THE ANCIENT CHINA NUMISMATIC HISTORY COLLECTIONS PART TWO

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Ancient Chinese round coins

 

were made to weight standards based on the “shu”, there being 24

shu to the ounce (liang) of pure silver. It is said that round coins with center holes -which were to become the coin standard of China for the next two thousand years

evolved from the circular end of Ch’i knives, put there for the purpose of attaching the knives to their owner’s belt.

 

Spades and knives were replaced by round pan-liangs about the time of the unification of China under the Han dynasty, which supplanted the Chou (200BC).

 

They proved very popular with the masses and remained China’s sole currency for the next 300 years.

 

The round coin, dating from the late Chou period, was

a radical departure from earlier spade and knife types. With its appearance China entered into a period of monetary unification. From these coins evolved the “wu-shu’”of the Warring States Period. Since the wu-shu’s intrinsic value was the same as its face value they became tremendously popular with all classes of society.

 

 

 

Commencing with the Tang dynasty (618-907AD)

 

the “cash” coins of copper and bronze with a square center hole, known as “K’ai-yuans”, made their appearance. These were the first to contain four characters in the legend on their obverse – a practice followed when casting all subsequent Chinese coins.

 

These coins were the first to carry the characters “yuanpao”

(principal treasure) and “t’ung pao” (circulating treasure) which continued to

 

 

Table 1.

THE CHRONOLOGY OF CHINESE DYNASTIES AS THEY RELATE TO

MONETARY DEVELOPMENT

 

SHANG 1600 – 1100 B.C.

  Cowrie shells in use

.

CHOU 1100 – 256 B.C.

 

 Knives and spades in use.

CHIN 221 – 206 B.C.

 Round “pan-liangs” introduced in late

Chin dynasty. The world’s first round

coin. Very popular.

 

HAN 206 – 220 A.D.

 Emperor Wu’s deer skin money.

 

THREE KINGDOMS

 

(WEI, SHU, and WU)

WESTERN JIN

EASTERN JIN

NORTH AND SOUTH

SUI

 

220 – 280 A.D. “Wu-shu’s” in use. Undoubtedly the most

popular coin which ever existed in China.

Weighing 5 shu, their face value, they

contained no reign title, hence could be

used indefinitely. After 400 years wushus

were replaced by Tang dynasty

“k’ai-yuan” coins

 

TANG 618 – 907 A.D.

 “Flying money” introduced. Copper

coinage standardized for the next two

thousand years.

 

LIAO 916 – 1125 A.D.

 Paper money issued by the army.

 

NORTHERN SUNG 960 – 1127 A.D.

 Private credit notes issued.

 

SOUTHERN SUNG 1127 – 1279 A.D.

Government credit notes issued.

 

WESTERN HSIA 1038 – 1227 A.D.

Issued paper money.

 

CHIN 1115 – 1234 A.D.

Issued paper money.

 

YUAN 1271 – 1368 A.D.

 Profuse issuers of paper money.

 

MING 1368 – 1644 A.D.

Excessive issues led to discontinuance of

paper money for the next 400 years.

 

CH’ ING 1644 – 1911 A.D

. Use of paper money revived to meet the

needs of the T’ai P’ing Rebellion.

 

The evolution of Chinese cash:

 

 

 [1] cowrie shell (Shang dynasty, 1600-1100 BC).

[2] hollow-handledspade.

[3] square foot spade or “pu”.

[4] Ch’i knife.

[5] Ming knife (Chou dynasty period 100-256

BC).

[6] pan liang (256-118 BC), the first round coin.

[7] wu-shu (118 BC-618 AD).

 

[8] great “pu”

value thousand (7-22 AD).

 

 [9] Tang dynasty “k’ai yuan” (618 AD), the coin type which was to remain

unchanged for the next 1300 years.

be used on copper cash until the fall of the Ch’ing dynasty in 1911.

 

Cast copper cash

remained China’s sole metallic money until supplanted by western style machine “struck” coins, which were first introduced to China in the 1890s.

 

Coins of Ancient China


Pre-Chou & Chou Dynasty (pre 255 BCE.)

IMAGE

DESCRIPTION

REFERENCE

  Anonymous (circa 600 – 300 BC) AE ‘ghost head’ or ‘ant nose'(1.76 gms).
Possibly the first metal coins. There are many varieties, this being the most common
FD 4, Mitchiner ACW 5376; Schjoth 15
  Anonymous (circa 600 – 300 BC) AE ‘Bridge Money'(109 x 43mm; 8.80 gms). FD -, Mitchiner ACW 5493, Schjoth –
  Anonymous (circa 350 – 250 BC) AE ‘square-footed spade'(44 x 28 mm; 4.60 gms). FD182 RANG-YIN
  Chou Dynasty @265 BCE AE cash coin 23 mm
Obv: yi-tao (one knife).
This is one of the first (within @ 100 yrs.) of the series of round coins with square holes, a design that China used for the next 2100 years. This coin was issued in a period of economic hardship during the final collapse of the Chou Dynasty called the warring states period.
Schjoth 78
 

Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE. – 25 CE)

 
  Emperor Wen 179 – 157 BCE AE cash coin 23 mm
Obv: Pan Liang.
Schjoth 93
  Emperor Wen 179 – 157 BCE AE cash coin 23 mm
Obv: Pan Liang.
Schjoth 93
  Emperor Wen 179 – 157 BCE AE cash coin 23 mm
Obv: Pan Liang.
Schjoth 93
  Emperor Wu Ti (141 – 87 BC) 26 mm 2.21 gm
Obv: Wu Shu.This type was made across several reigns. See 4th & 5th coin down from here.
Mitchiner ACW 5435 – 5436, Schjoth 114
 

Wang Mang Interregnum (7 – 22 CE)

 
  Wang Mang 9 – 23 CE AE spade coin
Obv: Huo Pu
57 x 22 mm
Schjoth 148
  Wang Mang 9 – 23 CE AE 22 1.98 gm
Obv: Huo Ch’uan (14 – circa 40 AD)
FD 488, Mitchiner ACW 5456v., Schjoth 150
  Wang Mang 9 – 23 CE AE 26 4.91 gm
Obv: Huo Ch’uan Huo TA-CH’UAN WU-SHIH (14 – circa 40 AD)
FD 453, Schjoth @130
 

Liang Dynasty (420 – 479 CE)

 
  Wu Chu Coin (112 – 559 CE) –
(23 mm, 2.56 gm)
This coin type was minted for over 500 yrs under many rulers. Although hard to identify, Frank Robinson attributes this to the Sui Dynasty (589 – 618 CE).
Schjoth 253
  Wu Chu Coin (112 – 559 CE) –
(23 mm, 2.56 gm)
This coin type was minted for over 500 yrs under many rulers. Although hard to identify, Frank Robinson attributes this to the Sui Dynasty (589 – 618 CE).
Schjoth 253
 

T’ang Dynasty (618-907 CE)

 
  Emperor: Su T’sung 756 – 762 CE. (30 mm, 8.41 gm) Schjoth 352
 

The Five Dynasties (907 – 960 CE)

 
  Emperor Chou Yuan 951 – 960 CE AE cash coin (23 mm 2.71 gm)
Posterior Chou Dynasty
Schjoth 446
  Emperor Yuan T’sung 907 – 961 CE AE cash coin (25 mm 3.44 gm)
Southern T’ang Dynasty
Schjoth 442
 

Western Hsia Dynasty (982 – 1227 CE)

 
  Jen Tsung (1140 – 1193 CE) Iron cash coin (26 mm 5.45 gm)
Reign title: Ch’ien yu
Obv: Ch’ien yu yuan pao
Schjoth 1080
  Jen Tsung (1140 – 1193 CE) Iron cash coin (25 mm 4.53 gm)
Reign title: Ch’ien yu
Obv: Ch’ien yu yuan pao
Schjoth 1080
 

Northern Sung Dynasty (1115 – 1260 CE)

 
  1107-1110 (Emperor Hui Tsung) ae Cash – 40 mm
Obverse Legend: Ta-kuan t’ung-pao (big watch through/thoroughfare treasure [Chun Chao])
Schjoth 630, Jen 282
  Emperor Chen Tsung 998 – 1022 CE AE cash coin 24 mm
Obv: Tien-Hsi; Tung-Pao
Schjoth 480
  Emperor Jen Tsung 1023 – 1063 CE AE cash coin 24 mm
Obv: Tien-Sheng; Yuan-Pao
Schjoth 484
  Emperor Jen Tsung 1023 – 1063 CE AE cash coin 25 mm 13.30 gm)
Obv: Tien-Sheng; Yuan-Pao
Schjoth 486
  Emperor Che Tsung 1086 – 1100 CE Iron coin (33 mm 13.30 gm) Schjoth 580
 

Southern Sung Dynasty (1115 – 1260 CE)

 
  Emperor Shun Hsi 1086 – 1100 CE AE cash coin (29 mm 5.85 gm) Schjoth 734
  Hsiao Tsung (1163 – 1189 a.d.)
Reign Title: Shun Hsi (1174- 1189 a.d.)
Schjoth 746G
  Hsiao Tsung (1163 – 1189 a.d.)
Reign Title: Shun Hsi (1174- 1189 a.d.)
Schjoth 974
  China Shao Ding tong bao 3 cash
Reign Title: Shun Hsi (1174- 1189 a.d.)
Schjoth 976
 

Chin Dynasty (1115 – 1260 CE.)

 
  Emperor Cheng Lung 1056 – 1161 CE AE cash coin (25 mm 3.41 gm) Schjoth 1083
  Emperor Da Ding 1161 – 1190 CE AE cash coin
reverse character – YOU
Schjoth 1089; Fisher 1643
  THE NU-CHENG TARTARS, Emperor WAN-YEN LIANG AD 1149-1161 AE 25 (3.40 gms.)
Obv: CHENG-LUNG YUAN-PAO
Schjoth 1083; Fisher 1637reign title: CHENG-LUNG, AD 1156-1161
 

Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty (1280 – 1368 CE)

 
  Emperor Wu Zong 1308-11 CE AE 10 cash coin 40 mm
Yuan Dynasty [Mongol]
The characters are Seal Script.
This particular coin had a very short life apparently from the commoners hoarding them. An edict was issued proclaiming 50 days for them to be turned in at the Certificate Treasuries for exchange. It also stated that
violators would be punished. – Thanks to James Lomiento
Hartill:19:46; Fisher :1733
 

Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 CE)

 
  Emperor Tien Shen 1457-1464 CE (second reign) AE cash coin (37 mm 10.66 gm)
Ming Dynasty
Just a beautiful coin with a grainy red patina covering the interior of obverse. The reverse patina is green. Both have sparkles with the patina
Schjoth 1321
  Chuang Li 1628 – 1644 CE AE cash coin (25 mm 3.45 gm) ?
  San Ko Wang 1655 CE AE cash coin (47 mm 19.89 gm)
Ming Dynasty rebel
?
  Hung Kuang 1645 – 46 CE AE cash coin (26 mm 4.26 gm)
Ming Dynasty rebel
Schjoth 1288
 

Ch’ing Dynasty (1644 – 1911 CE)

 
  Emperor Shih Tsu 1644 -1661 CE cash coin (26 mm 4.35 gm)
Reign title: Shun Chih
Ching Dynasty
Che mint, Checkiang province
Schjoth 1393
  Emperor Kao Tsung 1736-1795 CE AE cash coin (25 mm 3.75 gm)
Reign title: Ch’ien Lung; Ching Dynasty
KIANGSI mint
?
  Emperor Wen Tsung 1851-1861 CE 10 cash coin (26 mm 6.84 gm)
Reign title: Hsien Feng; Ching Dynasty
Obv: Hsien Feng, Chung Pao
?
  Emperor Wen Tsung 1851-1861 CE 50 cash coin (52 mm 46.28 gm)
Reign title: Hsien Feng; Ching Dynasty
KIANGSI mint
?
  Emperor Wen Tsung 1851-1861 CE Iron cash coin (23 mm 3.89 gm)
Reign title: Hsien Feng; Ching Dynasty
Board of Review mint.
?
  Ta P’ing 1850 – 1864 CE AE cash coin (23 mm 3.46 gm)
Ching Dynasty rebel
Obv: Hung Hsiu Ch’uan
Rx: Sheng Pao (Sacred currency)
Schjoth 1606 rare.
  Te Tsung 1875 – 1908 CE AE cash coin (23 mm 3.50 gm)
Reign title: Kuang Hsu; Ching Dynasty
Fu mint; Fukien province.
?
  The China republic, 1912-1949 CE AE 10 cash coin (27 mm 3.74 gm) ?
  Howard Cole ID’ed this coin for me and it marks the end of an era – or eon.
It is listed in Jen’s book, “Chinese Cash; Identification and Price Guide,” on Chinese coins. It is number 863 and attributed to Xuan Tong (a.k.a Pu Yi), the last Chinese emperor (Qing Dynasty). It is also listed in “Krause’s Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901 to Date. He lists it as Xuan Tong Tong Bao, Bao Quan Mint. It has a Fisher’s Ding number of 2662.
?


read more detailed informations

 

ANCIENT CHINESE COINAGE
255 BC TO AD 221

 

This is a reference guide to the cast coins of China, not a listing of coins offered for sale (although a listing of examples we currently have available can be viewed on our : our vcoins store.

 

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

 

CH’IN DYNASTY, 255 – 206 BC

Ch’in existed as a feudal state under the Zhou since before 1000 BC, casting coins (currently listed under Zhou) from about 400 BC.

Traditionally we refer to the Ch’in Dynasty as beginning in 255 BC when the Ch’in conquered the Zhou. Some date it to 221 BC when they finished unifying China (note this unified China was much smaller than the China we know today), but the Ch’in themselves probably would have used a date of about 325 BC when Duke Hsuan Wen adopted the title of Emperor after defeating the state of Wen and withdrew Ch’in allegiance to the Zhou.


 

KNOWN RULERS OF CH’IN

RULER

DATES

Duke Hsiao *

361-338 BC

Duke Hsuan Wen
known as Emperor Hsuan Wen after 325 BC

337-310 BC

Emperor Wu

310-307 BC

Emperor Chao Siang

306-251 BC

Emperor Cheng
known as Emperor Ch’in Shih Huang after 221 BC

250-210 BC

Emperor Ti

221-210 BC

Emperor Eri Shih Huang Tii

209-207 BC

 

* “Duke” is the closest title we have found for the early rulers of Ch’in.

 

It is commonly accepted that in 221 BC, at the time of the unification, Ch’in introduced the Pan (pronounced “Ban”) Liang coinage, discontinuing knife and spade coinage. This is by no means certain and we find it difficult to accept, believing the coinage of this period is more complex and knife and spade coinage was phased out gradually. We previously discussed the possibility that some Square-Foot Spades and early Square-Holed Round Coins were cast under the Ch’in, but we also believe the earliest Pan Liang were cast before 221 BC.


 

THE PAN LIANG COINAGE OF CHIN

img src=”chis93.jpg” alt=”Pan liang without rim” height=”294″ width=”300″

During the Zhou period, there had been a direct connection between the “Liang as a weight” (12 grams when applied to coinage) and the Liang as a coin denomination. About the time the Chin Dynasty established control over China (and possibly a little earlier), the Pan Liang (or 1/2 Liang) coinage was introduced at this weight standard (about 6 grams), but very quickly the connection between the weight and the monetary unite ceased to apply.

This series is difficult to classify, with specimens occurring at weights from 2 to 18 grams (but rarely over 12 grams), and diameters from 14 to over 34 mm. Having examined a number of Pan Liang hoards, we found most specimens within a single hoard will be of uniform diameter but the weight can vary significantly. This had lead us to believe the coins diameter is the important factor in determining the period or issue. While the AVERAGE weight of an issue is closely tied to the diameter, the weights of individual specimens can vary so much (up to 200%) as to be almost meaningless (see our earlier discussion of weights).

Unfortunately, not enough dateable hoard or archeological evidence currently exists to work out the exact classification of the Pan Liang series, but the Records of Han provide a clue, stating that heavy Pan Liang were cast until about 187 BC. We believe this refers to the larger specimens (over 30 mm) which range between 6 and 12 grams but averaging 7 to 8 grams or 15 shu. This is exactly 1/2 the weight of a ming style knife, and it maybe these were first introduced as a half unit of those knife coins, during the late Zhou period.

This could make the earliest issues contemporaries of the Ming-Huo Round Coin Series, but since they were cast to the heavy standard down to 180 BC, it may not be possible to differentiate between the Zhou, Ch’in and early Han dynasty issues. Much research is needed on this area.

Most references suggest that the large Pan Liang coins were the principle coinage of the Chin Dynasty, but a problem arose; they are rather scarce, in fact they have a higher scarcity than ming knifes and square foot spades. If they really had been the principle coinage of China for over 75 years, they should be fairly common. This takes us back to our earlier theory that square-foot spades, and possibly ming knifes, were still in use throughout much of the Ch’in period, and may in fact have been the principle coinage of Ch’in.

 

SIZE

DESCRIPTION

VALUE

34 mm
or larger

S-79-81, FD-385/6. Obverse: “PAN LIANG”. Reverse: blank. These come in a wide variety of weights, ranging from about 9 grams to as high as 18 grams. Examples this size are scarce and like other Pan Liang coins, the heavier specimens are most prized by collectors so sell for more, even through all were probably part of the same issue.

Over 12 grams
F   $125.00
VF   $165.00  

Under 12 grams
F   $45.00
VF   $65.00  

 

It is likely that the 34+ mm Pan Liang coins are the earliest issues and may date to the period when the Chin Dynasty was a sub-dynasty under the Zhou. While specimens of this larger issue weighing over and under 12 grams probably date to the same period, many collectors value the heavier specimens more highly.

 

SIZE

DESCRIPTION

VALUE

30 to 32 mm
(average 31 mm)

S-82-84. Obverse: “PAN LIANG”. Reverse: blank. Average (4 specimens) 6.38 grams (range 4 to 12 grams). Collectors prize the heavier specimens, so the weight does affect the value in the market, but when these coins were in use it probably was not a factor in their circulating values. Specimens over 12 grams exist and command a premium price, but they are rare.The official records of Han suggest that the coins of this size were made continuously throughout the later Chin and early Han periods, and one probably cannot assign them specifically to one Dynasty or the other.

10 to 12 grams
F   $65.00
VF   $100.00  

8 to 10 grams
F   $50.00
VF   $75.00  

4 to 8 grams
F   $30.00
VF   $45.00  

 

Pan Liangs under 30 mm can safely be assigned to the Western Han Dynasty and are discussed under that heading.

It seems likely the Ch’in government would have had a method of determining the mint and period of issue of any given coin, as such systems appear to have been in place on other coins for over 100 years. No mint marks occur on these coins, but it is unreasonable to assume all were cast at a single mint. The many calligraphy variations probably hold the key to this puzzle but with no official records extant, it is unlikely this will ever be fully understood.

Physical characteristics of Pan Liang are simple and consistent long throughout the Ch’in and Han periods. All have the two characters “Pan” and “Liang” flanking a square hole (many minor calligraphy variations exist), and the reverse is always blank. The edges are generally sharp and unfinished, with a rough area where the casting sprew was broken off. With the exception of some very late issues (Han period), none have inner or outer rims. They appear to have been cast in reusable carved stone (steatite) molds, several of which still exist today.

 

CIVIL WAR OF 206-202 BC

According to Michael Mitchiner (in Oriental Coins and their Values, The Ancient & Classical World, page 684), the suicide of Erh Shih Huang Ti (last Emperor of Ch’in) in 206 BC, resulted in a civil war in which a series of rebels fought for control of China. The most important of these rebels were Hiang-yu and Liu-peng. The Western Han dynasty does not actually begin until Liu-peng arose the victor, declaring himself Emperor of Han in BC 202.

No specific coins can be assigned to this period and it is likely a coinage based on the Ch’in types would have been continued.

 

WESTERN HAN DYNASTY

The House of Han ruled all China for almost four hundred years. The traditional starting date for Han rule is 206 BC but, as discussed above, 202 BC may be more accurate. They were first known as the Western Han, ruling from Ch’ang-an in Shansi Province. Broken only by the brief interregnum of Wang Mang’s Hsin dynasty of AD 9 to 22, the Western Han lasted until AD 25 when the capital was moved to Lo-yang (in Honan Province) and the name was changed to Eastern Han.


 

EMPERORS OF WESTERN HAN

RULER

DATES

Rebel Liu-peng

BC 206-203

Kao Tsu
formerly Rebel Liu-peng

BC 202-196

Hui Ti
with Lu Hou as regent

BC 195-187

Empress Kao
also known as Lu Hou

BC 187-180

Wen Ti

BC 179-157

King Ti

BC 156-141

Wu Ti

BC 140-87

Chao Ti

BC 86-74

Hsuan Ti

BC 73-49

Yuan Ti

BC 48-33

Ch’eng Ti

BC 32-5

Ngai Ti

BC 6-1

P’ing Ti
Wang Mang as regent

AD 1-6

Ju Tze Ying
Wang Mang as acting Emperor

AD 7-8

Rebel Wang Mang

AD 9-22

Kuang Wu Ti
also know as Liu*

AD 22-25

 

*Liu was the last Emperor of Western Han
and the first emperor of Eastern Han.


 

PAN LIANG COINAGE OF THE HAN PERIOD

There is little doubt that the Pan Liang were the principle coins circulating at the start of the Han Dynasty, but the dating and proper classification of these coins has long been in dispute. However, the historical Record of Han Wu-ti (as recorded by Schjoth page 7-8) gives an outline of how this coinage developed during the Han period, and we have found the coins to be consistent with this record.

YEAR

THE HISTORICAL RECORD OF HAN WU-TI

Prior to 187 BC

Down to the reign of Empress Kao (187-180 BC), Pan Liang of 12 shu circulated alongside illicitly cast lightweight Pan Liang, called elm-leaves.

187-180 BC

During the reign of Empress Kao (187-180 BC) the Pan Liang was reduced to a weight of 8 shu.

179 BC

Emperor Hsiao Wen reduced the Pan Liang to 4 shu.

140 BC

Emperor Wu issued a new coinage called the “San-shu” (3 shu).

136 BC

Emperor Wu withdrew the San-shu, replacing it with a Pan Liang of 3 shu.

118 BC

The Pan Liang were withdrawn and replaced with the totally new Wu-shu (5 shu) coinage.

 

Some researchers have dismissed the ancient records as nonfactual as they have difficulty matching the average weight of coins encountered, with those records. I think those researchers are forgetting that there are two possible weights meant by a shu, the first an official weight as a weight at 0.65 grams per shu, the second the weight a coin of that number of shu would weight at 0.5 grams per shu ( these official records to match the coins we see) as per this chart :

 

PERIOD OF ISSUE

INDICATION IN OLD RECORDS

WEIGHT AT 0.65 GRAMS PER SHU

WEIGHT AT 0.5 GRAM PER SHU

Beginning of Han

12 shu

7.8 grams

6.0 grams

Reform of 187 BC

8 shu

5.2 grams

4.0 grams

Reform of 179 BC

4 shu

2.6 grams

2.0 grams

Reform of 136 BC

3 shu

1.95 grams

1.5 grams

 

If you were to assume HAN WU-TI was using the 0.5 gram standard to which coins were actually made, his records to not match what can be observed on actual coins. But if you assume HAN WU-TI used the official weight standard of a shu at 0.65 grams, his records are consistent with the weight of actual coins observed, and thus it is very possible he got the dates right as well. It is also important to remember that Chinese coins of this period are not of consistent weight, but they are of fairly consistent sizes. It is the average weight of large numbers of coins within one size range that must be considered, and based on that we get the following chart :


 

OFFICAL HAN DYNASTY PAN LIANGS

DATE

EXPECTED AVERAGE WEIGHT

OBSERVED SIZE IN THAT WEIGHT RANGE

COMMENTS

VALUE

prior to 187 BC

7.8 grams

30 to 32 mm
(average 31 mm)

Coins in this size range seem to come in slightly low at about 6.38 grams but very considerably from 4 to 12 grams. It is fairly safe to consider the lightest may be illicit castings and should not be included in the averages, while many of the heaviest ones would have been melted in ancient times because of their high weights, so the slightly low average weight of the surviving examples in this group is not unexpected.Coins in this size range probably cannot be dated with certainty to either the Later Chin period, or earliest part of the Han period.

10 to 12 grams
F   $65.00
VF   $100.00  

8 to 10 grams
F   $50.00
VF   $75.00  

4 to 8 grams
F   $30.00
VF   $45.00  

187-179 BC

5.2 grams

26 to 27 mm

Coins is this size range average about 5 grams, very close to that expected.

F   $6.00
VF   $9.50  

179-136 BC

2.6 grams

23 to 25 mm with rims

The Ban Liang coins in the 23 to 25 mm that are without rims average about 2.5 grams.

F   $5.00
VF   $7.50  

136-117 BC

1.95 grams

about 24 mm without rims

The Ban Liang coins in the 24 mm range but which have rims are lighter than those without rims, and come in closer to the 1.95 grams standard.

F     $5.50
VF     $7.00  
XF   $10.00  

 

This chart shows is that while the records of HAN WU-TI are probably accurate for giving us the average weight of the coins at particular periods. But we cannot use those weights to date individual coins as there is too much variation between individual specimens. But the sizes of coins are much more consistent and AVERAGE weight of coins within one size is consistent with those records. Thus the key to dating the Ban Liang coins is not by their individual weights, but by their diameters which are consistent within any one period.

 


 

BAN LIANG ATYPICAL VARIATIONS

ELM LEAF BAN LIANGS

  S-85-87 variety. Obverse: “PAN LIANG”. Reverse: blank. These vary in size from about 12 to 18 mm, but are all very light weight and crudely cast. A recent group we had of 18 mm specimens averaged 0.45 grams each (which included the example illustrated). The prices very depending on the size and weight, and in this case smaller is better.

12 to 15 mm
F   $27.50
VF   $32.50  

15 to 18 mm
F   $17.50
VF   $25.00  

 

Generally crudely cast, it is almost certain these are contemporary counterfeits and include the coins referred to in the official Han records as dating to before 180 BC. However it is also likely light-weight illicit castings occurred throughout the period of the Pan Liang coins and I am not certain it is save to date them all to pre-180 BC.

BAN LIANG WITH RIMS

  The Pan Liang coins with outer and sometimes inner rims (often poorly formed) tend to be lighter than those without any evidence of rims, usually around 2 grams. But they are in the roughly 24 mm size range. As discussed on the table above, they should be dated to the period following the coinage reform of 136 BC. Further evidence for this dating exists in the San Shu coinage discussed below.

F     $5.50
VF     $7.00  
XF   $10.00  

 

There are also a number of Pan Liang with odd variations that are fairly interesting but about which little is actually known. We will record here the varieties that come through our hands, but if you are interested in these there is a long list of them in Cooles work on this series.

 

BAN LIANG WITH REVERSED INSCRIPTIONS

S-96-98 variety. “LIANG PAN”. On occasion we run into these pan liang coins with the inscriptions reversed (Schjoth has three specimens). They are too common to be simple errors, although we cannot rule out that they are contemporary counterfeits. A specimen we recently had was 23.5 mm and 2.25 grams, which is within the correct range for Ban Liang of the 179 to 136 BC period.

F   $45.00     VF   $75.00

 

BAN LIANG WITH EXTRA LINES

  COOLE-9196. Obverse: “PAN LIANG” with four sloped lines at the top. Reverse: blank. One of the four sloped lines is weak, but they all look like they were put there intentionally and are definitely part of the original casting as they are in raised metal. The specimen illustrated is 24.5 mm, 2.8 grams.

VF   $65.00

 


 

SAN-SHU COINAGE

 

S-103. Obverse: “SAN-SHU” (3 shu) with a poorly developed outer rim. Reverse: blank. 22.5 mm. Average (3 specimens) weight 2.91 grams Size 23.4 mm. There is some variation on the size and weight of these.

VF   $235.00

 

The official records of Han say these San Shu (3 shu) coins were cast by Emperor Wu starting in the first year of his reign title Chien-yuan which is 136 BC during the period of the Ban Liang last Ban Liang coins without rims. The two specimens we have so far located averaged 2.55 grams, which is the same weight standard as those coins.

It would appear that Emperor Wu was attempted a coinage reform to replace the Ban Liang with a new monetary unit with one that actually named the Shu, but cast to the same standard as the already existing Ban Liang. The rarity of these coins show it was a short lived and failed experiment, and it is not difficult to see why. “SAN-SHU” (3 shu) implies a weight of 1.95 grams at the official weight standard of a shu, and 1.5 grams normal weight a coin of 3 shu. But they average about 2.5 grams which is the weight of a 5 shu coin. Thus they had a higher bullion value than their circulating value, making them ready targets for people to melt to profit from the excess copper in them. Emperor Wu may have done this thinking it would make them popular and thus would circulate, but got the opposite result (popular but would not circulate).

We have no knowledge of how long they were issued for. Their rarity could be because they were withdrawn immediately and the old Ban Liang re-issued at the 2.5 gram standard without rims for the next four years. It is also possible they were the principle coinage down to 140 BC when the lighter Ban Liang with rims was introduced, and their rarity due to excessive melting for their bullion value.

We originally thought these 3 shu coins were without rims, but a specimen recently in our hands (illustrated) had a very poorly developed outer rim on the obverse, similar to the rims on the Ban Liang reform of 140 BC, suggesting that developed directly from these. Thus I suspect it more likely they were issued from 136 to 140 BC but were melted in large numbers and are thus rare.


 

WU SHU COINAGE

 

The record of Han Wu-ti says that in the fifth year of Yuan-shou (118 BC) the light weight Pan-liangs with rims were replaced by the Wu Shu (5 shu). Unlike the crude Pan Liang, Wu Shu were better cast with finished edges usually leaving no trace of the casting sprew, well developed outer rims on both sides and a inner rim on the reverse, and finer calligraphy of a more modern style. They average 2.5 grams which is a return to the weight standard of the Ban Liang of the 179 to 136 BC period, and which is exactly weight a 5 shu coins should weight (using the 0.5 grams per shu standard for coins). For the next three hundred years the diameter is very consistent at about 26 mm. Because of their very long period of issue, with very little change in the coins, they are very common today.

 

S-257, the generic, commonest Wu Shu type. Obverse: “WU SHU”. Reverse: blank. Average 26 mm, 2.5 grams.

VG   $2.00     F   $3.00     VF   $5.00

 

Most reference books list the standard Wu-Shu as having been cast continuously from about 118 BC until the start of the T’ang Dynasty in about AD 617. While we agree that coins of the Wu-Shu denomination were cast at various time throughout this period, it is our opinion that the basic standard Wu-Shu as illustrated above were probably only issued until the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty in about AD 220, and that all of the Wu-Shu issued after that date are of distinctly different styles and types. Our evidence for this is complex and is discussed throughout the page on this site devoted to the period between AD 220 and AD 600, but you will have to read the entire page to gain an understanding of it.


 

WU SHU VARIETIES

Most of the Wu Shu coins one comes across are the very generic type listed above, and one cannot date them exactly (they may have been made for up to about 700 years). It is beyond the scope of this site to list all the subtle varieties of the Wu Shu coinage, but we will list some of the major ones below as they come our way. Like the generic type, most cannot be dated accurately, however there are a few that can be and for these click on the Dynasty’s name to link to that listing.

 

S-257, commonest Wu Shu type with a plain obverse inner hole, but with small but very distinctive evidence of the casting sprews remaining on the edges in two spots. This is simply a coin with improperly finished edges, but it is unusual and gives good evidence that this type was cast in “TREE” form. We have only noticed one of these.

VF   $15.00

 

S-115, Wu Shu with a rim on the upper edge of the inner hole on the obverse.

VG   $10.00     F   $15.00     VF   $25.00

 

A mold for this type with a upper rim on the inner hole was found (reference Schjoth page 9) dated to the 2nd year of Shen-chio (60 BC), leaving little doubt this was an issue of Emperor Hsuan (73-49 BC).

 

S-258. Wu Shu with a small raised half dot on the lower inner-rim of the obverse.

VF   $7.50     XF   $9.50

 

In March of 1998, we purchased part of a Wu Shu hoard which contained examples of S-115 (rim on the upper edge of the inner hole) as well as examples of S-259 and S-258 (small and large half dots on the bottom edge of the inner hole). All of the coins were basically as cast, or close to it, with identical powdery green patination over-layered by a very fine brown clay. There is little double but that these coins all came from the same hoard and must have been cast and circulated at about the same time. If S-115 dates to about 60 BC, then these two types must be from that general period as well.

 

S-304, Wu Shu with the center punched out These are known as “Yen-huan” which means “thread rings”. The specimen illustrated appears to have had the center cut out with a slightly irregular shaped punch used from the blank reverse side, and which has slightly dished the coin on that side. Average (6 specimen) 24.0 mm diameter, 16.1 mm inside diameter, 1.60 grams. It is not known exactly when or why these coins were cut down in this way, but the average weight on these suggest the possiblity of a 3 shu denomination.

VG   $5.00     F   $7.50     VF   $10.00

 

 

WEI DYNASTY, AD 221 – 265

S-208-210, Bronze 5 shu. “WU SHU”. 12.0 mm. Average about 0.75 grams. These diminutive coins have high rims which protect the characters, so these are seldom seen worn, but are sometimes softly cast. We have seen a few specimens with an intentional raised bump on the lower edge of the hole.

F     $7.50     VF     $17.00

 

 

LIANG DYNASTY, AD 502-557
Issue of Emperor Liang Wu Ti

S-223. Bronze “WU SHU”. Reverse: blank. This is the only Wu-shu variety with a full inner rim on the obverse.

F   $22.50     VF   $37.50

 

 

LIANG DYNASTY, AD 502-557
Issue of Emperor Liang Wu Ti

S-225. Bronze “WU SHU”. Reverse: blank. This variety was cast with no rims at all and was known as the “Nu-ch’ien” (female cash).

F   $22.50     VF   $37.50

 

Image not yet available

LIANG DYNASTY, AD 502-557
Issue of Emperor Liang Wu Ti

S-227-231. Bronze “WU-SHU” with the left radical of “SHU” missing. Reverse: blank. Schjoth lists the type both with and without rims.

VF   $60.00

 

 

LIANG DYNASTY, AD 502-557
Issue of Emperor Liang Wu Ti

S-232. Iron “WU SHU”. This variety was cast with full rims, and lines radiating from the corners on the reverse.

F   $47.50     VF   $69.50

 

 

SUI DYNASTY, AD 581 – 618
Issue of Emperor WEN

S-253, “WU SHU” with very straight arms on “WU” and wide well-finished rims. From 10 specimens we found an average weight of 2.63 grams and a size of 2.8 mm.

F   $5.00     VF   $8.00

 


 

WESTERN HAN ISSUES OF WANG MANG

Towards the end of the Western Han Dynasty, China was in effect ruled by the family of Wang through a series of puppet Han emperors. There is some dispute as to what happened in the beginning years of the first century AD, but it appears that Wang Mang became regent for the child emperor P’ing Ti. In AD 7 Wang Mang replaced P’ing Ti with the infant Ju Tze Yung, giving himself the office of Acting Emperor.

As Acting Emperor he introduced three new issues to circulate alongside Wu shus.

                       

Round coins worth 50 Wu Shu (250 shu), knife coins worth 500 Wu Shu (2500 shu),
and knives with gold inlays, worth 5000 Wu Shu (25,000 shu).

Since Wang Mang first issued these as Acting Emperor of Han, they can be considered to be coins of Western Han. A more detailed discussion of these, and others issued of Wang Mang, is available below under the Hsin Dynasty.

 

HSIN DYNASTY

Interregnum of Wang Mang, AD 7-23

The interregnum of Wang Mang was a very interesting time in Chinese history, but remember the old curse, “May you live in interesting times”.

The exact dates and events that led Wang Mang to power differ a little between references, but for the time being we are using mostly those given by Robert Tye in his essay WANG MANG (paperback, 20 pages), but in a few cases, where noted, other dates may be used. If you are interested in learning more about this period and would like to read his essay, let us know and we will see if it is still available from him.

About 47 BC, Mang was born into the most powerful family in China, a family that effectively ruled through a series of puppet Han emperors. He held a series of high governmental posts before becoming Minister of War in 7 BC, but fell from favor and retired two years later.

Robert Tye records that in AD 3 Mang became father-in-law to the Emperor and, in AD 6, was appointed regent to the child Emperor P’ing Ti. This differs somewhat from the information recorded by Michael Mitchiner (in Oriental Coins and their Values, The Ancient & Classical World) who says Wang became regent to P’ing Ti in AD 1 but replaced him with Ju Tze Yung in AD 7 at which time Wang gave himself the office of Acting Emperor.

Both sources agree that in AD 9 (January 10 according to Tye) Wang declared himself Emperor, establishing his “Hsin” (new) Dynasty.

The China of Wang Mang’s day was one of extreme wealth and yet extreme poverty: a very few owned almost everything while the vast majority of people just barely survived. Wang set up a system very much like modern communism, and through a series of monetary and economic reforms confiscated the wealth of the elite, redistributing part of it among the common people. His first two coinage reforms, along with the nationalization of land in his economic reforms, succeeded in confiscating the wealth of the elite, transferring it to the state treasuries where it remained until Mang’s death when 150 tons of gold were found to be still in storage.

He tried (with only partial success) to abolish slavery, he nationalized land and distributed it in plots to those who wished to work it, and he reformed the tax system to make it fair to all. He brought in a system to regulate prices, and his third coinage reform was intended to facilitate trade. None of this worked the way he intended and his fourth and fifth reforms seem to have been an attempt to undo the damage.

In the end, he created a nightmare of political and economic upheaval that resulted in famines, anarchy and rebellions among displaced people. The last years of his reign were a period of chaos during which an estimated twenty-five million people died, about half China’s population. It must have been a very interesting time, indeed!

As with many aspects of the early years of Wang Mang, there is dispute over his reign titles. So far we have found the following information, but it may not be fully accurate:

CHE-SHE **

AD 7 to 8

As acting Emperor of Han

HUANG-SHIH-CHU *
or
SHE-KIEN-KWA **

AD 9 to 14

As Emperor of Hsin

T’IEN-FENG

AD 14 to 22

As Emperor of Hsin

*Tye     **Mitchiner


 

FIRST REFORM, introduced in AD 7

This first reform was made while he was either regent for the last Western Han Emperor or Acting Emperor. In either case, these are technically Han Dynasty coins.

Wang’s intent was to allow Wu Shu to continue to circulate for small transactions, but to introduce a fiduciary (token) coinage to replace gold in larger transactions. This was poorly received by a populous not used to token coinage, so Mang ordered that all gold be turned in and exchanged for the new coins. We have not found a record of the penalty for continuing to hold gold, but many of the aristocracy were executed at this time.

 

VALUE

INSCRIPTION

TYPE

1 Wu Shu (5 shu)

WU SHU

ROUND COIN

50 Wu Shu (250 shu)

TA-CH’UAN WU-SHIH

ROUND COIN

500 Wu Shu (2500 shu)

CH’I TAO WU-PAI

KNIFE COIN

5000 Wu Shu (25000 shu)

YI-TAO P’ING WU-CHIEN

KNIFE COIN

 

  S-119, “YI-TAO P’ING WU-CHIEN” (One knife: value five thousand). The “YI-TAO” inscription on the handle is of inlaid gold. Valued at 5000 Wu Shu (25,000 shu). The specimen illustrated is 74 mm long by 15 mm across the blade and 27 mm across the handle. The weight of these varies considerable. The three specimens we have weight range from 25.84 to 38.85 grams and average 31.41 grams.

F $1000.00     VF $1400.00

At that time 5000 Wu Shu was equal to 1/2 cattie of gold. A cattie weighed about 120 grams, so these knifes were valued at about 60 grams (2 ounces) of pure gold. We have not been able to find a relative value for gold in ancient China, but in the same time frame in the Roman Empire, this would have been at least a year’s wages to an average citizen.

 

  S-116, “CH’I TAO WU-PAI” (Ch’i knife five hundred), value 500 knife coin with the characters in raised bronze. About 75 mm long, 29 mm across the handle and 14 mm across the blade. Average weight (3 specimens) 19.4 grams (range from 18.4 to 20.3). The specimen imaged has been cleaned to reveal the glossy dark gray patina one often seen on Wang Mang coins.

VF   $375.00       XF $550.00

These knife coins are sometimes referred to as key coins, and are very well cast, although on the value 500 the characters on the ring handle are sometimes weak. The edges are usually finished with slightly coarse file marks around the outside, but much finer file marks on the leading edge of the knife blade (as if the knife had been sharpened). Both types should be examined quite closely as good quality fakes exist. On the value 5000, genuine examples are often found with the gold inlays missing, but for which new inlays have been applied (such specimens are worth less). If the inlays are genuine, the patina should in part overlay them.

  S-117, “CH’I TAO WU-PAI” (Ch’i knife five hundred), but only the handle of the knife with the blade intentionally cut off in ancient times (the stub has been filed smooth, and has genuine patina over it). The specimen illustrated is 29.4 mm, 12.0 grams. We have seen at least four others cut this way (and one cut in modern times), but have not yet been able to determine if these were part of one of Wang Mang’s reforms, or if they were cut this way after the time of Wang Mang for use during the Eastern Han period, or if they were used as amulets.

VF   $125.00

 

S-120+, “TA-CH’UAN WU-SHIH” (Great coin value 50). These are the only coins to circulate during all five of Wang’s reforms, and today be very common. We see a great variety of sizes and weights, from about 1.5 to 10 grams. It is likely that the heavier specimens are the earliest and the lighter ones the latest, although specimens under 3 grams are likely contemporary counterfeits. There is a wide variation of calligraphy styles, probably indicating dates and mints, but this information has been lost to us. The high rims protect the coins from wear and these are seldom seen below a grade of VF.
light (under 4 grams)

F     $6.00

VF     $8.00

XF   $12.00

normal (4-8 grams)

F     $5.00

VF     $8.00

XF   $12.00

heavy (8-10 grams)

F     $8.00

VF   $10.00

XF   $15.00

very heavy (over 10 grams)

F   $15.00

VF   $20.00

XF   $30.00

     

 

It appears there was a major problem with counterfeiting these token coins, as one would expect when some denominations represented an entire years wages in just one coin. To counter this the death penalty was brought in for this offense, although that does not appear to have solved the problem.


 

SECOND REFORM, introduced AD 9

In AD 9, Mang de-monitized the Wu Shus and both the value 500 and 5000 knifes, leaving the Ta-Ch’uan current and adding a smaller new coin, the Hsiao-Ch’uan Chin-Yi (worth 1 Wu (5) Shu but with only 1 Shu worth of metal). Since the people had been forced to turn in their gold in exchange for the high-value knife coins, the de-monetization of them must have destroyed the wealth of many families.

With only two token denominations legally circulating, it appears people continued to use Wu Shu coins, not trusting the new currency. To counter this Mang ordered anyone found holding Wu-shus to be either banished or executed. He was obviously determined to see that the new coinage was accepted!

 

VALUE

INSCRIPTION

TYPE

1 Wu Shu (5 shu)

HSIAO-CH’UAN CHIH-YI SMALL ROUND COIN
50 Wu Shu (250 shu)

TA-CH’UAN WU-SHIH

ROUND COIN

 

  S-139-141, “HSIAO-CH’UAN CHIH-YI” (small coin value one). These are very small coins with very high rims and sharp characters but they occasionally show up cast from worn molds. Schjoth lists these as rare, but this is certainly not true today. Average (11 specimens) 1.14 grams, 14.9 mm (but we have seen them from 14.0 to 15.5 mm, and about 1.0 to 1.32 grams).

F   $12.00     VF   $17.50     XF   $22.50

This issue tends to have fairly high rims with a very well finished square edge. The patination in normally a very glossy dark brown cuprite, but they are often seen somewhat encrusted. These are seldom seem worn, so are graded according to visual appearance, which usually is most affected by casting quality and surface preservation.


 

THIRD REFORM, introduced AD 10

With gold now outlawed and the high value knife money demonetized, large transactions must have been difficult. To facilitate trade, a series of new denominations were added to the two already circulating. Small denominations were round coins of 1, 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 Wu Shu. Large denominations were in the form of spade money from 100 to 1000 Wu Shu by intervals of 100. This brought the total number of denominations in use to sixteen:

VALUE

INSCRIPTION

TYPE

1 Wu Shu HSIAO-CH’UAN CHIH-YI ROUND COIN
10 Wu Shu

YAO-CH’UAN YI SHIH

ROUND COIN
20 Wu Shu

YU-CH’UAN ERH SHIH

ROUND COIN
30 Wu Shu

CHUNG CH’UAN SAN SHIH

ROUND COIN
40 Wu Shu

CHUANG CH’UAN SSU SHIH

ROUND COIN
50 Wu Shu

TA-CH’UAN WU-SHIH

ROUND COIN
100 Wu Shu

HSIAO-PU YI-PAI

SPADE COIN
200 Wu Shu

YAO-PU ERH-PAI

SPADE COIN
300 Wu Shu

YU-PU SAN-PAI

SPADE COIN
400 Wu Shu

HSU-PU SSU-PAI

SPADE COIN
500 Wu Shu

CHA-PU WU-PAI

SPADE COIN
600 Wu Shu

CHUNG-PU LAI PAI

SPADE COIN
700 Wu Shu

CHUANG-PU (7) PAI

SPADE COIN
800 Wu Shu

TI-PU (8) PAI

SPADE COIN
900 Wu Shu

TZU-PU (9) PAI

SPADE COIN
1000 Wu Shu

TA-PU HUANG-CH’IEN

SPADE COIN

 

With the exception of the two types from the previous reform, and the value 1000 spades, all of the coins of this reform are rare, suggesting this was a very short-lived series, probably only for part of AD 10. There are several types for which we have never seen a genuine example, and cannot give any valuations. Fakes exist of all the rare types, so we recommend examining any specimens very closely.

The spade types are all found with and without a line extending from the hole to the upper rim, although the meaning of this line is uncertain. It may indicate two mints were operating, or that there were two different issues of these coins. These are poorly cast coin and usually seen with rather rough surfaces.

 

  Hartill 9.20, Value 100 spade inscribed “XIAO BU YI-BAI” (meaning “small spade 100). Average (1 specimen) 32 x 20 mm, 5.46 grams (the specimen has a corrosion hole in it, so was probably just slightly heavier when cast).

VF with corrosion hole   $265.00     VF   $495.00

 

  Hartill 9.23, Value 400 spade inscribed “XU BU SI BAI” (meaning ordered spade, 400). This type exists with and without a line extending from the hole to the upper rim (same value). This is a poorly cast issue, and usually seen with rather rough surfaces. Average (1 specimen) 28.1 x 20.4 mm, 7.51 grams.

VF   $425.00     VF   $575.00

 

  Hartill 9.27, Value 800 spade inscribed “DI BU BA BAI” (meaning Graduate Spade, 800). Average (1 specimen) 44.9 x 20.7 mm, 8.45 grams.

VF   $425.00     VF   $575.00

 

  S-145-147, Value 1000 spade inscribed “TA-PU HUANG-CH’IEN”. This type exists with and without a line extending from the hole to the upper rim (same value). These are well cast with sharp characters. It appears that Mang’s reign title at this time was “Huang-shih-chu”. It is possible that the “Huang” on these coins is a reference to that title. Average (3 specimens) 57 x 25 mm, 12.01 grams (the weights vary slightly).

VF   $55.00     XF   $77.50

The particular specimen illustrated has a slight casting flaw on the left edge, which will not be seen on most specimens (we pick it for the clarity of the characters)

 

A list of relative values for cowry shells, tortoise shells, silver and gold was compiled, suggesting such items were used as currency during the late Western Han period, possibly all through the Zhou, Ch’in and Han dynasties.

 

ITEM

SIZE

VALUE

COWRY SHELL

UNDER 30 mm

3 Wu Shu

 

30 to 60 mm

5 Wu Shu

 

60 to 90 mm

15 Wu Shu

 

90 to 120 mm

25 Wu Shu

 

over 120 mm

108 Wu Shu

TORTOISE SHELL

125 to 175 mm

100 Wu Shu

 

175 to 230 mm

300 Wu Shu

 

230 to 355 mm

500 Wu Shu

 

over 355 mm

2160 Wu Shu

SILVER

8 Taels (1/2 cattie)
of Shu-shi

1580 Wu Shu

 

8 Taels ordinary silver

1000 Wu Shu

GOLD

1 Cattie (120 grams)

10,000 Wu Shu

 

This does not necessarily imply these items remained in circulation during Mang’s reforms. Robert Tye (page 14) speculates these were rates to be paid, in token currency, when the old currency items were turned in. This certainly seems to fit with Wang Mang’s overall methods.

It appears the death penalty did not stop the problem of counterfeiting, so a new approach was tried. The new penalty was confiscation of property, enslavement to the state for the counterfeiter, his family, and the entire families of his five nearest neighbors. We assume the theory was that the neighbors should have some idea of what went on next door and would be likely to turn in the counterfeiter rather than risk themselves. There is no evidence that this worked.


 

FOURTH REFORM,
date uncertain but some time between
AD 10 AND 14

The experiment of the third reform was a failure, and the fourth reform saw a return to the coinage of the second reform.

 

VALUE

INSCRIPTION

TYPE

1 Wu Shu

HSIAO-CH’UAN CHIH-YI SMALL ROUND COIN
50 Wu Shu

TA-CH’UAN WU-SHIH

ROUND COIN

 


 

FIFTH REFORM, introduced in AD 14.

This was Mang’s last coinage reform, with two and possibly three new coins being introduced. The first was the “Huo Ch’uan” valued at 1 Wu shu (5 shu) and of five shu weight. The second was the “Huo-pu”, a spade coin valued at 25 Wu Shu (125 shu). There is another fairly common coin called the “Pu-Ch’uan”. It is not mentioned in the ancient records but seems to belong with this series, possibly an early version of the Huo Ch’uan. These are all very well cast coins, of fairly uniform size and weight and seldom show up in grades below VF.

The Ta-Ch’uan Wu-Shih also continued to circulate, but with the reduced value of 5 shu. It is likely that the lighter Ta-Ch’uan Wu-Shih were cast during this period.

 

VALUE

INSCRIPTION

TYPE

1 Wu Shu

HUO CH’UAN

ROUND COIN

1 Wu Shu

PU-CH’UAN

ROUND COIN

1 Wu Shu

TA-CH’UAN WU-SHIH ROUND COIN
25 Wu Shu

HUO-PU

SPADE COIN

 


 

HUO CH’UAN COINAGE

The Huo-ch’uan coins are found with many minor varieties (Schjoth lists 21) and a few major ones. Some of the minor varieties may indicate mint marks, but many are probably illicit castings. The major varieties probably had meaning in the form of mints and dates, but this information is now lost to us. There are far too many variations to go into here at this time (maybe one day), so we have put most of them together under the generic heading of S-149 varieties, and commented only on the more distinctive ones.

 

  S-149 variety. Obverse: “Huo-Ch’uan”. Reverse: blank. Average (20 specimens) 2.25 grams (range 2.0 to 3.45 grams), 22 mm (range 21 to 23.2 mm). Very well cast coins with finished rims.

F   $4.00     VF   $6.00     XF   $10.00

 

The Huo Ch’uan coinage exist in a couple of preculiar varities, some of which may have more to do with the Eastern Han Dynasty than the time of Wang Mang. While examining a recent group of these, we noticed that there seemed to be two sizes (ones in the 21-22 mm range, and those over 23 mm). This may suggest two distinct issues, probably at different times, but there is not enough evidence yet to support and firm conclusions.

 

Schjoth & Coole not listed. Cut down “HUO-CH’UAN”. These are well cast and clearly issues of Wang Mang, but have been cut down, removing the outer-rim and about 1/2 of the characters. The specimens we have examined range from 14.7 to 16.9 mm.

VF   $8.00

 

FD-488. These are variations on S-149 that are very heavy, normally over 5 grams, and are about double the thickness of normal “HUO-CH’UAN” coins. There exact significance is not know, but they turn up on a regular basis suggesting they were made this way intentionally.

VF   $17.50

We have owned one example of this type that had 4 rays extending from the corners of the inner obverse rim. It was 6.6 grams and 24.5 mm.

 

Coole-10111. Small “HUO-CH’UAN”. The casting on these varies from slightly crude to quite good, but unlike the cut down examples they have full rims. The specimens we have examined range from 13.5 to 16.4 mm.

VF   $8.00

We find it unlikely that these small and cut down Huo-Ch’uan would have been allowed to circulate during Wang Mang’s time. They were most likely used between AD 25 (death of Wang Mang) and AD 41 (official demonitization of Wang Mang’s coinage).


 

PU CH’UAN COINAGE

 

The Pu-Ch’uan coins exist with three major varieties, and while we may never know the meaning of these varieties, it is possible they indicate different mints. The specimens seem to vary between 25.5 and 26.5 mm and average (12 specimens) about 3.50 grams, there is considerable weight variation in these. All three types are of about equal rarity and the same value. One seldom sees an example below a grade of VF, so these could not have continued to circulate for too long after they were minted.

VF   $10.00     XF   $15.00

 

S-175. Obverse: “PU CH’UAN” without any rays on the inner corners of the inner rim. Reverse: blank.

 

S-176. Obverse: “PU CH’UAN” with two rays extending from top corners of the inner rim. Reverse: blank.

 

S-177. Obvrse: “PU CH’UAN” with two rays extending from the bottom corners of the inner rim (as illusrated above). Reverse: blank.

 

Other minor varieties of this type exist. We have had an example with no rays, but a dot on the obverse inner rim. These are very well make coins, with very well defined and finished rims. It appears they did not circulate a great deal because we have never seen a well worn specimen of this coinage (most specimens will be found in a grade of XF).


 

HUO-PU COINAGE

  S-148, “HUO-PU”, spade coin valued at 25 Wu-shu (125 shu). Average : 58.5 x 22.5 mm. 15.4 grams (12 specimens) but the weights do vary more than a gram either side of this.These are the commonest of all spade coins, and must have been cast in very large numbers. They are attractive coins, very well cast with sharp calligraphy.Most specimens of this type have edges that were file finished with file marks visible perpendicular to the coin, however about 20% of the specimens one encounters never had the edges finished, and a fine casting seam will be visible all the way around the edge.

VF   $22.50     XF   $32.00

 

Wang Mang came to a very bad end. The Han had raised an army from the people displaced by Mang’s reforms and on October 4 of AD 23 that army entered Ch’ang-an. Over the next few days the fighting was intense and Mang’s troops were slowly defeated. On the third day, after much hand to hand combat in the palace, Mang was killed and his body was hacked to pieces. House of Han was once again on the throne.

It is interesting that the coins of Mang’s final reform must have met with acceptance, as they continued to be used for sixteen years after his death. It was only in AD 40 that they were finally demonetized and Wu Shu were once again cast. This is probably why the coinage of that reform is so common today.

 

EASTERN HAN DYNASTY (AD 25-221)

In AD 22, a man connected to the House of Han and known as Liu, rebelled against and captured Wang Mang, re-establishing the Western Han Dynasty. As the last Emperor of the Western Han, Liu moved the capital to Lo-yang in Honan Province, at which time he also became the first Emperor of the Eastern Han and adopted the name Kuang Wu Ti.


 

EMPERORS OF EASTERN HAN

RULER

DATES

Kuang Wu Ti
also know as Liu*

AD 25-57

Ming Ti

AD 58-75

Chang Ti

AD 76-88

Ho Ti

AD 89-105

Chang Ti

AD 106-107

Ngan Ti

AD 107-124

Chao Ti

AD 125-126

Chuen Ti

AD 126-144

Ch’ang Ti

AD 145-146

Che Ti

AD 146-147

Huan Ti

AD 147-167

Ling Ti

AD 168-188

Chao Ti

AD 189-190

Min Ti

AD 190-190

General Tung Cho
through several puppets

AD 190-192

Courtier Ts’ao-ts’ao
through a puppet

AD 192-220

Ts’ao-pei **
son of Ts’ao-ts’ao

AD 220-221

 

* Liu was the last Emperor of Western Han and the first emperor of Eastern Han.
** Ts’ao-pei was the last Emperor of Han and first Emperor of the Wei dynasty.

 

Although this is a list of official Emperors of the Eastern Han, following Emperor Ming Ti, most were ineffective figureheads with real power in the hands of a bureaucracy of public officials, members of the courts and military generals. The most powerful of these appears to have been Ts’ao-ts’ao, who ruled through a puppet emperor (whose name is uncertain) but who was forced to give up his throne in favor of Ts’ao-pei, Ts’ao-ts’ao’s son. As Ts’ao-pei was not of the House of Han, he quickly moved to establish the Wei Dynasty.

The Han dynasty did not exactly end in AD 221, as Liu Pie, a legitimate member of the House of Han opposed Ts’ao-pei, establishing himself in Szechuan Province as first Emperor of the Minor Han Dynasty. For the next 300 years, there was a member of the House of Han ruling some part of China under various dynastic names, probably ending in AD 589 with the fall of the Ch’en Dynasty.

Few innovations occurred in Eastern Han coinage. Wang Mang’s last coinage continued to circulate, and may have continued to be cast, until about AD 41 when they were demonetized and the Wu Shu were re-introduced. Only two identifiable Wu Shu varieties can be shown to have been cast during the Eastern Han (from inscriptions on molds). For the most part only generic Wu Shus were cast, in the pattern used for almost 700 years.


 

Emperor KUANG-WU, AD 25-57

Reign title: Chien-wu, AD 25-57

 

The coins of Wang Mang continued to circulate until the 16th year of Chien-wu (AD 40). These coins are today more common than one would expect if they had only been cast during the last 8 years of Wang Mang. This suggests that they continued to be cast during the first 16 years of Kuang-Wu. After AD 40 the Wu Shu was re-introduced, but no specific varieties can be assigned to this period (Schjoth mentions a mold has been found with markings indicating it was used in the 20th year of Chien-wu (AD 44) (reference Schjoth page 13). The type is standard.


 

Emperor LING, AD 168 – 189

Reign title: Chung-ping, AD 184-189

  S-178a. Obverse: “WU SHU”. Thought to have been issued in AD 186, the obverse has four rays extending from the corners of the central hole, and an inner rim only on the reverse. Reverse: blank. These coins are fairly common, but seldom grade below VF, suggesting a large issue with a short period of circulation. Average (8 specimens) 3.9 grams, 25.5 mm.

F   $15.00     VF   $25.00     XF   $35.00

 

S-179. Obverse: “WU SHU”. Reverse: blank except similar to S-178a except that the four rays extending from the inner rim are on the reverse rather than the obverse. Average (9 specimens) 3.58 grams, 25.5 mm.

F   $15.00     VF   $25.00     XF   $35.00

 

The rays extending from the inner rims on these coins are said to represent the four walls of a city. As of yet, we can find no reason to assume this is true. The use of rays radiating from the central hole, but with varying numbers of them, also occur on the Huo Chuan and Pu Chuan coins of Wang Mang.

On some recent groups of these, we noted that the examples with rays on the obverse seemed to be slightly heavier and slightly higher grade than those with rays on the reverse. This tends to suggest that the reverse rays examples were an earlier issues than the rays on obverse type, but the sampling is still too small to be sure that this is a correct analysis.


 

REBEL TUNG CHO, ca AD 190

  S-180. Obverse: blank. Reverse: blank. No rims on either side. Average (1 specimens) 1.23 grams, 21.5 mm. There is no way to grade this coinage, as there is nothing on it to wear (we just grade them all VF). The last specimen we handled looked distinctly like the outer edge was a cut edge, but the patination was intact over all surfaces.

VF   $35.00

 

There is a slightly cryptic notation on page 13 of Chinese Currency, by F Schjoth, where he say that “The records of this Emperor” (Emperor Hsien, the last ruler of Han, AD 189-220) “state that during the 1st year of Ch’u-p’ing (AD 190) the rebel Tung Cho did away with the Wu-shu coinage. He cast smaller coins and melted down for the purpose the bronze images and horses found at Ch’ang-an (Hsi-an Fu)”. From this we believe he is trying to say that the blank coins without rims (S-180 above) are the issue of the rebel Tung Cho.

 

This is a reference guide to the cast coins of China, not a listing of coins offered for sale (although a listing of examples we currently have available can be viewed on our : our vcoins store.

 

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

 

A TIME OF DISUNITY

After 400 years of stability under the Han Dynasty, China was once again torn apart and would remain in turmoil, ruled by numerous small dynasties, until the Sui established a new unity in AD 589.

Schjoth’s dynastic sequences for this period are confusing, offering little understanding of the history of the period. We have found that those provided by Michael Mitchiner (Oriental Coins and their Values, The Ancient & Classical World) establish order out of apparent chaos, so we have based our organization of this page on the information he provides. An understanding of the coins of this period requires a basic understanding of the history, so we have included as full a listing of the dynasties involved, including many that do not appear to have issued coins.

 

EPOCH OF THE THREE KINGDOMS

The fall of Han resulted in a China divided among three major dynasties: Wei in the north, Wu in the south and Minor Han in the west. The following chart shows the relative relationships between them over time.

 

  Northern China Southern China Western China  

Pre-221

Eastern Han

Eastern Han

Eastern Han

 
AD 221-229

Wei

Wei / Wu

Minor Han

 
AD 229-265

Wei

Wu

Minor Han

 
AD 265-280

Western Chin

Wu

Western Chin

 
after AD 280

Western Chin

Western Chin

Western Chin

 

 

WEI DYNASTY
AD 221 – 265

Ts’ao-ts’ao, adopted son of the chief eunuch of Western Han, gained control of Western Han in AD 192. He ruled through a puppet Han emperor whom, in AD 220, he forced to abdicate in favor of his son Ts’ao-pei, who immediately changed the name of the dynasty to WEI.


 

EMPERORS OF WEI

RULER

DATES

Wen Ti
also know as Ts’ao-p’ei

AD 221-228

Ming Ti

AD 228-241

Fei Ti

AD 241-253

King Ti

AD 253-?

Mo Ti

AD ?-265

 

Both of the dynasties that co-existed with Wei appear to have issued only high denomination fiduciary coins (discussed below). Unfortunately no coinage has yet been proven to be associated with the Wei Dynasty, but there are two coins that have a possibility of having been cast by the Wei.

 

  S-208-210, Bronze 5 shu. “WU SHU”. 12.0 mm. Average about 0.75 grams. These diminutive coins have high rims which protect the characters, so these are seldom seen worn, but are sometimes softly cast. We have seen a few specimens with an intentional raised bump on the lower edge of the hole.

F     $7.50     VF     $17.00

 

Dating of these small Wu Shus is uncertain but Schoth (page 15) comments on an old record claiming “the Emperor Ming of Wei reverted to the issue of Wu-shus, and these were used down to the Chin dynasty, but in reduced sizes”. We know high value fiduciary coinage was already circulating by this time, and a monetary system of fiduciary coins cannot successfully circulate side by side with full-weight coinage, so the Wu-shu referred to were likely these very small issues.

The second coinage that has a possibility of having been cast by the Wei are the “CHIH-PAI WU SHU” (value hundred wu shu) attributed to the Minor Han, with “WEI” on the reverse. This is by no means certain as “WEI” could also stand for the Chien-wei, a district in Szechuan province under control of the Minor Han during this period, although that would make this the only mint-marked coin struck between 200 BC and AD 841.

 

MINOR HAN DYNASTY
AD 221 – 265

In AD 221, after Ts’ao-ts’ao established the Wei Dynasty by overthrowing the house of Han, one branch of the Han Royal family survived in Liu Pe, who established the Minor Han Dynasty with his capital at Ch’eng-tu in Szechuan province. Forty five years later, Ts’ao-ts’ao’s great-grandson competed the overthrow, conquering Minor Han, but in the same year Ssu-ma Yen overthrew Wei in a military coup, establishing the Chin Dynasty.


 

EMPERORS OF MINOR HAN

RULER

DATES

Chao Lieh
also know as Liu Pei

AD 221-222

Hou Chou

AD 222-265

 

Mitchiner (page 694) assigns the 100 Wu Shu (500 shu) coins to Chao Lieh (AD 221-222) and the Value 100 (assumed 100 shu) to Hou Chou (AD 222-265). Schjoth notes that Chao Lieh issued value 100 coins, and says they were issued following a war to capture the town of Ch’eng-tu. Being short of funds to pay his troups he issued the value 100 coins on the advice of Liu Pa, establishing price controls to stem the inflation normally caused by such a fiduciary coinage. What is not certain if is the reference to “value 100 coins” is to the coins actually marked value 100 coin and assumed to be 100 shu, or if it is to those marked value 100 Wu Shu, which clearly are 500 shu.

The 100 Wu Shu type while scarce, are more common than one would expect for a two-year type from a relatively small dynasty. The relative sizes and weights of the two issues are consistent with them being two denominations of 100 shu and 500 shu within one series, and are to standards very similar to similar coins issued by WU dynasty in the south. This suggests that both types may have been first issued by Chao Lieh, but both continued as general coins of the Minor Han after his reign so can only be safely dated to the period of the entire dynasty.


 

100 WU SHU
(500 SHU)

 

These coins seem to be consistently about 26 mm give or take 1 mm, but there are considerable variations in the weight, and we have noted specimens from 2 to 8 grams.

 

  S-181, Bronze 100 Wu Shu (500 shu). “CHIH-PAI WU SHU”. Reverse : blank. Average about 26 mm, but vary in weight from about 2 to 8 grams on thick and thin flans.

F     $75.00     VF     $120.00



ENLARGEMENT OF MINT MARK
Bronze 100 Wu Shu (500 shu), “CHIH-PAI WU SHU” (value hundred wu shu). Reverse : “WEI” on the left side. Average (2 specimens) 7.35 grams (range 6.4 to 8.3), 27.5 mm.

F     $95.00     VF     $135.00

  S-183, Iron 100 Wu Shu (500 shu), “CHIH-PAI WU SHU” (value hundred wu shu). Reverse : “WEI” on the left side. We have never seen an iron example of this type on the market, so cannot establish a value at this time.
  S-184, Bronze 100 Wu Shu (500 shu), “CHIH-PAI WU SHU” (value hundred wu shu). Reverse : “SHIH” for 10 incluse at the top. This “Shih” appears to be hand cut into the cut, and may indicated an attempt at a re-valuation of this type. The example of this type we have had, was 25.4 mm, 3.07 grams, and more nicely cast than the standard ones.F     $85.00     VF     $135.00

 

“WEI” may stand for the Chien-wei district in Szechuan province, making this the only Chinese coin cast between 200 BC and AD 841 with a mint mark. “WEI” is also the name of the Minor Han’s chief rival dynasty and it may turn out that these coins were actually cast by the Wei.

Schjoth mentions two examples (S-185 with and S-184 without “WEI”) with “SHIH” (10) as an incuse character on the reverse. We have not actually seen one of these, but the use of incuse characters is unusual. We would like to hear from anyone that has one of these that can tell us if “SHIH” is part of the casting or a counter mark stamped or cut in later. If the character is a counter mark, it would suggest these coins were later devalued to 10 shu, which is consistent with their average weight, but inconsistent with what appears to be the economics of the day and would have to have been done by some later dynasty.


 

VALUE 100
(assumed 100 SHU)

 

S-188-190, Bronze 100 shu. “CHIH-PAI” (value hundred). Reverse: blank. Schjoth lists three varieties ranging from 19 to 23 mm, and 1.3 to 2.0 grams, including one without rims, but an example we had recently was 18.0 mm and 1.45 grams. We have seen an example that was only 12 mm, but assume it was probably a contemporary counterfeit. These are similar to the issues of Chao Lieh but smaller, lighter and without Wu Shu in the inscription so it is unclear if the denomination was 100 Wu Shu or 100 Shu, but 100 Wu Shu is more likely.

F   $60.00     VF   $75.00

 

The experiences of Wang Mang two centuries earlier and several occasions later, demonstrated a fiduciary coinage of this nature could disrupt economies causing hardship for the general population. Normally a situation like this could not continue for long, but all coinage known from this period (from all three dynasties) is of a similar nature and people must have had no choice but to accept them.

 

S-191, Bronze 50 shu. “Shu-wu” (a backwards Wu-shu). Schjoth mentions that these are considered to be issues of Szechuan.

F   $50.00

 

We have handled a few of these, and believe they were an intentional variety. Schjoth indicates they are thought to be coins of the Minor Han Dynasty. As all other coins known to have been cast during the Three Kingdoms Period were high value fiduciary coins, a 50 Shu would fit into the monetary system of the period.

 

WU DYNASTY
AD 229 – 280

Mitchiner (page694) records that Sun Ch’uan, a general of the Western Han, established himself at Wuchang (Hupai Province) in AD 222 upon the fall of the Western Han. It must have taken him some time to establish a power base as it was not until AD 229 that he took the title of Emperor under the name Ta Huang, establishing the WU dynasty and moving the capital to Nanking. The Wu appear to have been the strongest of the Three Kingdoms, as they survived for 15 years after both Wei and Northern Han had been overrun by the Chin. (Note that Schjoth refers to this as the Eastern Wu Dynasty).


 

EMPERORS OF WU

RULER

DATES

Ta Huang
also known as Sun Ch’uan

AD 222-228
as Sun Chuan
AD 229-252
as Ta Huang

Sun Liang

AD 252-257

Chao Ti

AD 257-uncertain

Yuan Ti

uncertain-AD 265

 

As with the Minor Han, the Wu issued high denomination fiduciary coinage, causing inflation and making counterfeiting very profitable. To combat this, the people were required to hand in their copper possessions in return for the inflated cash coins, thus depriving them of the raw materials of counterfeiting.


 

Emperor TA HUANG
(Sun Ch’uan)
AD 229 – 259

 

Reign title: Chia-ho, AD 229 – 237

S-192, Bronze 500 shu. “TA-CH’UAN WU PAI” (Great coin value 500). This type was based on the Ta-ch’uan coinage of Wang Mang, but is of much inferior casting. Schjoth records that these were cast from almost pure copper, which is easily corroded and thus these are often not very well preserved, but we have had specimens that were cast in a brass alloy. The records of Sun Ch’uan (Schjoth page 14) indicate that these coins were first cast in AD 236, the 5th year of Chia-ho.

VF (rough)   $115.00

 

Reign title: CHIH-WU, AD 238 – 252

 

S-196, Bronze 1000 shu. Overse : “TA-CH’UAN TANG-CH’IEN” (Great coin value 1000). Reverse : blank. This type is a continuation of the value 500 type above, with the same casting characteristics. Schjoth (page 14) records these were first cast in AD 238 during the first year of Chih-wu. The weights and sizes of these vary considerably and they tend to be badly cast. The specimen illustrated is 8.75 grams, 34.2 mm (a fairly large example).

F   $145.00     VF   $250.00

 

S-196, Bronze 1000 shu. “TA-CH’UAN TANG-CH’IEN” (Great coin value 1000). As above but smaller and more crudely cast. It is thought that the better cast issues were minted at Nanking and that these coarser issues were minted at Hupei.

F   $145.00     VF   $250.00


 

Emperor FEI
(Sun Liang)
AD 252 – 257

There is some dispute over the first reign title adopted by Emperor Fei from AD 252-256. Schjoth (page 15) suggests that the title “WU-FENG” was used, but Mitchiner (page 694) states “SUN LIANG” was used. We have not been able to confirm this one way or the other, but in either case, no coins are known for these reign titles and it is likely that the coinage of Chih-su were used.

 

Reign title: TAI-P’ING. (AD 256 – 257)

 

S-200, Bronze 100 cash. “TAI-P’ING PAI CH’IEN (value 100), a variety with “TA” written in seal script. Average (3 specimens) 2.55 grams, 24.5 mm

F   $75.00     VF   $115.00

 

S-204-205, Bronze 100 cash. Obverse: “TAI-P’ING PAI CH’IEN (value 100). Reverse: blank. These are similar to the issue above, but smaller. Average (2 specimens) 17.5 mm, 1.25 grams.

F   $45.00     VF   $80.00

 

These small issues may have been cast by subject states and rebel states at the end of, or after the fall of the Wu Dynasty. The sizes and weights very considerably and most specimens are poorly cast, often with poorly formed characters.

While reign titles were a well established tradition by this time, Schjoth notes that this is the first use of a reign title on a coin. Some researchers doubt the attribution of this coins to the period, but the inscription means “100 cash of T’ai-p’ing” which clearly indicates the use of a reign title. The style of the coin clearly places it in this general era and there are no other choices to attribute it to.

There is a wide variation in the size, weight and calligraphy style seen on this issue. The smallest examples are about 10 mm and 0.6 grams while the larger ones are 24 mm and 4.3 grams. This suggests that there were many different issues, possibly from a variety of sources over a considerable period of time, including contemporary counterfeits. This also supports the possibility of the Wu issues having been continued after the fall of Wu.

 

  S-206-7, Bronze value 100. “TING-P’ING YI-PAI” (settled peace one hundred). Reverse: blank. There very considerably in size from 12 to 17 mm. The specimen illustrated was 17 mm. 1.1 grams and the last two specimens we had averaged 1.22 grams. Schjoth attributes this type to the Wu dynasty, and, while the general style is correct, we cannot confirm this at this time.

F   $40.00     VF   $65.00

The edges tend to be well finished and fairly square, but the casting on the characters tends to by slightly weak.

 

It appears that large value fiduciary coins were cast throughout this dynasty, which must have caused a great hardship on the people and the economy. A similar situation seems to have prevailed in the Minor Han Dynasty as well.

It is unlikely regular Wu Shu were issued during the Period of the Three Kingdoms as the fiduciary issues well known from this period could not have existed side by side with a non-fiduciary coinage.

 

UNIFICATION OF WESTERN CHIN
AD 265-316

The Western Chin dynasty, with its capital at Loyang, was established by Ssu-ma Yen in AD 265 and achieved a new unification of China with the conquest of Wu in AD 280. When Min Ti was killed in an uprising in AD 316 the Western Chin lost control and China was again fragmented into several small dynasties. Emperor Yuan, a member of the Ssu-ma family, retained partial control of the South, establishing the Eastern Chin Dynasty with his capital at Nanking.


 

EMPERORS OF WESTERN CHIN

RULER

DATES

Wen Ti
also known as Ts’ao-p’ei

AD 265-290

Houei Ti

AD 290-307

Houai Ti

AD 307-313

Min Ti

AD 313-316

 

Schjoth (page 14) records that the fiduciary coinage of the Wu dynasty was still in circulation when the Eastern Chin occupied Nanking around AD 317. It is unlikely this could have happened unless they had remained in circulation during the intervening Western Chin Dynasty. Since the coinage of Northern Han was cast to the same fiduciary standard, it likely remained in circulation as well and both coinages may have made up the that used during the Western Chin. No indigenous coinage is known for the Western Chin, and some additional coins must have been needed for a dynasty occupying such a large territory, so that the coin types of Wu and Eastern Chin may have continued to be cast.

 

  S-208-210, “WU SHU”. At 12.0 mm, these are very small coins. The high outer rim (but no inner rim) protects the characters, so these are seldom seen worn, but are sometimes softly cast. These were commonly known as “Ch’en Chung”. We have seen a few specimens with an intentional raised bump on the lower edge of the hole.

F     $7.50     VF     $17.00

 

Dating of these small Wu Shus is uncertain but Schoth (page 15) comments on an old record claiming “the Emperor Ming of Wei reverted to the issue of Wu-shus, and these were used down to the Chin dynasty, but in reduced sizes”. These clearly could be the reduced-size Wu-shu referred to.

DIVISION OF NORTH AND SOUTH

The unification of Western Chin ended with China divided into a series of Northern and Southern Dynasties. The Southern Dynasties generally followed a direct succession with one dynasty evolving from another via a military coup. Northern Dynasties were less orderly, with succession often by conquest, and at times several dynasties coexisted.

Little is known about the coins from the early and middle years of this period. Reign titles were not used in the south until AD 454 with the “Hsiao-chien” issue of Sung (S-218), or the north until AD 495 with the “T’ai-ho” issue of Northern Wei (S-237).

In reality, no coin can be attributed with certainty to any authority between AD 257 (last year of the Tai P’ing reign title) and AD 454 (first year of the Hsiao-chien reign title), but we can make a few general assumptions about the nature of the coinage. We are fairly certain the monetary systems were still based on high value fiduciary coins in AD 317 (reference Schjoth page 14, a comment under the Wu dynasty), and by AD 430 the monetary systems were based on full-weight coins (reference Schjoth page 16, Sung Dynasty), but we do not know when the transition occurred.

Most dynasties of the Division of Northern and Southern cannot be directly associated with any issue of coins and, especially for the earlier Northern Dynasties, it is possible no coins were cast. For the others, generic Wu shus were probably issued. Modern archeology should one day help sort this out, but the necessary data is not currently available.

THE SOUTHERN DYNASTIES

AD 316-420 Eastern Chin A continuation of the Western Chin
AD 420-479 Sung Established by a general of the Eastern Chin who usurped power
AD 479-502 Southern Ch’i Established by a general of the Sung who usurped power
AD 502-557 Liang Established by a general of the Southern Ch’i who usurped power
AD 557-589 Ch’en Established by a member of the House of Han after forcing the abdication of the last main ruler of the Liang. Ch’en was conquered by Sui in AD 589.

 

The following Southern Dynasties have coins that can be reasonably assumed to have been cast or at least used by them.


 

EASTERN CHIN DYNASTY
AD 316-420

The Eastern Chin was a weakened continuation of rule by the Ssu-ma family of Western Chin, with their capital now at Chien K’ang near Nanking. Some time after AD 343 a general named Huan Wen usurped power, ruling through K’ang Ti as puppet emperor, but died soon after. The Ssu-ma family regained control until about AD 419 when general Liu Yu killed Emperor Ngan Ti, replacing him with Kong Ti as a puppet emperor. Within one year Kong Ti was in turn killed and Liu Yu declared himself first Emperor of the Sung Dynasty.


 

EMPERORS OF EASTERN CHIN

RULER

DATES

Yuan Ti

AD 316-323

Ming Ti

AD 323-326

Ch’eng Ti

AD 326-343

General Huan Wen
through K’ang Ti as puppet Emperor

AD 343-345

Mu Ti

AD 345-362

Ngai Ti

AD 362-366

Ti Yi

AD 366-371

Kien Wu Ti

AD 371-373

Hiao Wu Ti

AD 373-397

Ngan Ti

AD 397-419

General Liu Yu
through Kong Ti as puppet Emperor

AD 419-420

 

We know of no coins that can be proven to have been cast by the Eastern Chin Dynasty, but Schjoth (page 14) comments “When the emperor Yuan of Chin (AD 317-22) crossed the river …. the old currency of the House of Sun was used-light and heavy indiscriminately …”.

This refers to the Ta-ch’uan issues of the first Emperor of the Wu Dynasty, but we suspect the “Tai-p’ing” issues of the second Emperor may really be the issues used. We say this because the Ta-ch’uan issues are fairly uniform, which is inconsistent with the reference, while the Tai-p’ing issues show a wide variation in size and weight. This wide variation in size and weight suggests a long period of production which raises the possibility that these coins were still being cast during the early Eastern Chin.

We can also show reason to believe that a regular weight Wu Shu coinage was cast during the later years of Eastern Chin. See below under Sung Dynasty for the explanation.

Schjoth (page 15) claims that Li Shou of Szechuan rebelled against the Eastern Chin, establishing a dynasty called “HAN”. We have not been able to find any information of this “HAN” dynasty so list the coins here as Chin Rebel, but suspect that may not be an accurate description. We note the date corresponds with the establishment of the Yen Dynasty in Northeast China, but have not been able to find any relationship there, either.


 

REBEL LI SHOU OF HAN
AD 337-343

Reign title: HAN-HSING, AD 337-343

 

In AD 337 Li Shou of Shu adopted the title Han-hsing (Han rising) and changed the name of the dynasty from Eastern Chin to Eastern Han. Their denomination is not certain but if they follow the pattern of similar sized coins in the period that precedes them, they probably circulated as Wu Shu. These are small coins, always softly cast and seldom look any stronger than that illustrated above.

FD-559. Hartill 12.7. “HAN-HSING” (Han rising), similar to S-214 but reads top to bottom. These were probably circulated at the “wu Shu” denomination but this is by no means certain. These are small fairly softly cast coin. Average (1 example) 17.4 mm, 1.13 grams.

F     $75.00     VF     $115.00

S-212 TO 213. Hartill 12.6. “HAN-HSING” (Han rising) reading right to left. These were probably circulated at the “wu Shu” denomination but this is by no means certain. These are small fairly softly cast coin.

VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

SUNG DYNASTY
AD 420-479

After overthrowing Eastern Chin, Liu Yu took the name Wu Ti as first emperor of the Sung Dynasty. The family of Liu gradually lost power until, in AD 477, general Hsiao Tao Ch’eng killed Emperor Ming Ti, usurping power and placing Chouen Ti on the throne as a puppet emperor but in turn killing him in AD 479 and proclaimed himself first Emperor of the Southern Ch’i dynasty.


 

EMPERORS OF SUNG

RULER

DATES

Wu Ti
also known as Liu Yu

AD 420-423

Chao Ti

AD 423-424

Wen Ti

AD 424-454

Hsiao Wu Ti

AD 454-465

Ch’ien Fei Ti

AD 465-473

Ming Ti

AD 473-477

General Hsiao Tao Ch’eng
via puppet Emperor Chouen Ti

AD 477-479

 


 

Emperor WEN
AD 424-453

Reign title: YUAN-CHIA (AD 424 – 453)

Schjoth (page 16) records “In the 7th year of Yuan-chia (AD 430) a minting department was created for the casting of the Ssu-shu (four shu) coins. The expenses of casting being gratuitous, there was no occasion for illicit casting by the public”. This tells us illicit casting was common enough to require measures be taken to stop it, and that it is fairly certain these coins date to this period. (We assume Schjoth based this passage on an ancient record, but he does not reference it.)

 

  S-215. Obverse: “SSU-SHU” (four shu). Reverse: blank. Well cast coin. Schjoth says that these have with complete rims except for the inner obverse, but the last two specimens we examined did not have an inner rim on the reverse. Average (1 specimen) 23.5 mm, 2.3 grams.

F   $115.00     VF   $165.00

 

Schjoth’s specimens weight 2.68 and 2.96 grams, the standard weight of a Wu-shu and giving an average 0.70 grams per shu, very close to the official weight (as opposed to a coinage weight) of 0.65 grams per shu, established during the Zhou dynasty. From this we conclude they were meant to displace a slightly substandard regular Wu Shu coinage. If cast to replace a fiduciary coinage, a standard Wu- shu would have been good enough.

Since a new minting department had to be established, probably none already existed, so these are probably the earliest coinage of the Sung Dynasty. If the regular Wu-shu in circulation were not cast by Sung, they must have been cast during the later years of the Eastern Chin.

Schjoth (page 16) speaks of a problem of counterfeiting of the Ssu-shu coinage, so it was proposed to cast Wu Shu of eight shu weight. He lists S-217 as being such a coin, but at 3.5 grams and 2.6 mm, it is at the upper range of the weight and size of a regular Wu-shu and far from the 5.2 grams that an eight shu weight requires. Another such coin is listed by Ding Fubao as FD-66, but no weight is given. At this time we cannot confirm any such coins actually exist and have found no evidence that the proposal was even acted upon. Even if such coins had been cast, it is unlikely many would have survived, as one could expect them to be melted down as a source of metal for casting regular weight Wu-shu at a good profit. Further support for this is that there is no doubt that Ssu-shu were cast in the following reign title.


 

Emperor HSIAO WU
AD 454-464

Reign title: Hsiao-chien (AD 454 – ?)

S-218-220. Bronze 4 shu. Obverse: “HSIAO-CHIEN”. Reverse: “SSU-SHU”. Even if this issue were cast to a 4 shu coinage weight standard, they should average about 1 gram (the weights very widely). These are very rare and until recently we had never seen a genuine specimen.

 

  S-221. Bronze 4 su. Obverse:”HSIAO-CHIEN”. Reverse: blank. This is the only genuine specimen from this series we have seen. 1.1 grams. 17 mm. This specimen was a slighty crusty aVF and sold for $400.00

 

Schjoth’s three specimens of this issue weighed 1.26, 1.26 and 0.77 grams and include one specimen with the obverse legend reversed and another with “SSU-SHU” missing from the reverse (the specimen we recently had clearly was cast with a blank reverse as well). This tends to suggest that all his specimens were counterfeits, probably of ancient origin. Schjoth himself notes that counterfeiting of this issue was a major problem at the time and that in AD 467 the entire issue was withdrawn from circulation.


 

Emperor CH’IEN FEI TI
AD 465-473

Reign title: Ching-ho (AD 465, three months only)

S-222. Bronze 4 shu (?). Obverse: “CHING-HO”. Reverse: blank. No denomination is implied by this coin,s inscriptions, but the weight of Schjoth’s specimen at 2.2 grams is correct for a 4 shu. These coins are very rare, and we have never seen one. No value can currently be assigned to them.

 

Schjoth (page 16) records that private casting was rampant during Ch’ien Fei Ti’s reign and that this issue, and presumably coins of the previous issue, were extensively cast at very low weights. He refers to “YEN-HUAN” coins having been cast to even lower weights, but we have not yet been able to determine what these were.

LIANG DYNASTY
AD 502-557

The Liang Dynasty was established by general Hsiao Yen of the Southern Ch’i Dynasty, but since he was, however distantly, related to the ruling house of the Southern Ch’i, one might think of this as simply a name change of the Southern Ch’i. Using the name Liang Wu Ti, general Hsiao Yen was an able ruler but at his death in AD 549 at the age of 86, there was no able successor and Liang was thrown into anarchy. After a series of ineffective emperors, Liang was overthrown from within by an official called Ch’uan Pa-Hsien.


 

EMPERORS OF LIANG

RULER

DATES

Liang Wu Ti
also known as general Hsiao Yen

AD 502-549

Kien Wen Ti

AD 549-550

Yu Chang Want

AD 550

Yan Ti

AD 550-?

Chen Yang Hou

AD ?-556

Ching Ti

AD 556-557

 


 

Emperor LIANG WU TI
AD 502-549

  S-223. Bronze “WU SHU”. Reverse: blank. This is the only Wu-shu variety with a full inner rim on the obverse.

F   $22.50     VF   $37.50

 

We have not been able to find out why this type is attributed to Liang Wu Ti, but an attribution of this type would normally have been due to an inscribed mould for the type having been found, with a dedication to the Emperor.

 

  Bronze “WU SHU” cast to look clipped. Reverse: blank. The specimen illustrated is 17 mm, 0.87 grams. Because of the way these were cast, the weights an sizes will probably vary considerable. The specimen illustrated shows clear signs that it was cast this way.

VG   $12.50

During this, and other periods, it was fairly common for people to clip the edges of coins to recover some metal with which to counterfeit more coins. The result was coins that were missing their rims and sometimes the outer part of their characters. At some point during this period coins were officially cast with the visual appearance of clipped coins. Schjoth attributes these to the reign of Liang Wu Ti, but we are not sure why.

 

  S-225. Bronze “WU SHU”. Reverse: blank. Variety was cast with no rims at all and was known as the: Nu-ch’ien” (female cash).

F   $22.50     VF   $37.50

 

S-227-231. Bronze “WU-SHU” with the left radical of “SHU” missing. Reverse: blank. Schjoth lists the type both with and without rims.

VF   $60.00

 

When assigning a coin to either of these issues, one must carefully examine it to be sure it was cast in these forms, and not a regular Wu-shu clipped in antiquity. Some researchers assign these to the Wu Dynasty, but we see little possibility of this being the case. The Wu Dynasty issued fiduciary coins with denominations of 100 to 1000 Shu, and may have cast very small Wu Shus of about 0.75 grams. These are larger 5 shu coins of about 1.5 grams even in their clipped form, and do not fit into the Wu monetary system.

There is another issue (S-226), called “CHIH” or “immature” with the legend cramped into a narrower than usual space between the outer rim and the central opening, that is attributed by Schjoth to the Liang Dynasty and by Mitchiner (#5473-74) to the Ch’en dynasty. With the hundreds Wu-shu varieties as well as slightly substandard old counterfeits with calligraphy and spacing problems, we see little chance such a variation can be assigned to any specific period with a degree of certainty.

 

Reign title: P’U T’UNG (AD 520-?)

Schjoth (page 17) records “The Book of Liang states that in the 4th year of P’u-t’ung (AD 523) the Emperor Wu caused the casting of iron coins.”

 

  S-232.Iron “WU SHU”. This variety was cast with full rims, and lines radiating from the corners on the reverse.

F   $47.50     VF   $69.50

 

Schjoth claims these resemble the issues of Emperor Ling of Eastern Han (S-179), but this is not true. The only thing they have is common are the rays on the reverse. The size, style and fabric are completely different. The use of reverse rays is very common during this era, including on the following issue, which Schjoth lists correctly as a coin of the P’u-t’ung period, but creates confusion by placing it under the wrong heading. Another example, from this era, of a coin with rays is S-240 and 241 under the Northern Wei dynasty.

 

S-234-236. Bronze and Iron Wu-shus. “TA-CHI WU-SHU” (The great good luck wu-shu) all in seal-writing. Reverse: 4 rays extending from the corners of the hole to the rim. Schjoth has two specimens in bronze. One of 25 mm and one of 20 mm but both between 4.25 and 4.75 grams. He had one specimen in iron of 27 mm and 6.16 grams. We have not had one of these and cannot assign a value to them at this time.

 

Schjoth mentions consideration was given to withdrawing copper coins and issuing only iron but, since iron was far cheaper than copper which would make these fiduciary issues, heavy counterfeiting would have resulted, and the plan was abandoned.


 

Emperor CHING TI
AD 556-557

Schjoth lists S-233 (Wu-shu with stars at top and bottom) as a probable coin of Ching Ti, but then quotes as his evidence a record of something that happened in the 4th year of T’ai-p’ing (AD 556). Unfortunately, Ching Ti only reigned for one year. We have not found a complete reign title list for the Liang Dynasty, but either Schjoth’s reference is totally in error, or T’ai-p’ing was a reign title of either Yan Ti or Liang Wu Ti.

 

CH’EN DYNASTY
AD 557-589

Ch’en Pa-hsien was a descendant from the House of Han and through him the Han had their last opportunity to rule, controlling much of Southern China. Ch’en remained powerful right up to the end and was the last conquest of the Sui dynasty in their Unification of China.


 

EMPERORS OF CH’EN

RULER

DATES

Ch’en Wu Ti
also known as Ch’en Pa Hsien

AD 557-560

Wen Ti

AD 560-566

Fei Ti

AD 566-569

Hsuan Ti

AD 569-582

Hou Chou

AD 582-589

Ching Ti

AD 556-557

 


 

Emperor HSUAN TI
AD 557-589

  S-243-4, Bronze six shu. “T’AI HUO LIU-SHU” (the six-shu great currency). Reverse: blank. These are very well made coins and normally show up VF or better. Average (2 specimen) 3.39 grams, 25.3 mm.

VF   $80.00     XF   $120.00

As far as we are aware, this is the only time a 6 shu coin was cast. Schjoth had two specimens, one of which weighed 3.21 grams and the other only 1.44 grams. We assume the 1.44 grams specimen was a contemporary counterfeit and have not included it in the average weight above.

      According to Schjoth these are very rare, but we have not found that to be the case.

Schjoth records people were forced to accept these at 10 Wu-shus (50 shu), but later the coins were devalued to 1 Wu Shu (5 shu). This parallels developments occurring in Northern China at the same time under the Northern Ch’i and Northern Zhou Dynasties.

THE NORTHERN DYNASTIES

The Northern Dynasties, largely of non-Chinese ethnic groups, follow a complex pattern with several small overlapping and interrelated Dynasties sometimes occupying the same territory. They can generally be separated in to dynasties of the northeast and northwest.


 

DYNASTIES OF THE NORTHWEST

AD 308-329

NORTHERN HAN
and CHAO

Northern Han was renamed to Chao in AD 316 and was conquered by Huo Chao in AD 329
AD 307-352

HUO CHAO

Conquered by the Mongols of the Ch’ien Ch’in Dynasty.
AD 351-394

CH’IEN CH’IN

Mongol Dynasty defeated by the Eastern Chin (a southern dynasty) after which they were taken over by the Hou Ch’in
AD 384-407

HOU CH’IN

We have not found out what happened to this dynasty.
AD 397-403

HOU LIANG

Conquered by the Hou Ch’in
AD 397-421
AD 397-414
NORTHERN LIANG
SOUTHERN LIANG
Two dynasties set up by generals of the Hou Liang, both of which were conquered by Northern Wei.

 

The Dynasties of Northwestern China do not appear to have issued many distinctive coins. We have only found one type attributed to them and even it is doubtful. Standard Wu Shus may have been issued but, as these peoples were mostly local tribes of the northern frontier regions, they may not have had a monetary tradition and some may not have issued coins at all.

HUO CHAO DYNASTY
AD 307-352

 


Emperor SHIH-LO
AD 307-332

As of yet, we have not been able to find a full account of the events that led Shih-Lo to break away from the Western Chin. Schjoth lists him as a rebel which is probably correct, but since he established a dynasty with at least one successor, he deserves a heading under his own dynasty. Unfortunately, while we know he died in AD 332, and that the dynasty continued to exist until overrun by the Mongols in AD 352, we have not been able to find the names of his successors.

 

  S-211, Bronze, value ?. Obverse: “FENG-HUO” (currency of abundance). Reverse: blank. This type was known as “fu-ch’ien” which means “the cash of riches” and was used as a charm to bring affluence. 25 mm. Average (2 specimens) 2.5 grams. On both of the specimens we have recently had, the character “HUO” is somewhat more complex than that shown by Schjoth on his specimen.

aF   $150.0     F   $185.00

 

Attributing this type to the Shih-lo dynasty is by no means certain, and the lack of a denomination raises some doubt. Shih-lo ruled parallel with the late Western and early Eastern Chin dynasties when high value fiduciary coins were the norm and denominations were not weight dependent. Only the denomination written on the coin told what it was. This type is likely to have been issued slightly later when Wu-shus were circulating and the denomination could be assumed to be five shu. We do not know exactly when this started, but it could have been as early as the mid-4th century AD, when Shih-lo’s successors were still in power, but Schjoth notes these were circulating during the Liang Dynasty (ca AD 500) and it is likely that they were cast closer to that time.

 

There is a possibility that the specimen illustrated may not be genuine.

DYNASTIES OF THE NORTH EAST

The dynastic situation of Northeastern China was even more complex as a series of Mongol and Turkistan dynasties, often divided internally, formed rival factions.

AD 337-360

YEN

The Yen was internally divided and eventually re-organized as the Southern and Northern Yen dynasties in AD 384.
AD 384-407
AD 384-398

NORTHERN YEN
SOUTHERN YEN

Both of the Yen dynasties were conquered by the Northern Wei.
AD 385-535

NORTHERN WEI

The Northern Wei started out very powerful but became weaker, breaking up internally through military coups.
AD 535-550
AD 550-577

EASTERN WEI
NORTHERN CH’I

Eastern Wei was set up by a general of the Northern Wei following a military coup. In the second generation the name was changed to Northern Ch’i, but they were quickly conquered by the Northern Zhou.
AD 535-557
AD 557-581

WESTERN WEI
NORTHERN ZHOU

Western Wei was set up by a general of the Northern Wei following a military coup, and was renamed Northern Zhou in the second generation. In AD 581 the last emperor was forced to abdicate in favor of his uncle, who established the Sui.

NORTHERN WEI DYNASTY
AD 386-550

The Northern Wei Dynasty was established in AD 386 by a northern Turko-Mongol people known as the Toba (or T’u Pa). They proved very powerful and gradually expanded, conquering several of the surrounding dynasties. In about AD 490, after moving the capital P’ing Ch’eng in Shansi to Loyang in Hunan the Toba began adopting Chinese culture and only after this do we see any coins being issued.

This period also saw Northern Wei power eroded until, in AD 535, two generals succeeded in a coup. In an unusual move they did not declare themselves emperors, but rather established new dynasties as Eastern and Western Wei which they ruled through puppet emperors.


 

EMPERORS OF NORTHERN WEI

RULER

DATES

T’o Pa Kuei

AD 386 – c. 420

T’o Pa Suei

AD c. 420 – c. 422

T’o Pa Tao

AD c. 422 – 452

T’o Pa Sium

AD 452 – c. 466

T’o Pa Hong I

AD c. 466 – 471

T’o Pa Hong II
also known as Wen Ti

AD 471 – 500

T’o Pa Koh
also known as Hsuan Wu Ti

AD 500 – 515

T’o Pa Tze Yu
also known as Hsiao Chuang Ti

AD 515 – 530

Uncertain ruler

AD 530 – 535

 

With the adoption of Chinese culture in about AD 490, the emperors began adopting Chinese names, thus the use of both Chinese and Toba names for the last three emperors. We have not been able to find out who was ruling this dynasty during its last five years.

There is evidence suggesting no coins were cast
by the emperors of Northern Wei prior to AD 495.


 

Emperor WEN TI
AD 471-499

Reign title: T’AI-HO (AD 476-?)

 

S-237. Bronze 5 shu. Obverse: “T’AI-HO WU-SHU” (The great harmony wu-shu) with T’ai-ho in a slightly angular seal script form. Reverse: blank. These very in size and weight considerably and an average would not mean uch. The three specimens we have handled ranged from 23.8 to 24.6 mm, and from 1.15 to 4.53 grams.

F   $175.00       VF     $250.00

 

In the 19th year of T’ai-ho (AD 495) it was determined coinage was needed and Wu-shu with the “T’ai-ho” reign title were proposed. With no official government mint until after AD 529 under the next emperor, private minting was officially sanctioned with the provision only pure (adequate??) copper be used. We assume this means the coins were to weigh about 2.5 grams as that was the official standard for a Wu Shu, but it appears that was not always practiced as these vary considerably in both weight and qualty. Schjoth’s copper specimen weighed only 1.51 grams and we recently had one of 1.35 grams but we have seen them as heavy as 4.53 grams. Schjoth also lists a specimen in iron (S-238) weighing 7.0 grams.


 

Emperor HSIAO-CHUANG
AD 528-529

Reign title: YUNG-AN (AD 528 – 529)

The substandard coins resulting from private minting of the “T’AI-HO WU-SHU” must have created economic problems, and in the second year of Yung-an (AD 530) a government mint was established at which the “YUNG-AN WU SHU” were cast.

  S-239, Bronze 5 shu. Obverse: “YUNG-AN WU SHU” (Wu-shu of eternal tranquillity) with straight arms on “WU”. Reverse: blank. Average (9 specimens) 2.29 grams, 22.6 mm.

F   $30.00     VF   $45.00

Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.01 grams, well above the average for the type but we have seen them even heavier with the one illustrate being 3.39 grams (23.2 mm).

 

S-240, Bronze 5 shu. Obverse: “YUNG-AN WU SHU” (Wu-shu of eternal tranquillity). Reverse: four rays extending from the corners of the inner rim to the outer rim.

VF   $95.00

 

Schjoth had two specimens of these, weighing 3.01 grams and 3.57 grams, the average of which is closer to official weight standard of 5 shu, rather than the coinage standard. This would have removed the profit in minting, thus theoretically discouraging private casting however this was tried and failed on previous occasions and probably did here as well, as lighter weight specimens are not unusual. The coins proved popular, and are fairly common today. The large numbers of these that exist, and the lack of any issues attributable to the later emperors of Northern Wei, suggest these became a standard type, issued after the end of this reign title.

NORTHERN CH’I DYNASTY
AD 550-577

The Northern Ch’i Dynasty was founded by Wen Hsuan Ti, the Son of a general who helped overthrow the Northern Wei in AD 535 and the Eastern Wei in AD 550. They existed alongside the Northern Zhou Dynasty, which was established under similar circumstances by a different general, until conquered by them in AD 577.


 

EMPERORS OF NORTHERN CH’I

RULER

DATES

Kao Yang
also known as Wen Hsuan Ti

AD 550-559

Uncertain rulers

AD 560 – 577

 


 

Emperor WEN HSUAN TI
AD 550-559

Reign title: T’ien-pao (AD 550 – ?)

  S-242, Bronze 5 shu. Obverse: “CH’ANG PING WU SHU” (Wu-shu of constant equity) in an attractive seal script. Reverse: blank. Average (10 specimens) 25 mm, 3.85 grams.

F   $27.50     VF   $37.50

 

The inscription “Ch’ang Ping” is not a reign title, but rather states this is a coin of good value. Probably an attempt to indicate higher weight standard. This type is reported to have been first cast in AD 553.

NORTHERN ZHOU DYNASTY
AD 557-581

The Northern Zhou dynasty was established in AD 557 by the son (whose name we do not yet know) of a general who helped overthrow the Wei dynasty, and then overthrew the Western Wei which he had ruled through puppet emperors. In AD 581 Northern Zhou was renamed as the Sui Dynasty following an internal coup which shifted power between two members of the ruling family. It is interesting that in AD 618 the Sui were in turn overthrown by Li Yuan, a surviving aristocrat of the Western Wei.


 

EMPERORS OF NORTHERN ZHOU

RULER

DATES

Uncertain ruler or rulers

AD 557 – 561

Yu Wen Yung
also known as Wu Ti

AD 561 – 578

Yu Wen Yun
also known as Hsuan Ti

AD 578-580

Yang Chien
also first ruler of Sui

AD 581

 

The coinage of Northern Zhou is fairly simple, with three very distinctive issues from two emperors, all of which are fairly common, however none of them include a denomination and there is therefore a question as to what they were.


 

Emperor WU TI
AD 561-578

Reign title: PAO-TING (AD 561-572)

  S-245, Bronze value 5 (?). Obverse: “PU CH’UAN”. Reverse: blank. Average (4 specimens) 3.8 grams, 26 mm.

VF   $39.50

 

Schjoth (page 19) records “In the 1st year of Pao-ting (AD 561), the Emperor Wu cast a coinage with the legend Pu-Ch’uan, one “value five” circulating concurrently with Wu-shus”. Unfortunately he does not reference the source of this information and it is not clear if “value 5” means this type was to circulate at 5 shu or 5 Wu-shu (25 shu). Since Wu shu were not withdrawn, it likely meant 5 shu. A fiduciary 25 shu is unlikely to have been accepted if regular Wu shu were available.

The inscription is the same as Wang Mang’sPu Ch’uan issues, but the fabric is much coarser. At 3.5 grams, the weight is about the same as the contemporary 6 shu of the Ch’en. Withdrawn in AD 576, only 15 years after first cast, these are seldom found in worn condition.

 

Reign title: CHIEN-TE (AD 575 – 578)

  S-246-7, Value 50. Obverse: “WU-HSING TA-PU” (Great currency of the five elements). Reverse: blank. Average (3 specimens) 4.02 grams, 27.9 mm.

VF   $60.00     XF   $90.00

 

In AD 575 the Wu-hsing Ta-pu were introduced at 1 equal to 10 of the earlier Pu ch’uan, probably making it equal to 50 shu. With an average weight of about 3.7 grams these were fiduciary coins and in order to force people to accept them, the Pu ch’uan (and presumably all Wu shu) were withdrawn in AD 576. Fiduciary coins usually lead to massive counterfeiting and, as lightweight examples of these are sometimes often encountered, it seems this issue was no exception to this.


 

Emperor HSUAN TI
AD 578-580

Reign title: TA-HSIANG (AD 580)

Withdrawal of the Pu ch’uan’s probably created a shortage of coins, and the fiduciary Wu-hsing Ta-pu was probably unpopular, so in AD 580 a new type was introduced, with an inscription suggesting that it would never be withdrawn, thus suggesting the dynasty would last forever.

  S-250-3. Obverse: “YUNG-T’UNG WAN-KUO” (The everlasting currency of the Empire) in seal script. Reverse: blank. Average (5 specimens) 5.22 grams, 29.6 mm.

VF   $110.00     XF   $175.00

The calligraphy on this issue is, in our opinion, the most attractive on any Chinese cast coin. These are very well-cast coins, and the high rounded rims protect the characters from wear, which is why there are nearly never seen below a grade of VF.

 

The intended denomination of this issue is not clear. Schjoth (page 19) records these were first cast in AD 580, to a weight of 12 shu (7.8 grams by standard weights or 6.0 grams by coinage weight). He also said they were valued at 10 to 1, but it is unclear if this means they were of value 10 shu, 10 Wu-shu (50 shu) or 10 Wu-hsing ta-pu (100 shu). Specimens we have handled seem to average just over 5 grams, suggesting the intended denomination was most likely 10 Wu-shu (or 50 shu).

Schjoth’s three specimens weigh 2.59 grams, 5.2 grams and 10.24 grams. It is reasonable to assume the 2.59 gram specimen, which he says was crudely cast, is an old counterfeit. His middle specimen of 5.2 grams seem about average for the examples we have handled. His 10.25 specimen is far heavier than any we have seen and we are inclined to be suspicious of it as well.

 


 

In AD 581 the Northern Zhou Dynasty changed it’s name to Sui, and embarked on a path of unification that concluded in AD 589 with the conquest of the Ch’en Dynasty in the South. With this China had entered the medieval age.

MEDIEVAL CHINESE COINS

THE SUI, T’ANG AND POST TANG DYNASTIES

 

This is a reference guide to Chinese coins cast between AD 590 (beginning of the Sui Dynasty) to AD 960 (just before the Sung Dynasties). None of these coins are offered for sale, but a listing of examples we currently have available can be viewed on our : our vcoins store.

 

Images represent types, but bear no relationship to actual sizes.

SUI DYNASTY
AD 581 – 618

Many references list the first year of Sui as AD 589, but that is the date Sui unified China. Yang Chien, adopting the name Wen, established Sui in AD 581. As an official of Northern Zhou he had married the last emperor’s daughter to become uncle to the heir, whom he forced to abdicate in his favor. In only nine years he expanded his territory until China was once again unified in AD 589.


 

EMPERORS OF SUI

RULER

DATES

Wen Ti
also known as Yang Chien

AD 581 – 605

Yang Ti

AD 604 – 617

Kong Ti You

AD 618

Kong Ti T’ang

AD 618

 

Emperor Wen died in AD 604 with the traditional areas of China unified. His son, Yang Ti, continued the expansion with campaigns in both Vietnam and Korea but was killed in AD 617. The house of Chien had lost control of their empire, and a number of rebels vied for power, with Li Yuan and his son Li Shih-min (future Emperors of T’ang) gaining the upper hand.

Our list of Sui emperors is derived from Mitchiner (Oriental Coins and Their Values, Volume 1, page 699) but there is some confusion over the identity of Kong Ti You and Kong Ti T’ang. We assume these are Li Yuan and Li Shih-min, first emperors of T’ang, but are unclear as to why Mitchiner lists them as Emperors of Sui, as they appear to have established the T’ang Dynasty as soon as they were in control.


 

Emperor WEN
AD 581-604

At the establishment of Sui, the fiduciary coins of Northern Zhou and Ch’en were in use and the economy is recorded as having been in a poor state. Wen, showing an insight into basic economics, immediately re-introduced Wu shu on the traditional standard of 0.5 grams per shu but with a very identifiable straight-armed style on the character “WU”, and unusual broad rims.

 

S-253, “WU SHU” with very straight arms on “WU” and wide well-finished rims. From 11 specimens we found an average weight of 2.65 grams and a size of 2.9 mm.

F   $5.00     VF   $8.00

 

Today these coins are very common and must have been cast in immense numbers. While they are traditionally assigned only to Emperor Wen, we see no reason to believe the issue stopped at the time of his death. It is more likely they continued to be cast during the next thirteen years while Yang Ti ruled Sui.

The fabric is unlike any earlier coins but shared with the vast majority of later coins. The rims are broad and flat, while earlier coins usually have thin rounded rims. Even on high-grade specimens the characters are fast topped at exactly the same height as the rims, while earlier coins usually have thin round tops and can be any height relative to the rims (although usually lower).

The basic fabric of a coin is dictated by the minting techniques used to produce it. What we are seeing with this issue is an entirely new casting technology. For a basic discussion of this technique see our writeup under the Northern Sung Dynasty.


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Chinese Coins with Flower (Rosette) Holes

 

Beginning in the late Zhou Dynasty and extending through the last days of the Empire, most Chinese coins retained a familiar round shape with a square hole in the middle.  As they were cast in large numbers and varieties by numerous dynastic Emperors, the square central hole coins experienced small changes such as being slightly larger, smaller, elongated, misshaped or filled with some excess metal from the casting.  In general, however, these cash coins maintained a consistent appearance which made them easily recognized as distinctively “Chinese” for more than two millennia.

A fairly small number of these coins, however, were released into circulation having holes with more of an artistic flair such as the example on the left.  Instead of the same old four-sided square hole, they would have holes with”eight sides” (octagon) and, because their shape resembled flowers, the Chinese referred to them with such names as flower hole, rosette hole, or chestnut hole.  Other coins would have holes with “six sides” (hexagon) and were said to have “turtle shell” holes.

Westerners sometimes refer to these coins as having “star” holes.

While some say that these coins were just the result of accidents or the incompetence of the workers casting the coins, others claim that the flower holes were intentional and have significance.

Images of a number of these coins, along with their production technique and an explanation of their significance, are presented in the sections below.

Traditional Explanation for Flower Hole Coins — Mold Shift

Chinese Coins Cast in Clay, Stone or Bronze Molds

 

Unlike Western coinage which from very early times were produced by being struck from dies, Chinese coins were not produced in this manner until very late in the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty (1644 – 1911 AD).  The very earliest Chinese coins were instead cast by means of clay, stone or bronze molds.

Ancient Chinese texts have traditionally explained the appearance of flower (rosette) holes as being the result of the two halves of the coin mold accidentally shifting during the casting process.  As the molten metal was poured into the mold, if the upper and lower halves of the mold should happen to rotate or shift, the result would be a hole that would not be square.

The problem with this explanation is that not just the hole but everything, including the inscription (legend) and any other symbols on the face of the coin, would also be affected by the movement of the mold halves.  Since the inscriptions and other symbols appearing on coins with flower holes are as crisp and distinct as their counterparts with conventional four-sided holes, this traditional explanation is obviously inadequate.

Chinese Coins Cast in Sand Molds

Coins with flower holes began to be commonly seen during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD).  By this time, hard clay, stone and metal molds were no longer being used to cast coins.

Instead, a method of using sand frames or trays and specially prepared “mother coins” was used.  Upper and lower trays were filled with fine grain wetted casting sand.  Mother coins (muqian 母钱) were placed on a lower sand tray and an upper sand tray was placed on top. When the mother coins were removed, they left an exact impression of the obverse and reverse sides on the coin.  Channels were made between the coin impressions so that the molten metal would have a path to flow to all the impressions of the coins.  The upper and lower trays were then tightly clamped together and the pouring of the molten metal could begin.

With this method, there was no hard mold that could shift during the casting of the coins.  Flower holes must, therefore, have been created sometime after the coins were cast.

Characteristics of Flower Holes

The vast majority of flower (rosette) holed coins have very distinct eight-sided central holes on both the obverse and reverse sides of the coin, and have very clear inscriptions (legends), so they could not be the result of mold or sand trays shifting a few degrees during the casting process.

All eight sides (or six sides in the case of “turtle shell” holes) are contained within the coin’s inner rim border surrounding the central hole.  If the flower hole were a result of a mold or sand tray shift, this inside inner rim surrounding the actual hole would also display more than four sides.

Finally, the four “additional” sides form a standard-sized four-sided square that is rotated about 45 degrees from the primary square hole.

Additional Processing after Casting

Since flower holes could not have resulted from the casting process itself, they must have been created after the coins were removed from the molds.

Once the coins were removed from the molds, they looked like round leaves on a metal tree branch.  This is because they were still connected to one another by the channel-like “branches” that allowed the molten metal to flow throughout the mold.  The coins were first broken off of these “coin trees” (qianshu 钱树).  Then, any excess metal that may have accidentally flowed into the center hole of the coin had to be removed with either a chisel for file.  Finally, the coins were stacked onto a long metal rod.  The rod was square so that once the coins, with their square center holes, were stacked onto it they could not rotate.  The workers could then use a file to remove any metal sprue (stubs) from the rims that remained from the casting and to make sure the coins were round.

It was clearly during this chiseling process that the flower holes had to have been created.

Flower Holes Intentionally Created by Hand

The creation of the flower hole must have taken place when the mint worker was doing the final detail work on the coin.  In some cases, excess metal may have flowed into the the hole cavity during the casting.  This excess metal would need to be removed manually by a worker with a chisel or file.

Since the purpose of cleaning up the coin was to make it meet the required standards, it is not likely that a worker would purposely do something which would cause the coin to not meet the standards.  Coins with flower holes do not have any more excess metal in their holes than coins with standard four-sided square holes.  It is not likely that a worker would first clear the hole of excess metal and then “accidentally” add an additional four sides to the hole.

Since chiseling and filing by hand is time-consuming and an additional manufacturing expense, creating additional sides to the coin holes must have been ordered by those in charge of coin production.

Also, considering the high quality coinage of the Tang and Song dynasties, it is not likely that the supervisors of the mint would have permitted a large number of such “non-standard” flower-holed coins to pass quality control and be unintentionally released for circulation.

History of Chinese Coins with Flower Holes

While it may be difficult to determine when flower-holed coins first appeared, there are some well documented early contenders.  Among the earliest candidates would be the ban liang cast during the Qin and early Western Han Dynasties, and the huo quan (货泉) which was cast beginning in 14 AD during the reign of Wang Mang.  During the same period, there was a variety of the huo bu (货布), a coinage which resembled ancient shovel or spade shaped money, that also appeared with a flower-shaped hole (please see Chinese Spade Charms).  This would be about 700 years before the establishment of the Tang Dynasty.

By the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, coins with flower holes were already commonly seen in circulation.  By the middle to late years of the dynasty, they were circulating throughout all parts of the empire.

Following those cast during the Tang, cash coins with flower holes continued to be produced in fairly large numbers throughout the Northern Song (960 – 1127 AD) and Southern Song (1127 – 1279 AD) dynasties.  The Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 AD) based its currency design on that of the Northern Song and, as a result, there also exist Liao coins with flower holes.

The production of flower-holed coins appeared to decline sharply starting about the time of the reign of Emperor Xiao Zong (1163 – 1190 AD) of the Southern Song.  This may be attributed to two major changes in coin design.

First, a tradition had began in the Northern Song to create “matched coins” (duiqian 对钱) which were varieties of a particular coin with the only difference being in the style of calligraphy of the inscription.  This practice ended in 1180 AD during the reign of Emperor Xiao Zong.

Second, beginning in the 7th year of production of the Chun Xi Yuan Bao (淳熙元宝) coins (1174 – 1189 AD) during the reign of Emperor Xiao Zong, the reverse side of the coins began to display the year they were cast.  For example, a coin with the number “seven” (qi 七) on its reverse would have been cast in the year 1180 AD which was the same year that “matched coins” ceased production.

With coins now indicating the year of their production, there may now have been less of a need for the flower hole if one of its purposes was to somehow signify a year or place of casting.

Even after the steep decline in the production of flower-holed coins following Emperor Xiao Zong’s ascension to the throne, such coins  continued to appear, albeit in much smaller quantities, during the following dynasties.

Meaning of Flower (Rosette or Star) Holes

While it is possible that some coins with flower holes were the result of accidents by workers using chisels to clear excess metal that flowed into the hole area during casting, the large number of these coins that found their way into circulation during particularly the Tang and Song dynasties, which were renown for the high standards and quality of their coinage, would indicate that the flower hole was an intentional embellishment having important significance.

One theory is that they may have identified a location where the coins were cast.  Perhaps they signified a year or time of year when a coin was cast.

Ancient coins sometimes included stars, moons, and other symbols which are not well understood (please see Emergence of Chinese Charms, Chinese Coins with Charm Features and Charm Symbols: Star, Moon, Cloud and Dragon).  The flower hole may have served a similar symbolic function.

It is also noteworthy that the production of this type of coin decreased drastically following the end of Song “matched coins” and the requirement mentioned above that coins beginning in the year 1180 would have a number on the reverse indicating the year they were cast.  If the flowered hole was serving a similar function up to this time, it may no longer have been needed after these changes.

Besides their esthetic quality, holes with eight or six sides have a special meaning to the Chinese.  The Chinese word for “eight” (ba 八) has a similar pronunciation to the word to “prosper” or “wealth” (fa cai 发财).  The Chinese word for “six” (liu 六) is also considered auspicious because its pronunciation is similar to the word “prosperity” (lu 禄).

Also, the Chinese themselves refer to these as “chestnut” (lizi 栗子) holes.  “Chestnut” has the same pronunciation as “establishing sons” (li zi 立子) and thus expresses the hope for having a large family.

Other Asian countries, including Korea, Japan and Annam (Vietnam), adopted the Chinese cash coin as the model for their own coinage.  The quality of these coins could vary drastically.  If flower holes were the result of poor quality casting then one would expect to see flower hole coins produced in these countries as well.  Yet, it is interesting to note that very, very few coins from these other countries have flower holes.  This further strengthens the argument that the appearance of flower holes on Chinese cash coins must have been intentional.

Even though they are rare, flower hole coins from these other Asian countries can sometimes be found.  As an example, a sang pyong tong bo (Chinese: chang ping tong bao 常平通宝) coin with a flower hole that was cast in Korea by the Government Office of Pukhan Mountain Fortress in 1830 may be seen at Korean Coins.

Chinese Coins with Flower Holes

Western Han Dynasty Coins (206 BC – 25 AD)

The inscription on this coin is read right to left as ban liang (半两).

This coin was cast during the years 186-182 BC during the reign of Empress Lu of the Western Han Dynasty and is known as a 8 zhu (铢) ban liang.

The coin has a very nice flower hole.

Flower holes on coins from the early Han Dynasty are very scarce.  In fact, this particular coin is the earliest example of a Chinese coin with a flower hole that I have seen.

The diameter of the coin is 32 mm and the weight is 3.8 grams.

Wang Mang Coins (7 – 23 AD)

This coin is a huo quan (货泉) which translates as “wealth coin” or “money coin”.

These coins were cast beginning in the year 14 AD by Wang Mang.

This huo quan is considered a very early example of a Chinese coin with a flower hole.

The flower hole may not be as obvious as that on the coins to follow so I have outlined the eight sides of the hole for your convenience.

The diameter of the coin is 28 mm and the weight is  2.1 grams.

Eastern Han Dynasty Coins (25-220 AD)

The coinage of the Western Han and Eastern Han Dynasties was dominated by the wu zhu (五铢) coin.

At the left is an example of an Eastern Han wu zhu coin.

This coin, however, is quite remarkable in that it displays a number of special characteristics.

The coin has a very nice flower hole.

Below the square hole are three “dots” which the Chinese refer to as “stars“.

Above the square hole are two vertical lines which are believed to represent the number “two”, and connecting these two lines is an incused line creating what some believe is the Chinese character gong (工).

The coin has a diameter of 23.5 mm and a weight of 2.2 grams.

The Three Kingdoms Coins (220-280 AD)

With the end of the Han Dynasty, China entered a period of disunity and warfare known as the Three Kingdoms.

The Kingdom of Shu was one of these Three Kingdoms and the coin at the left was cast there during the years 221-265.

The inscription is tai ping bai qian (太平百钱) which translates as Taiping (Great Peace) One Hundred Cash.

This is a small and thin specimen but one that exhibits a flower hole.

Another very distinctive variety of this coin, which reflects Daoist (Taoist) influences, can be seen at Chinese Coins with Charm Features.

This coin has a diameter of 19.5 mm and a weight of only 0.7 grams.

Tang Dynasty Coins (618 – 907 AD)

Beginning in the 4th year (621) of the Wu De reign of Emperor Gaozu, use of the wu zhu (五铢) coins was abolished and a new coin began to be cast with the inscription kai yuan tong bao (开元通宝).

An example of a kai yuan tong bao with a well-formed flower hole is displayed here.

This new coin was a monumental change in the history of Chinese coinage because Chinese coins were now no longer named after their weight, such as “half tael” (ban liang 半两) or “five zhu” (wu zhu 五铢), but instead would have inscriptions such as tong bao (通寶), yuan bao (元寶) and zhong bao (重寶).

Another important change was that the coin inscription would was no longer written in the ancient zhuan shu (篆书) or “seal” script but rather in li shu (隶书) or “official” script which is a square and plain style of Chinese calligraphy.

Emperor Gaozu had one of the Tang Dynasty’s most famous calligraphers, Ouyang Xun (欧阳询), write the inscription for the new coin and these kai yuan tong bao cash coins would continue to be cast for more than 200 years.

The coin has a diameter of 25 mm and a weight of 3.1 grams.

As mentioned in the history section above, coins with flower holes started to become more commonly seen during the Tang Dynasty.

This is an ordinary one cash coin with a nicely formed flower hole.  The inscription reads qian yuan zhong bao (乾元重宝) and these coins were cast during the years 759-762 of the reign of Emperor Su Zong (756-762).

The coin has a diameter of 23 mm and a weight of 3.5 grams.

The Chinese coin at the left is also a qian yuan zhong bao (乾元重宝) cast beginning in the second year (759 AD) of the Qian Yuan reign of Emperor Su Zong (756-762).

This particular specimen also has a nicely centered eight-sided flower hole.

 

 

 
The flower or rosette hole is clearly seen on the reverse side of the coin as well.

Please note that this coin has a double outer rim.  This dual rim (chonglun 重轮) was done intentionally to indicate that the coin was equal in value to 50 ordinary cash coins.

This coin has a diameter of 35 mm and a weight of 15 grams.

The inscription on this Tang Dynasty cash coin is read clockwise as da li yuan bao (大历元宝).

The coin has a well-formed flower hole and was cast during the Dali reign (766-779) of Emperor Dai Zong.

The diameter is 22.5 mm and the weight is 2.6 grams.

Beginning in the 5th year (845) of the Hui Chang reign of Emperor Wu Zong (841-846), cash coins were cast with the inscription kai yuan tong bao (开元通宝).

However, these kai yuan tong bao coins differed from those cast at the beginning of the Tang Dynasty in that the reverse side displays a Chinese character.

The first coin of this type was cast under the authority of Li Shen, the Resident Administrator of Yangzhou Prefecture, and had the character chang (昌) on the reverse side to indicate the reign year Hui Chang.
Other mints subsequently produced coins of this type with a character on the reverse side indicating the prefecture where the coin was cast.  For this reason, these coins are commonly referred to as Hui Chang Kai Yuan (会昌开元) coins.

This is the reverse side of the coin.

If you observe closely, you will notice the Chinese character yan (兖) just above the flower hole.

This indicates that this Hui Chang Kai Yuan coin was cast at the mint located at Yan Prefecture in Shandong.

In general, the workmanship of Hui Chang kai yuan tong bao coins does not match that of the kai yuan tong bao coins cast at the beginning of the Tang Dynasty.

The diameter of this coin is 24 mm and the weight is 3.1 grams.

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Coins (907-960)

Following the Tang Dynasty, South China was ruled during the years 907-960 by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms.

This coin was cast in the year 917 which was the first year of the Tian Han reign of King Wang Jian (907-918) of the Former Shu (First Shu) Kingdom (907-925).

The inscription is read clockwise as tian han yuan bao (天汉元宝).

This particular specimen exhibits a flower (rosette) hole.

The diameter of the coin is 23 mm and the weight is 3.4 grams.

 

This coin, with a prominent flowerhole, was cast during the reign of Wang Yan (919-925), the son of Wang Jian, of the Former Shu Kingdom.

The inscription reads clockwise as qian de yuan bao (乾德元宝).

These coins were cast during the years 919-924.

The diameter is 23.8 mm and the weight is 3.1 grams.

Northern Song Dynasty Coins (960 – 1127 AD)

This is one of the earliest examples of a Northern Song Dynasty coin with a flower hole.

The inscription is written in running script and is read clockwise as zhi dao yuan bao (至道元宝).

The coin was cast during the years 995-997 of the reign of Emperor Tai Zong (976-997).

The diameter is 25 mm and the weight is 3.5 grams.

Northern Song cash coins tend to be finely cast as illustrated by this coin with its deep characters.

The inscription reads clockwise, beginning at the top, as jing de yuan bao (景德元宝) and is written in regular script.

This coin with a flower hole was cast during the years 1004-1007 of the reign of Emperor Zhen Zong (998-1022).

The diameter is 25.9 mm and the weight is 3.7 grams.

This coin with a flower hole was cast during the years 1008-1016 of the reign of Emperor Zhen Zong (998-1022) of the Northern Song.

The inscription is read clockwise as xiang fu yuan bao (样符元宝) and is written in regular script.

The diameter is 25 mm and the weight is 3.5 grams.

This Northern Song coin with a flower hole was cast during the years 1017-1022 in the reign of Emperor Zhen Zong (998-1022).

The inscription is read clockwise, starting with the top character, as tian xi tong bao (天禧通宝) and is written in regular script.

The coin is 25 mm in diameter and weighs 3.5 grams.

The inscription on this Northern Song coin is read clockwise as tian sheng yuan bao (天圣元宝) and is written in regular script.

This coin with a flower hole was minted during the years 1023-1031 of the reign of Emperor Ren Zong (1022-1063).

The diameter is 24.5 mm and the weight is 2.6 grams.

This particular Northern Song dynasty coin was only cast in the years 1032-1033 during the reign of Emperor Ren Zong (1022-1063).

The inscription is written in regular script and is read clockwise, beginning at the top, as ming dao yuan bao (明道元宝).

This specimen has a flower (rosette) hole.

The coin has a diameter of 26 mm and weighs 4.2 grams.

During the years 1039-1054 of Emperor Ren Zong’s reign, coins with the inscription huang song tong bao (皇宋通宝) were cast.

In this example, the inscription is read top to bottom and right to left.

The inscription is written in seal script and the coin has a flower hole.

The diameter is 25 mm and the weight is 3.5 grams.

This coin from Emperor Ren Zong was cast during 1054-1055.

The inscription is zhi he tong bao (至和通宝) and is written in regular script.

The coin displays a very nice flower or rosette hole.

The diameter is 25 mm and the weight is 3.6 grams.

The inscription (legend) on this cash coin is also zhi he tong bao (至和通宝) but it is written in seal script.

This coin was also cast during the years 1054-1055 of the reign of Song Dynasty Emperor Ren Zong.

The coin has a diameter of 25 mm and a weight of 3.4 grams.

This coin was also cast during the reign of Emperor Ren Zong.

The inscription (legend), written in seal script, is jia you tong bao (嘉祐通寳) and the coin was cast in the years 1056-1063.

The diameter is 24.8 mm and the weight is 3.3 grams.

Emperor Ying Zong reigned during the years 1064-1067.

This coin has the inscription (legend) zhi ping yuan bao (治平元宝) written in a beautiful seal script.

It was cast during the entire period of Emperor Ying Zong’s rule.

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

This cash coin was also cast during the years 1064-1067 of Emperor Ying Zong’s reign.

The coin has the same zhi ping yuan bao (治平元宝) inscription but, in this case, is written in regular script.

The diameter is 24 mm and the weight is 4 grams.

This is another cash coin cast during the Zhi Ping reign of Emperor Ying Zong.

In this case, however, the inscription is zhi ping tong bao (治平通宝) written in seal script.

These coins were cast in the years 1064-1067.

The coin is distinctive in that the character (ping 平), located below the square hole, is written with three strokes at the bottom instead of one.

The diameter is 24.7 mm and the weight is 4.1 grams.

The reign of Emperor Shen Zong (1068-1085) of the Northern Song included the casting of coinage with the inscription xi ning yuan bao (熙宁元宝) during the years 1068-1077.

This is a variety of such a coin which happens to have a flower hole.

The inscription is written in regular script and is read clockwise.

The coin has a diameter of 24.5 mm.

The coin is thicker than most Song dynasty coins of this size which explains its weight of 5.5 grams.

At the left is another “flower hole” coin with the same xi ning tong bao (熙宁元宝) inscription.

This inscription, however, is written in seal script.

Coins with this style of calligraphy were cast during the years 1068-1077 of the reign of Emperor Shen Zong.

The diameter is 24.5 mm and the weight is 3.8 grams.

Beginning in the year 1071, larger denomination coins, initially valued at 10 cash coins each, were produced.  These coins were issued during the reign of Emperor Shen Zong to pay for military expenses.

The coin at the left is one of these larger cash coins with this particular specimen displaying a flower (rosette) hole.

The inscription reads xi ning zhong bao (熙宁重宝) and is written in seal script.

These coins were gradually devalued to be equal to 3 cash coins and finally to 2 cash coins.

Casting of xi ning zhong bao coins ceased in 1077.

The diameter of this coin is 29 mm and the weight is 8 grams.

Similar to the above large cash coin, this is another xi ning zhong bao (熙宁重宝) but one which is written in regular script.

This coin was also cast during the years 1071-1077 of the reign of Emperor Shen Zong.

The coin has a diameter of 32 mm and a weight of 8.4 grams.

The coin to the left is from the Northern Song Dynasty and is quite unusual.  It has a very prominent flower hole but it also has a very distinctive design on its rim or border.

The inscription is written in “running” script and is read clockwise, starting at the top, as yuan feng tong bao (元丰通宝).  It was cast during the period 1078-1085 of the reign of Emperor Shen Zong (1068-1085).

The government sometimes cast coins with distinctive borders but most such designs are usually seen only on charms or amulets.

The rim design with its S-shaped curves and dots reminds one of the yinyang (阴阳) or taiji (太极) symbol representing the basic polarities of the universe of light/dark, male/female, etc.

The design can also be interpreted as stylized dragons chasing pearls.  (For more information please visit Hidden Meaning of Chinese Charm Symbols.)

This coin has a diameter of 30 mm and a weight of 7.3 grams.

As is the case with most Song dynasty coins, there are different calligraphic styles for each period title inscription.

The yuan feng tong bao (元丰通宝) coin shown above, with the engraved border, is written in running script while the coin to the left has the very same inscription but is written in seal script.

This coin was cast during the same time period (1078-1085) of Emperor Shen Zong’s reign.

Song dynasty coins with flower (rosette) holes can be found in all calligraphic styles of writing including seal, Li, regular, running and grass styles.

The diameter of this coin is 25 mm and the weight is 3.6 grams.

Emperor Zhe Zong ruled the Northern Song during the period 1086-1100.

The seal script inscription on this coin is read clockwise as yuan you tong bao (元祐通寳).

This flower hole coin was cast during the years 1086-1093 AD.

The diameter is 24 mm and the weight is 3.2 grams.

This is another yuan you tong bao (元祐通寳) coin written in seal script.

It was cast during the same years (1086-1100) of the reign of Emperor Zhe Zong as the above coin.

This specimen, however, is a “large” coin and had the equivalent value of several small cash coins when issued.

The diameter is 30.5 mm and the weight is 8.5 grams.

This is also a yuan you tong bao (元祐通寳) Song Dynasty coin cast in the years 1086-1093 AD during the reign of Emperor Zhe Zong.

The inscription here, however, is written in running style.

This coin has a diameter of 25 mm and a weight of 3.5 grams.

This coin is also from the reign of Emperor Zhe Zong.

From 1094-1097 coins with the inscription shao sheng yuan bao (绍圣元宝) were cast.

This flower hole coin is written in seal script and the inscription, in this case, is read clockwise.

The diameter is 24 mm and the weight is 4 grams.

The coin at the left appears to be almost identical to the one above.

The inscription is the same shao sheng yuan bao (绍圣元宝) written in seal script and the coin was cast during the same years (1094-1097) of the reign of Emperor Zhe Zong.

The difference, however, is that this is a “large” cash coin.  These larger cash coins were equal in value to several, sometimes even equal to 10, of the smaller cash coins.

This large cash coin has a diameter of 31 mm and a weight of 7.3 grams.

The coin at the left is also a shao sheng yuan bao (绍圣元宝) cast in the years 1094-1097 of the reign of Emperor Zhe Zong.

The inscription on this specimen, however, is written in running script.

The diameter of the coin is 24.5 mm and the weight is 3.6 grams.

This very attractive coin was also cast during the reign of Emperor Zhe Zong.

The inscription, written in seal script, is read clockwise as yuan fu tong bao (元符通宝).

This coin was cast during the years 1098-1100.

The diameter is 25 mm and the weight is 3 grams.

The coin at the left was cast during the years 1101-1106 of the reign of Emperor Hui Zong (1101-1125).

The inscription is written in seal script and is read clockwise as sheng song yuan bao (圣宋元宝).

This coin with a flower hole has a diameter of 24.5 mm and a weight of 3 grams.

During the years 1101-1106 of Emperor Hui Zong’s reign, coins with the inscription sheng song yuan bao (圣宋元宝) were cast.

This is an example of such a coin with a flower hole.

It is written in running script and the inscription is read clockwise beginning at the top.

The coin is 24.5 mm in diameter and weighs 3.5 grams.

This is another example of a Northern Song Dynasty coin with a flower (rosette) or “star” center hole.  The coin is a chong ning zhong bao (崇宁重宝) cast in the years 1102-1106 during the reign of Emperor Hui Zong (1101-1125).

This is a “10 cash” coin which means its value was equivalent to ten cash coins.

The traditional square hole is outlined by the inner border.  Exactly in the middle of each of the four sides of the hole can be seen what would be the four corners of another “square”.

Please note that the inscription and the face of the coin show no signs of mold shifting during the casting and that there is no extra metal in the hole.

The creation of the flower hole could only have been done manually and intentionally.

The reverse side of the coin also clearly shows the same four corner points exactly in the middle of each side of the square hole which would delineate the second square.

This well cast coin is 35 mm in diameter and weighs 9.48 grams.

This Northern Song coin displays Emperor Hui Zong’s personal calligraphy known as Slender Gold script.

The inscription is da guan tong bao (大观通宝) and is written top to bottom and right to left.

These coins were cast during the years 1107-1110 and this particular specimen has a flower hole.

The coin has a diameter of 25 mm and a weight of 3.8 grams.

This coin was also cast during the reign of Emperor Hui Zong but in the years 1111-1117 AD.

The inscription is written in “seal” script and reads zheng he tong bao (政和通宝).

The diameter is 25 mm and the weight is 3.1 grams.

At the left is a coin with a flower hole issued near the end of Emperor Hui Zong’s reign.

The inscription is written in a very beautiful seal script and reads xuan he tong bao (宣和通宝).

The coin was cast during the years 1119-1125 AD.

This coin has a diameter of 24.5 mm and a weight of 3.6 grams.

Southern Song Dynasty Coins (1127 – 1279 AD)

This Chinese coin was cast during the years 1131-1162 AD of the reign of Emperor Gao Zong (1127-1162 AD) of the Southern Song Dynasty.

The flower hole is clearly seen.

The calligraphy is seal script and the inscription is read clockwise beginning at the top as shao xing yuan bao (绍兴元宝).

This coin is larger than an average sized cash coin.  This is because it is a “2 cash” coin meaning it was worth two normal cash coins.

The reverse side also displays the eight corners or points of the flower hole.

If you look closely, you will see a crescent moon above the square hole and a star below the hole.

This coin has a diameter of about 29.2 mm and weight of 7.6 grams.

Emperor Xiao Zong (1163-1190) issued this large cash coin during the years 1174-1189.

The inscription is written in regular script and reads chun xi yuan bao (淳熙元宝).

As is the case with the shao xing yuan bao (绍兴元宝) coin above, the reverse side of this chun xi yuan bao also has a crescent moon above the flower hole and a dot (star) below.

The diameter is 30 mm and the weight is 6.7 grams.

This Southern Song coin was cast during the short reign of Emperor Guang Zong (1190-1194).

The inscription (legend) is written in regular script and is read clockwise as shao xi yuan bao (绍熙元宝).

The reverse side of the coin has the character yuan (元) below the flower hole which means “first”.

“First” means the first year of cash coin production using Emperor Guang Zong’s period title “shao xi” (绍熙).

This coin was thus cast in the year 1190.

The coin has a diameter of 24.5 mm and a weight of 3.4 grams.

The coin with the flower hole at the left is a qing yuan tong bao (庆元通宝) cast in the years 1195 – 1200 during the reign of Emperor Ning Zong (1195 – 1224) of the Southern Song.

The flower or rosette hole is very prominent.

Below the hole on the reverse side is the Chinese character for the number “three” (san 三).  This indicates that the coin was cast in the third year (1197) of the Qing Yuan reign.

The coin has a diameter of 25 mm and a weight of 3.8 grams.

This cash coin is from the Shao Ding reign of Emperor Li Zong (1225-1264).

The inscription reads shao ding tong bao (绍定通宝).

The Chinese character for “6” (liu 六) on the reverse side indicates that this particular coin was cast in the 6th year of the Shao Ding reign which would be the year 1233.

The coin has a diameter of 24.3 mm and a weight of 3.7 grams.

This cash coin was also cast during the reign of Emperor Li Zong (1225-1264).

The inscription is kai qing tong bao (开庆通宝).

The reverse side of this 1 cash coin has the Chinese character yuan (元), meaning “first”, above the flower hole.

The yuan means that the coin was cast in the first year (1259) of the Kai Qing reign.  In actuality, Emperor Li Zong only used this reign title for one year so kai qing tong bao coins were only cast in the year 1259.

The diameter is 25 mm and weight is 3.5 grams.

Liao Dynasty Coins (907 – 1125 AD)

The Liao Dynasty was ruled by a nomadic people known as the Qidan (契丹) and occupied an area that included Manchuria, a portion of Mongolia and parts of Hebei and Shanxi provinces.

The inscription (legend) on this Liao Dynasty coin is read clockwise, beginning at the top, as chong xi tong bao (重熙通宝).  It was cast during the years 1032-1055 by Emperor Xing Zong (兴宗 1031-1055).

The Liao patterned their coinage on that of the Northern Song although their craftmanship was not of the same level.

The flower hole on this particular coin is very clear.  There is a notch in the center of each side of the center hole indicating the four corners of a second square hole.

There are several recognized varieties of the chong xi tong bao.  Some coins have the tong (通) written in “official” or “clerky” style (li shu 隶书).  Other coins have the tong (通) written in “regular” or “orthodox” script (kai shu 楷书).

There is a “large character” (da zi 大字) variety which can have the tong (通) in either “official” or “orthodox” script.

There are also varieties where the xi (熙) character is written slightly differently.

Some coins have a “moon” or “crescent” (仰月) above the square hole on the reverse side while other coins have a “star” (星) beneath the hole.  These varieties are fairly rare.

The chong xi tong bao coin displayed here is the more common “regular” tong (通) variety.  The “official” tong (通) variety is scarcer.

This coin has a diameter of 24 mm and a weight of 2.7 grams.

This coin with a flower hole was cast during the reign of Emperor Dao Zong (道宗 1055-1101) of the Liao Dynasty.

The inscription reads clockwise as da an yuan bao (大安元宝).

The coin was cast during the years 1085-1093.

This is the “small an” or “short an” (duan an 短安) variety of the coin.  The yuan (元) character on some “small an” coins has a “right shoulder” (右挑元) which is particularly rare.

There is also a “long an” (chang an 长安) variety in which the an character is bigger.  “Long an” coins with a “two shoulder yuan” (双挑元) character are also very rare.

Some coins have a “moon” (月) or “star” (星) on the reverse side but they are fairly scarce.

The diameter of the displayed da an yuan bao is 24.3 mm and the weight is 3.2 grams.

This Liao Dynasty coin was cast in the years 1095-1101 during the reign of Emperor Dao Zong (道宗 1055-1101).

The inscription is read clockwise as shou chang yuan bao (寿昌元宝).

There exist “long chang” (chang chang 长昌) and “short chang” (duan chang 短昌) varieties of this coin.  The second horizontal stroke of the yuan (元) can have a right shoulder (you tiao 右挑), left shoulder (zuo tiao 左挑) or two shoulders (shuang tiao 双挑).

The diameter of this coin is 23.8 mm and the weight is 3.7 grams.

This coin was cast during the years 1101-1110 by Emperor Tian Zuo (天祚 1101-1125) of the Liao Dynasty.

The inscription, read in the same manner as the coin above, is qian tong yuan bao (乾统元宝).

This coin also has a prominent and well-shaped flower hole.

Some coins, such as this one, have a yuan (元) character with a left shoulder (zuo tiao 左挑).  Other coins may have the yuan with a right shoulder (you tiao 右挑) or both shoulders (shuang tiao 双挑).

There are also varieties where the 日 in the qian (乾) character is written differently.

These coins can sometimes have a “star” (xing 星) on the reverse side.

The eight side flower hole is also clearly seen on the reverse side of the coin.

The diameter of this coin is slightly greater than 24 mm and its weight is 3.4 grams.

This Liao Dynasty coin is also from the reign of Emperor Tian Zuo (天祚帝) but was cast during the years 1111-1120.

The inscription is read in a clockwise manner as tian qing yuan bao (天庆元宝).

The flower (rosette) hole on this coin is also very distinctive.

Varieties of this coin include the yuan (元) character with left shoulder (zuo tiao 左挑), right shoulder (you tiao 右挑) and both shoulders (shuang tiao 双挑).

There is also a rare variety which has a “star” (xing 星) beneath the qing (庆).

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

Jin Dynasty Coins (1115-1234 AD)

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

At first, they continued the use of coins from the Song and Liao dynasties.

Beginning in 1154, however, they began to issue paper money known as jiao chao (交钞).

And, in the second year of Zheng Long (1157) they began to mint the bronze coins zheng long yuan bao (正隆元宝).

A few zheng long yuan bao coins were produced with a flower hole as shown here.

The coin has a diameter of 25 mm and a weight of 4.3 grams.

  Ming Dynasty Coins (1368 – 1644 AD)

Chinese coins with flower holes declined in numbers fairly rapidly after the Song Dynasty but could still be seen even as late as the Ming Dynasty.

This Ming Dynasty coin is a hong wu tong bao (洪武通宝) which was cast during the Hong Wu reign of Emperor Tai Zu (1368-1398).

The coin has a very clean and well centered flower hole.

The flower (rosette) hole is also very evident on the reverse side of the coin.

This Ming Dynasty coin is slightly greater than 23 mm in diameter and weighs 3.9 grams.

This is a slightly later Ming Dynasty cash coin displaying a flower (rosette) hole.

The inscription reads yong le tong bao (永乐通宝) and the coin was cast during the reign of Emperor Cheng Zu (1403-1424).

This coin was recovered from a Ming Dynasty shipwreck in the South China Sea.

The diameter is 25.5 mm and the weight is 3.4 grams.

This coin was cast during the reign of Emperor Si Zong (1628-1644) of the Ming Dynasty.

The inscription reads chong zhen tong bao (忠祯通宝).

This Ming dynasty coin is probably one of the last of the Chinese cash coins to have a flower hole.

The diameter is 23.5 mm and the weight is 2.5 grams.

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PART THREE 

TANG DYNASTY
AD 618 to 907

Chinese Paper Money

zhongguozhibi

Introduction to Chinese Paper Currency

 

Chinese bank note vignette showing walled city of Ningpo was based on this Illustration by Thomas AllomChina is not only credited with having invented paper but it is also generally recognized to have been the first country in the world to use paper money. 

The inspiration for China’s paper money actually came from the “white deerskin” money (bai lu pi bi 白鹿皮币) issued under the reign of Emperor Wu (141 BC – 87 BC) of the Han Dynasty, and the “flying money” (fei qian飞钱) of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).

True paper money became a major form of currency during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) with the issuance of the Jiao Zi (交子) and Qian Yin (钱引), and paper currency then continued under the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) which issued the Hui Zi (

会子) and Guan Zi (关子).

The Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) issued paper money known as Jiao Chao (交钞) and Bao Quan (宝券), and the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) continued the issuing of paper money with the Bao Chao (宝钞).

Due to certain drawbacks associated with paper money, the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) relied on coins for a long time with the exception of a brief period (1651-1661) during the Shun Zhi reign of Emperor Shi Zu.  However, the situation changed in 1853 during the Xian Feng reign of Emperor Wen Zong when large military expenditures were required to suppress the Taiping Rebellion.

Two types of notes were issued.  The Hu Bu Guan Piao (“Official Note of the Ministry of Interior and Finance” 户部官票) was issued in a denomination based on a tael of silver.  In addition, the Da Qing Bao Chao (“Treasure Note of the Great Qing”大清宝钞) was issued with the denomination based on bronze coins.

A frequently used term for the Guan Piao (

官票) and Bao Chao (宝钞) notes of the Qing Dynasty was chao piao (钞票).  Chao piao has become a commonly used word for “paper money” or “bank note” in general.

During the late Qing Dynasty, the government as well as private banks issued various paper notes denominated in silver dollars, cash coins and tong yuan (machine-made copper coins 铜元).  This was the beginning of the issuance of modern currency in China which then expanded greatly following the 1911 Revolution and during the Republican Period.

A number of the more interesting bank notes from this period are displayed and discussed in the sections below.

But, Chinese paper money is more than just a convenient a form of currency.

Pictures, called vignettes, were originally added to the design of paper money as a measure against counterfeiting.

Detail from a Farmers Bank of China banknote showing farmers grinding grainThe vignettes are uniquely associated with Chinese history, economics, politics, and culture.  Paper money provides a canvas upon which images of ancient Chinese historical sites are displayed and preserved.  Some vignettes show world-famous structures such as the Great Wall of China, the Summer Palace and the Confucian Temple at Qufu.  Other vignettes display images of ancient walled cities, temples, pagodas, pavilions, towers, memorial arches, bridges, etc.  Some banknotes record scenes of the introduction of new technology such as airplanes and trains while other banknotes document famous historical figures and the traditional daily life of the Chinese people.

There are even examples of Chinese paper money that retain the image of historical sites which no longer exist due to natural disasters, wars or acts of revolution and rebellion.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of standard catalogs and reference books on Chinese paper money seem to ignore these vignettes.  At best, these books may mention that there is an illustration of a “temple” or “pagoda” but do not provide any information as to what the historical site is or why it may have been important enough to be included in the design of the currency.

This article will attempt to address this oversight by giving additional background information on selected banknotes so as to provide a better understanding of Chinese history and culture as conveyed through the images on its paper money.

 

Walled Cities

Ningpo

Chinese "twenty cents" banknote issued in 1928 by The Industrial Development Bank of China showing walled city of Ningpo


This is a banknote issued in 1928 by “The Industrial Development Bank of China” (quan ye yin hang 劝业银行) with a denomination of Two Jiao (erjiao
贰角 “twenty cents”).

The note was printed by the “Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Peiping, China” (cai zheng bu yin shua ju 财政部印刷局).

The vignette shows the ancient walled city of Ningpo (宁波) in the distance with cotton fields in the foreground.

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the textile industry flourished in Ningpo which is a port city in Zhejiang Province on the east coast of China.

Ningpo is surrounded on three sides by mountains with a fertile plain in the middle which makes it ideal for growing cotton.

 

 
Vignette of walled city of Ningpo on 1928 "twenty cents" banknote issued by "The Industrial Development Bank of China"Illustration (detail) from "Cotton Plantations in Ning-po" by Thomas Allom


What is most interesting about this banknote is that the vignette (enlarged detail above) was based on a painting (detail above) by a 19th century English artist.

The illustration “Cotton Plantations in Ning-po” by Thomas Allom (1804-1872) (Chinese name: 托玛斯·阿罗姆) was published in China Illustrated in 1845.

The Ningpo city wall, seen in the illustration, was made of granite and was more than 5 miles in circumference.  The wall had five gates and also two water gates.  The pagoda which extends high above the city was made of brick.

Thomas Allom traveled widely in many parts of the world and is famous for his illustrations of China.  However, there is no credible evidence that he ever even visited China.  The idealized scenes of old China he depicted in his illustrations are generally believed to have been based on the works of other artists.

 

Xian

Ancient city wall of Xian (Chang'An) as seen in a vignette on a banknote issued in 1922 by the Fu Ching Bank of Shensi

This is a One Yuan (“one dollar” yi yuan 壹圆) banknote issued in the 11th year (1922) of the Republic of China by the Fu Ching Bank of Shensi (shanxi fu qin yinhang 陕西富秦银行).  The note was printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Peking (cai zheng bu yin shua ju 财政部印刷局).

The vignette shows the city wall of the ancient city of Xian (西安) which is the capital of Shaanxi Province (陕西省).

Xian, formerly known as Chang’an (长安), has a history that extends back 3,100 years and served as the capital city for the following dynasties:
    Zhou (1046 BC-256 BC)
    Qin (221 BC-207 BC)
    Han (206 BC-9 AD and 190-195)
    Sui (581-618)
    Tang (618-904)

Construction of the first Chang’an city wall began in 194 BC.  It measured 25.7 km (16 miles) in length.

The city wall shown here was built during the reign of Zhu Yuanzhang (Emperor Taizu, Hongwu Emperor), the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), who greatly enlarged the existing Tang Dynasty wall.   The city wall stands 12 meters (40 feet) high and has a total length of 13.7 kms (8.5 miles).  The wall is 15-18 meters (50-60 feet) in width at the base tapering to 12-14 meters (40-46 feet) at the top.

There are a total of 98 ramparts, each with a sentry building, extending out from the wall and spaced 120 meters apart.  There are four main gates.

As can be seen, a wide and deep moat surrounds the perimeter of the wall.  In the past, there was a drawbridge to allow access to the city.

The city wall of Xian is the most complete city wall still existing in China.


 

Pagodas, Pavilions and Towers

Yellow Crane Tower

"Hupeh Provincial Bank" (hu bei sheng yin hang) "one jiao" (ten cents) Chinese banknote issued in 1936 with vignette of "Yellow Crane Tower"

This is a One Jiao (yi jiao 一角 “ten cents”) banknote issued in the 25th year of the Republic of China (1936) by the “Hupeh Provincial Bank” (hu bei sheng yin hang 湖北省银行).

The vignette shows the Yellow Crane Tower (huang he lou 黄鹤楼) located near the Yangzi River (chang jiang 长江) on the top of “Snake Hill” (she shan 蛇山) in Wuchang which is a district of Wuhan.

The name “Yellow Crane” derives from an ancient legend that an immortal mounted a yellow crane at this site and then flew away.

The Yellow Crane Tower was originally built as a military lookout post during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280).  By the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), it had already become a famous sightseeing spot.

The tower was immortalized in the famous poem “Yellow Crane Tower” by the Tang Dynasty poet Cui Hao (崔颢) who lived during the years 704-754.

黄鹤楼
昔人已乘黄鹤去, 此地空余黄鹤楼.
黄鹤一去不复返, 白云千载空悠悠.
晴川历历汉阳树, 芳草萋萋鹦鹉洲.
日暮乡关何处是? 烟波江上使人愁.

Long ago a man rode off on a yellow crane, all that remains here is Yellow Crane Tower.
Once the yellow crane left it never returned, for one thousand years the clouds wandered without care.
The clear river reflects each Hanyang tree, fragrant grasses lushly grow on Parrot Island.
At sunset, which direction lies my hometown?  The mist covered river causes one to feel distressed.

The Yellow Crane Tower was actually rebuilt a number of times during the “one thousand years” mentioned in the poem.  During the Ming and Qing Dynasties alone it was restored seven times.

In 1884 it was destroyed in a fire and was not rebuilt again until 1985.  The reconstruction was based on the last surviving photograph of the tower which dated from the 7th year (1868) of the Tong Zhi reign of Emperor Mu Zong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The present tower is an authentic reproduction of the one that existed during the Qing Dynasty.

The tower has five stories reaching a height of 51 meters, has yellow glazed tiles, and is supported by 72 large pillars.

Qingchuan Pavilion

Chinese paper money "Hupeh Provincial Bank" (hu bei guan qian ju) with denomination "One Hundred Copper Coins" issued in 1914 with vignette of "Qingchuan Pavilion" and "Yellow Crane Tower"

This banknote was issued in the 3rd year (1914) of the Republic of China by the “Hupeh Provincial Bank” (hu bei guan yin ju 湖北官钱局).  The denomination is “One Hundred Copper Coins” (yi bai mei tong yuan 一百枚铜元) and was printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Peking (Beijing) (cai zheng bu yin shua bu 财政部印刷局).

The vignette on the right is the Yellow Crane Tower (huang he lou 黄鹤楼) which is discussed in detail in the section above.

The image on the left is the Qingchuan Pavilion (qingchuan ge 晴川阁), also known as the Qingchuan Tower.

The Qingchuan Pavilion is located on “Tortoise Hill” (gui shan 龟山) on the northern bank of the Yangtze River (changjiang 长江) and faces the Yellow Crane Tower located on “Snake Hill” (she shan 蛇山) on the opposite side.

The pavilion was originally built during the Jia Jing reign (1522-1567) of Emperor Shi Zong of the Ming Dynasty.  It was constructed to commemorate “Yu the Great” (da yu 大禹) who was the legendary founder of the Xia Dynasty (21st century – 16th century BC) and is renowned for his dedication and perseverance in controlling flooding by China’s rivers.

Yu was assisted in his work by a black tortoise and a yellow dragon so it was appropriate that a pavilion honoring him was built on “Tortoise Hill” next to the Yangtze River.

The name for the pavilion, Qingchuan, was taken from a line in the poem “Yellow Crane Tower” by the Tang Dynasty poet Cui Hao (崔颢) which was quoted in the section above:

 

晴川历历汉阳树, 芳草萋萋鹦鹉洲.
Qingchuan li li han yang shu, fang cao qi qi ying wu zhou.
The clear river reflects each Hanyang tree, fragrant grasses lushly grow on Parrot Island.


Mao Zedong (毛泽东) in 1927 also wrote a poem entitled the “Yellow Crane Tower” in which one line alludes to “Tortoise Hill”, “Snake Hill” and the epic flood control work of “Yu the Great”:

 

龟蛇锁大江
gui she suo da jiang
The Tortoise and the Snake hold the great river locked.

The Qingchuan Pavilion was renovated several times during the Shun Zhi, Yong Zheng, Tong Zhi and Guang Xu reigns of the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty (1644-1911) but was later destroyed in a fire.

The present Qingchuan Pavilion was renovated in 1983 based on an old photograph of the structure dating from the late Qing Dynasty.

Guqin Tai

(Guqin Terrace)

Guqin Terrace shown in vignette on Chinese banknote issued by the Hupeh Provincial Bank in 1936 with a denomination of Five Jiao ("fifty cents")

This banknote was issued in 1936 by the Hupeh Provincial Bank (hu bei sheng yin hang 湖北省银行) with a denomination of Five Jiao (wu jiao 五角 “fifty cents”).  It was printed by the China Ta Yeh (Dah Yip) Company (zhong guo da ye gong si 中国大业工司).

The vignette in the center of the note is the Guqin Tai (古琴台) which is variously translated as the Guqin Terrace, Heptachord Terrace and Lute Platform.

Guqin Tai is located near the city of Wuhan in Hubei Province.  It is west of Tortoise Hill (gui shan 龟山) on the bank of Moon Lake (yue hu 月湖).

Detail from a painting of a man with a guqin by Chinese painter Qian Xuan in the collection of the Smithsonian InstitutionThe guqin (
古琴) is a very ancient Chinese musical instrument that, according to legend, has been closely associated with the scholarly class including Confucius for 5,000 years.

The guqin is a plucked seven-string instrument as can be seen in the painting at the left.

The image is a detail from an ink on silk painting by the 13th century Chinese painter Qian Xuan (钱选) which is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

Guqin Tai was built to honor Bo Ya (伯牙) who was an accomplished guqin player and an official of the State of Jin during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC – 476 BC).

According to a passage from the Liezi (列子), an ancient Daoist text, Bo Ya was returning home by boat one day from an official visit to the State of Chu.  A woodcutter by the name of Zhong Ziqi (钟子期) happened to hear Bo Ya playing two pieces of music on his guqin.  The two pieces were “High Mountain” (高山) and “Flowing Water” (流水).  Bo Ya was amazed by the woodcutter’s deep understanding of the music and the two quickly became close friends.

Bo Ya needed to continue his journey home but before leaving his new friend he promised to return in one year.

As promised, Bo Ya returned the next year only to discover that his friend had died.  Bo Ya was deeply saddened by the news and immediately went to burn incense at the woodcutter’s grave.  He also played “High Mountain” and “Flowing Water” on his guqin in honor of his friend.  But the loss of his bosom friend was so great, and the music was so moving, that upon finishing the two pieces Bo Ya immediately broke his guqin and vowed to never play again.

The story of Bo Ya and Zhong Ziqi is considered by the Chinese to epitomize the Chinese notion of zhi yin (知音) which literally translates as “to know music” but which is used to mean “one who truly knows me”.

Guqin Tai was built on the site where it is believed Bo Ya played the guqin for his friend.  The original structure was built during the Northern Song Dyansty (960-1127) but later suffered damage.  It was restored during the Jia Qing reign of Emperor Ren Zong (1796-1820) of the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty.

The two musical pieces, “High Mountain” and “Flowing Water”, played by Bo Ya remain as standards of the guqin repertoire.  Guan Pinghu (管平湖) was one of the most famous guqin players of the 20th century and his recording of “Flowing Water” may be downloaded and listened to here.

Fang He Pavilion

Chinese banknote with vignette of Fang He Pavilion on Solitary Hill at West Lake in Hangzhou issued by Chekiang Provincial Bank in 1941 with denomination of One Yuan

This banknote was issued in 1941 by The Chekiang Provincial Bank (zhe jiang di fang yin hang 浙江地方银行) with a denomination of One Yuan (yi yuan 壹圆 “one dollar”).  The note was printed by Ta Tung (Dah Tung) Printing in Shanghai (shanghai da dong shu ju 上海大东书局).

The vignette shows the Fang He Pavilion (fang he ting 放鹤亭) at the famous West Lake (xi hu 西湖) of Hangzhou (杭州) in Zhejiang Province.

Fang He Pavilion is located on Solitary Hill (gu shan 孤山), which is the only natural island at West Lake, and reaches a height of only 38 meters.  Its natural beauty is best described by the famous Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi (白居易 772-846) as:

蓬莱宫在水中央
peng lai gong zai shui zhong yang
The fairyland in the midst of the lake

Fang He Pavilion was originally built during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) to commemorate the life of Lin Hejing (林和靖) who is also known as Lin Bu (逋).  Lin Hejing was a poet and artist who lived during the years 967-1028 of the Northern Song Dynasty.

Lin Hejing lived an unusual life, however.  Although talented, he never sought fame and did not participate in the imperial examinations to become a government official.  He never married, either.

Instead, he chose to live the life of a hermit on Solitary Hill.

Lin Hejing had two loves in his life.  He loved plum blossoms and cranes.  He spent his time planting more than 300 plum trees and raising cranes on Solitary Hill.

The fang he in Fang He Pavilion means “to raise cranes”.

He was so dedicated to these endeavors that people said he had taken “the plum blossom as his wife and the cranes as his children” (mei qi he zi 梅妻鹤子).

Emperor Zhen Zong (998-1022) and Emperor Ren Zong (1023-1063) of the Song Dynasty were so impressed with his accomplishments that they considered him to be an official who had not been appointed and bestowed upon him the title “(Lin) Hejing scholar in retirement” (he jing chu shi

和靖处士).

The original Fang He Pavilion built during the Yuan Dynasty was expanded during the Ming and Qing dynasties.  The current pavilion was rebuilt in 1915.

In the pavilion stands a stone stele, 3 meters in height and 2.4 meters in width, upon which is inscribed a poem by Bao Zhao (鲍照) who lived during the years 414-466 in the state of Song during the Southern Dynasties.  The poem is entitled “Rhapsody on Dancing Cranes” (wu he fu 舞鹤赋).  The calligraphy used on the stele was ordered by Emperor Kang Xi (1662-1722) of the Qing Dynasty to be modeled on the style of Dong Qichang (董其昌 1555-1637), a very famous calligrapher of the Ming Dynasty.

Lin Hejing is buried on Solitary Hill and next to his tomb are buried some of the cranes he raised.

Guangzhou Flowery Pagoda

(Pagoda of the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees)

 

"One Yuan" (one dollar) Chinese banknote issued in 1918 by "The Provincial Bank of Kwang Tung Province" with picture of the "Guangzhou Flowery Pagoda"
This is a One Yuan (壹圆 “one dollar”) denomination banknote issued by “The Provincial Bank of Kwang Tung Province” (guangdong sheng yinhang 广东省银行) in the 7th year (1918) of the Republic of China.  The note was printed by the American Bank Note Company of New York.

The Guangzhou Flowery Pagoda (hua ta 花塔), also known as the Pagoda of the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees (liu rong si ta 六榕寺塔), was built in the third year (537) of Da Tong reign of Emperor Wu Di of the Liang Dynasty (502-557) of the Southern Dynasties (420-589).  The original name of the pagoda was the He Li Pagoda (舍利塔) of the Bao Zhuang Yan Temple (宝庄严寺).

The pagoda was destroyed by fire at the beginning of the Song Dynasty but then rebuilt in the year 1097.

 

During a visit, the famous Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo (苏东坡), also known as Su Shi (苏轼), saw six ancient banyan trees in the courtyard and wrote the inscription “six banyan trees” (liu rong 六榕).  The temple has been known as the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees ever since.

The present pagoda was rebuilt during the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty (1644-1911) but still retains the characteristics of Song Dynasty architecture.

The pagoda is octagonal-sided and constructed of brick and wood.  It is 57.6 meters in height.  Nine stories are seen from the outside but the inside actually has 17 stories.  Each story has an outside wood balcony.  The tiles are vermilion in color.

At the very top of the pagoda is a 9.14 meter tall steeple.  The steeple weighs 5 tons and the copper mainstay at the top, which was cast in the year 1358 of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), has nine tiers of discs and is engraved with more than 1,000 images of the Buddha.

Shibaozhai

Vignette of Shibaozhai on the reverse side of a Central Bank of China "one yuan" ("one dollar") bank note issued in 1945

This is the reverse side of a One Yuan (“One Dollar”) note issued in 1945 by The Central Bank of China (zhongyang yinhang 中央银行) and printed by the American Bank Note Company.

The vignette shows Shibaozhai (石宝寨) which is located on a steep 220 meter (722 foot) tall hill on the north bank of the Yangtze River (Changjiang 长江) in Zhong Prefecture (忠县) near Chongqing, Sichuan Province. 

The hill resembles a jade seal (yu xi 玉玺) from a distance and is, therefore, known as “Jade Seal Mountain” (yu yin shan 玉印山).

Shibaozhai translates as “Stone Treasure Fortress” or “Precious Stone Fortress”.  A peasant uprising near the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) used the site as a “fortress” which is how it got its name.

Detail of bank note vignette showing the pavilion and temple of ShibaozhaiAn enlarged section of the vignette is shown at the left.

At the very top of the hill can be seen the three-storied “Purple Rain Pavilion” (gan yu gong 绀雨宫), also known as the “Ganyu Palace” and “Ganyu Hall”, which was built during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng (1851-1861) and dedicated to the Buddhist bodhisattva Manjusri.

Leading up to the temple is a wooden pavilion which actually utilizes the steep side of the rock precipice as one of its sides.

By entering the pavilion at the base, a person can then climb up and exit the top of the pavilion to reach the temple.

The temple was originally accessed only by climbing an iron chain attached to the side of the cliff.  In 1819, during the reign of Emperor Jiaqing (1796-1820), the wood pavilion was built to make the climb more convenient.

The wood pavilion was originally nine stories tall and was referred to as “Nine Level Heaven” (jiu chong tian 九重天).

During renovation in 1956, three additional levels were added making a total of twelve stories with a total height of 56 meters (184 feet).

The pavilion is remarkable not only because it has three-sides made of wood and uses the cliff as its fourth side but also because no metal nails were used in its construction.

Each of the twelve stories is dedicated to a famous general of the Three Kingdoms Period, a famous poet or a local scholar.

In front of the temple at the top is the “Duck Well”.  It is so named because if one drops a live duck down the well it will quickly reappear swimming in the river below.  In earlier times, it is said that the monks used a long bamboo pipe in this “well” to draw their drinking water.

In the main hall of the temple is a “spirit wall” made from bricks excavated from the Han Dynasty.

The temple includes a statue of Guan Yu

(关羽, 162-219) who is worshipped as the “God of War”.

Other halls in the temple are dedicated to Zhang Fei (张飞, 167-221) and Yan Yan (严筵, 153-220) both of whom were generals of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms Period.  Another hall honors the female General Qin Liangyu (秦良玉, 1576-1648) who fought to preserve the Ming Dynasty against the Manchus who eventually established the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The rear hall contains the “Rice Flowering Hole”.  According to legend, rice would flow up from this small well each day in an amount sufficient to feed the monks.  This is the origin of the word “treasure” in the name “Stone Treasure Fortress”.  However, one day a greedy monk decided to enlarge the hole to obtain more rice.  From that time on, rice never again appeared.

There is a mural inside the temple which illustrates the origin of the Jade Seal Mountain upon which Shibaozhai sits.  According to Chinese mythology, the mountain is one of the “colored stones” Nu Wa (n

üwa 女娲), the wife of Fu Xi (伏羲), used to repair the heavens.

With the building of the Three Gorges Dam, a large retaining wall was built around Shibaozhi to protect it from the rising waters of the lake that has formed.  Shibaozhi is now an island.

 

Dragon Pavilion

Dragon Pavilion located in the ancient Chinese capital city of Kaifeng as depicted in a vignette on a "one dollar" ("yi yuan") banknote issued by the Provincial Bank of Henan in 1923

This very colorful banknote was issued by the Provincial Bank of Henan (Honan) (henan sheng yin hang 河南省银行) on July 15th 1923 which was during the 12th year of the Republic.  The denomination is “One Yuan” (“one dollar”) (yi yuan 一元) and the note was printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (cai zheng bu yin shua bu 财政部印刷局).

The vignette in the center of the banknote is the image of the Dragon Pavilion (long ting 龙亭) located in the city of Kaifeng (开封) in Henan Province.

Kaifeng is one of the “Seven Ancient Capitals of China” and was the capital during the following periods:

State of Wei (魏) beginning in 364 BC during the Warring States Period (475 BC -221 BC)
Later Liang Dynasty (hou liang 后梁 907-923) during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960)
Later Jin Dynasty (hou jin 后晋 936-946) during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
Later Han Dynasty (hou han 后汉 947-950) during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
Later Zhou Dynasty (hou zhou 后周 951-960) during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
Northern Song Dynasty (bei song 北宋 960-1127)
Jin Dynasty (jin 金 1115-1234)


Because Kaifeng is situated next to the Yellow River (huanghe 黄河), the city has suffered numerous floodings throughout its history.  The present site of the Dragon Pavilion is the original site of the emperor’s palace from the time of the Later Liang Dynasty (907-923) through the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

Kaifeng is believed to have been the largest city in the world during the 11th century when it was an important commercial hub on a major river and connected to four major canals including the Grand Canal.

During the reign of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (Hongwu 1328-1398) of the Ming Dynasty, a mansion for Prince Zhou was built on top of a high mound in the city.  However, a flood near the end of the Ming destroyed the mansion and only the dirt mound remained.

In 1692, Emperor Sheng Zu (Kangxi) of the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty had a “Longevity Pavilion” (wan shou ting 万寿亭) constructed on the site to serve as a repository for the memorial tablets dedicated to previous emperors.

The “Dragon Pavilion”, illustrated in the vignette above, is a very large wooden hall built during the reign of Emperor Xuan Zong (Dao Guang 1821-1850).

The Dragon Pavilion was built on a 13 meter (43 foot) high blue brick foundation to protect it from floods.  Leading up to this pavilion is a 72 step stone staircase and in the middle of the staircase are the carvings of nine dragons.

As mentioned, there is a 72 step climb up to the pavilion.  Seventy-two has been considered a very auspicious number by the Chinese since very ancient times.  The number “72” is the result of multiplying “nine” by “eight”.  Odd numbers are considered “heavenly” and even numbers are considered “earthly”.  “Nine” is the largest “yang” or “male” number and represents authority and longevity while “eight” is the largest “yin” or “female” number.

 

Taiyuan Drum Tower

 

The Drum Tower in Taiyuan displayed on a Ten Yuan ("ten dollar") banknote issued in 1937 by the Shansi Provincial Bank


This is a Ten Yuan (“ten dollar” shi yuan 拾元) banknote issued in 1937 by the Shansi Provincial Bank (shanxi sheng yinhang 山西省银行) and printed by the North Western Engraving and Printing Factory (xibei yinshua chang 西北印刷厂).

The vignette is an image of the Drum Tower (gulou 鼓楼) in Taiyuan (太原) which is the capital of Shanxi Province (山西省).

Drum towers and bell towers were used in olden times to sound the time.  Drums usually marked the evening hours, especially when the city gates closed for the night, while bells usually sounded the morning hours.

The Taiyuan Drum Tower was situated in the center of the old city and the neighboring area was the city’s financial and business district.

According to local records, the Drum Tower was built at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The records state that it was more than “10 丈” (about 33 meters) high, more than “100 步” (about 167 meters) long east-to-west, and more than “80 步” (about 133.6 meters) wide south-to-north.  The wooden building on top extended to a height of “7 丈” (about 23 meters).  The building had carved railings and painted pillars and beams.

Yan Xishan (阎锡山) was the military leader who seized power in Shanxi following the Xinhai Revolution in 1911.  In 1932, he had large posters hung from the Drum Tower with the slogans “Build and Produce to Save the Nation” (zaochan jiuguo 造产救国) and “Provincial Government Reconstruction and Planning” (shengzheng jianshe jihua 省政建设计划).

If you look carefully at the vignette you will see the slogan “Build and Produce to Save the Nation” (造产救国) hanging just above another slogan “Keep in Mind and Do Not Forget” (yong zhi bu wang 用志不忘).

The Drum Tower was destroyed during warfare in 1949.

The reverse side of this banknote has a picture of the “Dragon Gate” which is discussed in detail below.

Six Harmonies Pagoda

The Six Harmonies Pagoda in Hangzhou displayed on a Fifty Yuan ("fifty dollar") banknote issued in 1945 by The Central Bank of China

This is a Fifty Yuan (“Fifty Dollar” wu shi yuan 伍拾圆) banknote issued in 1945 by The Central Bank of China (zhongyang yinhang 中央银行) and printed by the American Bank Note Company.

The vignette is the Six Harmonies Pagoda (“Liuhe Pagoda” liuheta 六和塔) which is located on Yuelun Hill (月轮山) near the Qiantang River (钱塘江) in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.

The pagoda was originally built by King Qianchu (钱俶)

, the last king of the Wuyue Kingdom (吴越), in 970 AD during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (五代十国).  The pagoda was destroyed in 1121 in a war during the Northern Song.  The brick exterior was rebuilt in 1156 and the restoration was completed in 1165 during the Southern Song.

The “six harmonies” refer to the “Six Harmonies of the Sangha” which are six rules stipulated by the Buddha to promote unity among his followers.  These include corporal harmony (same work), verbal harmony (same silence), mental harmony (same tolerance), ethical harmony (same practice), ideological harmony (same understanding), and material harmony (same benefits).

Interestingly enough, the “Six Harmonies Pagoda” (

liuheta 六和塔) is sometimes written incorrectly as the “Six Points Pagoda” (liuheta 六合塔).  In Chinese, the pronunciation is the same but the meaning is very different.  While the “six harmonies” is Buddhist, the “six points” is Daoist (Taoist).  In Daoism, the “six points” can refer to Heaven, Earth and the four directions of north, south, east and west.  The “six points” can also refer to the Daoist harmony of vital energy known as the “six qi” (气).

This pagoda was built not only to honor the Buddha but also to serve as a navigational aid and lighthouse.

This is due to the fact that the Qiantang River experiences the largest “tidal bore” in the world.  A tidal bore is a large tidal wave which travels up a river against the current.

The tidal bore on the Qiantang River can reach heights of 9 meters (30 feet) and travel 40 km per hour (25 mph).

Such a large tidal bore is very dangerous to ships as well as people on shore.  Dating back to the time of its original construction, bright lamps were installed at the top of the pagoda at night to help guide ships on the river.

Additions have been made over the centuries since the first restoration of this wood and brick pagoda during the Southern Song.  The seventh story and the spire were added during the Yuan Dynasty. The external eaves were added in 1900 during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The pagoda is octagonal in shape and has a height of 59.89 meters (196 ft).  The interior has seven stories but the external eaves makes the structure appear to have thirteen stories.

Several interesting stories are associated with the Six Harmonies Pagoda.

Lu Zhishen (鲁智深), known variously as the “Flowery Monk”, “Sagacious Lu” and the “Tattooed Monk”, is one of the heroes of the “Water Margin” (shui hu zhuan 水浒传), also known as “Outlaws of the Marsh”, which is considered one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature.  This Ming Dynasty novel is believed to have been written sometime during the mid-16th century and describes the lives and exploits of 108 outlaws of the Song Dynasty.

Lu Zhishen was not your traditional “Buddhist monk”, however.  He was massive and very strong.  He loved to fight, drink and eat meat.  In fact, it was during one of his drinking episodes that he inadvertently invented a form of kung fu fighting now famously known as “drunken” kung fu.

Lu Zhishen became a follower of an outlaw band led by Song Jiang (宋江) which is how he eventually ended up at the Six Harmonies Pagoda.

One night while the outlaws were camped at the Six Harmonies Pagoda, Lu Zhishen was awakened by a loud roar which he thought were war drums.  He immediately jumped up and was preparing for battle when the local Buddhist priests informed him that the sound was just the tidal bore of the Qiantang River.

The sound, however, reminded Lu Zhishen of the prophecy made by his old abbot:

聽湖而圓,
見信而寂.
When you hear the tide, complete the circle,
When you see the faithful, enter into silence.

Lu Zhishen learned from the monks that the tidal bore was known as “old faithful”.  He also learned that when the phrases ” complete the circle” and “enter into silence” are connected, the meaning is “to die“.

Lu Zhishen now knew that, according to the prophecy, this was the time for his death. He bathed, lit some incense and composed the following ode:

 

平生不修善果,
只愛殺人放火,
忽地頓開金枷,
這裡指斷玉鎖,
咦!錢塘江上湖信來,
今日方知我是我.

In my life I never cultivated goodness,
Relishing only murder and arson.
Suddenly my golden shackles have been opened,
Here my jade locks have been pulled asunder.
Alas! Old Faithful of the Qiangtang River has come;
Now I finally realize that I am myself!

 

Lu Zhishen was a Buddhist monk in name only who lived his entire life as an outlaw.  Nevertheless, he attained enlightenment at the time of his death at Six Harmonies Pagoda.

1936 wedding photograph of Jiang Qing ("Lan Ping") at the Six Harmonies Pagoda in HangzhouThere are other interesting stories concerning this pagoda.

A more recent example concerns another “gang” member.

The photograph at the left shows three couples (seated) who were married at the Six Harmonies Pagoda in 1936.

All six people were famous Chinese actors and actresses at the time.

The third person from the left is “Lan Ping” (蓝苹), whose stage name translates as “Blue Apple”, and her new husband “Tang Na” (唐纳).

But after the marriage, Lan Ping continued to see her former lover Yu Qiwei (俞启威).  There was a public scandal and the marriage ended in divorce a couple of years later.

While Lan Ping appeared in many films and plays, she is now better known by another stage name, Jiang Qing (江青).

Following the Marco Polo Incident on July 7, 1937 and the Japanese invasion of China marking the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Jiang Qing traveled to Yan’an (延安), where the Chinese Communist Party was headquartered, in order to participate in the revolution.

While in Yan’an, she met the leader Mao Zedong (毛泽东) whom she married in 1938.

As the companion of Chairman Mao, Jiang Qing eventually obtained the position and power to rule the country as a member of the infamous “Gang of Four” (四人帮) during the “Cultural Revolution” (文化大革命 1966-1976).

Mao died on September 9, 1976.  On October 6, 1976, Jiang Qing along with the other members of the “Gang of Four” were arrested and charged with subversion, counter-revolutionary activities and treason.

Jiang Qing was tried, convicted and imprisoned.  She was released from prison in 1991 for medical reasons.  She committed suicide on May 14, 1991.

 


Memorial Arches

Longzhong Arch

Vignette of the memorial arch at the home of Zhuge Liang in Longzhong, Hubei

This is the reverse side of the 1936 Hupeh Provincial Bank (hu bei sheng yin hang 湖北省银行) banknote with a denomination of Five Jiao (wu jiao 五角 “fifty cents”) displayed in the discussion of Guqin Tai.

The vignette shows the memorial arch at Longzhong (古隆中牌坊), located in a valley east of Mt. Longzhong in Hubei, which is the ancient residence of Zhuge Liang (诸葛亮).

Zhuge Liang (181-234) was the Prime Minister (Chancellor) of Shu Han (汉) during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280).  He is considered to be one of China’s most outstanding military strategists and scholars and his accomplishments are immortalized in China’s great historical novel the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (sanguo yanyi 三国演义) written in the 14th Century by Luo Guanzhong.

Longzhong was a secluded area but Zhuge Liang’s genius was easily recognized and he earned the nickname “Wo Long” (卧龙) which translates as “sleeping dragon” or “crouching dragon”.

Liu Bei (刘备, 161-223), a warlord who would later become the first emperor of Shu Han, sought the advice of Zhuge Liang but had to visit him three times before he was granted an audience.  Zhuge Liang then outlined a long-term strategy for Liu Bei which became known as the Longzhong Plan.

The intrigues and warfare involved Zhuge Liang with other important historical figures of this period such as Cao Cao (曹操, 155-220), a warlord who helped establish the future kingdom of Cao Wei (曹魏), and Guan Yu (关羽, 162-219), one of Liu Bei’s outstanding generals who would in later times be deified and worshipped in temples and shrines as a god in Chinese folk religions, Daoism, and Buddhism.  Guan Yu is also known as the “God of War“, Emperor Guan (guandi 关帝) and Guan Gong (“Lord Guan” 关公).

The Longzhong Arch was built in 1898 during the Qing Dynasty.

The three Chinese characters at the top of the middle section read gu long zhong (古隆中) which means “Ancient Longzhong”.

The Chinese characters on the right section are dan bo ming zhi (淡泊明志).  The left section reads ning jing zhi yuan (宁静致远).  This is a famous saying of Zhuge Liang which translates as “live a simple life to show one’s goal in life and live simply to express one’s ambition”.

On the two pillars supporting the middle section are inscribed the first two lines from a poem entitled “Prime Minister of Shu” (shu xiang 蜀相) by Du Fu (杜甫, 712-750) who was one of the greatest poets of the Tang Dynasty:

 

丞相祠堂何处寻,锦官城外柏森森
cheng xiang ci tang he chu xun, jin guan cheng wai bai sen sen
Where would I find the Prime Minister’s ancestral hall?  Somewhere outside the Jinquan city walls in a dense cypress forest.


On the back of the arch is the inscription san dai xia yi ren (三代下一人) which extols the greatness of Zhuge Liang.  The inscription means “from the time of the three ancient dynasties of Xia, Shang and Zhou, there is only this man”.

 

Golden Horse and Jade Cock Archways

Vignette of the Golden Horse Archway and Jade Cock Archway on a Chinese "one yuan" banknote issued in 1949 by The Yunnan Provincial Bank

This is a One Yuan (yi yuan 壹圆 “one dollar”) banknote issued in the 38th year (1949) of the Republic by The Yunnan Provincial Bank (yunnan sheng yinhang 云南省银行) and printed by the Hong Kong Printing Press (香港印字馆印务有限公司).

The vignette shows the Golden Horse Archway (jinmafang 金马坊) in the foreground and the Jade Cock Archway (bijifang 碧鸡坊) in the background.  These archways are important landmarks of Kunming (混明) in Yunnan Province (

云南).

The Golden Horse (jinma

金马) and Jade Cock (Jade Rooster, Green Rooster biji 碧鸡) are ancient symbols of Kunming.  According to legend, the Golden Horse originally came from the sun and the Jade Cock came from the moon.  Their arrival transformed Kunming into a lush and beautiful area full of happiness and charm.

Also, to the east of the city is the Golden Horse Mountain and to the west is the Jade Cock Mountain.

The Golden Horse and Jade Cock Archways were originally built during the Xuan De reign (1426-1435) of Emperor Xuan Zong of the Ming Dynasty.  They are built on an east-west axis on Jinbi Street (jinbilu 金碧路) in Kunming and, as can be seen from the picture, are very close to each other.

The archways are 19.5 meters (64 feet) in height and 14.7 meters (48 feet) in width.

Astronomy and mathematics appear to have been important factors in their architectural design.

What is remarkable about these two archways occurs at dusk on the very rare occasions that the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (zhongqiujie 中秋节) falls on the same day as the autumnal equinox.  On that day, as the sun sets in the west, the shadow of the Golden Horse Archway gradually lengthens to the east towards the Jade Cock Archway.  At the same time, the rising moon in the east causes the shadow of the Jade Cock Archway to creep toward the west in the direction of the Golden Horse Archway.

The shadows slowly move toward each other along the street and finally overlap one another.

This phenomenon, referred to as “the sun and the moon join their brightness” (jinbijiaohui 金碧交辉), only occurs once every 60 years according to the traditional Chinese calendar based on the Ten Heavenly Stems and the Twelve Earthly Branches.

The two archways have suffered from disasters over the centuries and have had to be rebuilt several times.  This has affected the phenomenon of the meeting of the shadows.  For example, the shadows merged during the reign (1821-1850) of Emperor Xuan Zong (Dao Guang) but fell just short of overlapping during the reign (1875-1908) of Emperor De Zong (Guang Xu).  This is attributed to the fact that the arches had to be rebuilt within the intervening 60 year period and, apparently, were not rebuilt to the proper specification.

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a large number of China’s historic sites were damaged as part of the campaign to root out the “old way of thinking”.  The two archways did not escape this fate and, unfortunately, both were destroyed.

However, the archways were rebuilt again in 1999 and it is hoped that the wonder of the merging shadows will again occur in the future.


The Confucius Temple and Cemetery at Qufu

Qufu (曲阜), a city in Shandong Province (山东省), was the capital of the State of Lu (鲁) during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and was the birthplace of Confucius (kongzi 孔子) who lived during the period 551-479 BC.

As one of China’s greatest philosophers, Confucius is commemorated with many historical and cultural sites in Qufu including the Temple of Confucius (kong miao

孔庙), the Cemetery of Confucius (konglin 孔林), and the Kong Family Mansion (kongfu 孔府).

Apricot Platform

Chinese "One Jiao" (ten cents) banknote issued during the 1920's by the Central Bank of China with image of the Apricot Platform at the Temple of Confucius in Qufu

This banknote was issued in the 1920’s by the Central Bank of China (zhongyang yinhang 中央银行).

The denomination is One Jiao (壹角 “ten cents”) and the banknote was printed by the Chung Hua Book Company, Ltd. (zhong hua shu ju you xian gong si 中花书局有限公司).

The Temple (kong miao 孔庙) and Cemetery of Confucius (kong lin 孔林), located in Qufu, is a very large complex second in size only to the Forbidden City (zi jin cheng 紫禁城) in Beijing.

One structure in the temple complex is the Apricot Platform (xing tan 杏坛) which is displayed on this banknote.  The Apricot Platform is situated in front of the “Hall of Great Achievement” (dachengdian 大成殿), also known as the “Hall of Great Accomplishment” and “Hall of Great Perfection”, which is the main building at the complex and where the ancestral tablets were kept.

According to the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi (庄子), who lived during the 4th century BC, Confucius liked to teach his disciples under an apricot tree.  Based on this account, the Apricot Platform was built at the complex during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). 

During the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), a pavilion was built upon the Apricot Platform.

The Apricot Platform seen in the vignette on this banknote is actually a restoration dating from the Long Qing reign of Emperor Mu Zong (1567-1572) of the Ming Dynasty.

The pavilion is supported by four vermilion pillars, occupies 12.05 square meters, and is 12.05 meters in height.

 

The Cemetery of Confucius

 

China Central Bank "Two Jiao" (twenty cents) banknote issued in 1936 with vignette of "Zhu River Bridge" stone archway at the Cemetery of Confucius in Qufu

This Two Jiao (erjiao 贰角 “twenty cents”) banknote was issued in 1936 by the China Central Bank (zhongyang yinhang 中央银行).

The vignette shows an archway near the entrance to the very large forest of ancient trees on the grounds of the Cemetery of Confucius (kong lin 孔林) located at Qufu in Shandong Province.

The four-post, three-arch stone archway has the inscription “Zhu River Bridge” (zhu shui qiao 洙桥).

The small stone bridge which crosses the Zhu River can be seen just behind the archway.

The Zhu River has a strong association with Confucianism.  It is said that Confucius gave discourses on his philosophy in this area of the Zhu River.

 


 

Summer Palace

Seventeen-Arch Bridge at Kunming Lake

Chinese "One Fen" (one cent) banknote issued in 1938 by the "Federal Reserve Bank of China" (zhong guo lian he zhun bei yin hang" with image of the Seventeen-Arch Bridge at the Summer Palace in Beijing

The above banknote has a denomination of One Fen (yi fen 壹分 “one cent”) and was issued in 1938 by the Federal Reserve Bank of China (zhongguo lianhe zhunbei yinhang 中国联合准备银行) also known as the United Reserve Bank of China.  It was printed by the Executive Committee (xingzheng weiyuanhui 行政委员会).

The “Federal Reserve Bank of China” was actually operated by the Japanese puppet government that occupied northeast China during this period.

The vignette shows the Seventeen-Arch Bridge (shiqikong qiao 十七孔桥) located on Kunming Lake (kunming hu 昆明湖) at the Summer Palace (yihe yuan 颐和园) in Beijing.

This beautiful bridge resembles a rainbow.  It is made of stone and has 17 arches which get progressively larger from each end to the middle.  It is 150 meters in length and 8 meters in width.  The bridge’s railing has carvings of 544 white marble lions and there is a “strange beast” (yi shou 异兽) carved at each end of the bridge.

The bridge, which was built during the Qian Long reign of Emperor Gao Zong (1736-1795) of the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty, provides a way to reach Nanhu Island (nanhu dao 南湖岛).  Nanhu Island was built to symbolize Penglai (penglai xiandao 蓬莱仙岛) which was the mythical “fairyland” home of the eight Daoist (Taoist) immortals.  Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who unified China in 221 BC, made several attempts during his short reign to find Penglai since the “elixir of immortality” was believed to exist there.

The number of arches (17) has an auspicious significance.  Counting the arches from either end to the highest arch in the middle will result in the number “9”.  The Chinese word for the number “nine” (jiu 九) has the same pronunciation as the word meaning “for a long time” (jiu 久) and, therefore, would be considered a sign of respect to the emperor.

 

Garden of Harmonious Interests

 Chinese paper currency issued in 1938 by the "Ho Pei Metropolitan Bank" (he bei yin hang ju) with a denomination of "Six Copper Coins" (liu mei tong yuan) and a vignette of the "Garden of Harmonious Interests" at the Summer Palace in Beijing

 

This is a “Six Copper Coins” (liu mei tongyuan 陆枚铜元) banknote issued in the 27th year (1938) of the Republic of China by the Ho Pei Metropolitan Bank (hebei yinhang ju 河北银行局) and printed by the Beijing Printing Bureau (beijing yinshua ju 北京印刷局).

The vignette is the Garden of Harmonious Interests (xiequyuan 谐趣园) at the Summer Palace (yihe yuan

颐和园) in Beijing.  A lotus pond and one of the bridges can be seen in the foreground.

The Garden of Harmonious Interests is situated at the foot of Longevity Hill (shoushan 寿山) on its eastern side.

Emperor Qianlong had this garden built in the 16th year (1751) of his reign in a classical style similar to that of the “Garden of Delight” (jichang yuan 寄畅园) in Wuxi (无锡) in Jiangsu Province (江苏省).

The garden was originally named the Huishan Garden (huishan yuan 惠山园).

In 1811, during the 16th year of the reign of Emperor Ren Zong, the garden was renovated and renamed the Garden of Harmonious Interests.

There are 13 halls and pavilions surrounding a central lotus pond and because of this, the Garden of Harmonious Interests is known as the “garden in the garden” (yuan zhong zhi yuan 圆中之园).

In 1860 the gardens were destroyed in a fire by British and French troops during the Second Opium War (1856-1860) but were rebuilt again in 1893 by Emperor De Zong.

The Empress Dowager Cixi (cixi taihou 慈禧太后), who was the de facto ruler of China from 1861-1908, loved to spend time at the Garden of Harmonious Interests observing the scenery around the lotus pond and fishing.


Great Wall of China

Chinese paper money of "1000 Yuan" (one thousand dollars) issued in 1942 by the Central Bank of China with an image of the Great Wall of China

This denomination “1000 Yuan” (yi qian yuan 壹仟圆 “one thousand dollars”) note was issued in 1942 by the Central Bank of China (zhongyang yinhang 中央银行) and was printed by Thomas de La Rue & Company, Limited, London.

The vignette shows the Great Wall of China (changcheng 长城 or wanlichangcheng 万里长城) which stretches approximately 6,230 kilometers (3,890 miles) from Shanhaiguan (山海关) in the east, where the wall meets the Bohai Sea (Pacific Ocean), to the salt lake marshes and desert of Xinjiang’s Lop Nor (罗布泊) in the west.

Construction of the Great Wall began with the unification of China in 221 BC by the “First Emperor”, Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇), and was built to protect China’s northern border from the Xiongnu (匈奴) which were nomadic tribes from central and eastern Asia.

The wall was built of rammed earth, bricks and stones.

The last major construction of the wall for defensive purposes took place during the Ming Dynasty and helped defend attacks from the Manchus.

Shanhaiguan (Shanhai Pass)

Shanhaiguan (Shanhai Pass) shown in a vignette on a Ten Thousand Yuan ("$10,000") banknote issued in 1948 by the Central Bank of China

This is a Ten Thousand Yuan (yi wan yuan 壹万元 “$10,000”) banknote issued in the 37th year (1948) of the Republic by the Central Bank of China (zhongyang yinhang 中央银行) and printed by the Central Printing Factory (zhongyang yinzhichang 中央印制厂).

The smaller Chinese inscription below the bank name at the top center of the bill indicates that it is a special issue meant to circulate only in the “nine provinces of the Northeast” (dongbei jiusheng liutongquan 东北九省流通券), known as “Manchuria”, that the Chinese nationalists recovered late in World War II from the occupying Japanese forces.

The vignette on the left shows the “Shanhai Pass” or Shanhaiguan (山海关) which is located at the eastern end of the Great Wall in the city of Qinhuangdao (秦皇岛) in Hebei Province (河北).

While passes had existed here since the time of the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577) of the Northern Dynasties and the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the present pass was built by General Xu Da (徐达) beginning in the year 1381 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

“Shanhaiguan” is derived from the Chinese word “shan” (

) meaning “mountains”, “hai” () meaning “sea”, and “guan” () meaning “pass”.  The name is appropriate since the pass is situated between the mountains and the Bohai Sea.

Shanhaiguan was originally a square with walls 14 meters high and 7 meters thick.  It had a perimeter of 4 kilometers surrounded by a moat with drawbridges and with a gate on each side.  However, the only surviving gate is the Zhendong Gate (镇东楼) which is the eastern gate depicted in the vignette on this banknote.

Shanhaiguan has been the site of many battles over the centuries including crucial ones at the end of the Ming Dynasty, during the Eight-Nation Alliance (bagualianjun 八国联军) of 1900, and World War II.

Near the top of the gate can be seen the sign stating that Shanhaiguan is the “First Pass under Heaven” (tian xia di yi guan 天下第一关).

 


Dragon Gate

Yumenkou

The Dragon Gate (Yu's Doorway) as shown on a Ten Yuan ("ten dollar") banknote issued in 1937 by the Shansi Provincial Bank

This is the reverse side of a Ten Yuan (“ten dollar” shi yuan 拾元) banknote issued in 1937 by the Shansi Provincial Bank (shanxi sheng yinhang 山西省银行) and printed by the North Western Engraving and Printing Factory (xibei yinshua chang 西北印刷厂).

The vignette displays the “Dragon Gate” (longmen

龙门), also known as “Yu’s Doorway” (yumenkou 禹门口), which is a very narrow gorge through which the Yellow River (huanghe 黄河) must flow.  The Dragon Gate separates Shanxi Province (山西省) from Shaanxi Province (陕西省).

Old photograph of the Dragon Gate (Yu's Doorway) on the Yellow RiverAt the left is an old undated photograph of the Dragon Gate from a Chinese government website.

The “Yu” in “Yu’s Doorway” refers to “Yu the Great” (dayu 大禹) who was the legendary founder of the Xia Dynasty (21st century – 16th century BC).  One of Yu’s greatest achievements was his monumental work in controlling the floods (dayu zhi shui 大禹治水) that, unfortunately, continued to plague China throughout its history.

There was a large-scale flood four thousand years ago.  As described in the Book of History (shangshu 尚书), also known as the Classic of History (shujing 书经), “Destructive in their spread are the waters of the deluge.  In their vastness they embrace the mountains, submerge the hills and rise to the heavens with their swell.”

Efforts to contain the floodwaters using dykes failed.  Yu decided to control the waters by creating channels instead.  The Yellow River was seriously obstructed near Mount Longmen (“Mount Dragon Gate”

longmen shan 龙门山) so Yu had the very narrow opening enlarged to allow the Yellow River to flow more easily to the sea and thereby provide relief to the flooding upstream.  This is the origin of the name “Yu’s Doorway” or “Dragon Gate”.

As already mentioned, the Dragon Gate is very narrow and has steep cliffs.  In some places it is only about 80 meters across so it squeezes the Yellow River into a raging torrent.  This results in a scene of large waves with a loud roar and dense mist.

The cities of Hejin (河津), on the east bank in Shanxi Province, and Hancheng (韩城), on the west bank in Shaanxi Province, face each other on the opposite cliffs of the Dragon Gate gorge.  Ancient temples honoring “Yu the Great” were built on both sides of the river.

Hancheng is also famous as the birthplace of Sima Qian (司马迁)

(145 BC – 86 BC) who was the great historian of the Han Dynasty.

The Dragon Gate is also renown for the Hukou Waterfall (壶口瀑布), the second largest waterfall in China, which is associated with the Chinese proverb the “Carp leaps over the Dragon Gate

(liyutiaolongmen 鲤鱼跳龙门).  To continue the journey down the Yellow River, a carp fish must traverse this waterfall.  Since the challenge is so great, very few fish succeed.  According to the myth, a carp fish that can jump over the waterfall is transformed into a “dragon”.

The “Carp leaps over the Dragon Gate” has the implied meaning that persistent effort is needed to overcome obstacles.  The metaphor was frequently used in ancient times to describe those who were successful in passing the imperial examinations to become high government officials.

Unfortunately, most of the ancient buildings of the Dragon Gate shown in the above images were destroyed in battles between Japanese and Chinese troops during World War II.  The area is now dominated by the Yellow River’s shortest bridge known as the Yumenkou Yellow River Bridge.

The obverse side of this banknote has a vignette of the Taiyuan Drum Tower which is discussed in detail above.


White Deer Grotto Academy

The White Deer Grotto Academy shown in a vignette on a Five Jiao ("fifty cents") banknote issued by The Yu Ming Bank of Kiangsi (Chiang Hsi Yu Min Yin Hang) in 1933

The old banknote shown above has a denomination of Five Jiao (wu jiao 五角 “fifty cents”) and was issued in the 22nd year (1933) of the Republic by The Yu Ming Bank of Kiangsi (Chiang Hsi Yu Min Yin Hang jiangxi yumin yinhang 江西裕民银行).  The note was printed by Ta Tung Printing (da dong shu ju 大东书局).

The picture shows the White Deer Grotto Academy (bailudong shuyuan 白鹿洞书院), also known as the White Deer Cave Academy or White Deer Hollow Academy.  The school is located in the midst of a luxuriantly green forest at the base of Five Old Men Peak (wulaofeng 五老峰) of Mount Lu (lushan 庐山) in Jiangxi Province (江西).

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the poet Li Bo (李渤) and his brothers lived there in seclusion.  The local villagers informally named the valley the “White Deer Grotto” because the brothers raised white deer in the area.

The White Deer Grotto National School (bailudong guoxue

白鹿洞国学) was established during the years 937-942 of the Southern Tang (nan tang 南唐).  The school became the White Deer Grotto Academy during the early Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) but not long afterwards was abandoned.

Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi 朱熹 1130-1200), one of the most famous Confucian scholars of the Song Dynasty, began to rebuild and expand the school in the 6th year (1179) of the Chun Xi

(淳熙) reign of the Southern Song.  Books were collected, teachers and students were recruited, and a curriculum was established.  Zhu Xi served both as the head of the Academy as well as one of the lecturers.

The White Deer Grotto Academy was recognized as one of the Four Great Academies (si da shu yuan 四大书院) of the Song Dynasty.  The other three schools were the Yingtianfu Academy (应天府书院), the Yuelu Academy (岳麓书院) and the Shigu Academy (石鼓书院).

Wang Yangming (王阳明 1472-1529), considered to be the second most important Neo-Confucian scholar after Zhu Xi, also taught classes at the White Deer Grotto Academy during the Ming Dynasty.

The academy continued to provide the highest level of education for eight centuries and was completely renovated during the 1980’s.


Temples

Jin Shan (Gold Mountain) Temple

Vignette of the Gold Mountain (Jin Shan) Temple, associated with the Legend of the White Snake, on a Five Jiao (50 cent) banknote issued in 1936 by the Kiangsu Farmers Bank

This is a Five Jiao (wu jiao 五角 “50 cents”) banknote issued in the 25th year (1936) of the Republic by the Kiangsu Farmers Bank (jiangsusheng nongmin yinhang 江苏省农民银行) and printed by the China Ta Ye Company (zhongguo daye gongsi 中国大业公司).

The vignette shows the famous Jin Shan (Gold Mountain or Golden Hill) Temple (jinshansi 金山寺) and Ci Shou Pagoda (cishouta 慈寿塔) which are situated on Jin Shan (Gold Mountain).

According to legend, Gold Mountain obtained its name when Fa Hai (

法海), a Buddhist monk who had studied at Lushan and was the son of a Tang Dynasty prime minister, discovered a pot of gold there.  Fa Hai gave the gold to the local officials but the emperor ordered that the gold be returned to Fa Hai to be used to rebuild the temple.

Gold Mountain was originally a small island in the middle of the Yangtze River (changjiang 长江) near Zhenjiang City (镇江) in Jiangsu Province (

江苏) but during the last several centuries the island has gradually merged with the riverbank.

 

 
Gold Mountain is famous for two reasons.  Gold Mountain was where Liang Hongyu, a female soldier, helped direct the army of the Song Dynasty to victory over the forces of the Jin by beating out commands on a large war drum.  Gold Mountain also played a prominent role in the Chinese folktale “The Legend of the White Snake”.

Liang Hongyu

Liang Hongyu (梁红玉) was a courtesan who caught the eye of Han Shizong (韩世忠) who would later become a general in the Song Dynasty army.

In 1129, General Han was in charge of an army of 8,000 troops facing an army of Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) troops numbering 100,000.

As his wife, Liang Hongyu devised a clever plan to defeat the Jin army.  She was an expert drummer and had a large war drum placed on Gold Mountain which she then used, along with signal flags, to communicate commands to the Song army.

Her plan proved to be successful and the Song army was able to defeat the much larger Jin army.

 

The Legend of the White Snake

Modern illustration of Lady White and the Buddhist monk Fa Hai battling at Gold MountainThe “Legend of the White Snake” (baishezhuan 白蛇传) is a very ancient Chinese story that tells of a young scholar by the name of Xu Xian (许仙) who falls in love and marries a beautiful girl named Lady White (Madam White, Madam Bai, Bai Suzhen 白素贞).  Unbeknownst to him, his bride was actually a 1,000-year old white snake demon who wanted to do good deeds in the world.

Fa Hai (法海) was a Buddhist monk who lived at Gold Mountain Temple.  He discovered that Lady White was a snake demon and tried to warn Xu Xian.  Xu Xian refused to believe him and Fa Hai imprisoned him at Gold Mountain Temple.

Lady White went to Gold Mountain Temple to confront Fa Hai.  Fa Hai refused to release Xu Xian whereupon Lady White used her supernatural powers to create a flood at the temple.  Fa Hai then used a magic bowl to capture Lady White and imprisoned her beneath the Leifeng Pagoda (雷峰塔) located at West Lake (xihu 西湖) in Hangzhou (杭州).

Xiao Qing (小青), a green snake demon and the sister of Lady White, was in the end able to defeat Fa Hai and free Lady White from Leifeng Pagoda.  Xu Xian and Lady White were again able to live happily together.

The illustration above shows the Buddhist monk Fa Hai battling Lady White during the flooding of Jin Shan Temple.  In Fa Hai’s right hand is the magic bowl he used to capture Lady White.  In the background can be seen the Jin Shan Temple and pagoda.

Over the centuries, “The Legend of the White Snake” has been retold in various versions and in many forms including a Chinese opera.


The temple on Gold Mountain was first built during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (dongjin 东晋 317-420) and was then known as the Zexin Temple (zexinsi 泽心寺).

By the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the temple had become known as the Gold Mountain Temple and during its heyday was the home of 3,000 Buddhish monks.

The temple complex extends from the foot to the top of the hill which is crowned by the seven-story eight-sided brick “Ci Shou Pagoda”.  The temple halls are built around the hill in such a manner that from a distance only the temple complex, and not the hill, can be seen.  Local residents say that “the temple wraps the hill” (jinshansi guo shan 金山寺裹山).

The Ci Shou Pagoda was first built during the Southern Dynasties (nanchao 南朝 420-589) but the present pagoda is a restoration dating from the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908) of the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty.

Jin Shan Temple houses several treasures including a bronze drum which is believed to have belonged to Zhuge Liang.  The drum was designed to be used as a cooking pot when not being used in combat.  The temple also has the official jade mandarin belt worn by Su Dongpo (苏东坡 1037-1101), an important poet of the Song Dynasty.

 

Jinshan Temple (Fuzhou)

Chinese banknote with vignette of Fuzhou's Jinshan Pagoda and Temple issued  by the Fukien Provincial Bank in 1940

This is a Five Fen (wu fen 伍分 “5 cents”) banknote issued in the 29th year (1940) of the Republic by the Fukien Provincial Bank (fujiansheng yinhang 福洲省银行).

The vignette shows a pagoda and temple on a small island located in the middle of the Wulong River (乌龙江), which is a branch of the Min River (闽江), near the village of Hongtong (洪塘村) in the western suburb of the city of Fuzhou (福洲) in Fujian Province (福建).

The island is very small and rises only several meters above the river.

Photograph of the Jinshan Temple of Fuzhou taken by John ThomsonAt the left is a photograph, taken by the Scottish photographer John Thomson, of what the temple looked like in the year 1879.  The photo shows the island from a different angle and illustrates how the temple with the pagoda in the back appears to “float” serenely on the water.

Because it is a temple with a pagoda located on an island, it resembles the famous Jin Shan (Gold Mountain) Temple in Jiangsu Province discussed above and the Chinese since ancient times have popularly referred to it as “Little Jin Shan” (小金山).

The temple was originally built in the year 1131 AD of the Song Dynasty.

The Jinshan Pagoda (金山塔) is eight-sided and has seven stories.  It is made of granite and is about 7 meters in height.

The small temple complex includes the “Guanyin Pavilion” or “Goddess of Mercy Pavilion” (guanyinge 观音阁) and the “Building of Great Mercy” (dacilou 大慈楼).

The “Building of Great Mercy” has two rooms with interesting histories.  The left room is known as Qiaqiazhai (恰恰斋) and is where General Zhang Jing (张经) of the Ming Dynasty studied when he was young.  General Zhang Jing (1492-1555) achieved success in fighting the Japanese pirates that operated in the Chinese coastal waters from the 14th to 16th centuries.  However, he later fell into disfavor and was arrested and ordered beheaded by Emperor Jiajing (嘉靖) in 1555.

The right room is known as Jiejieshi (借借室) which translates as the “Borrowed Room”.  Lin Longjiang (林龙江), also known as Lin Zhao’en (林兆恩), studied and wrote for a time in this room.  Because his table, chair and other furniture were all borrowed from neighboring villagers, the room became known as the “Borrowed Room”.

Lin Longjiang (1517-1598) was the founder of a popular religion known as the “Three In One Religion” (san yi jiao 三一教) which assimilated the teachings of Confucianism, Daoism (Taoism) and Buddhism into one religion.  He is also recognized as having played a major role in providing food and medicine to the Chinese who suffered from the bloody attacks of the Japanese pirates during this time.

The Fuzhou Jinshan Temple as it exists today was reconstructed in 1934.

Beiji Temple

The Beiji Temple in Jinan displayed on a One Hundred Yuan ("one hundred dollar") banknote issued in 1945 by The Central Bank of China

This is a One Hundred Yuan (“One Hundred Dollar” yi bai yuan 壹百圆) banknote issued in 1945 by The Central Bank of China (zhongyang yinhang 中央银行) and printed by the American Bank Note Company.

The vignette is the Beiji Temple (beiji ge 北极阁) which is located on the north shore of Daming Lake (大明湖), famous for its lotus and willow trees, in the city of Jinan (济南), Shandong Province (山东省).

Beiji Ge translates as “North Pole Temple” and this Daoist temple is dedicated to Zhenwu (

帝), the God of the North.

The Beiji Temple was originally built in 1280 during the Yuan Dynasty and then restored during the reign (1402-1424) of the Yongle Emperor (永乐) of the Ming Dynasty.

Beiji Temple located at Daming Lake in JinanThe temple stands on a 7 meter (23 feet) tall stone base and occupies an area of 1,078 m2 (11,603 ft2).  The front of the temple faces Daming Lake and part of Jinan’s ancient city wall runs along the back.

There is a Bell Tower (钟楼) on one side and a Drum Tower (鼓楼) on the other.

The main hall is dedicated to Zhenwu (真武大帝) and the rear hall is dedicated to the father and mother of Zhenwu.

According to Daoist belief, Zhenwu is the God of the North who also rules over water.

The original Zhenwu statue and murals, unfortunately, no longer exist and have since been replaced.

However, the base of the Zhenwu statue is the original and consists of a tortoise and snake representing Xuanwu (玄武).

The temple has been a favorite spot for young children since ancient times.  Because of the tall base and steep stairs, children love to slide down the flat stone slabs on their bottoms.  As a result, these stone slabs have been worn smooth.

 

 

Xilituzhao

Mengchiang Bank 100 Yuan ($100) banknote issued in 1937 displaying the Xilituzhao Temple in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia

This “100 Yuan” (bai yuan 百元 “100 dollars”) banknote was issued by the Mengchiang Bank (mengjiang yinhang 蒙疆银行) in the 26th year (1937) of the Republic and was printed by the Japan Imperial Cabinet Bureau of Printing (riben neige yihshuaju 日本内阁印刷局).

The “Mengchiang Bank” or “Inner-Mongolian Bank” was one of the banks established by the Japanese during their invasion and occupation of China.

The vignette shows “Xilituzhao” (席力图召), also known as the “Xilitu Temple”, “Xilituzhao Lamasery” and “Shireetü zuu”.  It is located in Hohhot (呼和浩特), Inner Mongolia (neimengu 内蒙古).

Even though it is commonly referred to as “little temple” (xiao zhao 小召), it is actually the largest Lama temple in the old city.

“Xilitu” (席力图) means “Holy Seat (of Dalai Lama)” in Tibetan and “zhao” () is the Mongolian word for “temple”.

In 1578 during the early years of the Wan Li reign of Emperor Shen Zong (1573-1620) of the Ming Dynasty, the Altan Khan (俺答汗) (1507-1582), who was the prince of the Mongolian Tümed tribe, met with the Tibetan lama Sonam Gyatso (索南嘉错) and bestowed upon him the title “Dalai Lama” (达赖喇嘛).  Sonam Gyatso was the first officially recognized Dalai Lama but became the “3rd Dalai Lama” after the title was later bestowed upon two predecessors.

Sonam Gyatso was a monk of the Tibetan Gelugpa (格鲁派) or “Yellow Hat” school of Buddhism and together with Altan Khan gradually converted the Mongols from their traditional shamanism to Tibetan Buddhism.

Altan Khan built a number of Buddhist temples in the capital city of Khökh Khot (Hohhot) including the Xilituzhao Temple.

Yonten Gyatso (1589-1617), the great-grandson of Altan Khan, became the 4th Dalai Lama.  Born a Mongolian, Yonten Gyatso has been the only non-Tibetan to ever become a Dalai Lama.

Yonten Gyatso began his religious studies at Xilituzhao Temple, which was the home of his tutor Huofu Xitiuke, before leaving for Tibet in 1599 at the age of ten.

This Buddhist Lama Temple of Xilitu Zhao was built in the Tibetan style and was greatly expanded during the Qing Dynasty.

If you look carefully at the roof above the middle section of the temple, you will see on pedestals a Buddhist Wheel of Dharma with two deer, one on each side.  The Wheel of Dharma symbolizes “knowledge”.  The Wheel of Dharma together with the two deer represents the Buddha’s first turning of the Wheel of Dharma at Deer Park in Sarnath, India.

Behind the Wheel of Dharma, but which unfortunately cannot be seen in the vignette, are two victory banners as well as a jeweled trident.

The victory banners are symbols proclaiming that the Buddha’s teachings conquer all.

The jeweled trident represents the Three Buddhas (past, present and future).  The Three Jewels can be interpreted as “the Buddha, the doctrine, and the monastic community” or the “body, speech and mind”.

The Wheel of Dharma and the victory banner are two of the Eight Treasures of Buddhism.

Since 1735, Xilituzhao Temple has been the official residence of the Living Buddha who is responsible for all Buddhist activities for the city.

 


Famous Chinese

Yellow Emperor (Huang Di)

Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) in the vignette on a "100 Yuan" banknote issued in 1938 by the Federal Reserve Bank of China

This is a 100 Yuan (yi bai yuan 壹百元 “$100”) banknote issued in the 27th year (1938) of the Republic by the Federal Reserve Bank of China (zhongguo lianhe zhunbei yinhang 中国联合准备银行), also known as the United Reserve Bank of China, and printed by the Executive Committee (xingzheng weiyuanhui 行政委员会).

The “Federal Reserve Bank of China” was one of the banks operated by the Japanese puppet government that occupied northeast China during the Second World War.

The vignette on the right side is the legendary “Yellow Emperor” (huangdi 黄帝) who is considered the founder of the Chinese civilization and one of the “Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors”.  He was believed to have reigned from 2696 BC – 2598 BC.

The Yellow Emperor is credited with teaching the people how to build homes, grow crops, and tame wild animals.  He invented clothing, carts, boats, the south-pointing chariot and the Chinese musical instrument known as the guqin.  He commanded one of his officials to invent the first Chinese writing system which is the script used on oracle bones.  He also helped establish the Chinese calendar, early Chinese astronomy, and traditional Chinese medicine.

His wife, Lady Xiling (Lady Xi Ling Shi, leizu 祖祖), is recognized as discovering silk and the inventor of the silk loom.

 

Confucius

Confucius and the Temple of Confucius at Qufu shown in vignettes on a One Yuan (One Dollar) banknote issued by the Federal Bank of China

This is a One Yuan (yi yuan 壹元 “$1”) banknote issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of China (zhongguo lianhe zhunbei yinhang 中国联合准备银行), also known as the United Reserve Bank of China, and printed by the North China Printing Office (huabei zhengwu weiyuanhui yinshuaju 华北政务委员会印刷局).

There is no date on this banknote but the “Federal Reserve Bank of China” was a Japanese puppet government bank that printed paper money during the years 1938-1945.

The portrait on the right is Confucius and the vignette on the left is the Temple of Confucius (Confucius Temple kong miao孔庙) located at Confucius’ hometown of Qufu in Shandong Province.

Confucius (Kong Fuzi 孔夫子), who lived from 551 BC to 479 BC, was one of China’s most famous philosophers and educators.  His teachings, which he believed were lessons transmitted from very ancient times, became the moral foundation for Chinese society and government for more than two thousand years.

The Confucian concepts of righteousness and filial piety, illustrated by old Chinese charms, are discussed in detail at Confucian Charms.

The Confucian Temple at Qufu is the largest and oldest temple dedicated to the great philosopher.  Other Chinese banknotes with vignettes of the Apricot Platform and Cemetery of Confucius are displayed above.

 

Emperor Qianlong

Emperor Qianlong depicted on a Five Jiao ("50 cents") banknote issued by the Central Bank of Manchuria

This is a Five Jiao (wu jiao 五角 “50 cents”) banknote issued by the Central Bank of Manchuria also known as the Central Bank of Manchukuo (manzhou zhongyang yinhang 满洲中央银行).

The Central Bank of Manchuria, along with the Federal Reserve Bank of China, were banks created under the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo in northeastern China.  The Japanese created the Central Bank of Manchuria by annexing the Manchurian Provincial Bank, the Yongheng Government Bank of Jilin Province, the Government Bank of Heilongjiang Province and the Frontier Bank.

There is no date of issue printed on the note although it is believed that these banknotes were issued beginning in 1937.  Also, the printer is not indicated on the note.

The portrait depicts Emperor Qianlong (Emperor Gao Zong) who reigned during the years 1736-1795 of the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty.

Emperor Qianlong is credited with using his military to expand China’s borders.  He was also a great patron of arts.

Dragons with five claws, symbolizing the emperor, form the right and left borders of the note.  Another dragon is depicted on the chest of the emperor.

Emperor Qianlong is also shown holding a ruyi sceptre on his right.


Vignettes of Daily Life

 

Chinese paper currency "One Yuan" (one dollar) issued in 1940 by "The Farmers Bank of China" with vignette of farmers (peasants) grinding grain with a stone grinder

The banknote shown above has a denomination of One Yuan (壹圆 “one dollar”) and was issued in the 29th year (1940) of the Republic of China by The Farmers Bank of China (zhongguo nongmin yinhang 中国农民银行).  The note was printed by the Zhongguo Daye Gongsi (中国大业公司).

The vignette shows a group of farmers, with crop fields in the background, busy grinding grain with a stone grinder.

Illustration of men plowing and women weaving on a One Hundred Yuan ("100 dollar") Chinese banknote issued by the Sinkiang Commercial and Industrial Bank in 1939

This banknote has a denomination of One Hundred Yuan (yi bai yuan 壹百元 “one hundred dollars”) and was issued by the Sinkiang Commercial and Industrial Bank (xinjiang shangye yinhang 新疆商业银行) in the 28th year (1939) of the Republic of China.

The vignette illustrates the traditional division of labor in ancient China where the men labored in the fields while the women were busy weaving on their looms.

These activities became a major genre in Chinese art, poetry and even good luck charms.  For a more in-depth discussion, please see “Men Plow, Women Weave“.

THE END 2COPYRIGHT 2012

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