.

It is very small and is certainly old, although it probably does not date to the time of Wang Mang.

Because of wear, the symbols on the reverse side are a little difficult to discern.  To the right of the square hole is a snake with its head at the top and cocked back.  To the left is a sword with its hilt at the top.  Above the hole is a tortoise with its head facing to the right, and below the hole are the seven stars of the Big Dipper constellation all connected together by a line.

The tortoise has a long life-span and the snake is one of the five poisons.  These two animals would eventually become entwined to become Xuanwu (玄武), also known as the Black Warrior.

The sword is a weapon able to cut through ignorance and slay evil spirits.

“Longevity” is the overall implied meaning of these symbols. (Please see Hidden Meaning of Chinese Charms for more detailed information.)

This charm has a diameter of only 19 mm weighs just 1.5 grams.

This is a very interesting da quan wu shi (大泉五十) coin. If you look carefully at the Chinese character shi (十), meaning “ten” (10) to the left of the square hole, you will notice that it has not one but three horizontal lines.  The Chinese character shi (十) for “ten” only has one horizontal line.  The additional horizontal lines seems to mean that the coin is not worth 5 x 10 = 50 coins,  but rather 5 x 30 = 150 coins!

 

 

Another characteristic of this coin is that the inscription is repeated on the reverse side thus making it a “double obverse” coin.

There seems to be some disagreement as to whether this specimen is actually a coin or a charm but I am treating it here as a charm.

The charm has a diameter of 25 mm and a weight of 8.2 grams.

 

Northern Zhou Dynasty

 (557-581 AD)

At the left is a Northern Zhou Dynasty coin cast in the year 574 AD during the reign of Emperor Wu.

The inscription is wu xing da bu (五行大布) which translates as “large coin of the five elements”.

The five elements consist of metal, wood, water, fire and water.

For a discussion of the five elements please see Charm Symbols: Star, Moon, Cloud and Dragon.

The reverse side of the coin is blank.

The coin has a diameter of 26 mm and weight of 3.7 grams.

This is a charm written in the same seal script and with the same inscription or legend (wu xing da bu 五行大布) as the coin above.

The reverse side displays the same four symbols, namely the snake, tortoise, sword and the Big Dipper constellation, as on the Wang Mang da quan wu shi (大泉五十) charm discussed above.

On this charm, however, the sword is on the right and the seven star Big Dipper constellation is on the left.

Above the square hole is the snake which is coiled with its head facing to the left.

The tortoise is below the square hole with its head also facing to the left.

The charm has a diameter of 24.5 mm and a weight of 3.7 grams.

This obverse side of this large charm is based on the same Northern Zhou Dynasty coin and uses the same seal script calligraphy.

If you observe closely, though, the character at the bottom is written differently.  Most experts still consider this character to be the same character 行 (xing) as on the Northern Zhou coin displayed above.

Others, however, believe that the character is actually 两 (liang) which was a unit of weight.  The liang was the same unit of weight used, for example, on the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) and Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) banliang (半两) or “half tael” coins.

The reverse side has the same four symbols in the same location as the smaller charm above.  The difference is that the snake is coiled differently and its head at the top facing right.

Also, the tortoise with its head on the right is now looking back towards the left.

The diameter of this charm is 32.5 mm and the weight is 7.3 grams.

 

 

 

 

Later Zhou Dynasty

 (951 – 960)

Following the fall of the great Tang Dynasty in 907, China experienced another period of turmoil and disunity known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms which lasted 907 – 960 AD.

Emperor Shi Zong of the Later Zhou issued his coinage patterned on that of the kai yuan tong bao (开元通宝) which had become the standard coin of the Tang Dynasty.

Emperor Shi Zong’s coin is displayed to the left.  The inscription reads zhou yuan tong bao (周元通宝) which translates as the “Zhou First Currency” and was cast during the years 951-960 AD.

The zhou yuan tong bao very quickly became a popular inscription used on Chinese charms.

The reason is because, beginning in the year 956, Emperor Shi Zong ordered that the bronze Buddha statues in the Buddhist temples, as well as the bronze items owned by the people, be turned in to the government so that they could be melted down and used to cast coins.  As a result, coins with this inscription are considered especially auspicious because they contain metal from Buddhist statues. 

This belief has carried over to the charms and amulets cast during the following centuries which display the same inscription.

The reverse side of the coin shows a “moon” between the square hole an the rim at the seven o’clock position.  For a discussion of the “moon” symbol please visit Charm Symbols: Star, Moon, Cloud and Dragon.

The coin has a diameter of 24 mm and a weight of 3.5 grams.

The obverse side of this charm closely resembles that of the coin above and the inscription, zhou yuan tong bao (周元通宝), is the same.

Although this charm is from a later period, charms with this Chinese coin inscription are very popular.

Because the actual coins with this inscription were cast using bronze from Buddhist statues, the Chinese believed that this was also true for charms and amulets with the same inscription even though they may have been cast in the following centuries.

The reverse side of this old charm has a dragon on the left and a phoenix on the right.

The two are facing each other with their heads at the bottom of the charm.

Charms with a dragon and phoenix are considered auspicious marriage charms.

For additional information on this theme, please visit Chinese Marriage Charms.

The diameter of the charm is 22.5 mm and the weight is 5.6 grams.

Like the charm above, the obverse side of this charm has the auspicious Chinese coin inscription zhou yuan tong bao (周元通宝).

This is the reverse side of the charm revealing that it is another phoenix and dragon marriage charm.

In this example, however, the phoenix is on the left and the dragon is on the right.  The two are facing each other with their heads at the top of the charm.

It is a little difficult to see but the wings of the phoenix are just to the left of the square hole.  The head is at the eleven o’clock position and the tail feathers are at the seven o’clock position.

The dragon is on the right with the tip of its mouth at the twelve o’clock position and a dot representing its left eye at the one o’clock position.  Its left front claw is just above the square hole.  The dragon’s body curves down the right side of the charm and its left rear claw is just below the central hole.  Its tail is almost touching the upper tail feather of the phoenix.
The charm has a diameter of 25 mm and a weight of 6.6 grams.

This is the obverse side of another ancient charm based on the zhou yuan tong bao (周元通宝) coin of the Later Zhou Dynasty.

Similar to the example above, the dragon is on the right and the phoenix is on the left.

The two mythical animals are sculpted in high relief and are facing each other with their heads at the top of the charm.

This charm has a diameter of 23.5 mm and a weight of 6.8 grams.

Song Dynasty

(960-1279)

The coin displayed at the left is an example of coins with the inscription tai ping tong bao (太平通宝) cast during the years 976-989 of the reign of Emperor Tai Zong (976-997) of the Northern Song Dynasty.

This was the first Song Dynasty coin inscribed with an imperial or reign title.

The reign title tai ping (太平) means “peace”.

This same inscription, tai ping tong bao (太平通宝), was also used on coins cast during the years 1854-1855 by the Shanghai Small Sword Society (xiao dao hui 小刀会) during the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864).

The coin has a diameter of 24.8 mm and weighs 4 grams.

This is a charm based on the tai ping tong bao (太平通宝) coin of the Song Dynasty.

Tai ping, meaning “peace” or “great peace”, has always been a strong desire of a people and it is, therefore, an appropriate inscription for a charm.

This is an unusually well-made charm as evidenced by the fine crosshatch pattern seen in the character field.

The charm appears to be made of tin with, possibly, a silver wash.

The reverse side of the charm displays a number of auspicious symbols, some of which are difficult to identify.

At the top is a pair of interlocking diamond-shaped lozenges known as fang sheng (方胜).  The origin of this symbol is still unclear but it may represent the form of an ancient musical instrument.  Or, it may have been a head ornament worn in ancient times which symbolized victory.  There is also a legend that the Queen Mother of the West wore such as object to exorcise evil spirits.

Moving clockwise, the next symbol appears to be books tied with a ribbon or fillet possibly expressing the wish for sons to be successful in the imperial exams and obtaining an official government position.

The next symbol is a gourd also tied with a ribbon.  The gourd is popular symbol to ward off evil spirits and disease because its first character (hulu 葫芦) has the same pronunciation as to “protect” or “guard” (hu 护), and also for “blessing” (hu 祜). (Please see Gourd Charms.)

Unfortunately, corrosion obscures the symbols at the bottom and left of the square hole and these symbols remain unidentified.

Just to the left of the lozenges is a flaming pearl which represents riches and wealth.

This charm has a diameter of 26 mm and a weight of 3.3 grams.

Liao Dynasty

(916-1125)

 
At the left is a fairly rare coin charm from the Liao Dynasty.

According to historical records, Emperor Tai Zong (太宗) in the year 938 established the capital at Shang Jing (上京) and honored the event by casting commemorative coins with the auspicious inscription qian qiu wan sui (千秋万岁), which literally translates as a “thousand autumns and ten thousand years”, expressing the hope that the emperor and the dynasty would endure forever.

Most of these commemorative coins were presented as gifts or awards.  Some of the coins have also been found in the foundations of Liao Dynasty pagodas where they were presented as offerings by religious believers during the dedication of the religious buildings.

The reverse side displays an interesting set of three figures.

At the very top is a figure of a person kneeling with his right and left arms stretched out.

To the left of the square hole, and below the above figure’s right arm, is a person, perhaps a newborn child, bent forward and standing.

To the right of the hole, and below the top figure’s left arm, is a dragon.

This Liao Dynasty coin has a diameter of slightly greater than 25 mm and a weight of 6.8 grams.

Jin Dynasty

(1115-1234)

During the late Northern Song Dynasty, the Nuzhen (Jurchen, Jurched) (女真) nationality conquered most of north China and established their rule as the Jin Dynasty.

At first, they used coins of the Song and Liao dynasties but began to cast their own coinage in 1157.

The coin at the left, with the beautiful seal script calligraphy, has the inscription tai he zhong bao (泰和重宝).

The coin was cast during the years 1204-1209 of the reign of Emperor Zhang Zong (1190-1209) of the Jin Dynasty.

The diameter of the coin is 44.5 mm and the weight is 12.6 grams.

This is actually a charm based on the Jin Dynasty tai he zhong bao coin shown above.

Because tai he (泰和) can be variously translated as “peace and harmony” or “prosperity and harmony”, the coin became popular as a theme upon which to base charms and amulets.

Tai (泰) can also refer to tai shan (泰山), or Mt. T’ai, which is a famous and sacred mountain worshipped as a god.

The reverse side of the charm depicts two magpies with their long tail feathers.  The magpie above the square hole is actually upside down.  Its head is looking down and back to the right.

The magpie at the bottom has its head at the four o’clock position and is looking up and to left.

The two magpies are therefore looking directly at each other.

The magpie (xi que 喜鹊) symbolizes “happiness” because the first character xi is the same as the word “happy” (xi 喜).  Two magpies facing each other therefore represents “double happiness” (shuang xi 喜喜) and is a symbol of a happy marriage.

The reference to a happy marriage is based on the legend of two heavenly lovers, the Cowherd (Oxherd) and the Weaver Girl (Maiden), who are permitted to meet each other only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month (known as qixi 七夕, the Double Seven, or Sisters Festival) by crossing a celestial river (the Milky Way) on a bridge made of magpies.

Also, a magpie shown upside down, as is the case here, means that happiness has “arrived” because the Chinese words for “upside down” (倒) and “arrived” (到) are both pronounced dao.

Located between the two magpies are plum branches.  In Chinese, one can say “there is a happy bird (magpie) on the tip of the plum branch” as xi shang mei shao (喜上梅稍).  This sounds exactly the same as saying xi shang mei shao (喜上眉稍), meaning “happiness up to one’s eyebrows”, which is a Chinese expression for “very happy”.

This charm has a diameter of 41 mm and a weight of 18.8 grams.

This is the obverse side of another charm based on the famous tai he zhong bao (泰和重宝) coin of the Jin Dynasty.

The reverse side of the charm has four lines radiating outward from the corners of the square hole and extending to the rim.

The Chinese refer to this characteristic as si chu (四出).  Si (四) means “four” and chu (出) means “going out”.

The implied meaning is that peace, prosperity and harmony should radiate in all directions.

The charm has a diameter of 41 mm and a weight of 22.3 grams.

Ming Dynasty

 (1368-1644)

This coin was cast during the reign of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

The inscription is hong wu tong bao (洪武通宝) and was cast during the Hong Wu reign of Emperor Tai Zu (1368-1398).

You will notice that the hole is not in the usual shape of a four-sided square.  This particular specimen has an auspicious eight-sided hole known as a “flower” or “rosette” hole.

“Flower hole” coins were fairly common during the Northern Song and early Southern Song Dynasties but became very rare by the time of the Ming Dynasty.

A detailed discussion of these types of coins including many examples can be seen at Chinese Coins with Flower Holes.

This is a Chinese charm, modeled after the above Ming Dynasty coin, with the same inscription hong wu tong bao (洪武通宝).

The reverse side of the charm shows a boy riding an ox or water buffalo.

In this case, the “boy” is actually Emperor Tai Zu.

Emperor Tai Zu had a very humble early life and for a time was a shepherd boy.

You will notice that the boy is playing a flute which has the connotation of a care free life.

The flute is an old Daoist (Taoist) symbol which is associated with the Daoist Immortal Lan Caihe (蓝采和).

The flute is also an ancient Buddhist symbol used in meditation and is displayed on this charm to allude to the time when Emperor Tai Zu lived in a Buddhist monastery.

This type of charm became popular with the Chinese people because it represented the hope that a person could become successful despite being born into a peasant family.

Another hong wu tong bao charm which displays a number of symbols referring to Emperor Tai Zu’s life is discussed in detail at Buddhist Charms.

This charm has a diameter of 43 mm and a weight of 29.2 grams.

The inscription (legend) on this charm is zheng de tong bao (正德通宝).

Zheng De was the reign title (1505 – 1521 AD) of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Wu Zong.  While some claim that the government did cast a very small number of coins with this inscription, it is generally believed that no coins meant for circulation were ever cast by the government using the reign title zheng de.

Even though no legal tender coins were cast during this period, a fairly large number of charms with this inscription exist.  The reason is that zheng de has the auspicious meaning in Chinese of “correct virtue”, so the inscription translates as “currency of correct virtue”.

Many Chinese of the time also believed that Emperor Wu Zong was the reincarnation of a real dragon.

Ancient Chinese folklore says that zheng de was a “swimming” dragon.  The belief is that wearing a zheng de charm when you cross a river or sea will protect you from the danger of large waves.

The Chinese also love to gamble and there is an old Chinese superstition that says carrying a zheng de charm will bring you good luck at gambling.

It was believed that if a pregnant woman carried a zheng de charm in her hand both she and her child would be protected.

Zheng de charms were also given to children as a form of good luck money (yasuiqian 压岁钱) during the lunar New Year.

The zheng de charms were considered so lucky that there was this popular saying:

家有正德钱富贵万万年
(jia you zheng de qian fu gui wan wan nian)
“If a family has a zheng de coin, there will be riches and honor for ten thousand years”

It is a common theme with zheng de charms to have a dragon and phoenix.

The reverse side of this charm shows a wide-eyed dragon on the right with its head at the five o’clock position.  A lovely phoenix is on the left of the square hole with its head at the six o’clock position.

The dragon and phoenix paired together represent the ultimate union of a man and a woman.  Additional information on this subject can be found at Chinese Marriage Charms.

The charm has a diameter of 45 mm and weighs 14.5 grams.

This is another example of a very well-made zheng de tong bao (正德通宝) that would typically have been used as a marriage charm.

The reverse side of the charm displays a very ornate and finely detailed dragon on the right with its head at the two o’clock position.

An equally detailed phoenix is at the left of the center hole with its head at the eight o’clock position.

This is a large and heavy charm.

The diameter is 54 mm and the weight is 42.3 grams.

This is another example of a charm with the Chinese coin inscription zheng de tong bao (正德通宝).

The very broad outer rim displays a dragon on the left and a phoenix on the right.

The circular objects at the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock positions are pearls.

The reverse side also has a very broad outer rim with the single Chinese character wen (文) above the square hole.

Wen (文) is the measure word used for counting Chinese cash coins.

It is interesting that this same character wen (文) can also mean the obverse side of a coin even though here it is displayed on the reverse side.

The diameter of this charm is 31.3 mm and the weight is 8.3 grams.

Coins were cast with the reign title Wan Li (万历) of Emperor Shen Zong during the years 1573-1620 of the Ming Dynasty.

At the left is a coin with the inscription wan li tong bao (万历通宝).

What is unusual about this coin is that there are four dots, with one dot between each of the Chinese characters.

Experts seem to be divided as to whether this is an official coin or a charm.

The character wan (万) means “ten thousand” and the character li (历) means “era” or “calendar”. The four dots are generally believed to represent stars (xing 星) or suns (ri 日).  The implied meaning is, therefore, light and brightness forever.

The reverse side of this coin or charm is blank although it has the same broad outer rim as that on the obverse.

The coin has a diameter of 24 mm and a weight of 3.4 grams.

 

 

 

Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty

 (1644-1911)

This coin is a qian long tong bao (乾隆通宝) presumably cast during the 60 year reign (1736-1795) of Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty Emperor Gao Zong.

The coin is very large and heavy.  In fact, it is much larger and heavier than any other qian long tong bao variety of coin with which I am familiar.

Also, the characters, such as the bottom portion of the bao (宝) and the radical portion of the tong (通), are written in a slightly different style from that of the other coins of this emperor.

The coin, however, is clearly old.

Because of its size, calligraphy and age, I have concluded that this “coin” is most probably a “charm”.

The reverse side reveals another interesting feature.

The Manchu characters indicate that the piece was cast at the Board of Revenue in Peking (Beijing).

However, the characters are rotated 90 degrees clockwise and the characters themselves are very large.

The intention may have been political but the meaning remains unclear. 

The charm has a diameter of almost 56 mm and a thickness of just over 3 mm.

In 1861, a few specimen coins for the reign title Qixiang were cast with the inscription qi xiang zhong bao (祺祥重宝).

The coin at the left is either one of these authentic pieces or an excellent copy.  If it is indeed a copy, then it is clearly a very old one.

Besides its rarity, coins or charms with the inscription qi xiang are considered auspicious because qi xiang (祺祥) means “lucky” or “of good omen”.

The top and bottom characters on the reverse side of this coin/charm are dang shi (当十) which translates as “Value Ten” and means that this coin was worth the equivalent of 10 cash coins.

The Manchu characters to the right and left of the square hole indicate that the coin was cast at the Board of Works in Peking (Beijing).

This coin/charm has a diameter of 35 mm and weight of 13.6 grams.

The charm to the left is quite small and shows considerable wear.

The inscription is guang xu tong bao (光绪通宝) and the obverse side looks exactly like a typical Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty coin of Emperor De Zong (1875 – 1908 AD).

 

The reverse side reveals that it is actually a charm with the inscription read top to bottom and right to left as ding cai gui shou (丁财贵寿).

The translation is “May you acquire wealth, honor (high rank) and longevity”.

The charm is only 19.5 mm in diameter and weighs 4.7 grams.

 

 

INFORMATION NEEDED FOR
UNDERSTANDING EARLY CHINESE COINS

The coinage of early China is not well understood, although things have improved signficantly in recent years. This e-book  puts forward our observations and ideas that have evolved over time from many different sources, combining them with ideas put forward by other numismatists. Some of our theories will almost certainly eventually be proven wrong and will have to be revised (some already have been), and it is our hope to keep moving forward towards a genuine understanding of this complex series. We will be happy to hear from anyone who wishes to express their opinions on this subject, or can provide us with information that we are not aware of.


 

WHAT QUALIFIES AS A TRUE COIN

A true coin, as compared to a primitive money, must meet three criteria. First, it must bear the mark of the issuing authority. Secondly, it must contain an intrinsic value bearing some relationship to the circulating value, and while that intrinsic value can be less than the circulating value if it falls too far below the item becomes a token rather than a coin. The third it must have an understood denomination so that it need not be weighed at every transaction, otherwise it is only a bullion item.


 

ANCIENT RECORDS

Official ancient records are of little help in this series, as few survived

 

the Ch’in Dynasty’s attempt (ca. 221 BC)

 

to erase earlier history which included earlier writings.

Some records have survived are inscriptions on

 

bronze ritual vessels

 

indicating how they were paid for thus giving glimpses into the monetary system of the time, but in most cases the readings are subject to several interpretations with their true meanings uncertain.


 

MODERN RESEARCH
(19th century to recent)

Many books and articles about ancient Chinese coins have been published, but there is little agreement between them. It is likely no one researcher has the full truth, but reading them is still useful. Until recently

 

EARLY CHINESE COINAGE by WANG YU-CH’UAN (ANS Numismatic notes & Monographs #122, 1951, republished by Durst in 1980) was probably the most useful, but

 

 

CAST CHINESE COINS by David Hartill (Trafford Publishing, 2005) was far surpassed it and we highly recommend it to anyone that wants far more detail on this series than we intend to provide on this e-book


 

MODERN ARCHEOLOGY

 

Modern archeology is in its infancy in China, but rapidly improving. It provides significant new information on where the coins are found, and thus presumed to have been minted. But as yet there have not been enough documented excavations containing these types of coins, which can be accurately dated so as to help define the dates of the coins (usually the coins date the excavation). This is is changing and one day we will be able to define the dates of the various types more closely.

Read more

Great Leap Forward era backyard iron furnaces have been unearthed [via] and there is discussion about whether to preserve them as historical evidence, even a cultural heritage. The site is described thus

The backyard furnaces are located on the south slope of a hillside within

 

 the borders of Heiyaodong Village in Baiyin Mongolian Township,

 

Sunan Yugur Autonomous County.

They are situated in an east-west line and number 159 furnaces in total, most of which have crumbled. About fifty are still largely intact. The largest is 8 meters high and 14 meters in circumference; the smallest is 2.5 meters high and 2.7 meters around. Most are pagoda-shaped, with one or more chimneys. Their insides are lined with clay bricks. Some of the larger furnaces are dug into the hillside and have one or more arched entrances for feeding raw material, lighting the fire, or cleaning out slag, and multiple air vents are set into the floor. Some are made up of ten individual furnaces joined together. The whole group extends for a more than two kilometer  s, making for an impressive sight.

 

The furnaces were built in 1958 during the Great Leap Forward and ceased operating in 1960. Some of them were never put to use.

That last line captures what is, for me anyway, the essence of the GLF: an immense waste of effort, resources, lives. Wu Zuolai of the journal Theory and Criticism of Art and Literature writes:

People who experienced that time recall that whole forests were cut down to make charcoal to burn, bringing immense disaster to the environment. And because some areas were unable to produce acceptable steel, the people had to break apart their cooking pots and melt them down in the furnaces, and as a result, unusable lumps of iron were all that was produced. One unforeseen consequence was that real cultural heritage was plundered during the steel production campaign. The two-storey tower at

 

the famous Hangu Pass* was torn down,

and inscriptions accumulated over the course of two thousand years were destroyed.

 

Wuwei County,* Gansu, was an important

 

northwestern garrison in the Tang Dynasty, and its city wall, built of large bricks, towered for a thousand years. But those thousand-year-old bricks became part of the furnaces.

The past has become a memory and a historical lesson. But has the mentality of the Great Leap Forward been entirely eradicated? Faced with this massive cluster of iron smelters, we have much to reflect upon. Public, scientific, and democratic decision making must not be merely empty words but must be put into practice in every project.

Wu goes on to suggest a “small museum” on the site, and an oral history and records collecting project. Given that this is one of the landmark events of modern Chinese history, I would hope for that much, or more. But given that this is one of the landmark events in the failure of Maoist policy and rapid modernization, I have my doubts.

 


 

CALLIGRAPHY

 

Calligraphy forms evolved rapidly during the Zhou period, but many coins bear archaic calligraphy forms long out of fashion by the time the coins were cast. The same character can appear on two related issues in almost unrelated (to western eyes) forms, and in many cases these archaic characters cannot be translated with absolute certainty. Calligraphy style should be viewed as somewhat unreliable as a technique for dating the coins, and not used to override other evidence.

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History of Chinese Calligraphy

Since the creation of Chinese words in ancient times, Chinese calligraphy has existed in a rich myriad of scripts, many of which are still being practised today.  The following is a brief introduction to the evolution of the different types of scripts through the history of the Chinese civilisation.

Before the invention of paper, Chinese characters were recorded as engravings on different types of surfaces. 

 

The earliest recognized form of Chinese characters, known as Jiaguwen (甲骨文) or the Oracle Bone script, dated to

 

the Xia-Shang Dynasties era (1700 B.C.). 

The characters were found engraved on tortoise plastrons and animal bones (typically ox spatulas) which were mostly used for divination purposes in the imperial courts, hence its name.

Xia Dynasty (2200-1700 B.C.) and the Legendary Yellow Emperor of China


Emperor Shun The Xia (Hsia) dynasty began when Shun abdicated in favor of Emperor Yu,the legendary Yellow Emperor of China, from whom all other Chinese are believed to have descended. Venerated as the first emperor of China, Yu had thousands of concubines because he believed the more sex partners he had the longer he would live. He reputedly became immortal after he made love to a thousand young virgins. Yao, another mythical emperor who followed Yu, was famous for his benevolent rule and lifestyle of a simple farmer.

The oldest bronze vessels date back to the Xia dynasty. According to legend bronze was first cast 5,000 years ago by the Yellow Emperor, who cast nine bronze tripods to symbolize the nine provinces in his empire. Bronze metallurgy in China dates back to 2000 B.C., significantly later than in southeastern Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where it developed around 3600 B.C. to 3000 B.C.

Chinese astronomers in the Xia era were among the first to chart constellations and record supernovas. In 2296 B.C., Chinese astronomers observed a comet. They also developed a system of observation based on the equator and the poles that was not adopted by Europe until 4000 years later.

For a long time it was thought the Xia dynasty was legendary but in the last couple of decades evidence has surfaced that it really existed. A site near Erlitou in Henan Province dated to 2200 to 1700 B.C. is believed to have been a Xia capital. Archaeologists working there have found tombs filled with pottery, ornamental jade, clay irrigation pipes, and the world’s oldest ritual bronze vessels.

Xia Dynasty Archaeological Sites


Described by some as a Xia dynasty Tomb
but actually from a
A.D. 10th century Xia dynasty The Erlitou site near Yanshi city in Henan Province is thought by some historians and archeologists to have been the capital of the Xia dynasty. Excavations there have revealed palace building and tombs containing musical instruments and bronzes.

One of the most important finds from Erlitou is the Bronze Ornamental Plaque , a cast bronze and turquoise inlay that was unearthed in a tomb dated to 17th or 16th century B.C. Now housed in the Luoyang Museum, it features a foxlike animals that is thought to be a representation of a deity. Some speculate may have been worn as a breast plate and a symbol of divine authority.

Important Xia, Shang and Zhou archaeological sites include the newly-discovered Shang city ruins at Yanshi and Huanbei; the excavations of the Erlitou, Yinxu and Fenghao sites; new breakthrough discoveries at the cemeteries at the Liulihe site in Beijing, Qianzhangda in Tengzhou and Dadianzi in Inner Mongolia. Excavations at Shang and Zhou imperial cities such as the Yinxu ruins in Anyang, the Changan and Fenghao ruins in modern-day Xian, and the Eastern Zhou capital Wangcheng in Luoyang, which have helped archaeologists establish a chronology for the Xia, Shang and Zhou Dynasties.

 


Credit: http://baike.soso.com/v31430.htm

With the advent of the Bronze Age in the Zhou Dynasty (ca. 1046–256 B.C.), a more refined form of engraved script evolved from Jiaguwen.  Known as Jinwen (金文) or the Bronzeware script, this type of script was found on cast bronze vessels.  The Jinwen script boasted rounder strokes, unlike that of Jiaguwen which were long and narrow in form, and had sharp edges.  The stylistic difference between the two scripts was attributed to the finer and smoother bronzeware surface (as compared to animal bones).  Furthermore, given that the bronze vessels from this period were largely used for ceremonial and ritual purposes, more efforts were also put into embellishing the Chinese characters.

 

Credit: http://blog1.poco.cn/myBlogDetail-htx-id-4964841-userid-55616776-pri–n-0.xhtml

During this same period,

 

 

another form of script, Dazhuan (大篆) or the Greater Seal script, coexisted with Jinwen.  In fact, both Jinwen and Dazhuan are often regarded as sub-branches of each other since the two forms of characters overlapped.

In the early stages of Chinese civilization up till the Warring States period, different states and kingdoms had their own forms of Chinese characters.  It was not until

 

the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 B.C.) when the Chinese empire was unified by

 

Emperor Qin Shihuangdi t

hat Chinese characters were standardized.  Pursuant to this development, a more elegant script, known as

 

Xiaozhuan (小篆) or the Lesser Seal script, was derived.  This script is recognized as the origin of the modern, unsimplified Chinese script which we see in use today in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia.  Compared to the earlier scripts, Xiaozhuan characters are more stylized and less “pictographic”.  In fact, it is from Xiaozhuan script that Chinese characters start exhibiting the systematic and extensive use of radicals.

 

Credit: http://www.cc5000.com/zhishi/shufa/keshi.htm


However, the Xiaozhuan script was considered complex and cumbersome.  As a result,

Lishu () or the Scribe script, was created.  

 

As the name suggests,

 

this script was used by the court mandarins.  Its origin could be traced to the period of

 

 late Qin and

 

 

 

early Han Dynasties (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.) when court officials needed a fast and efficient script to record and process state matters.

The marked difference between this script and Xiaozhuan is that Lishu characters have less strokes and boast a more flowing style, and are therefore easily adaptable to calligraphy brushes.  In addition, Chinese characters were further standardized under the Lishu script to remove regional variations, and these characters are for the most part the same ones written today.  Hence, it is widely acknowledged that the Lishu script laid the foundation for present-day Chinese writing.

 

After the Lishu script, the evolution of Chinese calligraphy took on a cursive trend.

  Caoshu () or the Cursive script first appeared in the latter part of the Han era when calligraphers began to inject artistic styles into their writing.  Typically, the shape of the Chinese characters in the cursive script do not resemble the corresponding standard Lishu character as some strokes are either being merged or simply omitted.

 

Credit: http://chinese.qilu18.com/XDHY/03/12.htm


Kaishu () or the Formal script emerged at around the same time as Caoshu.  While very similar to Lishu, Kaishu contains serif-like (hook- or anchor-like) elements at the turn and end of each stroke.  This form of writing was being continually refined and standardized until the mid-Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) when a uniform script was agreed upon.

 

Credit: http://www.szlnzx.com/edu/2010/4/20090602165457340.shtml

Meanwhile, also at the latter part of the Han Dynasty, a more cursive variant of Kaishu, known as Xingshu () or the Running script, also took shape.  Again, several strokes, especially sequential dots, are being merged, or two perpendicular strokes deliberately curved up.  Given its relatively simple and fast execution, Xingshu easily became the most popular script in use during its time.

 

Credit: http://www.wenhuacn.com/shufa/article.asp?classid=36&articleid=6886


Picking up Chinese Calligraphy

All newcomers to Chinese calligraphy are initiated through the basic brushstrokes in the formal and neat style of Kaishu.  The beginner learns by imitation through a template of strokes called tie, usually a reproduction of a manuscript by a renowned ancient calligrapher.  As the learner tries to reproduce each line and dot that forms each character, he is forced to examine and appreciate the proper way of writing and placing each stroke in the character.

 

Credit: http://www.997788.com/22304/search/155/6379641/

Notably, there is no fixed way of writing any character as the style and form would depend on the period of origin of the template.  For instance, if the learner picks up a Kaishu tie from the Tang Dynasty, the style which he learns will be more regimented than say, that from the Song Dynasty.  As one progresses in the mastery of Chinese calligraphy, one may choose to branch into practicing the other more demanding or stylistic scripts such Xingshu or Caoshu.  And with confidence and practice, the learner can also try to inject personal styles into the writing.

Appreciating Chinese Calligraphy

While there is no fixed set of rules or standards by which to judge or define beauty in Chinese calligraphy, enthusiasts usually refer to the following general points in their appreciation of calligraphy masterpieces.  A good calligraphy work would display a sublime balance of strength and gentleness behind the different strokes and the appropriate amount of ink used for each character.  Furthermore, the placement and alignment of each character across the piece of paper, thus making up the visual composition of the artwork, is just as important a factor in defining a masterpiece.


Jiaguwen


 

 


 

CLASSIFICATION SYSTEMS

Understanding coinage of this period is almost impossible using the traditional classification systems with knife, spade, cowry imitation, and early round coins under the single heading of the Zhou Dynasty and thus giving the impression of a single complex currency system. Zhou was just the most powerful of several large states that existed side by side, each of which was responsible for a different type of coinage. Since we began building this website in 1997, more information about this has come to light and we are in the process of adding that information and restructuring the site to better show how the system worked.

WEIGHT STANDARDS

Ancient Chinese coins appear to have been issued at weights based on multiples of the shu. Dr. Woo has recently brought to our attention a group of Zhou Dynasty bronze weights on which the official weight of a shu was 0.65 grams, with 24 shu to a Liang of 15.6 grams. However, these are trade weights used to weight out goods to those standards, and when it comes to coins they do not translate directly to the expected weights of coins cast to related denominations.

Many Zhou period coins have characters indicating denominations Liangs, but when we weigh the coins they seen to average about 0.5 grams per shu (see Wang, Early Chinese Coins, pages 138-139) which is only about 77% of the official weight of a shu. This shows a seniorage system similar that to used in medieval Europe, where coins are made to a weight below their circulating value, with the profit made from the difference used to off-set the cost of minting, and sometimes show a small profit to the minting authority. So with respect to coins, a shu is roughly 0.5 grams and a Liang 12 grams.

The casting techniques used to mint Chinese coins did not allow exact weight control of individual coins, so the ancient mint masters were concerned with average weight of a large numbers of coins rather than the exact weight of each individual coin. To determine the intended weight standard of a particular series of coins one must average the weights a large numbers of specimens. We have noted certain trends within the standards of various types of coins, and at this point we believe the system can be summarized as follows :

Spades Coins are denominated in multiples of 6 shu with issues 72 shu or 3 Liang (36 grams), 48 shu or 2 Liang (24 grams), 24 shu or 1 Liang (12 grams) and 12 shu or 1/2 Liang (6 grams). Not all types were issued in all denominations but the denominations for each type will be discussed further down).

Knife Coins are denominated in a system based on multiples of 10 shu although the main denomination for thin knifes as 30 shu (about 15 grams). We have not yet examined enough of the Heavy Knifes of the State of Chi to work out there intended denominations, but will work on that later.

Early round coins With round holes seem to follow the knife money system based on multiples of 10 shu with most issued at 20 shu (10 grams).

Cowry imitation coins do not appear to have any typical weight standard, as the weights on them can very considerably. They were probably denominated as equivalent in value of an actual cowry shell, regardless of weight, but this is by no means certain.


 

DENOMINATION NAMES

Spade money had a variety of denominations, often multiple denominations circulated side by side, so we see some types with denominations names on them. While the weight standard is based on the Shu and the Liang, on the coins we see two names for this unit. Some do say “Liang” on them, but others have the character for “Jin” on them. It is important to understand that a JIN” is equivalent to a “LIANG”, and the only difference is in which term was used on what types.

As yet we have not determined a name for the intended denomination of Knife money, as none of them seem to have denomination marks on them. As there is appears to be only one denomination for them, there was no need to indicated it on them.

Round coins are much more complicated, because it depends on where they are from. Some were issued in spade issuing areas and are denominated in “Liang” or “Jin” just as the spades were. Others were issued in Knife issuing areas and like the knifes do not have a denomination indicated, although some have the character “HUA” which I believe simply means “money”. This is something that needs a lot more research.


 

MONETARY UNITS vs. WEIGHTS

The earlier coins were cast to weight standards in a direct relationship with the denominations, so if you weighted a coin at 12 grams it was almost certain a 1 Liang (or 1 Jin) denomination. During the Chin Dynasty, sometime around 250 BC, this changed and be begin to see coins issued with denomination marks that bare no relationship to the actual weight of the coin. This is best seen on the Ban liang (1/2 Liang) coins of the State of Chin which can vary in weight considerably but the earliest large diameter issues weigh at least 6 grams (and often significantly more), but the size and weight gradually declined and by the time they were last issued in the Han Dynasty are often seen at 3 grams or even less, but still with the Ban Liang denomination on them.

 

ZHOU DYNASTY
1122-255 BC

If the reader has not already done so, we recommend reading our comments above in order to understand a little about how this series of coins function as monetary units, before proceeding with this section.

“Zhou Dynasty” is the usual name for this period during which the early Chinese coins were made. It is technically accurate but does not best describe the political situation in China at the time, as China was composed a of independent feudal states which was also each it’s own Dynasty, which were loosely affiliated with the State of Zhou acting as a central hub of government. When the Zhou conquered Shang in about 1122 BC, they were very powerful and did ruled over the other states, but by 7th and 6th centuries BC Zhou had lost most of it’s real power and it’s position as the central hub of government was more as a figure head, with no genuine power over the others. Real power was split between the other feudal states, who were often at war with each other which is why this later Zhou period is also known as the period of the Warring States. This the period during which Chinese coinage first developed.

Some of these Warring States appear to have retained minting authority in their central governments, while others appear to have relegated it to the local level of cities or even clans. To some extend we can now sort to many of the major coin types as to which state issued it, although many issues remain uncertain. We are now in the process of re-organizing this page to better reflect this organization of the coins, and will continue to work on that as more information comes available. As this re-organization is not yet complete, some of what follows will seem more confusing than it will when we are finished.

The currency of the Zhou Dynasty can be divided into three basic periods.

The first, which will not be discussed in any significant detail on this list, is the pre-coinage period when various types of primitive money were used before coins were invented. Primitive money simply means objects used as mediums of exchange, which are not true coins. These can include things like farm tools (knifes, spades, etc), shells (cowry shells were popular for this) and things like bolts of cloth. Since use of coins begins in different parts of China at different times, there is no clear date as to when this ends, and to complicate things there is good evidence that coins did not totally displace primitive moneys as a medium of exchange until at least into the Han Dynasty period. In his work on early Chinese coinage, Wang Yu-Ch’uan discusses evidence of cowry shells as a form of currency as early as the late Shang Dynasty, and the exchange tables of Wang Mang in the early 1st century AD including many types of primitive money’s including things like tortoise shells.

The second period is a period of independent coinage, where each of the major states that made coins had a fairly unique form to them. Wang (per his map on page 254 of Early Chinese Coinage) maintains originated in different parts of China with spade money in the Shantung Peninsula and south of the Yellow River Valley, Knife money in the Yellow River Valley, and Cowry imitation money just north of the Yangtze river. His evidence for this appears to be generally sound, although his dating probably in-accurate, and things were more complex than that as the Spades and Knife money areas can be further subdivided into specific shapes of knifes and spades issued by specific states, which will be discussed in more detail below. This period probably starts in the 6th or 7th century BC, but not in all places at once. It was a gradual process to begin with, but ended much more abruptly some time in the 4th century BC.

The third is one of coinage unification, which appears to have happened some time around the middle of the 4th century BC. During this period, most of the spade making regions gave up their distinctive spade forms, and adopted minor variations of the thing 1/2 and 1 Jin flat foot spades. The knife making regions adopted minor variations on the “ming” knife forms. This is also the period during which the first round coins appear. These changes probably allowed for wider circulation of coinage, with coins from different states and cities being able to move freely through other regions where similar coins were being made and used. This period only ends when the Zhou dynast comes to an end around 255 BC.

 

THE PERIOD OF INDEPENDANT COINAGE.

 

COWRY AND COWRY IMITATION COINS OF THE STATE OF CHU.

By the Shang Dynasty and continuing into the Zhou Dynasty, actual cowry shells were used as a form of money but they fall more into the catagory of “primative money” than true coins. Their use far pre-dates the first true coins as shown by Wang on pages 64 and 65 of his book “Early Chinese Coinage” where he describes a bronze Tsun vessel bearing the inscription :

“LORD OF CHU, YUAN, HAD THIS PRECIOUS VESSEL MADE. HE USED FOURTEEN P’ENG OF COWRIES”. While this tells us cowry shells could be grouped together in a denomination known as a P’ENG and used to pay for things, the number or weight of cowries in a p’eng is not known. Further evidence indicating cowry shells were still a form of money in the first century AD can be seen where Wang Mang (AD 7-22) included cowry shells on his list of exchange rates between various currency objects.

 

  These very weather cowry shells came from a Shang Dynasty site. Note how the backs were broken, allowing them to be strung together, a feature often seen when cowery shells were as money by other cultures, even in fairly recent times.


valued at about $12.00 each

 

At some uncertain date, but probably early in the Zhou Dynasty period, carving imitations of cowry shells appear in various materials including bone, shell, and stone. There are also molding imitations of clay and bronze. It is likely cowry imitations arose from a shortage of actual shells, and may have been made and used over a long period of time. At this point, it does not appear to be possible to date them exactly.

 

   
The example on the left is carved from clam shell and the one on the right from bone. They clearly show lines carved into the undersides that mimic the groves one sees on the undersides of actual cowry shells, and are pierced for stringing. Not all carved examples will show these lines, especially those carved from stone, but most do. It is important to note that these are not inscribed with the mark of any issuing authority and thus must be considered a form of Primitive money rather than true coins.


valued at about $17.50 for bone         $25.00 for shell         $55.00 for stone

metal (bronze and lead) examples are worth more
but we do not have a current value on them.

Bone cowry imitations are commonly found stained green from burial with bronze, but I have not found any records of such excavated cowries that would tell us if this results from burial along side bronze coins, or possibly inside of bronze vessels, but I suspect burial in bronze vessels is the more likely explanation.

In the region between the Yellow and Yangtze rivers in the territory of the State of Chu, cowry imitations became even more stylized being cast in bronze with inscriptions that probably indicate an issuing authority. At that point they transform from a form of primitive money to a true coins.

 

  FD-4. Obverse : The character on these coins is traditionally read as a stylized form of “JIN”, but that is very questionable and it is more likely a form of “BEI” which means shell. Reverse : blank. This type is sometimes called GHOST FACE MONEY as the calligraphy does resemble a human face with two eyes, a nose and a month. This is by far the commonest type in this series. The size and weight very considerably, but in a recent lot of 20 we found an average weight of 2.05 grams ranging in length from 14 to 18.5 mm, but in other groups we have seen them as small as 10 mm.

VG   $15.00     F   $20.00     VF   $35.00

 

  FD-6. Obverse : The reading of this is uncertain but might be “GE LIU ZHU” (ZHU being the modern form of SHU) which would mean something like “each six shu”. This makes sense although only the heaviest examples weight the 3.0 grams that one would expect of a 6 shu coin. The calligraphy resembles the natural lines on the underside of a genuine cowry, which is probably intentional to indicate a value of a cowry, so here we have a clue that the value of a cowry shell may have been 6 shu when these coins were in use. This is the second commonest type in this series.

F   $42.50     VF   $65.00

 

  FD-5. Obverse : The reading of this is thought to be “JUN”. The specimen illustrated is 1.4 grams, and 10.7 x 17.3 mm. This is the third commonest type in this series, but significantly scarcer than the previous two.

F   $55.00     VF   $85.00

 

  Shanghi Enc p 4170. Obverse : The reading of this is probably “HSINGUN” meaning crossroads or going or to act. The specimen illustrated is 3.75 grams, and 13.0 x 18.9 mm. This is one of the very rare types.

VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

 

These coins are commonly called “Ant-nose money” which derives from looking at these two common types together where the JIN (or BEI) appears to be a face with a prominent “NOSE”, and the bottom of the “Ge Liu Zhu” resembles an ant.

There are at least seven distinct types of these inscribed cowry imitation coins, but only the two above are common. Two others are scarce, and the remaining three rare to extremely rare. We will provide illustrations of other types should they become available. The dating of this series is as yet uncertain, but it is possible one of the types in this series were the first true coins of early China.

The State of Chu did not issue any larger bronze coins during this period, but did issue some very unusual gold coins in the form of square or round inscriptions stamped into 3 to 5 mm thick sheets of gold, which name various cities in the state of Chu. I have not yet owned one of these to image for this site, and there is very little actually known about when they were issued and how they were used.


 

HOLLOW HANDLED SPADES OF THE STATE OF ZHOU

The hollow handled spades of the Royal State of Zhou were probably the first true coins issued in China, at a time when Zhou was still the most powerful of the Warring states and formed the central government that controlled the other states during the Spring and Autumn period in the 6th and possibly 7th century BC. They are very close in form to the true spades used as primitive money slightly earlier, with a very shallow arch at the bottom and thus short pointed feet.

The date at which these first appear is very much in dispute. Wang mentions bronze vessels dating much earlier than 600 BC (possibly as early as 1000 BC) with dedications referring them having been paid for with “PU”, so he believed the first spade coins came for that very early date. The problem is “PU” is also the name for bolts of cloth which were probably and early form of primitive money in China, those dedications probably describe those vessels having been paid with bolts of cloth. The use of “PU” for the spades probably means the early large spades represented a value equal to a bolt of cloth, although this is by no means certain. “PU” later came to be a generic name for spade money.

 

 

Early Period Hollow Handle Spade

FD-98. H-2.12. Obverse: “BEI” as a single character at upper just slightly right of center. The specimen illustrated is 51.7 mm wide across the feet, 94.7 mm long, and 26.55 grams (roughly 24 shu or 2 Liang).


F   $450.00   VF   $750.00
(This value is for an intact specimen.)

Spades similar to the above, with many variations in character or characters on them, were probably issued for the origins of spade money under Zhou in the 6th or 7th century BC, down to the 5th century BC, with the inscriptions becoming more complex inscriptions as you move up in time.

 

 

Later Period Hollow Handle Spade

FD-23. Obverse: “WU”, a single character at the bottom slightly left of center. This appears to be the commonest variety of the hollow-handled spades. The specimen illustrated is 48.5 mm wide across the feet, 83.5 mm long, and 23.9 grams (about 48 shu or 2 liang)


F   $450.00   VF   $600.00

(The valuation is for an intact specimens.)

 

The Shanghai Encyclopedia lists about 500 variations of hollow handles spades (including both the States of Zhou and Zhao issues). While some of the inscriptions appear to be mint names, 500 is many times the number of potential minting authorities, and most are probably series marks within a limited number of mints. A few seem to be denomination marks, but most were probably codes to indicate indicated mints, mint masters, dates, or a combination of such things. The key to their meaning is probably lost forever. For a much more in depth discussion of these inscriptions in English, it would be best to refer to the book “Cast Coins of China” by David Hartill.

While the state of Zhou was powerful early on and issued a wide variety of these hollow handled spades (most of which are individually very rare types), they lost most of their power during this period, and it appears they may have stopped issuing coins in any sigificant numbers by the middle of the Warring States period, just as some of the other Warring state began to issue coins in large numbers and a wide variety of types.


 

POINTED FOOT SPADES OF STATE OF JIN AND ZHAO

The central but most northerly part of the Yellow River region was controlled by the State of Jin which later become the State of Zhao. We do not yet know the date at which this change occurred, and while it is certain the later coins of this region were issued by the State of Zhao, the earliest issues may have been under the state of Jin.

The earliest coins of this region were hollow handle spades somewhat similar to those of the State of Zhou, but with much longer, more pointed feet. These are probably contemporary with with the hollow handled spades the State of Zhou, most likely dating to either the middle or later part of that period. I suspect they are ca. 450 to 400 BC, and while this is by no means certain, an earlier date would require a large time gap between these and the later flat pointed foot spades, and that seems un-likely. Most examples of this type have no marks indicating an issuing authority, suggesting more a form a primitive money than a true coin, but a large hoard found in 1995 (see Hartill page 17) contained many examples with marks and those are true coins.

 

 

Early Hollow Handled Spade

Schjoth-43. No inscriptions to give any indication of a mint or issuing authority. 127.5 x 67 mm (widest point). 32.1 grams. The weight of this issue varies somewhat, with Schjoth’s specimen at 36.93 grams and Mitchiner’s at 39 grams, both of which were incomplete. But it would appears that the actual weight of bronze was intended to be about 36 grams, which is 72 shu or 3 Liang (3 Jin).


VF   $1850.00

(The price is for an intact specimen, and specimens with damaged feet would be much lower priced.)

 

The very long pointed feet, combined with the weakness at the attachment of the handle, make these very fragile. Their large size also would have made them somewhat impractical to carry around and use in general circulation. Most likely they were used for very specific purposes or large transactions, with general commerce still via the barter system. Probably by the end of the 5th century BC, and certainly by the mid-fourth century BC the State of Zhao redesigned it’s coins to the more practical flat pointed foot spades listed below.

There are two denominations commonly seen for the flat pointed foot spades, with the 1/2 Jin (ca. 6 grams) being far more common than the 1 Jin (ca. 12 grams) examples. The 1 jin examples are also far larger than the 1/2 jin, making the denominations easy to tell a part.

 

 

One Jin Flat Pointed Foot Spade

FD-120. H-3.78. This is a fairly large spade at 83.8 mm long and 45.0 mm across the widest point, 14.75 grams (slightly heavier than the intended 24 shu or 1 Jin). The inscriptions reads “JIN YANG” with JIN being a denomination mark, and Yang probably a reference to a mint.


VF   $1500.00

 

 

Half Jin Flat Pointed Foot Spade

FD-143 variety with obverse characters reversed. Obverse: “SHANGQIU”. Reverse: uncertain character. 53 x 30 mm. This specimen weighs 6.4 grams (appears to intend a 12 shu or 1/2 Liang (1/2 Jin) standard). The characters on these are in very low relief and do not come out well on the image.


gF   $125.00

 

  FD-124. Obverse: “JINYANG”. Reverse: uncertain character. 55 x 33 mm. This specimen weighs 6.5 grams (appears to intend a (appears to intend a 12 shu or 1/2 Liang (1/2 Jin) standard).


F   $115.00

There is a wide variety of these, and they are fairly common showing they were issued in fairly large numbers over a significant period of time. This is probably the time during which coins came into much more common use as a medium of exchange in general commerce, although it is very likely the barter system was still in wide spread use as well.

Hartill dates these to ca. 350 to 250 BC, which is contemporary with the thin square foot spades that we list further below under the heading of “THE PERIOD OF UNIFIED COINAGE”. A problem I see with this, is that these coin are very specific to the State of Zhao (earlier called the State of Jin) and do not seem to belong under that heading. Since Zhao issued many types of thin square foot spades in that period, I believe these flat pointed foot spades probably begin when Zhao stops issueing hollow handled spades some time around 400 BC, and end ever Zhao begain to issue square foot spades some time after 350 BC (they are sometimes found with square foot spades, but that does not mean they were not minted at an earlier period and just still circulating). Perhaps one day these dates can be narrowed down a little closer.


 

HEAVY FLAT SPADES OF THE STATE OF LIANG (Wei)

Around 400 BC flat spades revolutionized the spade currency. Unlike the hollow-handled spades which required a complex multi-piece mold with a casting core in the handle, the flat spades required only a simple two-piece mold, allowing for larger mintages in shorter periods of time. They were sturdy, easier to store and were cast in the three denominations of 1/2, 1 and 2 “jin”, making them very suitable for use in everyday transactions. Most of the the early issues name the city of Anyi which was the State of Liang capital early in this period. The later issues usually name the city of Liang to which the capital of the stater of Liang was moved later in the period. There are some very scarce types which name other cities. The denomination can be expressed either directly in jin, or as fractions of the LI with 100 to the LI equal a Jin. This is probably the period when coins came into common use over a wide area of China. Early flat foot spades were called “CH’IEN, which later became a generic term for all types of money.

 

  FD-300, H-3.3. (Value 1). Obverse: “AN YI YI JIN”, meaning Anyi 1 Jin. Reverse: “AN”. This is one of the few heavy spades with a character (mint mark??) on the reverse. The specimen illustrated is 55.0 x 35.3 mm, 12.31 grams.


F   $245.00   VF   $350.00

 

  S-1. FD-301 H-3.8. Obverse: “AN YI ER JIN”, meaning Anyi 2 Jin. This is one of the commonest heavy flat spades with a typical layout to the inscription. Average (3 specimens) 40.3 x 63.4 mm, 26.7 grams (the weights and sizes can very, and we recently weighed one at 32.4 grams)


F   $195.00   VF   $295.00

 

  FD-304, H-3.44. Shallow arch type. Obverse: “LIANG ZHENG BI BAI DANG LIE”, meaning “Liang regular coin 100 to a lie” (1 Jin). The specimen illustrated is 59.8 x 40.6 mm, 14.76 grams. These were issued from the State of Liang, probably late in the series after the Capital of the Liang state was moved from Anyi to a new city called Liang.


F   $325.00   VF   $450.00

 

  As FD-306 but the reverse is blank. Please note that this type is the same size as the others in this series, and it is only our image that is smaller. H-3.48. High arch type. Obverse: “LIANG ZHENG BI BAI DANG LIE”, meaning “Liang regular coin 100 to a lie” (1 Jin). The specimen illustrated is 57.2 x 34.5 mm, 13.9 grams. These were issued from the State of Liang, probably late in the series after the Capital of the Liang state was moved from Anyi to a new city called Liang.


F   $275.00   VF   $375.00

 

  FD-307. H-3.48. Obverse: “LIANG ZHENG JIN WU SHI(‘ER) DANG LEI”, meaning “Liang heavy Jin of 50 to a lie” (2 Jin). It was probably understood by the people who used these the “heavy Jin” indicuted a double Jin coin. The specimen illustrated is 38.8 x 58.0 mm, 22.62 grams. These very in size and weight somewhat. These were issued from the State of Liang.


F   $295.00   VF   $425.00

 

“AN-YI”

A mint designation. ANYI was a city in central China that was part of the Liang (Wei) dynasty during the 4th century BC but had been under the Ch’in dynasty earlier.

“LIANG”

A mint designation. LIANG was a city in the state of Liang (Wei) to which the capital was moved later in the 4th century BC.

“BAN JIN” or “ER BAI DANG LIE”

Denomination marks indicating a value of 1/2 Jin or 200 to the Lie.

“YI JIN” or “BAI DANG LIE”

Denomination marks indicating a value of 1 Jin or 100 to the Lei.

“ER JIN” or “WU SHI DANG LIE”

Denomination marks indicating a value of 2 Jin or 50 to the Lei.

 

There are a variety of other heavy flat arched foot spades that seem to be from the State of Liang which name cities other than Anyi or Liang. Some have simple inscriptions that just name the city but not the denomination, which others also include marks of denomination. At this point these are not well understood and it is possibly some of them are from other states (some might be from the state of Han), or exactly how they fit into the chronology of this series.

 

  FD-311, H-3.26. Obverse: “SHAN YANG”. Shan Yang is probably a city name somewhere in the States of Liang or Han. This is a slightly unusual type for a heavy square foot spade in that there is no denomination indicated, although this type is known in the three sizes for 2, 1 and 1/2 Jin. This specimen is the larger 2 Jin although at 58.2 x 40.5 mm, 16.64 grams, it is only slightly heavier than the 1 Jin coins from Anyi and Liang.


F   $750.00
VF   $1000.00

 

The evolution of spade forms is complex with many types and many lines of development to follow. This part of this site will take a long time to develop and for now only the most common types are included.

 

THE PERIOD OF UNIFIED COINAGE.

 


 

THIN SQUARE FOOT SPADES

It appears that around 350 BC, and continuing down to the end of the Zhou period in 255 BC, the currency of China begins to unify in form, and we see thinner square foot spades appearing in an extensive series bearing a variety of mint names, showing very similar coins were made accross a number of the Warring States, with only minor variations in form. At this point we are making no attempt to sort them out into their particular states of issue, although we might attempt to do so at some future date.

Most spades in this series weight between 5 and 7 grams, with some double unites in the 10 to 12 gram range, but the average is in the 6 gram range for the smaller examples and around 12 grams for the larger ones, showing they were issued with the intended denominations of 1/2 and 1 Jin. some large examples with sharp corners can weight as much as 14 gram, but it is not yet clear if they were intended to be 30 shu or if they are just heavier than average but intended at 24 shu (1 Jin).

 

 

“LARGE SPADE WITH EARS”

FD-286, H-3-173. Obverse: “YU JIN NEI”. YU may be a city name in either the state of Liang or Han, with JIN NEI probably means “metal money”. This is a very rare type of large spade with sharp corners (ears) at the top. This specimen was 57.6 x 42.0 mm, and 10.7 grams.


F   $1500.00
VF   $2450.00

 

 

SMALL SPADE WITH EARS

FD-282. Obverse: “GONG”. The specimen illustrated is 48 x 30 mm and weighs 5.4 grams.


F   $115.00     VF $175.00

 

These thin square foot spades with “ears” clearly belong to the same series as the coin below, but their exact relationship to the more common shape without “ears” is not yet certain. There are a few other types known with this configuration but different characters on them.

 

  S-13-23 variety. Obverse: “AN YANG”. An-yang probably a city name and may be the current Chang-te in Honan province, but this is not certain and there may have been a number of cities by that name at the time. Schjoth notes that prior to 257 BC An-yang was called Ning-hsin-chung. This is probably the most common square foot spade, and it exists at two weight standards with the regular one averaging about 6 grams, and a heavier averaging about 12 grams (usually weakly cast). We have also seen one at 15.99 grams which could be either a light triple standard or very heavy double standard.


SINGLE (ca. 6 grams) F   $55.00     VF   $75.00

DOUBLE (ca. 12 grams) F   $75.00     VF   $110.00

 

These thin square foot spades appear to come from a number of different mints, but very little variation in form and weight, which suggests a single central authority with the intent they could circulate freely between the different cities. We have noted that hoards often turn up with mixed types, which seems to support this theory.

The most likely central authority to have that much control would be the state of Ch’in, but only after they were well into the process of unifying China in the 3rd century BC. According to Schjoth, the Historical Records of Ssu-ma Chien state the city of An-yang received that name in the 50th year of Prince Chao Hsiang of Ch’in, which is 257 BC. An-yang spades are by far the most common type in this series, and if there were minted in that same An-yang (which is likely but not 100% certain) they have to be Ch’in period coins, possible providing us with a general time frame for the entire thin square foot spade series.

Wang (page 20) disputes this dating, indicating two cities named An-yang that pre-date 257 BC, suggesting these coins belong to one of those cities. Our current research has turned up only two other coins with the An-yang mint mark. The first is a round-shouldered round foot spade with three holes which Wang lists as a very late issue, and the second is a very rare heavy knife which Wang lists as a very early issue, but which we believe is actually a very late issue (note our discussion of heavy knifes below). If no further evidence for earlier coins of An-yang comes to light, and only coins of after 257 BC are known, we feel Schjoth’s interpretation is the more reasonable one.

 

  S-7-12 variety, “P’ING YANG”. This is a regular sized square foot spade and the second most common type.


F   $55.00     VF   $75.00

 

S-28-29, “CHAI-YANG”

F   $55.00     VF   $75.00

 

  S-31-33 variety, “CH’ENG YI”. The specimen illustrated is weakly cast on the top right character.


F   $47.50     VF   $65.00

 

S-36-37, “HSIANG-YUAN”

F   $55.00     VF   $75.00

 

  S-38. Obverse: “KUAN”. Kuan appears go be short for Kuan-chung in the Shansi area.


F   $55.00     VF   $75.00

 

The “KUAN” character also occurs on a pointed rounded-back knife (reference Shanghai Encyclopedia #2793 and 2794) indicating a possible connection between the two series.

 

 

FD-167. Obverse : “TAO-YANG” in seal script (some have read it as a seal script version of “AN-YANG”). Reverse : two character inscription that we have not yet translated. The specimen illustrated is 46.9 x 21.0 mm, 9.11 grams (seem to have been intended to circulate as a double unit).


VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

 

 

As FD-167 but blank reverse. Obverse : “TAO-YANG” in seal script, but some have read it as a seal script version of “AN-YANG”. Reverse : blank.


F   $52.50

 

  FD-178, COOLE-1532. Obverse: “YIN PING”. This issue is smaller, more robust and has more well developed rims than usual, suggesting that it may be a late variation of the square foot spade.


VF   $120.00

 

  FD-209 variety (bottom right character slightly different style). Obverse: “LANG”. Some believe that the characters on this type should be read as “ZHENG”.


aVF   $115.00

 


 

SMALL SQUARE FOOT SPADES

 

  Reference: FD-178. Obverse : “PING YIN” (although some read it as YIN PING). Reverse : blank. A fairly small light weight type with the specimen illustrated on 38.0 x 24.0 mm (at the foot) and weighing 4.15 grams.


VF   $125.00

The calligraphy on this type is very similar to some of the early Han dynasty square holed round coins (see Schjoth #68), which along with a weight standard that does not fit with other Zhou and Ch’in period spades, suggests this may be a very late issue, possibly of the early Han Dynasty just after 200 BC.

 


 

LONG SQUARE FOOT SPADES

 

  Reference: FD-289. Obverse : The exact reading of the obverse inscription is in dispute, but may read “SHU BU DANG JIN” meaning “special spade valued at a Jin. Reverse : reads “SHI HUO” meaning “ten huo” with “huo” probably meaning an ant nose type coin. These spades are thick and robust with well developed rims all the way around, with a large round hole in the top. The specimen illustrated is 105 X 36.6 mm (at the foot) and weighs 35.55 grams.


VF   $975.00

 

These spade coins appear to be of fairly late date, probably during the very last years of the Zhou warring states period, into the Chin and possibly into the early Han period. They are found mostly in the area controlled by the State of Chu, but a few have been found in the area of the State of Han although those might have gotten there by trade. A few have been found buried with Ant Nose coins. They appear to the proto-type of the later Wang Mang Spades.

 

KNIFE COINS

The knife money of the Shantung Peninsula is far less complex than the spade money, but is still poorly understood. PLEASE NOTE THAT WE HAVE NOT YET UNIFIED OUR DISCUSSION OF KNIFE MONEY INTO OUR RE-ORGANIZATION OF THIS SITE. SOME OF THE KNIFE MONEY WILL LATER BE MOVED INTO THE DISCUSSION OF INDPENDANT COINAGE, AND OTHERS WILL UNDER THE HEADING OF UNIFIED COINAGE. THIS IS SOMETHING WE WILL BE WORKING ON IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

The monetary designation of knife money is “HOU”, derived from a character meaning “to change” or “to exchange in trade”. It is fairly easy to see how this meaning could become a denomination of money. Later, when the early round coins first appeared, the unit of “HOU” came to be used as a more general denomination.


 

POINTED KNIVES

We assume the pointed knifes, with a smooth curve down the back, are the earliest form of knife money. They have the closest style to genuine knives, and like the early hollow-handled spades often appear without inscriptions, although the inscriptions are normally weak or difficult to see on most specimens. The casting and calligraphy are similar to the hollow-handled spades. This leads us to believe they first appeared at about the time of the inscribed hollow-handled spades and overlap with the heavy flat spades, probably in the late 5th century BC.

Although most pointed knives look very similar, there are actually a number of distinctive variations in the blade shapes that are almost certainly different issues. At this point we cannot go into the details of this, but a some future date we will try to add more information about them. There is a very good listing of them in the Shanghai Encylopedia.

 

S-62 to 65 variety. The price is for an intact specimen, but these are often found with the tip broken. The one illustrated has a very clear character, which is unusual for these. The actual size of this specimen in about 160 mm, 15.6 grams. The prices are for examples with clear characters. Many examples have no visible or very weak characters and are worth about half.

F   $115.00     VF   $160.00

 

S-62 to 65 variety. This exact type is listed in the Shanghai Encyclopedia as #2733. The price is for an intact specimen, but these are often found with the tip broken. The actual size of this specimen in about 153 x 21.5 mm, 15.6 grams. The prices are for examples with clear characters. Many examples have no visible or very weak characters and are worth about half.

F   $115.00     VF   $160.00

 

We have not done much work on these yet, but it appears that the characters on them may be mint names. We have not noted any with indications of denomination, but based on 5 intact specimens we have recent weighed, they seem to average about 15.8 grams (high of 17.0 and low of 14.2 grams), indicating a probable standard 30 shu, about the same as the Ming Knives. This places them in the same denomination set as the mint knives and suggests these are the fore-runners of them. We recently had a specimen of SH-2772 that weighed 23.92 grams but we believe it was an anomaly.


 

MING KNIVES

The “Ming” knifes probably followed next, but they are still a bit of a mystery. The fabric is similar to common square-foot spades except that the inscriptions give no indications of mint names. All bear the character “Ming” on one side, which Wang (page 166) suggests is made up of the characters for “sun” and “moon”, meaning “bright”. These are by far the most common of all knife money and must have been cast in vast numbers, and are found over a wide area of Northern China and as far away as Northern Korea.


S-51-61, Ming type, obverse: “MING”. There are many different inscriptions that can occur on the reverse of these, which need much more study.

F   $25.00     VF   $45.00

 

Long ago we noted that there were two distinct shapes of ming knifes, the first of which has a distinctly angled back, and the second with a mildly curved back. The exact significance of this is uncertain, but it is possible that the mildly curved back varieties are the earliest, having evolved from the pointed curved back knifes. A partial hoard of these that we obtained recently, had both types well represented.

Wang (page 170) points out that the curved-back ming knifes can be further divided into two distinct inscription varieties. The first variety has a mint name and monetary designation on the reverse. The second variety has reverse inscriptions which do no appear to have a relationship to mints or denominations. It appears that these two varieties are probably roughly contemporary but from different districts.

All of the angle-back specimens have the second type of inscription without mint name or monetary designation.

Dating ming knifes is a little problematical, but we suspect that they appear in the very late Zhou, probably at the end of the 4th century BC and continue down to and possibly after the unification under the Ch’in.

The ming knifes that we have checked have an average weight of about 15-16 grams and it appears that the intended denomination may have been 30 shu. This is heavier than the pointed knifes, suggesting a new denomination system (see our discussion of weight standards). Unfortunately all of the specimens we have been able to check are of the angle-back variety and we do not yet know if the curved-back varieties fall into the same standard. We will investigate this soon.


 

STRAIGHT KNIVES

The more stylized straight knifes, with characters on one side may be contemporary with the later Ming knifes, probably ca. 300 to 250 BC. There are not as many variations on these as there are Ming knifes, and the characters on them normally indicated numbers and what may be mint names. This the series is not yet well understood and much more research is needed on this series.

 

  Hartill 4.68.Obverse : “Gan Dan Bi” which translates to “Gan Dan Coin”. Gan Dan is probably a mint name.Reverse : Blank.This specimen is 132.4 mm x 15.3 mm (longest and widest points), and 9.42 grams. The hole in the hands is distinctly almond shaped.F   $125.00     VF   $195.00 

 

FD-346 variety. Obverse: 2 characters. The hole in the handle is usually fairly small and sometimes almond shaped. The characters are generally weakly cast and difficult to make out.

F   $85.00     VF   $120.00


 

HEAVY KNIVES

The large heavy knifes may be the most misunderstood part of this series. In most early references they described as the earliest knife form, going back to before 600 BC, but this seems un-likely as they are a highly evolved form with fairly complex inscriptions, and must actually date very date in the series. In Hartill’s book (Cast Chinese Coins) he dates them to between 400 and 220 BC, which makes them fairly late in the knife money series. I personally suspect the dates might even have to be moved up a little on that, which I will discuss below. With the exception of the three-character Ch’i knifes, most heavy knifes are rare to extremely rare.

 

Ch’i Type Knife S-45-50. Obverse: Three characters reading “CH’I FA HUO” which loosely translates to “The authorized currency of Ch’i”. The reverse generally has a single character, but there are a number of different types known. The specimen shown is somewhat sharper than normal, but these usually are fairly nice.

F   $195.00     VF   $275.00

 

There is some variation in the weights of these, but they seem to average around 48 grams.

 

           

 

Ch’i Type Four Character Knife

FD-253. Obverse: Four characters reading “CH’I CHIH FA HUO” which loosely translates to “The genuine currency of Ch’i”.

Reverse: The reverse generally has a single character, but there are a number of different types known.

The specimen shown is typical with low relief characters, is 185 mm x 30 mm (longest and widest points), 27 mm across the ring handle and 33.95 grams.

 

F   $475.00     VF   $650.00

 

The dating of these coins will probably remain uncertain until archeological evidence can provide some answers, but the coins themselves do give us some clues.

We feel that it is significant no uninscribed, or even simple inscriptions are known for these forms as they are for the very early hollow-handle spades, pointed knifes and cowry imitations. As these heavy knifes first appear with full developed complex inscriptions including a mint name and indication of a monetary unit, it would seem they must dates later than those hollow-handled and heavy flat spades, almost certain later than 400 BC.

While rims are present on many ancient coins, they are usually low and thin, while these coins have thick and high rims for where there are no parallel on other knife and spade coins, with the closest thing seeming to to be the early round coins of “I” (a city in the Ch’i territory) which are certainly of a very late date and suggest they might even be later Chin or even early Han issues down to around 200 BC or possibly even slightly later. They also seem to be the most finely cast of all ancient Chinese knife and spade coins, but of the specimens that we have seen, none showed significant wear suggesting some purpose other than a general circulating coinage.

When we consider all these features of these coins, we are led to believe they may have been made for ceremonial purposes such as presentations or burial. This seems consistent with the use of the state mane of Ch’i as a “mint” designation, rather than one of the cities in Ch’i as is the usual pattern for knife and spade coins, and they may in fact have been were cast at a very late date, probably after 300 BC.

 

EARLY ROUND COINS

This is an area we have just begun to study. Most of the types are seldom encountered, and with the exception of four types we have handled very few of these coins. Wang (Early Chinese Coinage, pages 187 to 205) is the best study we have seen on these and much of our information is based on his work. Wang’s one fault is in not giving enough consideration to weight standards. Fortunately he has provided some information about weights, which we will attempt to interpret with respect to our own theories.

Early round coins can be divided into two major types. Those with round holes are found in areas associated with spade money. Square-hole types are found in areas associated with knife money. At this point, we believe that these two types evolved independently at different times.


 

ROUND-HOLED ROUND COINS

Early round coins with round holes can be divided into two major types. The first type are those with multiple-character inscriptions including both mint marks and monetary units, which share the following similarities with the heavy flat spades: 1) They occur in the two monetary units of liang and chin. 2) Similar style of the calligraphy. 3) Similar construction of the legends. 4) They are found in more than one denomination (1 and 1/2 liang and chin). 5) They never occur with any type of rims. This leads us to believe they evolved directly from these spades and are the earlier of the two types.

They differ from the spades in one important aspect. All the specimens we have been able to confirm fall into the weight system based on multiples of 10 shu with an average about 10 grams (20 shu) for the full units, and about 5 grams (10 shu) for the half units, while the heavy flat spades were cast to the weight standard based on multiples of 12 shu. This leads us to believe they we issued as a replacement for the heavy flat spades as the new weight system was adopted (see our discussion of the weight standards above). This suggests a date somewhere towards the end of the 4th century BC.

The second series of round-holed round coins are those with only a mint name, but no denomination. These are seen with either one-or two-character legends but in all other ways, including the weights, resemble the multi-character types. The use of only a mint name without monetary units is a characteristic shared with the square-foot spades which are cast to the same weight standard, in a close relationship between the two and suggest a date right around or just after 300 BC.

 

  FD-371, SH—, H—, S—. Obverse: “JI”. JI was a city in the state of Yan. This is a rarity of the highest order, and the only reference I have found it in is Fisher’s Dings where it is listed as “price not determined”. Average (1 specimen) 41.2 mm, 10.05 grams.

We can only guess at a value for something this rare, but probably somewhere in the $7500.00 range

There is dispute over this particular type. Until recently the only known example was that listed by Ding in his 1938 work, and we believe that specimen is in the Chinese national collections. Because of it’s rarity that specimen has been considered by many to be a fantasy issue. Recently this second specimen came to our attention and we can find no reason to believe it is not a genuine ancient example. But I am sure the controversy will continue.

 

  FD-372, SH-4074 variety, H-6.10. Obverse: “LISHI”. Li Shi was a city in the state of Zhao. The SH example had an extra star above the top character, but both of the FD examples and the Hartill example, have a single star as on this coin. RARE. Average (1 specimen) 34.8 mm, 3.50 grams.

XF   $2500.00

 

  FD-375 variety, SH-4058, H-6.6. Obverse: “CHANG YUAN YI JIN” meaning Chang yuan 1 Jin. Hartill notes that the reading is now through to be Qi Yuan, which was a city in the state of Liang. This is the most common of the multi-character early round coins with round holes, but is by no means a common coin. Average (1 specimen) 38.5 mm, 12.23 grams.

XF   $1750.00

 

  S-73, Obverse: “YUAN” as a single character on the right. Yuan was a city in the state of Liang. This is the most common of all round coins with round holes. Average (3 specimens) 42 mm (range 41.2 to 43 mm), 9.93 grams (range 8.8 to 10.7 grams).

F   $150.00     VF   $275.00

 

  S-75, Obverse: “KUNG” as a single character on the right. Kung or Gong was a city in the state of Liang. This is the second most common early round coin with round hole. Average (3 specimens) 42 mm (range 41.2 to 43 mm), 9.57 grams (range 8.7 to 10.5).

F   $475.00   VF   $650.00   XF   $950.00

 

With the exception of the mintmark-only Yuan and Kung types, round-holed coins are exceptionally rare and must have been cast in very limited quantities over a relatively short period of time. We have found good evidence that the Kung and Yuan types are contemporary with each other, and probably circulated side by side, because the Kung type illustrated above has the rather interesting feature of a Yuan type imprinted in the patination on the reverse, proving they were buried togeather in the same hoard. Click here for an image of that reverse imprint..

Our best interpretation of these coins is that they were a short-lived unsuccessful attempt to introduce round coins around 300 BC, but were rejected and replaced by square-foot spades.

Coins with Yuan and Kung mint marks provide us with an important clue to the sequence and dating of 4th and 3rd century BC coins. Kung issued heavy flat spades (ca. 12 grams, reference Shanghai Encyclopedia #1438, 1439), round coins with multiple-character inscriptions (ca. 10 grams, reference Wang plate LIII #3) and round coins with single-character inscriptions (ca. 10 grams, reference Schjoth-75). It is unlikely all three were issued at the same time, so we are probably looking at a sequence of issues which we believe occurred in the order listed. Yuan and Kung issued round coins with round holes and single-character inscriptions (ca. 10 grams, 42 mm), and Yuan also issued square-foot spades (ca. 5 grams, reference Schjoth-36, 37).

Taken together we get the following sequence: First, heavy flat spades. Second, a very short series of round-holed coins with mint and denomination marks. Third, another short series of round-holed coins with mint mark only. Fourth, the thin square-foot spades.

This is an idealized sequence as not all mints issued all of the types, and it is doubtful that they all changed types at the same times. Some smaller mints issued coins only occasionally and may not have been active during some of the stages. Other mints probably continued to issued heavy flat spades after others minted their first round coins, and then went straight to light square-foot spades without issuing any round coins.

We soon hope to do an in-depth study of early round coin weights. If any issue of these round-holed types turns up with a weight standard around 12 grams (24 shu), it would tie that issue more closely to the heavy flat spades and suggest an earlier date. If no heavy series is found, it would confirm these were issued as the various cities changed standards from multiples of 24 shu (12 grams) to multiples of 20 shu (10 grams), which we believe occurred about 300 BC (see our discussion of weight standards). (Please remember that the weight of any one specimen would prove nothing, as individual coins can vary considerably. Only the average weight of numbers of specimens of the same type is significant).


 

SQUARE-HOLED ROUND COINS

Early square-holed round coins seem to be found exclusively in areas associated with knife money. They come in two distinct series, the relatively common “MING” types that appear to be related to the ming knifes, and the much scarcer “I” series which seem to represent the issues of a single mint called “I”. The only inscriptions they have is their monetary designation of “HUO”, a character which has come to mean “knife money”, but which had also become a unit of denomination by the time these coins were issued.

Dating this series is difficult, although it is likely that they are much later than the round hole coins with which they have very little in common and are probably not related. It is possible, and for the “I” types even probable, that they were cast in the late Ch’in or Han periods and should not be included in this discussion of Zhou period coins. It is also likely that the earliest Pan Liang coins (currently discussed under the Ch’in Dynasty) predate the Ming and “I” round coins and should be included here.

The Ming Huo and the smaller Yi Huo coins appear to be derived from the Ming knifes, although it is not certain that even these two issues belong together.

 

  S-76. Round coin with square hole. Obverse: “MING HUO”. Reverse: blank. Average (3 specimens) 24 mm (they tend to be off round) and 2.48 grams.


F   $85.00     VF   $105.00     XF   $135.00

 

The Ming Huo are robust castings with slightly crude characters and no rims. There is little doubt the character “Ming” is the same as on the ming knifes, although the meaning is still a mystery. There has been debate over the character “HUO” on these, but Wang makes a good case for this reading. What is less clear is how “HUO” is meant to be interpreted. It may imply these coins were equivalent to a ming knife (or some implied fraction thereof), in which case they could have been issued alongside or just after the knife series, at the end of the Zhou period. “HUO” could also be meant as a monetary unit (as it clearly is on the Yi huo coins) in which case these were probably issued long after the ming knifes, probably during the early Han dynasty. This is something that will probably only be answered by the study of hoard evidence.

 

  S-77-8 variety. Early round coin with square hole Obverse: “YI-HUO” (one knife). Note the outer and inner rims. Average (11 specimens) 19 mm, 1.53 grams. These tend to be slightly weakly cast with rough surfaces.

F   $22.50     VF   $29.50     XF $45.00

 

At first glance the YI-HUO appear to be small versions of the MING-HUO coins and are listed that way in most numismatic references. However the Ming-Huo are completely rimless will the YI-HUO have a distinct outer and sometimes an inner rim. These rims, along with the inscription translating to “one knife” suggest these are a later issue of the Ming-Huo coinage at a lower weight standard. The rims show a strong similarity to the rimmed Pan Liang coins which appear to have been issued between 136 and 117 BC during the Han period and it is possible these are contemporary with that issue. “Yi Huo”, meaning “1 knife” and clearly shows “Huo” used as a monetary unit.

 

  S-68. Early round coin with square hole Obverse: “I SSU HUO” (I four Huo). Note the strongly developed outer and less developed inner rims. Average (2 specimen) 30 mm. 6.65 grams.

F   $195.00     VF   $295.00

 

This “I” series of square-holed round coins is very simple, being composed of a single basic type issued in the four denominations of 1, 2, 4 and 6 huo. Here again “HUO” is used as a monetary unit rather than a term for knife money. This is another series for which the dating is uncertain (somewhere between late Zhou and early Han) and we would be very interested in hearing the details of any hoard in which these are found alongside other coins.

 

Much of the current literature lists the character for “I” as a variation on the character “Pao” (money), to which it does have a strong resemblance. Wang (pages 188, 189) makes a convincing argument for the proper reading as the city name “I”, the ancient county seat of the county of Han in the state of Ch’i, a site just northwest of Shou-kuang in the northeast of Shantung province.

 

  LARGE BAN LIANG (over 38 mm). Obverse: “BAN LIANG”. Reverse : blank. These large specimens vary considerably in weight, from less than 8 grams to over 20 grams, but to date them this early they must be at least 38 mm. The value listed is for specimens over 38 mm, but in the 10 gram range, with heavier ones worth more.

VF   $145.00

 

It is fairly certain that the Ban Liang coinage was issued by the state of Chin, with the earliest Ban Liangs issued by Chin as one of the Warring States of the Zhou Dynasty period, probably about 300 BC. The size, weight, and casting characteristics of these very large examples suggest they are contemporary with the early round coins, with round holes from other states which are listed above. Ban Liangs of smaller size and lower weight were to become the principle coin of China later, after the Chin conquered the other Warring states to unify China during the 3rd century BC. Those coins will be discussed in the next section of this website under the Chin and Han dynasties.

 

 

During the third century BC, the round coin was introduced alongside the other types of money. It soon replaced the others as the sole type of money in China. These cast copper cash coins had a central square hole, so that they could be stacked on a stick or strung on a ribbon. The coins barely changed in appearance for 2000 years, until they were replaced with machine-struck coins in 1912.

   

Kingdom of Qin,
round coin,
3rd cent. BC.
© Fitzwilliam Museum

Wang Mang (AD 9-23),
50-cash coin.
© Fitzwilliam Museum

 

De Zong (1875-1908),
10 cash coin.
© Fitzwilliam Museum

 

 

 READ MORE AT PART TWO

Ancient Chinese round coins

THE END @COPYRIGHT 2012

THE COMPLETE CD WITH FULL ILLUSTRATIONS EXIST BUT ONLY FOR PREMIUM MEMBER

 

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