the Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par the King of Tiger Balm History collections

Tiger Balm

Garden Singapore

History Collections

 Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Created By

Dr Iwan suwandy,MHA

Copyright @ 2012

 

 

Forward

During my youngest kind in 1948-1954 my  parent always used the Tiger Balm to cure my sickness because that time this balm very popular and another medicine more expensive.

During my first visit to Singapore in 1974, I visit the Tiger Balm Garden in Singapore,and also their jade collections.and the founder Aw Boen Haw,that is why they call this garden Hauw park villa and tiger balm garden which related with the tiger balm,

I have upload the story in my web blog with caption the adventure of Dr Iwan in Singapore 1974.

Many young generations forgotten about the history of this park and the founders,duue to that soituation I have made a research about thta,

This e-book in CD-ROM still not complete, comment corrections and new info still need.

This is the sample of my research report of the Tiger Balm History Collections, the complete info in CD-Rom exist but only for premiummember,if you want to look the full illustration CD-ROM please subscribed via comment

Jakarta Mei 2012

Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA

 

 

 

 

Introductions

Haw Par Villa, formerly called Tiger Balm Gardens, was originally constructed in 1937 by “Tiger Balm King” Aw Boon Haw as a grand residence for his younger brother, Aw Boon Par, who helped create their fortune with the anagesic balm. In English, Haw Par Villa translates as Villa of the Tiger and Leopard.

This history of the legendary brothers Haw and Par and the origins of their genius trace back to Rangoon (Yangon), Burma, where it all began. Their father, Aw Chu Kin, the young son of a herbalist in Xiamen, Fujian Province, left for Rangoon in the 1800s to seek his fortune.

His first stop was Singapore where he lived for several days in a kongsi house in the Chinese quarter of Telok Ayer Street before leaving for Penang. Rangoon beckoned and soon he was on his way. Aw Chu Kin set up his own sinseh shop with a little help from his uncle, and Eng Aun Tong, or the Hall of Everlasting Peace, was founded in 1870. Uncle turned matchmaker and a bride was soon found for Aw Chu Kin. Boon Haw, the “gentle tiger” was born in 1882 and Boon Par, the “gentle leopard” in 1888.

In 1908, father Chu Kin died, leaving the family practice to Boon Par, having despaired of Boon Haw’s rebel-rousing ways. The gentle leopard, finding the responsibility too much to bear, later asked for his older brother’s return from China to carry on the family business in Rangoon. The brothers Haw and Par built an empire and a legendary fortune out of a formula for a cure-all ointment sold in a little jar. Today, Tiger Balm is sold in over a hundred countries, arguably the world’s best known analgesic ointment.

The tiger tycoon moved into Singapore in 1926 and Eng Aun Tong found a spanking new home in the busiest port in the region. A new and larger factory was built along Neil Road where production was ten times more than that of Rangoon’s.

A new mansion, Haw Par Villa, was built on a hill in Pasir Panjang surrounded by unique gardens depicting Chinese mythology for the younger, quieter Boon Par in 1937. Aw Boon Haw created this entertainment park to teach and preserve Chinese values.

The park’s colorful collection of over 1,000 statues and 150 giant tableaux centered around Chinese folklore, legends, history, and Confucian ideology. Morality tales included classic battles between good and evil and tributes to Chinese cultural heroes such as the famous pugilist Wu Song, who tamed a ferocious tiger with his bare hands.

Haw Par Villa also holds an exhibition of the 10 courts of Hell, as depicted by Chinese mythology. According to Chinese belief, hell hath not one court but ten. It is believed when one first dies, 2 guardians from Hades will come to take your soul to Hades. One has the head of a horse and the other of an ox. These are the guardians of Hell….Ox-Head and Horse-Face.

Each court is ruled by a ‘yama’ or a king, who dishes out different punishments befitting the sins committed in one’s life. The concept ‘One reaps what one sows’ is the basis of the legend of the Ten Courts of Hell. However, the influence of Confucianism is so great that punishments for failing to comply, such as disrespect for the written word, lack of filial piety or inattention in class are often equal to, or more terrifying than that for murder.

Also known as Tiger Balm Gardens, it was free to the public. (Tiger Balm Gardens was later donated to the Singapore government by the Aw family, put on public tender for re-building as a theme park under the name Haw Par Villa. This theme park is no longer associated with the Haw Par group).

Beside the Haw Par Villa in Singapore, Boon Haw also built similar theme parks in Hong Kong and Fujian of China. The one in Hong Kong, also known by the same name as Tiger Balm Garden, was completed in 1935 but demolished in 2004. In Thailand, Boon Haw contributed a Haw Par Childrens Playground (虎豹兒童遊樂場) in 1938 for the purpose of promoting his Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm Gardens: Mythological Theme Park – Singapore

Haw Par Villa is a Chinese Mythological theme park in Singapore and contains over 1,000 statues and 150 giant tableaux centered around Chinese folklore, legends, history and Confucian ideology. The statues and sets immortalize moral values and Chinese cultural heritage.

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Originally called “Tiger Balm Gardens”, it was constructed in 1937 by brothers Aw BoonHaw and Aw Boon Par, who are developers of Tiger Balm. Later on it was sold to the Singapore Tourism Board and renamed as Haw Par Villa. A must see exhibit is the Ten Courts of Hell that features the ten steps of judgment before reincarnation.

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore

Tiger Balm Gardens Mythological Theme Park  Singapore 

The History Of The Tiger Balm Park

 

The History Of Aw Boen Haw and Aw Boen Par

Tiger Balm Garden

 

Tiger Balm Gardens is also known as Haw Par Villa. There are three Tiger Balm Gardens in the world, all built by the Aw family (Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par). The first is located in Hong Kong, the second is in Singapore, and the third is in Fujian, Mainland China. The gardens contain statues and dioramas depicting scenes from Chinese folklore, legends, history and illustrations of various aspects of Confucianism.

They were opened to the public; they were created to promote the Tiger Balm products produced by the family.

Tiger Balm Gardens at different locations

  • Tiger Balm Garden (Hong Kong) – Opened in 1935, now closed following redevelopment into the “Haw Par Villa” amusement park in 1985 and then into housing in 1998. The Haw Par Mansion itself, together with its private garden, is preserved as a museum.
  • Haw Par Villa (Singapore) – Opened in 1937 and continues as a tourist attraction.
  • Tiger Balm Garden (Fujian) – Located in Yongding County, Fujian Province, China it was originally founded in 1946 but the location was abandoned in 1949. It reopened in 1994 as a museum.

The History Of Tiger Balm

 

 
 

The white and red versions of Haw Par Tiger Balm.

Tiger Balm (Chinese: ; pinyin: Hǔbiao Wànjīnyóu; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hó͘-phiau Bān-kim-iû) is the trade name for a heat rub manufactured and distributed by Haw Par Healthcare in Singapore.

Contents

 [hide

History

It was originally developed in the 1870s by an herbalist, Aw Chu Kin, in Rangoon, Burma, who asked his sons Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par on his deathbed to perfect the product.[1]

Originally named for containing tiger bone, an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine dating back 1,500 years to treat pain, inflammation and to strengthen muscle,[2][not specific enough to verify][page needed] Tiger Balm now consists purely of herbal ingredients. Tiger Balm is available in several varieties, the ‘cold’ Tiger Balm White (which is recommended for use with headaches) and the ‘hot’ Tiger Balm Red. There is also another version called Tiger Balm Ultra.[citation needed]

From the notes that accompany Tiger Balm:

Tiger Balm is made from a secret herbal formulation that dates back to the times of the Chinese emperors. The Aw brothers, Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, inherited the formulation from their herbalist father who left China. They call it Tiger Balm, after Boon Haw, (whose name in Chinese meant “Tiger”) who was instrumental in devising the remarkable selling strategies that made Tiger Balm a household name in many East and South Eastern Asian countries today.

[citation needed]

During the 1930s the Aw family founded the Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore and Hong Kong to promote the product.

 Composition

Ingredient[3] Red White
Menthol 10% 8%
Camphor 11% 11%
Dementholised mint oil 6% 16%
Cajuput oil 7% 13%
Clove bud oil 5% 1.5%
Cassia oil 5%  

The remainder is a petroleum jelly and paraffin base.

The original Tiger Balm Red and Tiger Balm White have 25% of Camphor.[4] A new product named Tiger Balm White HR uses Eucalyptus oil instead of Cajuput oil.[4]

Uses

Tiger Balm is claimed to relieve the following ailments:[5][unreliable medical source?]

  • Headache Rub on temples to relieve pain.
  • Myalgia muscular pains.
  • Migraines and headaches of light intensity to moderate.
  • Mosquito bites: to relieve the itch.
  • Cough: to release the respiratory voices, in application on the chest and the back.
  • Stomach ache: rub on stomach to relieve upset stomach.
  • Nasal congestion: place a gob under the nostrils.
  • Interstitial Cystitis: cut to size, placed just above the pubic bone, can moderate pain enough to allow patients to sleep better.

Popular culture

In the James Bond novel Role of Honour, authored by John Gardner in the 1980s, one of the villain’s henchmen whom Bond faces is named Tigerbalm.

Tiger Balm is mentioned in the novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.[citation needed] It is also mentioned in the novel For the Win.[citation needed]

Gerard Depardieu was reported to have instructed Robert DeNiro how to use Tiger Balm and water to solve an erection problem while shooting a scene for Bernardo Bertolucci‘s 1900 in 1977.[6]

The song “Love Love Love” by The Mountain Goats mentions that Sonny Liston would rub Tiger Balm onto his gloves. [7]

In “Home Insecurity,” an episode of The Venture Bros., villain Baron Ünderbheit discovers his trusted henchmen have betrayed him, and thus forces them into resignation. They are presented with Tiger Balm as a seemingly amicable parting gift, though it turns out to be an omen for Ünderbheit’s retaliation for their betrayal, subsequently revealed to be “tiger bombs.”

Tiger Balm is sometimes used in the context of BDSM sexual activities to intensify sensation.[citation needed]

In the UK drama, “Whitechapel”, DI Joseph Chandler rubs Tiger Balm on his temples to relieve headaches

The History Of Aw Boon Hauw  and Aw Boon Par

 

Aw Boon Haw

 

It may be called “hǔbiao wànjīnyóu” in its native tongue, but it’s just Tiger Balmto me. I’ve been using this Chinese remedy since my hippie mom rubbed it on my chest during the cold New England winters of my youth. The burn on my skin still has a calming, comforting effect.Tiger Balm was invented by Chinese herbalist Aw Chu Kin in the 1870s, using the healing combination of menthol, eucalyptus, clove, cassia and mint oil. Kin had two sons, Aw Boon Haw was a hell-raiser known for street fights and mad business skills while Aw Boon Par was gentle and more reserved.  Together, Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par would make their father’s tincture a global phenomenon by the early 1930s.

Aw Boon Haw in China 1949

Aw Boon Haw in China 1949

While Par honed the recipe down to what is now a legendary cure-all, Haw used his persuasive business skills to organize a medicinal empire. A born salesman, Haw knew how to market his product to the public giving the family recipe a strong and sexy name, Tiger Balm. Haw began promoting Tiger Balm across China going so far as to build a custom car featuring an enormous roaring tiger’s head on the grill.

Aw Boon Haw in Singapore 1941

Aw Boon Haw in Singapore 1941

By the time he was 40, Haw was the richest man in Rangoon. He built an enormous mansion and named the extensive botanical gardens after his quiet-natured brother. In spite of his showmanship, Haw was also a great philanthropist, donating his family’s magic ointment to doctors all over China and building countless schools and hospitals.

Tiger Balm Building in Singapore 1941

Tiger Balm Building in Singapore 1941

Aw Boon Haw Showing His Medicines in China 1949

Aw Boon Haw Showing His Medicines in China 1949

Haw opened his gardens to the public in the early 1950s, and promoted good heath for all. Eighty years later, savvy business sense paired with a generous, caring spirit, has made Tiger Balm a worldwide classic.

Aw Boon Haw Gardens in Singapore 1941

Aw Boon Haw Gardens in Singapore 1941

School Children Walking Through Aw Boon Haw Gardens 1941

School Children Walking Through Aw Boon Haw Gardens 1941

The Tiger Balm Kings
?Aw Boon Haw & Aw Boon Par
Aw Boon Par & Aw Boon Haw
SOURCE :
 Aw Cheng Hu
(Daughter of Aw Boon Par & Grandmother of May Chu Harding)

Barely a decade after the brothers started to manufacture and sell Tiger Balm from their mothers kitchen in Rangoon, they had already amassed a string of pharmaceutical companies stretching from Burma to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the East Indies, Hong Kong and China. By the eve of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937, the Aw brothers had built a business empire with 10,000 workers toiling in the Tiger Balm factories.
Just when everything was going so great, a squad of policemen showed up at the brothers house to serve them with an arrest warrant. Boon Par and Boon Haw were charged with illicit trafficking in opium, and counterfeiting.

Well, you have to start, somewhere…


Aw Boon Par’s Daughter Aw Cheng Hu
Aw Cheng Hu
Aw Cheng Hu, known as “Emma”
with husband, Lee Chee Shan

Aw Cheng Hu, known as “Emma,” was born in Rangoon, and brought to Singapore by her father, Aw Boon Par. Emma is May Chu’s grandmother.

From the book:

My grandfathers name was Lee Chee Shan, but I called him Kong Kong, Cantonese for grandfather. My grandmother, Emma, was Mamak, literally, great mother. Formally, my grandfather was known as Dato Lee Chee Shan, and my grandmother, Datin. Dato and Datin are Malaysian titles originally bestowed on tribal chiefs and their wives, but now reserved for the rich—especially the Chinese rich. Of course, at the time, I knew nothing of such things.

So much deference was shown to Kong Kong by Mamak, that you would never guess that she was the one with all the money. This did not mean that Mamak was subdued, or mousy. Not at all. While Kong Kong usually ate in silence, Mamak did all the talking. She was very animated, gesturing as she talked.

She enjoyed herself and laughed easily. She was truly Boon Pars daughter. Still, out of respect for her husband, Mamak always dressed as he wished—colorfully, in traditional Chinese cheongsams, always with matching red lipstick and nail polish. Each cheongsam had its own matching set of jewelry—nothing subdued ever, not even during the day. Mamak made Kong Kong very happy. Everybody made Kong Kong very happy, and even at the bank, all the ladies wore cheongsams—they had to.


Sally Aw, OBE, the (Almost) Bankrupt Hieress
Sally Aw

Sally Aw, the adopted daughter of Aw Boon Haw, inherited the Aw’s newspaper empire at the age of 23. In 1988, she won the most prestigious American award for journalismthe Carr Van Anda Award from the University of Ohio, a distinction which is usually reserved for the most outstanding figures from the American media such as Walter Cronkite and Ted Turner.

May Chu first met Sally Aw in Hong Kong.

From the book:

In impeccable English, she [Sally] greeted me saying, “Who would have thought you were a relative of mine? If I saw you on the street, I wouldn’t even recognize you.”

Did I look wrong, somehow? Not Chinese enough? Had I made a mistake by sitting down? Should I be kneeling?

In 1999, Sally found herself deep in debt and verging on bankruptcy. She also faced a serious legal problem.

From the book:

Sally finally managed to squander the vast fortune, which luck had dumped in her lap, and reached the brink of bankruptcy. In 1998, she was arrested for falsely inflating the circulation figures of the Hong Kong Standard, her English-language Hong Kong newspaper. Even the U.S. State Department protested when Sally got off the hook, citing her close ties to Beijing.

There is a Chinese proverb that wealth in a family lasts for only three generations. Sally managed to make it in two.


Tiger Balm (虎標萬金油)or Tiger Ban Kim Ewe or “Ten Thousand Golden Oil” is the trade name for a heat rub or ointment manufactured and distributed by Haw Par Healthcare in Singapore. It was originally developed in the 1870s by a herbalist, Aw Chu Kin, in Rangoon, Burma, who asked his sons Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par on his deathbed to perfect the product. Oversea Chinese around the world will remember Tiger Balm, especially the old generations, this was the medical herbal oil that accompanied them from childhood to old age.

Even the young generation of today is are familiar with Tiger Balm.

Tiger Balm is available in several varieties, the weaker Tiger Balm White (which is recommended for use with headaches) and the stronger Tiger Balm Red (which is not to be used on the head). There is also another version called Tiger Balm Ultra.

Aw Chu Kin(胡子钦)

Aw Chu Kin (胡子钦, 原名胡诞钦) ? – 1908 in Rangoon, British Raj) was a Burmese Chinese herbalist. He is best known as the original inventor of Tiger Balm.

Aw Chu Kin’s father was a Chinese herbology practitioner in Xiamen and a Hakka from Zhongchuan, Yongding, Fujian Province, China (福建省永定下洋中川村客家人). Being of a poor background, Aw Chu Kin first immigrated to Singapore in 1863 where he stayed at the kongsi of his clan at Telok Ayer Street.

He then moved to Penang and started to work as a practitioner of Traditional Chinese medicine, known as a sinseh (先生) in Penang Hokkien. Afterwards, he moved to Rangoon where, with the help of his uncle, founded his medical hall or medical shop, named Eng Aun Tong(永安堂药行)(“The Hall of Eternal Peace”) in 1870, located at 644,Canton Road (仰光广东街644号).

Aw Chu Kin was married in Rangoon. He had three sons, the eldest of whom, Boon Leng (Gentle/Refined Dragon) died young. He was survived by his two sons, Boon Haw (Gentle/Refined Tiger) and Boon Par (Gentle/Refined Leopard).

In 1892, Aw sent Boon Haw to his grandfather’s village to be instructed in traditional Chinese methods while Boon Par stayed in Rangoon to receive a British education.

In 1900, his two sons Aw Boon Haw, who had returned to Rangoon, and Aw Boon Par decided to manufacture and market the medicinal ointment under the name Eng Aun Tong, the name of the medical hall.

In respect of the said balm, they adopted a trade mark consisting of the device of a tiger. The word “TIGER” is taken from the name of the elder brother Aw Boon Haw. “Haw” (虎) in Chinese means the animal tiger. The Chinese word “Par,” the name of the Younger brother means the animal leopard.

The trading name Eng Aun Tong was coined to denote the quality of the product from the popular medical hall in Rangoon. The trade mark TIGER and the device of a leaping tiger have been used in respect of the balm since 1900.

When Aw Chu Kin died in 1908 at Rangoon,he left his medical hall, Eng Aun Tong, to his son, Aw Boon Par, having despaired of eldest son Boon Haw’s rebel-rousing ways. The gentle leopard, finding the responsibility too much to bear, later asked for his older brother’s return from China to carry on the family business in Rangoon.

Aw Chu Kin’s wife: Lee Kim Peck
Sons: Boon Leong; Boon Haw, Boon Par

Aw Boon Par(胡文豹);

Aw Boon Par (胡文豹); born 1888 in Rangoon, died 1944 in Rangoon, was a Burmese Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist best known for introducing Tiger Balm. He was educated in English school in Rangoon, Burma. He was the lesser known, and a quiet leopard, compared to his brother, Aw Boon Haw.

Boon Par was the son of Hakka herbalist Aw Chu Kin, who upon his death in 1908, left the business to Boon Par. Boon Par then called his elder brother, Aw Boon Haw, to help run their father’s apothecary Eng Aun Tong (“The Hall of Eternal Peace”) together.

“I will learn all I can about Western medicine, you can prescribe Chinese medicine,” Boon Par said to his brother. “Together we won’t lose a single patient. He can choose between east and west and the fee will stay with us.”

To perfect and exploit their late father’s recipe, the sons took over their mother’s kitchen. Boon Par, the quiet leopard, toiled whilst Boon Haw, the gregarious tiger organised. Together they produced Ban Kim Ewe, Ten Thousand Golden Oil, panacea for all ills.

In 1918, Aw Boon Haw co-developed Tiger Balm as a trade mark, with his younger brother Aw Boon Par. Through artful packages and clever marketing, with the brand name of Tiger Balm (虎標萬金油) or Tiger Ban Kim Ewe or “Ten Thousand Golden Oil” is the trade name. The brothers later made their versatile balm a household standard, first in their native Rangoon, then Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, and the rest of Southeast Asia.

Just when everything was going so great in Rangoon, a squad of policemen showed up at the brothers’ house to serve them with an arrest warrant.

Boon Par and Boon Haw were charged with illicit trafficking in opium, and counterfeiting. The British Chief Inspector of Police, Cyril Taylor, put the brothers under house arrest. But the police were not able to pin anything on the brothers. Still, this was humiliating to the brothers, Boon Haw decided to leave Burma and move the business to Singapore.

Although Aw Boon Par wished to stay in Rangoon, it was because in addition to his two official wives (Piah Lan, Daw Saw who remained in Rangoon), he had a secret wife, Hong Yin, in Rangoon.

Nevertheless, Boon Haw who had settled in Singapore in 1926 convinced him to immigrate, move the family business and found the precursor of today’s Haw Par Corporation.

By 1926, the headquarters of Eng Aun Tong “House of Eternal Peace” had been transferred to Singapore. A new and larger factory was built at 89 Neil Road where production was ten times greater than that of Rangoon’s.

The factory building, a 3-storey neo-classical building, is still standing prominently at the corner of Neil Road and Craig Road – it was built by Aw Boon Haw in 1924.

Boon Par took up a residence at Tanglin Road in Singapore. The house eventually become known as the “Jade House.” Boon Par later moved to larger mansion at 178, Pasir Panjang Road.

The Aw brothers launched Sin Chew Jit Poh – their first paper – in Singapore in 1929; mainly to advertise their tiger series of products.

In 1932, a Limited Company was incorporated in Singapore, know as Haw Par Brothers (Pvt.) Ltd (“虎药有限公司”). It took over the business of the two Aw brothers including their assets, such as trade marks.

From Singapore, the company continued to carry on business and export Tiger Balm to various countries, including India, until the Japanese occupation of Burma and Singapore during World War II.

The company devised various trade markets to be used in various countries, the essential features of each of which was the device of a leaping Tiger, the word “Tiger Balm” written in English and also in Chinese characters. These trade marks were registered in different countries all over the world.

Aw Boon Haw bought land in 1935 to build a villa that would be a unique and fitting residence for his beloved brother, Aw Boon Par. He commissioned Ho Kwong Yew, a brilliant young architect, to design a house that would complement the gardens which were to feature thousands of statues and tableaux depicting Chinese myths and legends and which were to become well known all over the world as the Tiger Balm Gardens. The villa was originally called “Tiger Balm Gardens”. A new mansion, Haw Par Villa, was built on a hill in Pasir Panjang surrounded by unique gardens depicting Chinese mythology for the younger, quieter Boon Par in 1937.

Haw Par Villa was opened in March 1937 and many guests were invited to the grand reception hosted by Aw Boon Par, the lord of the manor.

By the eve of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937, the Aw brothers had built a business empire with 10,000 workers toiling in their Tiger Balm factories.

Aw Boon Par lived in Haw Par Villa only a few years before the second world war broke out in 1939.

The Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II occurred between 1942 and 1945 after the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942.

Military forces of the Empire of Japan occupied Singapore after defeating the combined Australian, British, Indian and Malayan garrison in the Battle of Singapore.

The occupation was to become a major turning point in the history of several nations, including that of Japan, Britain and the then colonial state of Singapore. Singapore was renamed Syonan-to (昭南島 Shonan-to), which means “Island of the Light of the South” or “Southern Island (obtained) during Showa period”.

During the Japanese occupation of Singapore, Aw Boon Haw moved to Hong Kong to manage the business from there, while Aw Boon Par stayed in Singapore to run the factory.

In 1942, Boon Par was forced to close the Singapore factory and flee with his family to Rangoon, which was also occupied by Japanese.

The Allies drove out the Japanese from Singapore in April 1945, but unfortunately Aw Boon Par died in Sept 1944, prior to the victory.

Boon Par’s wives: Piah Lan, Daw Saw, Hong Yin
Sons: Cheng Chye (胡清才) who died in Chile in 1971, Cheng Tek (胡清德)
Daughters: Cheng Sim or Suri Santipongchai, married to Lee Aik Sim(李森, Lee Santipongchai), who in 1971 was given Sing Sian Yit Pao to manage. The newspaper is now managed by their children Netra and Winn. This may be the only company set up by Aw Boon Haw which is still in the hands of the family ; Cheng Hu (Emma), married to banker Lee Chee Shan(李志城,1909-86) who became the President of the family owned Chung Khiaw Bank. The bank was subsequently merged into Haw Par Brothers International Ltd (by then a public company) which was taken over over by the predator firm Slater Walker Securities to whom Aw Cheng Chye sold his shares.

Aw Boon Haw (胡文虎) 1882-1954

Aw Boon Haw (胡文虎); born 1882 Rangoon, Burma – died 1954 Hong Kong, was a Burmese Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist best known for introducing Tiger Balm. He was the son of Hakka herbalist Aw Chu Kin, with his ancestral home in Yongding County, Fujian Province. A very good negotiator and businessman. His life was not only business, how he managed to deal with KMT, CPC, Puppet government in China during Japanese occupation, and Japan government during WW2 was amazing…

Aw migrated to Singapore in 1926, where he began the business of Tiger Red Balm with his brother, Aw Boon Par. Aw also founded several newspapers, including Sin Chew Jit Poh (星洲日報) on 15-1-1929 in Singapore, Sin Ping Jit Poh(星槟日报), now known as Guang Ming Daily (光明日報) was founded in 1939. Both of these newspapers are now based in Malaysia. A third Aw brothers newspaper, Sing Tao Daily (星島日報), dates back to 1-8-1938 and is currently based in Hong Kong. A fourth newspapaer, Sin Siam Jit Poh (星暹日报), was founded in 1951 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Aw Boon Haw moved to Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation of Singapore and managed the businesses from there, while his brother stayed in Singapore until he closed down the factory and went to Rangoon. Aw returned to Singapore after the end of World War II and re-established his business.

While on a trip to Hong Kong from Boston in 1954, Aw died at the age of 72 from a heart attack following a major operation. His legacy is found in the Haw Par Villas throughout Asia, with locations in Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Fujian Province.

There was a story of racing rivalry of Au Boon Haw and Sultan Ibrahim of Johore. Sultan Ibrahim was a sportsman and hunter. The incident took place when the Sultan, enraged at being overtaken by Aw Boon Haw in his famous Tiger Car. Sultan Ibrahim shot at the Tiger Car on Bukit Timah Road. It was considered lese-majesté to overtake royalty even on foreign roads. Notwithstanding, the British colonial administration forbade the Sultan thereafter from visiting Singapore ever again except for purpose of going to and from the Singapore airport, then at Kallang. (source: http://www.escapefromparadise.com)

1908: Taking over the business from the late father, together with brother Aw Boon Par.

1911: First branch outside Rangoon set up in Bangkok

1926 : He moved his head office to Singapore after the British conducted an unsuccessful opium raid in his house. He opened the Eng Aun Tong Medical Hall in Singapore. Turnover of his company reached $10 million.

1929 : Founded Sin Chew Jit Poh, a Chinese newspaper competing with Tan Kah Kee’s Nanyang Siang Pau. To further promote his Tiger products he also published the Tiger Standard.

1932 : Moved his head office to Hong Kong to capture the China market

1935: Built Haw Par Villa in Hong Kong for his 2nd wife, Kyi Kyi.

1937 : Built Haw Par Villa otherwise known as the Tiger Balm Gardens for his brother, Boon Par. The gardens depict Chinese mythology.

1938 : An OBE conferred on him for his philanthropic contributions.

1950 : Set up the Chung Khiaw Bank. He placed the management of the bank under the leadership of his son-in-law, Lee Chee Shan, also a Burmese Chinese who arrived in Singapore in 1929.

1954 : He died in Honolulu in Sept 1954 at the age of 72 years old, half-way home after a stomach operation in America. His empire was divided among six of his nine surviving children and four nephews. Sally Aw taking control of what is now the Sing Tao group (centered in Hong Kong with Sing Tao) and cousins forming Haw Par Brothers (centred in Singapore and including titles such as Sin Chew Jit Poh, which later experienced difficulty in competition with that nation’s two dominant players).

After the death of Haw Boon Haw

1961 Aw Boon Haw’s will provided all estates in Hong Kong to be given to Tan Kyi Kyi and Sally Aw. The other children of Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par were not happy and demanded for the return of Haw Par Villa and Eng Aun Tong(永安堂) to be equally shared by the next of kin.

There was a legal battle between Tan Kyi Kyi and Sally Aw on one side, and, on the other, the other children and nephew of Aw Boon Haw for the estate of Aw Boon Haw. Sally Aw applied for liquidation of Haw Par Brothers Ltd. The outcome of the legal battle was that the Eng Aun Tong and Har Par Villa was owned by Haw Par Brothers Private Ltd.

1964 Sing Tao edition launched in San Francisco

1969 Sally Aw launches daily editions of Sing Tao for diaspora Chinese.

1969 Haw Par Brothers Private Ltd was listed as Haw Par Corporation Limited in the Singapore Exchange on 16-8-1969.

1971 Slater Walker Securities gains control of Haw Par Brothers International Ltd (inc Chung Khiaw Bank and newspapers such as Sin Chew Jit Poh, Hong Kong Eng Aun Tong). It was sold by Aw Cheng Chye(胡清才), son of the Aw Boon Par, when he cashes out by selling all his shares.

1971 Union Overseas Bank (UOB) acquires 53% of Chung Khiaw from Slater Walker. The Haw Par Deal was later reported irregular by the Singapore government. On 22-8-1971, Aw Cheng Chye reportedly committed suicide in Santiago, Chile. Some said he died of stroke, but some said it was the curse of Aw Boon Haw.

1972 Sing Tao Holdings goes public

1973 UOB raises holding in Chung Khiaw to 82%

1973 Sing Tao closes The Asian

1983 Sing Tao launched in Vancouver

1983 Sin Chew Jit Poh in Singapore merges with Nanyang Siang Pau as Lianhe Zaobao

1985 launch of JobMarket recruitment magazine in Hong Kong

1986 Sing Tao relisted in Hong Kong after move from Australia

1986 launches and closes English-language Evening Standard in Hong Kong

1986 launches monthly business magazine Billion

1987 Sing Tao’s Newspapers of Fiji Ltd (Fiji Sun) withdraws from Fiji after second military coup

1987 Sin Chew Jit Poh delicensed in Malaysia under Mahathir crackdown, later acquired by Sarawak timber tycoon Tiong Hiew King

1988 UOB acquires remaining shares in Chung Khiaw Bank

1989 Sing Tao closes Billion

1989 closes monthly news magazine China Review

1992 The Chinese government returned the 10 storey Canton Eng Aun Tong(广州永安堂药店)building to Sally Aw

1993 pays US$40 for stake in Hong Kong newspaper and comics publisher Culturecom

1998 Sally Aw sells Hong Kong property holdings for HK$100m

1999 loses control of Sing Tao to Lazard Asia Fund after debts of US$274m

2000 Sally Aw sells Tiger Balm Gardens to Li Ka-shing for US$13m

2001 sells 55% of Sing Tao’s Canadian arm to Torstar for US$14m

2001 cigarette mogul Charles Ho Tsu-kwok buys 51.4% stake in Sing Tao Holdings

Aw Boon Haw’s family

Father: Aw Chi Kim(胡子钦), a herbalist from Zhongchuan, YongDing, Fujian Province in China.

Brothers: Aw Boon Leong(文龙) (“gentle dragon”) died early; Aw Boon Par(文豹) (“gentle leopard”).

Wives: Boon Haw had four wives. First wife, Tay Piang Hong(郑炳凤, 郑氏是广东惠阳客籍人,生长于仰光?); his second wife, Tan Kyi Kyi(陈金枝), he built a special home at Tai Hang Road, Hong Kong for her. Third wife (黄玉谢) was from Penang,and fourth wife (邱秀英).

Adpted Sons: Dato Aw Kow(胡蛟), wife Tan Kah Joo, became General Manager(社长) of the Sin Chew Jit Poh in 1941, the Singapore Tiger Standard and the Chung Khiaw Bank; Aw San(胡山), who became general manager of the Eng Aun Tong Medical Hall and its Canton factory; Aw Hoe(胡好),1919-1951, became general manager of the Medical Hall and managing director of the Tiger Standard and the Sin Chew Jit Poh.

He died tragically in a plane crash in North Malaysia in 1951. A Standard-owned Dakota airplane crash-landed in Thailand, killing everyone on board, including Aw Hoe. He was only 32 years old. Aw Boon Haw was very sad when Aw Hoe died so oung.

Aw Kow and Aw San were the adopted sons of Tay Piang Hong, the first wife. Aw San was disliked by Aw Boon Haw and did not get any inheritance from the father. Aw Hoe and Sally Aw are the adopted children of the 2nd wife, Tan Kyi Kyi, the two children were the most capable.

Sons: The 3rd wife(黄玉谢) has two sons It Haw(胡一虎), Er Haw(胡二虎) who passed away during WW2. The forth wife(邱秀英) give birth to two sons one daughter, Aw Sin(胡星),Aw San Haw(胡三虎)who passed away during World War II.

Aw Si Haw (胡四虎). Aw It Haw(胡一虎) and Aw Si Haw (胡四虎) were still young when their father passed away. Aw It Haw (胡一虎) and his Japanese wife (胡晓子) however open a Japanese supermarket in Singapore.

Adopted Daughters: Sally Aw Sian (胡仙), who was a Hong Kong businesswoman and former Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference member, and a renowned Hong Kong newspaper publisher but had to sell of much of the family’s fortunes to avoid bankruptcy.

In 1931, Aw Boon Haw and the second wife Tan Kyi Kyi, adopted the five-year-old daughter of a distant relative from Burma, changing the girl’s name from She Moi to Sian. Aw Sian inherited her late adopted father’s assets. Aw Sian and Aw Hoe are the adopted children of Aw Boon Haw’s second wife, Tan Kyi Kyi, and their most favorable children.

Daughter: Aw Sin(胡星), the daughter of 邱秀英.

the end @ copyright @ 2012

THE COMPLETE cd-rom WITH FULL ILLUSTRATIONS EXIST,BUT ONLY FOR PREMIUM MEMBER,PLEASE SUBSCRIBED VIA COMMENT

The Shaw Brother Cinematography History Collections

The Shaw Brothers

Cinematography

 History Collections

 

Created by

Dr Iwan suwandy,MHA

Copyright@2012

THIS THE SAMPLE OF E-BOOK IN CD-ROM,THE COLPMETE CD WITH FULL ILLUSTRATIONS EXIST,BUT ONLY FOR PREMIUM MEMBER PLEASE SUBSCRIBED VIA COMMENT

 

 


INTRODUCTION

The Harvard Film Archive is presenting “Shaw Scope: A History of the Shaw Bros. Studio” from May 30th through June 7th. Boston-area enthusiasts will have a rare chance to see classic films like

 THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, COME DRINK WITH ME and THE BOXER FROM SHANTUNG on the big screen over the next week.

 

Friday May 30 at 7pm: THE FIVE VENOMS, directed by Zhang Che (Chang Cheh).
Friday May 30 at 9pm: KING BOXER, directed by Chung Chang-wha.

Saturday May 31 at 7pm: THE LOVE ETERNE, directed by Li Hanxiang (Li Han-hsiang).
Saturday May 31 at 9:30pm: INTIMATE CONFESSIONS OF A CHINESE COURTESAN, directed by Chu Yuan.

Sunday June 1 at 3pm: THE FOURTEEN AMAZONS, directed by Cheng Gang and Tung Shao-yung.
Sunday June 1 at 7pm: THE BOXER FROM SHANTUNG, directed by Zhang Che and Bao Xueli.
Sunday June 1 at 9:30pm: THE ENCHANTING SHADOW, directed by Li Hanxiang.

Friday June 6 at 7pm: THE NEW ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN, directed by Zhang Che.
Friday June 6 at 9pm: COME DRINK WITH ME, directed by King Hu.

Saturday June 7 at 7pm: THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, directed by Lau Kar-leung.
Saturday June 7 at 9:15pm: HONG KONG NOCTURNE, directed by Umetsugu Inoue

Due to this show I will upload  another info about Shaw brother

The History of the Shaw Brothers

Ningbo, 1900s, Shaw family portrait (left to right) Runde SHAW, RunFun SHAW,
RunRun SHAW, Wang Shun Xiang, Runme SHAW, Runje SHAW,
SHAW Vee Ngok (front seated) (Image Property of Shaw Organisation)

The Early Years:

The Shaw Organisation began in 1924, with operations in Singapore screening their own brand of silent movies. Frustrated by local distributors, they set up their own cinema, “The Empire”, to screen their movies. Led by brothers Run Run and Runme Shaw, they began to branch out into Malaysia building new cinemas and operating a mobile cinema for rural areas. However, it was only with the advent of sound that movies began to really launch themselves – by 1933 the Shaw’s had produced the Cantonese opera film ‘Normal Dragon’ which proved a breakthrough for them in both Singapore and Hong Kong.

In the following years, the Great Depression led to a decline in cinema attendance. The Shaw’s began to produce films locally to minimise costs and also diversified into themes parks and other live attractions. By 1939, the Shaw’s had amassed an empire of 139 cinemas across South East Asia. However, by the time of the War, these Japanese invaded Singapore and seized most Shaw assets. They were then forced to use their cinema to display pro-Japanese propaganda movies throughout the occupation. Following the War, the Shaw’s regrouped and their operations once again expanded into more cinemas and increased film production.

The Years of Dominance:

By the early sixties, the Shaw Empire incorporated 35 companies, owned 130 cinemas, 9 amusement parks and 3 production studios. It was during this period that the Shaw began to dominate the box office and set new standards in film-making. However, it also marked the end of their relationship with Malaysia as their studio, Jalan Ampas, closed in 1967 after 160 films due to declining attendances and striking.

In 1957, Sir Run Run Shaw came to Hong Kong from Singapore and founded the new company, Shaw Brothers (Hong Kong) Ltd. It was following the opening of their Hong Kong studio, Clearwater Bay, in 1961 that the Shaw Studios grew to prominence. With over 850,000 sq ft of land and 1500 permanent staff, it was soon producing over 40 films per year (1966). This vast production line boasted a new film starting every nine days. Another defining feature was that all films were completed without sound, which was dubbed into various languages in one of the twelve sound studios on site. This allowed them to rapidly prepare each movie for the international market with consistent levels of production values.

Pictures from King Hu’s Come Drink with Me and Chang Cheh’s One Armed Swordsman

The first real breakthrough was ‘The Kingdom and the Beauty’ (1958), which enjoyed global success and broke all domestic returns. Four years later the ‘Magnificent Concubine’ won Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. Director Li Han Hsiang went onto to have further international success with Empress Wu and Love Eterne in 1963. Other notable entries include King Hu’s ‘Come Drink With Me’ (1966), which ushered in the new era of wuxia-pian movies.

The legendary Chang Cheh was hot on his heels with the 1967 blockbuster ‘The One Armed Swordsman’. This Jimmy Wang Yu revenge yarn was the first movie to break HK $1m at the box office. Not satisfied with this success, Chang Cheh went onto to deliver hit after hit and forming a crucial role in shaping the kung fu genre. Many believe Cheh’s 1970 work ‘Vengeance’ marks the first genuine kung fu movie, it also importantly brought him together with Ti Lung and David Chiang (the ‘Iron Triangle’ as they became known). By the end of the 70’s he had countless successes to his name and had formed the international cult heroes ‘The Five Venoms’.

Among those who worked alongside director Chang Cheh were martial arts choreographer Lau Kar Leung and John Woo. Lau Kar Leung became a hugely successful director in his own right, moving away from Cheh’s blend of macho cinema and bloodshed for more respectful martial arts and also some early attempts at kung fu comedy (such as 1975’s Spiritual Boxer). There is no doubt that John Woo was heavily influenced by Cheh’s heroic themes as he left the Shaw Studios and made it big with his own brand of action in the 1980’s.

Pictures from Chang Cheh’s Boxer from Shantung (Chen Kuan Tai) and Chor Yuen’s Death Duel (Derek Yee)

Other notable contributions include Cheng Chang Ho’s The Five Fingers of Death (King Boxer), starring Lo Lieh. This action packed yarn actually out grossed Bruce Lee in the US during the height of the kung fu boom. Chor Yuen continued Kung Hu’s focus on wuxia-pian with the likes of Killer Clans and The Magic Blade. Whilst Chang Cheh reveled in blood and guts, Chor Yuen focused on aesthetics and grace, proving equally successful in the early seventies.

The Shaw Brothers continued to diversify in this period with the launch of their own TV station in 1973, TVB. They also began co-productions with international houses as well – the best examples being The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires and Blade Runner. By the mid seventies, their empire had now expanded to 230 cinemas, with another 600 cinemas on a distribution deal. Each week over 1.5 million people saw a Shaw produced movie!

Pictures from Lau Kar Leung’s Executioners from Shaolin (Lo Lieh) and 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Gordon Liu)

The Beginning of the End:

Stars at the Shaw Studios were normally contracted on 3, 5 or 8 years basis and would work 6 day weeks to keep within the schedules. As the success of Shaw’s brought more money into Hong Kong cinema, they actually became the victims of their own success as stars looked to more relaxed studios who also offered more competitive packages, such as ex-Shaw Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest. As a result of this and increasing issues surrounding piracy, the Shaw Studios in Hong Kong ceased operation in 1983 as a film-maker to focus on TV production.

This marked a twelve year gap before they re-entered the movie business with Stephen Chow in “Out of the Dark” in 1995. A few more films have emerged since, including Hero (1997) starring Yuen Biao and Takeshi Kaneshiro and 2002’s Drunken Monkey, but nothing near the output of the previous decades.

The Shaw Brothers remained hugely protective of their back-catalogue and it was only in 2000 that they agreed to sell the entire 800 strong Shaw Brothers library to Celestial for HK $600m (US$ 85m) to the Malaysian company Celestial Pictures. Over a three year period the entire catalogue was remastered and restored with the latest technology.

Example of the impact of Celestial’s remastering work on the original source print from the 1970’s

Since this time, Shaw Brothers continues to expand its infrastructure with state of the art multiplexes and also a number of philanthropic ventures through the Shaw Foundation. The new millennium also brings a new era to Shaw Brothers. Shaw Studios are claiming to be developing the world’s most advanced film production and digital post production facility on a hillside site in Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong. The US $180million Shaw Studios features one of the largest, fully air-conditioned and sound and vibration-insulated soundstages in Asia, a full-service colour lab and digital imaging facility, over 20 sound and editing suites, a 400-seat dubbing and screening theatre, executive and production office space, banqueting facilities, and visual effects and animation capabilities. In all, over a million square feet of digitally-wired and secure facilities dedicated solely to film production and post-production. Expected to be completed by 2009.

Overview of the new Shaw Studio in Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong

Due to the recent financial crisis, Run Run Shaw announced that he was to delist Shaw Brothers Ltd in Dec 2008 and buy out the minority shareholders.

Shaw Cinemas in Asia, Japanese Occupation
“Japanese came in, we all ran away and they took all our theatres and s, amusement parks. So the Japanese were running all the business. But the Japanese were looking for me all over. So I was hiding. They took my photo and looked for me all over. I hid in one shop somewhere in Selegie Road but the Japanese caught me that night.”
– Tan Sri Runme Shaw, Pioneers of Singapore, Oral History
With war looming over the horizon, Runme and Run Run had planned to leave for Australia with their families. Their plans were dashed when a quota based on age was enforced on young men leaving the country and Run Run did not qualify. This was a blessing in disguise as the boat in which the Shaw family intended to travel was sunk by a torpedo. The brothers decided that their best chance to survive the crisis in Singapore was to stay together. Leaving their respective homes, the combined families moved in to the newly built Shaw villa at Queen Astrid in December 1941. It would be the first time since leaving China that the brothers lived together under one roof.

Shaw family portrait (1944)
A few months later, the Japanese crossed the northern border of Singapore and began their march into the city.Realising that it was not safe staying at such an isolated neighbourhood as Queen Astrid, the brothers decided to evacuate their new home immediately. After spending the night in a deserted, mosquito infested church, the fleeing Shaws arrived at businessman Eu Tong Sen’s house in Selegie Road where they sought refuge for a couple of weeks. For the duration of the war, the Shaws would make their office at 116 Robinson into their home.From the start, the invading Japanese wanted to utilise cinema as an effective propaganda tool. All Shaw cinemas were immediately seized by the Japanese propaganda body known as the Bunka Eiga Gekijio and the Shaw brothers interrogated.

Between 1942 and 1945, the Shaws were forced to work for the Japanese.

Under the Japan Film Distribution Co or Eiga Haikyu Sha, they continued to supervise the operation of theatres in Singapore and Malaysia. To this end, the Shaws were headquartered at the Pavilion cinema which is located where Specialist Centre stands today.

Later, the Shaws were directed to resume the operation of the amusement parks which reopened to the public.


Japanese ‘banana’ notes used during the Occupation
The Shaws were paid a ‘salary’ of $350 in Japanese currency for the “privilege” of showing propaganda filmsand a few Indian ones. Hollywood films, although ‘allowed’ in the early months of the Occupation were banned outright by November 1943.As part of the Nipponization effort, cinemas and amusement parks throughout Singapore and Malaysia were given Japanese names and had to display Japanese flags.    
Runme and Run Run in japanese issued work clothes
Nanyang Studio, Hong Kong

Runde Shaw
The Shaws were paid a ‘salary’ of $350 in Japanese currency for the “privilege” of showing propaganda films and a few Indian ones. Hollywood films, although ‘allowed’ in the early months of the Occupation were banned outright by November 1943.As part of the Nipponization effort, cinemas and amusement parks throughout Singapore and Malaysia were given Japanese names and had to display Japanese flags.When the Japanese invaded Shanghai in 1937, the Shaw Studio in China was destroyed and ceased operations temporarily. Due to their foresight, the Shaws had already established production in Hong Kong since 1934 at a studio called Unique (HK). It was located at 42 Pak Tai Street in To Kwa Wan in Kowloon. The land on which the studio sat was leased from Hong Kong Shanghai Bank for a monthly rent of HK$500. Runje ran the Hong Kong operations and placed Runde in charge of distribution in Shanghai.
Shaw and Son’s entry into the 2nd South East Asia Film Festival
– Beyond the Grave (1954)

Yung Siu Yi, a Nanyang studio Cantonese star in 1938
It wasn’t long after the new studio was set up that tragedy struck: Runje’s first wife Tang Yueh Ying passed away. Two years later, tragedy struck again as a mysterious fire razed the Hong Kong studio to the ground. While reconstruction was underway, Runje returned to Shanghai and got married to his third wife, Fung Hsiu Ching – an actress.In 1937, the newly rebuilt Unique (HK) was renamed Nanyang and control of the Hong Kong operations was handed over to Runde Shaw (1899 – 1973). He reorganised the accounting system in the studio and hired film maker Hung Chung Ho as head of productions. Nanyang studio continued to feed the Shaw circuit until Sir Run Run Shaw completed his own studio in Hong Kong nearly three decades later.In the year Nanyang Studio broke into the local production scene, film production was on the upswing. A total of 15 films were released by 7 film companies operating in Hong Kong. This was a large jump when compared with previous years where 4 or less films were released annually. Cantonese was the dominant language of productions. In fact, of all the films produced by the Colony between 1938 and 1940, only 13 films were made in Mandarin.

Most of the films produced had a contemporary setting and concerned themselves with humanitarian issues. In other words, studios in the mid-30s were utilising cinema as a sort of social forum.

Nanyang’s goal, however, was far different. The studio was concerned with commercial, market driven interests.

The Shaw brothers were particularly encouraged by the immense success of their Shanghai-made Cantonese musicals ‘Romance of the Opera’ and ‘Normal Dragon’, which trounced the first Hong Kong made talkies when they were imported into the colony between 1933 and 1934. Capitalizing on the demand for musicals, Nanyang studio harnessed the technology of sound and local talent to churn out 10 Cantonese song and opera films in 1935. The first such Cantonese opera film to come out of Nanyang was Mourning of Pure Tree Blossom.

With the emphasis solidly on Hong Kong’s ‘Cantonese’ heritage coupled with the brewing popularity of Cantonese songs over the last decade, these musical films were an instant hit with the masses. In response, Nanyang studio’s main rival – the San Francisco owned Grandview released 7 Cantonese song films that year. It was clear which direction the market was heading. Of the 32 films released by all companies in 1935, almost all were musicals and made solely for entertaining. Only 1 film was a ‘message’ film.

After Tian Yi in Shanghai was destroyed, Nanyang became the main source of Chinese productions for the Shaw circuit. At its peak, it was producing over 40 black and Normal films a year. It continued its prolific output until it was eclipsed by Shaw Movie Town . (1960 figure)

By 1946, Runde Shaw leased Nanyang studio to Great China Film Co where he was a shareholder. Four years later, Nanyang studio switched its focus from producing Cantonese films to Mandarin films for the rapidly growing Southeast Asian market as the supply of Mandarin films coming out of mainland China were cut off by the Communist takeover.


Lucilla Yu Ming, a Nanyang studio Cantonese star in 1952-1958

Mr and Mrs Runde Shaw and their three sons: Vee Say, Vee Ying and Vee Chen (1956)

Inauguration of Shaw Building in Hong Kong by Shaw and Sons Ltd (Nov 1, 1956)

During this period, Nanyang Studio operated under the company name of Shaw and Sons Ltd (1951-). It also ran a movie news publication known as The Screen Voice Pictorial (HK). Ex-Shanghainese stars such as Li Li Hua, Yan Jun, Bai Guang, Huang He and Zhou Manhua were recruited and trained for the cameras. New discoveries like Lin Dai, Lucilla You Min and Chao Lei had little experience and were made to prove their mettle in minor roles. But the abrupt switch of focus to Mandarin films proved difficult for management and they could not break the grip of Mandarin film giants like Great Wall, MP and GI and Phoenix.

By 1955, Nanyang reorganised itself with a new Cantonese film unit. A stable of Cantonese stars like Patricia Lam Fung, Pearl Au Kar-Wai, Cheung Ying Choi, Lui Kay and Mak Kay were promoted actively. Although this boosted Shaw’s share of the Cantonese market, their grip on the Mandarin market was slipping away. By this time, Hong Kong had become a major production centre for Mandarin product and the aging Nanyang studio could not deliver quality Mandarin films fast enough.

In 1957, Shaw and Sons Ltd made their first international co-production with a Korean company for the film ‘Love with an Alien’ but the box office results were far from encouraging. That same year, Runde handed over the reigns of the studio to Run Run Shaw who had returned to Hong Kong to take over film production with an aggressive agenda.

Meanwhile, Runde’s Shaw and Sons Ltd divested their interests into real estate and film exhibition/distribution in the territory. By 1958, with a new studio under construction and an award winning film (Diau Charn – Best Actress Lin Dai) to boot, Run Run Shaw was set to win back Shaw’s movie crown.

With over-the-top wire-work and special effects ruining many a current-day kung fu movie, there is nothing like a return to the martial arts movies of old to stir the emotions and bring back the purity of what kung fu has always been about. Over the next five years, audiences and especially kung fu film fans will find ample opportunity to have their emotions stirred. I refer, of course, to the “golden age” of kung fu films, as only Shaw Brothers could produce, classic films at long last returning to the world in all of their heavenly glory. This highly-anticipated event officially began December 5th, 2001, a day that will live in martial arts film history.

On that day, Celestial Pictures Ltd. announced the coming release of the Shaw Brothers film masterpieces, most of which have not been available since their initial theatrical releases. The official distributor in Asia will be Intercontinental Video Limited. A total of 760 gems from this film archive will be made available on DVD and VCD formats, after undergoing a state-of-the-art digitization process to restore each film’s sound and image to what we are all foaming at the mouth for: great quality.

Having written hundreds of film synopses and actors’ and directors’ biographies for Celestial Pictures, I was recently chosen as one of Shaw Brothers film experts. As part of this honor, I have been involved in the restoration process. Through the pages of Kungfumagazine.com and its print magazine “Kungfu Qigong,” I will be keeping you up-to-date on the newest releases from this film library, as well as providing you with cool stories about the films, stars and directors.

On Stage December 5th event Celestial’s shareholders have already invested over US$100 million for the acquisition of the library, its restoration, and the company’s operations. The entire restoration process is expected to take about three years, with specific films being released each month. This strategy will continue over the next five years. William Pfeiffer, CEO of Celestial Pictures, speaking by telephone from the historic Shaw Brothers Studio lot in Clear Water Bay says, “Celestial Pictures is thrilled and honored to launch the Shaw Brothers library in the restored digital format. Modern audiences worldwide will now have a unique opportunity to finally see these masterpieces of Chinese cinema.”

To combat video piracy, which was largely responsible for the collapse of Hong Kong’s film industry, Celestial Pictures has adopted an aggressive strategy of releasing films from the Shaw library on the same day and date across all of the key countries in Asia. Coordinating the simultaneous release of not just a single film but all films in a library of this scale and scope is a massive task, and it is a “first” in the video industry. On December 5th, 2001, Intercontinental Video Limited launched 10 remastered Shaw Brothers titles on DVDs and VCDs, hitting the market in nine Asian territories.

outside the screening of Pfeiffer fervently adds, “This video launch is certainly great news for the worldwide fans of Chinese movies, as most of these films have not been available on video or TV since their original cinema release. But the piracy issue is of the utmost importance. When you look at it in the longer term view as an industry, that is revenues going into the pockets of criminals and not the writers and the filmmakers. Then production values go down and you get a lesser entertainment experience. So to get that point across to those that don’t know the implications of buying a pirated product is essential.”

The Shaw Brothers Studio was built by Sir Run Run Shaw in 1958. With a studio lot of two million square feet located in Clear Water Bay, Shaw Brothers pushed the Hong Kong film industry to new heights. The Shaw Brothers Studio quickly became a movie empire and South East Asia’s most prolific producer of a wide array of films: from renowned martial arts films to historical adventures, from horror fantasies to slapstick romantic comedies, from action thrillers to enchanting musicals and unforgettable period dramas. It also earned worldwide recognition and won numerous international awards. It was largely due to the remarkable success of the Shaw Brothers films that Hong Kong became known as “Hollywood East”.

Cheng Pei-pei The launch celebration included two very special events. The first was a “Shaw Film Week” program at JP Causeway Bay Cinema where seven well-known films of various genres and from different eras were re-released on the big screen: “The Kingdom And The Beauty”, “Come Drink With Me”, “The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin”, “The Empress Dowager”, “The Blood Brothers”, “Hong Kong Nocturne” and “Let’s Make Laugh.”

To honor the truly remarkable achievements of Shaw Brothers and Executive Chairman Sir Run Run Shaw himself, Celestial Pictures next hosted a gala party. Sir Run Run Shaw, Asia’s unparalleled movie producer and studio chief, and Lady Mona Shaw were the guests of honor of the evening. “On that night, we paid tribute to the incredible impact that the Shaw Brothers Studio has had on Chinese culture and, indeed, the cinema industry worldwide. To have Sir Run Run Shaw, the creator of, and indeed the creative genius behind, the Shaw kingdom with us here is both a blessing and an incredible honor,” Pfeiffer tells.

Cecilia Ip & Pei-pei singing Special performances of Shaw songs by Karen Mok and Ivy Ling Po, who flew in from Canada for the event, captivated and deeply moved the audience. Many of the key creative talents and celebrities of the Shaw Brothers Studio were also present. They included Cheng Pei-pei, Gordon Liu, Ti Lung, Chen Kuan-tai, Ching Li, Liu Yung, Hui Ying-hung, Chiao Chiao, Chin Ping, Ho Meng-hua, Liu Chia-liang and Chu Yuan. Many of these stars shared their fond memories of working at the Shaw Brothers Studio and expressed their gratitude to Sir Run Run. It was an evening of pure golden magic.

Pei-pei, Marsha & Pfeiffer At last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Cheng Pei-pei and daughter Marsha, an up-and-coming star in Asia, were featured guests. As part of the honor, they attended the first “official” screening of the new 35mm print of “Come Drink With Me.” The kick-off at Cannes included big-wig cocktail parties, the red carpet treatment for Pei-pei and of course the fully restored film print exclusively reserved for the Theatre Bunuel. This event was of particular importance because it confirmed once and for all the rumors floating around the world that the Shaw Brothers films were finally coming back.

Pfeiffer finally notes, “We’re also striking new 35mm prints for limited theatrical re-releases for festivals with special retrospectives, then on video and our TV channel to be launched worldwide later this year.”

Pei-pei & daughter swordfight That is good news for Lim Cheng-Sim, programmer at the University of California-Los Angeles Film and TV Archives, which is responsible for curating film exhibitions. For years Lim has been working with John Woo trying to put together an ambitious travelling film festival of martial arts classics.

“We want to show 20 film in LA highlighting the genre development from its silent roots in Shanghai through the early ’80s,” Lim says, adding that the exhibition would then tour nonprofit film museums and festivals in the United States and Canada. “People say they love Hong Kong martial art films, but in truth they haven’t really seen them,” Lim points out. “Celestial’s move is very significant because now it’s possible to see them again.”

In an exclusive for kungfumagazine.com, Lim reveals the line-up of great films, as well as special appearances by filmmakers who will speak about their involvement in these films. People such as John Woo, David Chiang, Ti Lung, Liu Chia-liang, Gordon Liu, Yuan Woo-ping’s brother Yuan Cheung-yan, Quentin Tarantino and the Queen of Kung fu cinema herself, Cheng Pei-pei. Starting with the classic silent films “Red Knight-Errant” (1929) and “Swordswoman of Huangjiang” (1930), they’ll be followed up by “The Story of Wong Fei-hung, Part I” (1949) starring the actor synonymous with the character Kwan Tak-hing, the far-out “Six-Fingered Lord of the Lute, Part I” (1965), the Shaw Brothers masterpieces “Come Drink with Me” (1965), “Golden Swallow” (1968), “The One-Armed Swordsman” (1967), “Vengeance” (1970), “Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan” (1972), “Blood Brothers” (1973), “Killer Clans” (1976), “Executioners from Shaolin” (1977), “36th Chamber of Shaolin” (1978), John Woo’s “Last Hurrah for Chivalry” (1978) and “Return to the 36th Chamber” (1980.) Topping it all off will be several important independent films: King Hu’s “Dragon Inn” (1968), “Escort over Tiger Hills” (1969), “From the Highway” (1970) and possibly Jet Li’s “Shaolin Temple” (1982).

Gordon Liu pours celebratory drinks In closing, we are privy to share with you Shaw Brothers martial arts films as they break free of the cobwebs of time to become available on DVD and VCD. Coming are such classics as “Come Drink With Me,” directed by King Hu and starring Cheng Pei-pei; “The Heroic Ones,” “The Anonymous Heroes” and “The Blood Brothers,” all directed by Chang Cheh and starring David Chiang and Ti Lung; “Killer Clans,” directed by Chu Yuan and starring Yueh Hua; “The Tea House” and its sequel “Big Brother Cheng,” both directed by Kuei Chih-hung and starring Chen Kuan-tai; “The Magic Blade,” directed by Chu Yuan and starring Ti Lung, Ching Li and Lo Lieh; “Clans of Intrigue,” directed by Chu Yuan and starring Ti Lung, Nora Miao and Yueh Hua; “Temple of the Red Lotus,” directed by Kuei Chih-hung and starring Jimmy Wang Yu; “Death Duel,” directed by Chu Yuan and starring Derek Yee; and “Heroes Two,” directed by Chang Cheh and starring Alexander Fu Sheng and Chen Kuan-tai.

You may not have heard of some of these directors and stars, but over time they will grow familiar. You may even discover that you’ve been watching their films for years, even seen them in Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee films, without knowing it. If you don’t currently own a DVD player, now is the time to invest, because Shaw Brothers is coming to town.

Read More my reaseach about the Shaw Brothers cinematography history Below, I hope this sample of e-book in CD-ROM will made many Indonesian which never seen the film during Indonesia banned the diplomatic with People republic of China during President Suharto era 1966 until 1988 will know the up and fall of the Shaw Brothers Film in Hongko0ng, if you want to look the full illustrations please subscrfibe as premium member  via comment.

 

 

With over-the-top wire-work and special effects ruining many a current-day kung fu movie, there is nothing like a return to the martial arts movies of old to stir the emotions and bring back the purity of what kung fu has always been about.

Over the next five years, audiences and especially kung fu film fans will find ample opportunity to have their emotions stirred. I refer, of course, to the “golden age” of kung fu films, as only Shaw Brothers could produce, classic films at long last returning to the world in all of their heavenly glory. This highly-anticipated event officially began December 5th, 2001, a day that will live in martial arts film history.

On that day, Celestial Pictures Ltd. announced the coming release of the Shaw Brothers film masterpieces, most of which have not been available since their initial theatrical releases.

The official distributor in Asia will be Intercontinental Video Limited.

 A total of 760 gems from this film archive will be made available on DVD and VCD formats, after undergoing a state-of-the-art digitization process to restore each film’s sound and image to what we are all foaming at the mouth for: great quality.

Having written hundreds of film synopses and actors’ and directors’ biographies for Celestial Pictures, I was recently chosen as one of Shaw Brothers film experts. As part of this honor, I have been involved in the restoration process.

Through the pages of Kungfumagazine  and its print

 

magazine “Kungfu Qigong,”

 I will be keeping you up-to-date on the newest releases from this film library, as well as providing you with cool stories about the films, stars and directors.

Celestial’s shareholders have already invested over US$100 million for the acquisition of the library, its restoration, and the company’s operations. The entire restoration process is expected to take about three years, with specific films being released each month. This strategy will continue over the next five years. William Pfeiffer, CEO of Celestial Pictures, speaking by telephone from the historic Shaw Brothers Studio lot in Clear Water Bay says, “Celestial Pictures is thrilled and honored to launch the Shaw Brothers library in the restored digital format. Modern audiences worldwide will now have a unique opportunity to finally see these masterpieces of Chinese cinema.”

To combat video piracy, which was largely responsible for the collapse of Hong Kong’s film industry, Celestial Pictures has adopted an aggressive strategy of releasing films from the Shaw library on the same day and date across all of the key countries in Asia.

 Coordinating the simultaneous release of not just a single film but all films in a library of this scale and scope is a massive task, and it is a “first” in the video industry.

On December 5th, 2001,

 

Intercontinental Video Limited launched

10 remastered Shaw Brothers titles on DVDs and VCD hitting the market in nine Asian territories.

Pfeiffer fervently adds, “This video launch is certainly great news for the worldwide fans of Chinese movies, as most of these films have not been available on video or TV since their original cinema release. But the piracy issue is of the utmost importance. When you look at it in the longer term view as an industry, that is revenues going into the pockets of criminals and not the writers and the filmmakers. Then production values go down and you get a lesser entertainment experience. So to get that point across to those that don’t know the implications of buying a pirated product is essential.”

 

 

The Shaw Brothers Studio was built by Sir Run Run Shaw in 1958.

With a studio lot of two million square feet located in

 

Clear Water Bay Hongkong ,

 

Shaw Brothers pushed the Hong Kong film industry to new heights.

 The Shaw Brothers Studio quickly became a movie empire and South East Asia’s most prolific producer of a wide array of films: from renowned martial arts films to historical adventures,

 

from

 

shaw brothers horror fantasies film

 

to slapstick romantic comedies film,

from action thrillersfilm

to enchanting musicalsfilm

and unforgettable period dramas film.

It also earned worldwide recognition and won numerous international awards. It was largely due to the remarkable success of

 

 the Shaw Brothers films

 

that Hong Kong became known as “Hollywood East”.

READ MORE INFO

Shaw Brothers Cinema: Behind the Studio & Shih Szu, Shaw’s Swordswoman Supreme

 

Shaw Brothers Studio circa 1972

This edition of Shaw Brothers Cinema spotlights the studio itself and the various jobs and functions of

the fabled Shaw Movie town.

From

 

shaw brother  set construction

 

, to sword training

 

, to horse riding

, to the canteen and to the man himself,

Sir Run Run Shaw, a number of these photos give insight into the inner workings of what was once Shaw Brothers Studio of Hong Kong.

 

Paï Meï sort tout droit des films produit par la Shaw Brothers entre les années 60 et 80. Tueur de moine shaolin dans ces films médievaux (ce qui explique l’age avancé du personnage), on retrouve dans Kill Bill ses attribus principaux : des sourcils et une barbe blancs, la main portée à cette dernière, une toge blanche, la botte secrète visant à rentrer ses testicules… A noter qu’il est joué par Gordon Liu qui combattait jadis Paï Meï dans Les Exécuteurs de Shaolin.

 

The Magic Touch (December 3, 1958)
Director: Li Han-hsiang
Cast: Betty Loh Tih, King Hu

Shaw Brothers Cinema: Tragedy at Shaw Studio & Rare Productions

 

Shaw Brothers spy actioner, OPERATION LIPSTICK (1967) starring Cheng Pei Pei. Image from back cover of Southern Screen April, 1967.

 

the scenes photos from Shaw productions from the late 60’s through the early part of the 1970’s.

There’s also some interesting bits and pieces of Shaw Brothers movies that never made it out onto DVD including

 

Chang Cheh’s coveted TIGER BOY (1966).

There’s also an interesting

 

 David Chiang

 

kung fu flick that never got finished.

 

 

SHAW FLICK WITH THE KUNG FU KICK: THE BLACK ENFORCER (1972)

In the middle of 1969,

 

Ho Meng Hua

and his crew went to Korea to begin production on a very good swordplay saga entitled

 

 THE BLACK ENFORCER

 With location shooting being done in Korea, the film was finally finished in 1971 and saw release the following year.

 

Hu ma hua the black enforcer 1972

These are various clips from a four page spread of the announcement of Ho Meng Hua’s new Wuxia picture, THE BLACK ENFORCER (1972).

SHAW BROTHERS RARITIES: DOWNHILL THEY RIDE (1966)

Here’s an interesting article on a lively looking western film shot by Shaw Brothers entitled DOWNHILL THEY RIDE (1966).

 

Huang Chung Shun,

 more familiar as a bad guy, appears to be playing a hero in this movie. This film was never announced for a DVD release to my knowledge, but I’d definitely love to see it surface someday, should it still exist. It was released in HK in February of 1966.

SHAW PROFILE: Helen Ko

Helen Ko

 

 was a super sexy Shaw starlet.

She frequently appeared in erotic movies, action films and dramas often as a prostitute, or some sexbomb character. You’ll find her in

 

 GENERATION GAP (1973),

 

 SEX FOR SALE,

In the early 70s, many martial art films focused on epic journeys of heroism. At the same time some directors focused on sexual journeys of desire as evident with Sex For Sale, an Asian version of Midnight Cowboy where Chin Han plays a male model thrust into sexual situation he wasn’t prepared for. Joined by a cast of stellar eroticism, like the feline Ai Ti and the alluring Tina Chin Fei, the film broke new ground touching upon issues of homo-sexuality.

This product is no longer available for ordering. Item listed for information only.

 

KIDNAP (both 1974)

 

and THE SNAKE PRINCE (1976)

 

 

among others.

SPOTLIGHT ON: Chen Wo Fu

Chen Wo Fu was an aspiring young actor at Shaw Brothers. His first and only lead role was THE SHADOW BOXER from 1974. Tragically, Chen would take his own life for undisclosed reasons (unless a probable cause is mentioned in the Chinese text) by gas poisoning shortly before the movie was released. Below are images from his one shining moment as a lead actor on screen as well as images after his death.

SHAW PROFILE: Chen Ping

Here’s a nice bikini shot of the then premier Queen of Asian exploitation, Chen Ping. She had just headlined in her first lead role, THE KISS OF DEATH (1973), a movie that led to many more sleazy and fast paced action spectacles. After her divorce later in the decade, she abandoned her sex bomb image.

SPOTLIGHT ON: Lo Lieh

Here’s a color photo from a four page spread on Lo Lieh’s wedding to Grace Tang in May of 1976.

SHAW BROTHERS RARITIES: TIGER BOY (1966)

Above is a page from the January, 1966 issue of Southern Screen promoting Chang Cheh’s first stab at directing. Sir Run Run Shaw took a gamble on this experiment to see if Cheh could handle a film on his own since he, unlike others, never worked as an AD before becoming a director. The gamble paid off and the rest is history.

BEHIND THE SCENES: David Chiang & Ti Lung

Above is an image from the 19th Annual Asian Film Festival in Singapore. Pictured are David Chiang (left) and Ti Lung (right) holding their awards for THE GENERATION GAP and BLOOD BROTHERS respectively.

Here, the two recipients and frequent co-stars get their picture taken with their boss, Sir Run Run Shaw. The two images above and one below are from the June, 1973 issue of Hong Kong Movie News.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Ti Lung

Above is a behind the scenes photo from THE PIRATE (1973) starring Ti Lung and David Chiang and directed by Chang Cheh.

BEHIND THE SCENES: SECRET SERVICE OF THE IMPERIAL COURT (1984)

Above are a couple of behind the scenes shots from one of my favorite Shaw Brothers productions, the dramatic and ultra violent SECRET SERVICE OF THE IMPERIAL COURT (1984). These images are from the April, 1984 issue of Southern Screen magazine.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: THE WHIRLWIND KICK

Actor, David Chiang had become a director earlier in the decade when Chang Cheh gave both him and Ti Lung the opportunity to see what they could do behind the camera. After completion of THE CONDEMNED (1976), Chiang began doing double duties on a movie called THE WHIRLWIND KICK.

Unlike THE CONDEMNED, David Chiang would be fighting in this movie. Unfortunately, the film was never completed for whatever reason. These images are from a spread in Hong Kong Movie News, September of 1975.

Above is the original HK poster for NEW TALES OF THE FLYING FOX (1984). It’s a retelling of the popular Wuxia story previously filmed by Chang Cheh as LEGEND OF THE FOX (1980). The image is from the back cover of the April, 1984 issue of Southern Screen.

That’s all for now, but look out for the upcoming Halloween special that highlights Shaw Brothers horror movies. Upcoming entries will include a loving tribute to one of HK’s most beloved stars, Alexander Fu Sheng. Also, there’ll be more co-productions and an entry dedicated to what is without doubt, the most famous kung fu team outside of Asia, the Five Venoms!

 

 

In addition,

 

there’s a nice sampling of images of one of Shaw’s most popular queens of action cinema, Shih Szu.

This entry is for

Fang

from

 

 the Trivia Wing of Shaolin who is a big

 

Shih Szu fan

. Young People (1972),

starring David Chiang, Ti Lung and Chen Kuan-tai.

Directed by Chang Cheh.

 

WHOEVER is still holding out on purchasing a copy of Young People for non-economical reasons, let me reassure you that as widespread as the opinions are on the Shaw Brothers film, this is a special release from director Chang Cheh and script co-writer Ni Kuang worth getting. After its availability as a download (and an illegal one at that), what are the chances this will seriously be reissued again on DVD or VCD (even BD) after it goes out-of-print? Even though Cheh has a following around the globe, it’s not a huge one, so it’s probable his lesser-known releases shall fade away into the ages, while newer generations of fans and film scholars will dissect a selection of his movies (like One-Armed Swordsman, Vengeance!, The Duel or The Five Venoms) ad nauseam. If you feel my theory has some merit, then buy Young People now, ‘cuz the window of opportunity may be closing.

 

Flavored with a lot of location filming at Chung Chi College (a Christian college founded in 1951, affiliated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong), YP is Cheh and Kuang’s scattershot attempt to understand college-age young adults. (Our heroes are never seen in classes, by the way.) They are all over the map when comes to their presentation of what they think makes the minds of men and women in their earlier twenties tick. YP can only be safely classified as a Cheh movie; to categorize it as something else is pointless because it’s fragments of genres and homages to other films, all of them tied together with a very basic plot.

 

To simplify the story, which has been re-counted many times in other reviews, it’s the jocks (led by Ti Lung) versus the martial arts club (led by Chen Kuan-tai), with the performing arts club (led by neo-hippie David Chiang) somewhere in the middle. While the basketball players and purveyors of kung fu vie for the school’s honor (not to mention Lung and Kuan-tai competing for the charms of fickle Irene Chen), the dancers and “band geeks” prepare for the school’s anniversary celebration. How does Chiang unite these two hot-headed guys in friendship? Through peace, go carts and dance choreography!

So, what is there to enjoy in YP? Let’s start with some intentional things:

 

1) Irene Chen! From her first scene onward, she makes you want to see the movie to the end. Anyone who has said there isn’t any comedy in this wasn’t paying attention to her work. The sequence where she barges into the mens’ locker room before the big basketball game is a riot; her facial ex-pressions as the guys hurriedly cover up are priceless. She goes from Kuan-tai to Lung (and back to Kuan-tai) without much thought put into it beyond the fact they won trophies, which seems to be what draws her to them. When she loses both guys, you know she deserves this comeuppance, yet you can’t help but feel sorry for her because for all her charms, she’s still a ways off from being  a mature woman. Chen’s combination of sexiness and fine acting in the role of Princess is one of the better peformances of a leading lady in any Cheh movie out there.

 

2) Bolo Yeung! One favorite Bruce Lee nemesis is (mostly) cast against type as one of the jocks. Not only can he play basketball, he is also adept at comedy; his scene where he and Wang Chung make fun of Kuan-tai’s speech patterns (he speaks no more than three words at a time) is pure goofy fun. He’s a sight to see with his crewcut and wearing those way-out ’70s fashions. (Dig that visor!) He’s not a constant prescence in the picture, but when he’s on, he easily catches your attention in an atypical part.

 

3) “The Blood Brothers”! Well, at the time, Lung, Chiang and Kuan-tai were yet to be in that ’73 film, but if you happen to watch TBB after seeing YP, you’ll never look at the former movie again in quite the same way. The guys are cast to type; Lung is the BMOC, Kuan-tai is the soft-spoken karate expert and Chiang is the drummer who feels all the world needs now is love, sweet love. As silly as the film is, the trio give their all and make the situations feel somewhat plausible. (If you think Lung is bad in this, please reacquaint yourself with his spot-on John Cassavettes imitation in Black Magic [1975], and stand corrected!)

What elements enhance YP by accident, if not design? They would be:

 

1) The music! For a flick that’s designed to appeal to youthful moviegoers, the sound-track is as big as Woodstock: Snoopy’s friend, not the festival. After the opening where Chiang does an “edgy” drum solo, we get three watered-down folk” songs from Agnes Chen, the younger sister of Irene. She’s cute and competently sings (in English) “The Circle Game”, “You’ve Got a Friend” and a bad lyrical rip-off of “What the World Needs Now is Love”. Except for an ambitious MTV-like interlude in “YGaF” (pictured), she’s showcased with meaningless background dancing and a finale (set during the great anniversary assembly) where she seemingly enters and exits by way of crane or hot air balloon! Another performer (even a mere dude with a guitar) would’ve added variety to the production, but since Agnes got a HK hit with “TCG”, somebody thought she was all the film needed (and could afford). To top it all off, the recordings she lip-syncs to are of a lower fidelity than the rest of the incidental music; to hear how her songs sound, you’d swear records were directly dubbed onto the film’s audio track.

 

2) The “big events”! Besides running too long, the basketball game suffers from bad foley work; where are all the squeaking tennis shoes? (Also, Fan Mei Sheng gets a billing in the movie, yet he’s barely seen in his sole appearance as a bench-warmer in the game! Fu Sheng gets more screen-time in all his little cameos combined.) The go cart competition is slightly better with some filming taking place during a real race. Chiang, Lung and Kuan-tai are actually driving in many parts, which is a big plus; only the race’s conclusion will make you roll your eyes. The anniversary show is just bizarre, featuring dancing inspired by West Side Story (and a precursor to the dancing in the “Earth” portion of Heaven and Hell), more drumming by Chiang, and little Agnes; it’s the HK version of a Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney musical! The karate tournament comes off best as Kuan-tai dazzles all with his skills; Lau Kar Wing and Tong Gaai co-ordinated the fighting action, so all the other principals who had to bust a move here (or in other parts of the picture) were well trained to do so.

 

3) The “hip” script! Whoever did the lion’s share of work on the story, Cheh or Kuang, doesn’t matter; there’s plenty of blame to go around about the using whatever it took to make YP appear on the “cutting edge” and “with it”… by 1972 standards. The clothes, the “walkie talkies”, a David Cassidy poster (in Agnes Chen’s room), the music (kinda), product placement (7Up, Schweppes and Viceroy cigarettes), go carts and a dune buggy add to your viewing enjoyment by being so woefully out of date from the first day YP played in HK cinemas right into the 21st century. Anyone who has attended college in the past 30 years knows the only bit of college they got right in YP is when Chiang and his friends take a beer break!

 

 

Though the main characters in YP are stereotypes, all that unfolds in almost two hours’ time doesn’t stoop to the level of an Archie comic. (Wu Ma with a “crown” like Jughead’s would be too much.) The plot (and the humor) seems to have been inspired (or stolen) from American International’s “beach” movies (with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello), especially Beach Blanket Bingo. (Observe the comedic fight of the jocks against the martial artists, and substitute go carts for skydiving.) In fact, this is the only Cheh movie that could be rated PG (PG-13 if you think the violence harsh) by today’s standards, so if you have to play a Chang Cheh film with your grandma present, this is the one. Those who prefer their “yang gang” fix with Shaw blood all over the widescreen will want to pass on this.

 

The IVL DVD is the usual slick, bare bones package. An original HK trailer would’ve provided some insight in how YP was sold to movie patrons back in ’72, but all the promos on the disc are produced by Celestial. The new English subs are hilarious in two spots where the Mandarin translator throws in more recent slang; relish Ti Lung saying “homeboy” and “hommie” (SIC)!

After Susanna, YP is one of my favorite Shaw “guilty pleasures”. If you don’t try to compare it to Animal House or The Paper Chase, you’ll have a good time wondering how Chang Cheh became the unofficial spokesman for the younger generation of Hong Kong…if not the world!

 

 

In the above two photos, you’ll see a small orchestra in a soundtrack session. The photo directly above shows some of the actors dubbing their lines. It’s popularly thought that all the films were dubbed by different voice performers, but this wasn’t always the case. Ivy Ling Po, for example, dubbed her own lines.

Above, fight choreographer, Liang Shao Sung trains some female trainees, fresh out of the Shaw acting school, in the art of the sword.

 

The construction of one of many Shaw Brothers sets.

 

 

Touring the studio.

 

The early 1970s were incredibly prosperous for the then largest privately owned studio on the planet. Kung Fu movies took the world by storm with the release of KING BOXER aka FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH (1972). The above article attests to the wild success of Kung Fu films abroad.

 

Shaw Brothers expanded their empire by opening theaters all over Asia and even in North America. The above photo displays an image of their Canadian theater.

 

The Shaw’s have had the popular stigma of being Iron Fisted tyrants when it comes to the treatment afforded their talent pool especially in regards to monetary compensation. The Brothers Shaw were definitely not scrooges as they frequently gave to a number of charities including gifts of money, food and clothing to the elderly every Chinese New Year as seen above.

Above is a Chinese New Year’s celebration from March, 1971. Note Shaw with his then wife in one of the images. Below is another Chinese New Years party from March, 1973. It features a number of stars as well as Shaw’s grandchildren.

And now it’s a collection of images from various movies and portraits of Shih Szu, a Taiwanese beauty who took over the mantle vacated by Cheng Pei Pei as Swordswoman Supreme.

Above is a behind the scenes photo from LADY OF THE LAW (1975) from March of 1971. Director Shen Chiang discusses the script with Shih Szu. In addition to LADY OF THE LAW, the (at the time) new to Shaw actress was also working on THE IRON BOW (a segment of the swordplay anthology TRILOGY OF SWORDSMANSHIP), THE YOUNG AVENGER, an unknown film entitled THE LITTLE POISONOUS DRAGON and THE SWIFT KNIGHT. The busy actress would soon have even more movies on her already full slate.

 

More shots from the filming of LADY OF THE LAW

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

This is an unfinished production entitled THE NOCTURNAL KILLER. It’s possibly an aka for the above mentioned THE LITTLE POISONOUS DRAGON. It’s just one of many unfinished films that were started at Shaw’s and abandoned for whatever reason. With between 40 and 50 movies being scheduled throughout 1971 and 1972, some productions were scrapped, or morphed into an entirely different picture. Curiously, the plot and Shi Szu’s attire appears similar to HEROES OF SUNG (1973; it was filmed under different titles as well), a film that did starred the actress and Lo Lieh, but not the Taiwanese actor, An Ping.

 

Below is a spread on THE BLOODY ESCAPE (1975), then titled as simply THE ESCAPE. You’ll notice the film is touted as “Chang Cheh’s next production”. Another page mentions it as a joint effort between Cheh and Sun Chung. The following two photos are from the February 1973 issue of Southern Screen. Apparently this film was handed over to Sun Chung entirely considering Chang Cheh was busy setting up camp in Taiwan during this time. THE BLOODY ESCAPE was shot over the course of the next couple of years before hitting HK screens in late 1975 where it died a quick death at the box office.

 

Above you’ll see Shih Szu demonstrating her musical talents during a meeting discussing the production of THE BLOODY ESCAPE. Chen Kuan Tai and Sun Chung are also present.

Above and below are two photos from one of the Shaw Brothers’ numerous co-productions; this one being the ridiculous and childish fantasy actioner SUPERMEN AGAINST THE ORIENT (1974). Heavily promoted in Shaw’s publications, the movie failed to capture much of an audience, but likely fared better in European markets where the ‘Three Supermen’ series was bewilderingly popular.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS???

 

This is an unusual production; unusual in that it features Shih Szu in a modern setting as a female detective. Titled THE WARRANT, it would be interesting to see what the queen of swordswomen can do with a gun. The following photos are from the March 1973 issue of Southern Screen magazine. Oddly enough, this movie seems to be a true Shaw Brothers rarity….

 

None of the Hong Kong movie sites such as HKMDB, or HKcinemagic list this film among the credits of either Shih Szu, or Ou Wei. A friend of mine has informed me that this film does in fact exist and even posted screen caps from the picture taken from an old Chinese VHS tape. It no doubt will be interesting to find out what became of this film and why it’s seemingly been swept under the rug as there’s virtually nothing about it outside of old magazine articles.

Coming up next time are more unfinished movies, some independent features, Chang Cheh’s Iron Triangle, Chen Kuan Tai and more behind the scenes images from Shaw Brothers Cinema!

 

The launch celebration included two very special events. The first was a “Shaw Film Week” program at JP Causeway Bay Cinema where seven well-known films of various genres and from different eras were re-released on the big screen: “The Kingdom And The Beauty”, “Come Drink With Me”, “The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin”, “The Empress Dowager”, “The Blood Brothers”, “Hong Kong Nocturne” and “Let’s Make Laugh.”

To honor the truly remarkable achievements of Shaw Brothers and Executive Chairman Sir Run Run Shaw himself, Celestial Pictures next hosted a gala party. Sir Run Run Shaw, Asia’s unparalleled movie producer and studio chief, and Lady Mona Shaw were the guests of honor of the evening. “On that night, we paid tribute to the incredible impact that the Shaw Brothers Studio has had on Chinese culture and, indeed, the cinema industry worldwide. To have Sir Run Run Shaw, the creator of, and indeed the creative genius behind, the Shaw kingdom with us here is both a blessing and an incredible honor,” Pfeiffer tells.

Special performances of Shaw songs by Karen Mok and Ivy Ling Po, who flew in from Canada for the event, captivated and deeply moved the audience. Many of the key creative talents and celebrities of the Shaw Brothers Studio were also present. They included Cheng Pei-pei, Gordon Liu, Ti Lung, Chen Kuan-tai, Ching Li, Liu Yung, Hui Ying-hung, Chiao Chiao, Chin Ping, Ho Meng-hua, Liu Chia-liang and Chu Yuan. Many of these stars shared their fond memories of working at the Shaw Brothers Studio and expressed their gratitude to Sir Run Run. It was an evening of pure golden magic.

At last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Cheng Pei-pei and daughter Marsha, an up-and-coming star in Asia, were featured guests. As part of the honor, they attended the first “official” screening of the new 35mm print of “Come Drink With Me.” The kick-off at Cannes included big-wig cocktail parties, the red carpet treatment for Pei-pei and of course the fully restored film print exclusively reserved for the Theatre Bunuel. This event was of particular importance because it confirmed once and for all the rumors floating around the world that the Shaw Brothers films were finally coming back.

Pfeiffer finally notes, “We’re also striking new 35mm prints for limited theatrical re-releases for festivals with special retrospectives, then on video and our TV channel to be launched worldwide later this year.”

That is good news for Lim Cheng-Sim, programmer at the University of California-Los Angeles Film and TV Archives, which is responsible for curating film exhibitions. For years Lim has been working with John Woo trying to put together an ambitious travelling film festival of martial arts classics.

“We want to show 20 film in LA highlighting the genre development from its silent roots in Shanghai through the early ’80s,” Lim says, adding that the exhibition would then tour nonprofit film museums and festivals in the United States and Canada. “People say they love Hong Kong martial art films, but in truth they haven’t really seen them,” Lim points out. “Celestial’s move is very significant because now it’s possible to see them again.”

In an exclusive for kungfumagazine.com, Lim reveals the line-up of great films, as well as special appearances by filmmakers who will speak about their involvement in these films. People such as John Woo, David Chiang, Ti Lung, Liu Chia-liang, Gordon Liu, Yuan Woo-ping’s brother Yuan Cheung-yan, Quentin Tarantino and the Queen of Kung fu cinema herself, Cheng Pei-pei. Starting with the classic silent films “Red Knight-Errant” (1929) and “Swordswoman of Huangjiang” (1930), they’ll be followed up by “The Story of Wong Fei-hung, Part I” (1949) starring the actor synonymous with the character Kwan Tak-hing, the far-out “Six-Fingered Lord of the Lute, Part I” (1965), the Shaw Brothers masterpieces “Come Drink with Me” (1965), “Golden Swallow” (1968), “The One-Armed Swordsman” (1967), “Vengeance” (1970), “Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan” (1972), “Blood Brothers” (1973), “Killer Clans” (1976), “Executioners from Shaolin” (1977), “36th Chamber of Shaolin” (1978), John Woo’s “Last Hurrah for Chivalry” (1978) and “Return to the 36th Chamber” (1980.) Topping it all off will be several important independent films: King Hu’s “Dragon Inn” (1968), “Escort over Tiger Hills” (1969), “From the Highway” (1970) and possibly Jet Li’s “Shaolin Temple” (1982).

In closing, we are privy to share with you Shaw Brothers martial arts films as they break free of the cobwebs of time to become available on DVD and VCD. Coming are such classics as “Come Drink With Me,” directed by King Hu and starring Cheng Pei-pei; “The Heroic Ones,” “The Anonymous Heroes” and “The Blood Brothers,” all directed by Chang Cheh and starring David Chiang and Ti Lung; “Killer Clans,” directed by Chu Yuan and starring Yueh Hua; “The Tea House” and its sequel “Big Brother Cheng,” both directed by Kuei Chih-hung and starring Chen Kuan-tai; “The Magic Blade,” directed by Chu Yuan and starring Ti Lung, Ching Li and Lo Lieh; “Clans of Intrigue,” directed by Chu Yuan and starring Ti Lung, Nora Miao and Yueh Hua; “Temple of the Red Lotus,” directed by Kuei Chih-hung and starring Jimmy Wang Yu; “Death Duel,” directed by Chu Yuan and starring Derek Yee; and “Heroes Two,” directed by Chang Cheh and starring Alexander Fu Sheng and Chen Kuan-tai.

You may not have heard of some of these directors and stars, but over time they will grow familiar. You may even discover that you’ve been watching their films for years, even seen them in Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee films, without knowing it. If you don’t currently own a DVD player, now is the time to invest, because Shaw Brothers is coming to town.

 

 

 

 

 

Shaw Brothers Horror: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio Part II

Caution: The following article contains material and images that may not be suitable for the workplace or appropriate for minors. Reader discretion is advised.

Part 2: The Arrival of the Exploitation Era

 

Japanese Pink films, such as Sex & Fury (1973), influenced the changing face of Asian exploitation

Come the latter bracket of the early seventies, Japanese exploitation cinema had rounded out its influence on the Asian regions and shown to be a formidable force amongst local cinema patrons. Accordingly, the Shaw studios starting spicing up (and, to a more notable degree, “splattering” up) their domestic product to compete with the more startlingly excesses of their former war-time rulers. It could be argued, quite accurately, that the Shaw studios had already made inroads into upping the ante of onscreen gore with their successful swordplay and kung fu films of the late sixties and early seventies, where revered director Chang Cheh had strove for Peckinpah-like realism in the depiction of screen violence in the production of his many early works. Swords would cleave bodies, heads would roll, limbs would be hacked off and gallons of stage-blood would squirt over sets and extras alike, once the benchmark had been set. Come the time Ho Meng Hua’s  The Kiss of Death (1973) hit the big screen, the era had arrived where the oft-uneasy mixture of sex and violence would start pushing the boundaries in the exploitation realm for local audiences.

 

Five years before I Spit On Your Grave, Kiss of Death (1973) pushed the rape-revenge thriller to shocking new extremes

 

Ho Meng Hua used the new permissiveness to add extra spice to his exploitation shocker

The Kiss of Death wastes no time in setting up its grim premise: factory worker Chu Ling (Chen Ping, in her premiere leading role) is gang-raped by a quintet of thugs and, on visitation to a GP post-trauma, discovers she has contracted a virulent sexually-transmitted disease known by the ominous moniker Vietnam Rose (which, in broader company we won’t go into, but is rather unpleasant cinematic/fictional strain of syphilis). Vowing revenge on her attackers, Ling quits her job and takes up new employment as a bar girl in the club frequented by the criminals in question. Owned by Wong Ta (kung fu superstar Lo Lieh of King Boxer fame), who takes Ling under his wing and trains her in various forms of self-defence, the club becomes the perfect foil for her to set the wheels of her revenge plot in motion culminating in an all-out bloodbath in the final act.

 

Chen Ping delivers the unkindest cut of all in her bloody revenge

As much a “horror” film per se as

 

Diary of a Lady-Killer

 had been before it in the late sixties (i.e.: in name only),

 

The Kiss of Death

exhibits the Shaw studios as very much a production house well aware of the changing tastes of its marketplace, and one willing to run with far more exploitative elements to appease its growing adult audiences.

 

Chen Ping

 makes a dynamite debut in her first leading role as the put-upon and vengeful Ling, going so far as not to shy away from the copious nudity and adult situations that the role required, much unlike the majority of her A-list peers who engaged the de-rigueur entourage of body doubles available to keep their modesty and career images intact.

However, copious displays of blood and boobs aside, the one failing of the film comes at its finale, where it ends up aping the studios’ martial arts epics by transgressing the climax into one endless, over-the-top, and ultimately yawn-inducing brawl; like many martial arts films, what kicks off well and could have been a punchy, violent wrap-up to a rather sleazy thriller, drags out into a punch-up-cum-kick-fest that just drags on, and on…and on.

 

Her Vengeance (1988)

 

 is the best known of the many contemporary variations on Kiss of Death (1973)

Yet the film made its mark and remains a favoured exploitation thriller with fans of the genre, as well as spawned a number of remakes over the years the most famous of which was

 

 Simon Nam’s

 

 Her Vengeance (1988)

starring the remarkable

 

 Pauline Wong

 and substituting the late

 

Lam Ching Ying (of Mr. Vampire fame) in the

 

Lo lieh

was a Hong Kong actor in martial-arts films. His real name is Wang Lap Tat. He was hired by the Shaw Brothers Studio in 1962, and went on to become one of the most famous actors in kung fu films in the late 1960s and 1970’s. He died of a heart attack in

Lo Lieh role.

 Personal opinion dictates that The Kiss of Death is far greater film than its successor, however it’s so inexplicably difficult to track down Her Vengeance in its original full-strength theatrical variant (the subsequent Hong Kong DVD release being the much-modified “soft-cut” of the film) that comparisons between the two become virtually impossible. Should the name not sound familiar, Simon Nam is the English name of Lam Ngai Choi,the director of such juicy gore-laden spectacles as

 

 

The Seventh Curse (1986)

 

 

and The Story of Ricky (1992);

 in its uncut form, Her Vengeance is a fan favourite amidst second-tier Nam.Disaffected youth, poverty, urban crime, domestic abuse, S & M fantasies: all give rise to

 

The Killer Snakes (1974)

 

Helen Ko:

one of the many temptations and bedevilments that create

 

 Chi Hung’s psychoses

In the wake of their burgeoning contemporary and crime thrillers, with heavy pushes towards more adult content, the Shaws produced what is often cited as one of their sleaziest and grittiest horror-thrillers of their collective canon, Kuei Chih Hung’s The Killer Snakes (1974).

Already a well-known quantity with his outrageous women-in-prison epic

 

Bamboo House of Dolls (1973)

 and stark juvenile crime thriller

 

The Delinquent (1973)(co-directed with Chang Cheh),

1973’s The Delinquent is another Chang Cheh-codirected feature starring Wong Chung and Lily Li. This tale of gangs in modern Hong Kong begins with a very dated/very trippy credits sequence with Wong Chung bursting through cardboard backdrops of the city of Hong Kong with wild negative lighting warping the picture.

The film opens with Wong Chung delivering food from a restaurant to a place on Temple Street. The street scenes of 1973 Hong Kong are a treat but there are too many close-ups to get a sense of place. The food is delivered to a martial arts school in an apartment and John (Wong Chung) has to try his hand at it again — seems he took kung fu lessons but quit sometime earlier.

John goes home to his small apartment and his dad berates him. Codirector Kuei Chih Hung could be the reason that the early scenes in this film don’t feel too much like another Chang Cheh film. Yes, there’s the emphasis on a man’s place in the world — machismo and all that jazz — but the early scenes here feel quite naturalistic despite bursts of music or a telegraphed melodramatic moment.


Fan Mei Shang is some kind of gang boss who bullies the same kids who are bullying John at his restaurant — there’s some fights in a junkyard but they are largely uninteresting — and the gang boss spends his time with hookers in dayglo clothes as he gives orders to his gang.

In a scene like something out of a Hollywood film of the 1930s, Tung Lam and Betty Tei Pei pull up in a sportscar as Wong Chung is fighting in the street. They observe the boy and make plans to woo him with a girl and money — for what, we in the audience don’t quite know yet. It’s silly but The Delinquent is frequently silly in its attempts to say something “Big” about the state of youth in 1973 Hong Kong.


Fan Mei Shang takes the kid to a brothel and there’s a fair amount of nudity in this scene which is otherwise laughable — we see the guy’s father sitting at home waiting for the kid even as he’s in a garish apartment whorehouse with some Chinese hooker. It’s a riot of 1970s conventions in this flick.

It turns out that John’s dad works for Tung Lam and so Fan Mei Shang has been tasked to recruit the boy to settle some score.

There’s more fighting and a dirtbike fight/chase on a beach. The kid gets arrested, his dad won’t bail him out, and some gangsters wearing suits out of Dick Tracy (1990) show up to rough up Fan Mei Shang.

The second half of the film turns largely dramatic as John gets further involved with the gang lifestyle but rest assured there are still more fights to be endured.

Really, The Delinquent bored the crap out of me; not campy enough to be 1970s fun and not realistic enough to be watched with a straight face, this was a case of 100 minutes feeling like 300.

And Lily Li is in this thing for less than 10 minutes. I guess Chang Cheh has plenty of time for a nude scene with some unknown actress playing a hooker but not enough time to give Lily something to do in her small part.

No, this is a guy’s film and while that could work for me, here it didn’t. The action just felt tired and drab.

Sure, Wong Chung’s final assault on the apartment brothel had some intensity to it but, by that point, I didn’t really care who survived the brutality.

Without giving away the ending, I did like the very final segment of the film where the 1970s techniques seemed to match the action unfolding on the screen but, by then, it was too late to win me over.

 

Kuei seemed just the man to bring a sweaty, realistic urban edge to screenwriter I Kuang’s unsettling story of a boy and his snake. Borne of an abusive domestic environment, Chi Hung (Kam Kwok Leung) lives in squalor in an abandoned room at the rear of a Hong Kong restaurant that specialises in snakes. His parents’ sado-masochistic sex life scarred him profoundly, finding him fantasising over Japanese bondage magazines and lusting after local prostitute Zhang Jinyan (Helen Ko). Erstwhile, he finds a friend in pretty young street-hawker Xiao Chuan (Maggie Li) before he forms an unnatural bond with an escaped snake, whose gall-bladder has been cut out, and hatches a plan in his warped psyche to avenge himself against all those that have mistreated with the aid of his scaly new buddy.

 

Kam Kwok Leung made an impressive debut as the sociopathic Chi Hung

Make no bones about it, The Killer Snakes is as gritty, grimy and perhaps unpleasant as they come, unique in its gaudy, oppressive permutations on the lifestyles of slum-dwellers and the down-trodden, as well as unsettlingly frank in its wallowing in the depravities and mean-spiritedness of its protagonists. Kuei engages a bleak, naturalistic (almost documentary) style that manages to capture the squalor and despair of proceedings that places the viewer uncomfortably close to characters you’d much rather not know or be privy to their world. There is a nary a character the audience can root for, excepting maybe the titular snakes, as Kam’s central performance literally drips with the kind of social maladjustment unseen in almost any screen anti-hero, and even his love interest Li finds her character arc steering into a squalidly grotesque twist by the final act.

 

Terry Liu screams for her life in Chi Hung’s slum of depravity and murder

But as much as the film proves again and again throughout its duration more an endurance exercise than lively exploitation entertainment, its compulsive tone and striking excesses (that run bondage, humiliation, masturbation, prostitution and stomach-turning live animal abuse) suck the viewer into its deliriously ugly world and grip them in its hold right up to the shock epilogue. The Killer Snakes is thoroughly recommended as indicative of the Shaw horror machine at full strength, and for fans of shock-cinema, but it should be noted that there are quite a number of scenes involving animal cruelty that will shock those unaccustomed to the more haphazard attitudes towards such material that is prevalent in Asian cinema (sadly, even to this day).

 

The late Chan Shen, filling for Christopher Lee, who refused a return to the series

In the middle of the studios’ exhilarating and prolific output, a joint venture with the Shaws (now) declining British cousin, Hammer Films, would see the production of two Hong Kong-British features: crime thriller Shatter (1974) headlining Stuart Whitman, Peter Cushing and Shaw superstar Ti Lung, and the more widely internationally seen The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) which proved to be the final chapter in Hammer’s popular Dracula series. It’s safe to say that, due to the marquee value of Hammer attached to it, there’s probably less than a handful of veteran horror fans worldwide that haven’t heard of or seen The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (and with its wide availability on home video formats globally that’s perhaps more true now than ever), yet more often than not the part that Shaw Brothers studios played in its production seems almost peripheral detail as the years roll on.

 

The lair of the Seven Golden Vampires: built entirely on the Shaw soundstages!

Shot on location in Hong Kong, as well as on the Shaw soundstages (of which British director Roy Ward Baker later expressed his despair at working in the Hong Kong studio system, as features were largely shot “wild”, or without sound, which went well against what the British technicians and filmmakers had been accustomed to with closed stages utilising production sound) the co-production featured a bevy of popular Shaw stars, inclusive of martial arts icons David Chiang and Shih Szu, boasting uncredited Hong Kong direction from veteran Chang Cheh and fight choreography by the respected Liu Chia Liang and Tang Chia. On many grounds, it can be argued that the film was as much a Shaw Brothers production as it was a Hammer Film. Although the film wasn’t particularly well received on original release (and belatedly released on the American circuit in a heavily truncated form years later) due its blend of kung fu and straight horror, it has gained something of a cult following over the years which has spawned countless volumes of verbiage as to its merits, or lack thereof, in the horror press, thus we press on…

 

Even a simple visit to the optometrist can lead to a nightmare journey into the unknown

 

All-purpose bad-guy Antonio Ho as the devilish Shi Jongjie

Encoring director Kuei Chih Hung followed up his spectacularly grim The Killer Snakes with the impressively disturbing Ghost Eyes (1974) later the same year. Predating the Pang Brothers The Eye (2002) by almost three decades, the construct of Kuei’s story of ghostly possession centre itself on bespectacled manicurist Wang Baoling (Chen Szu Chia) who, one evening before closing, finds herself briefly entertaining handsome newcomer Shi Jongjie (Antonio Ho). On the occasion that she breaks her glasses, Shi offers to fit her out with new contact lenses, which she takes up only to be visited at home by Shi later that night and, when she awakes in the morning, remembers nothing of the evening before although there are tell-tale signs that she slept with her late-night caller. Thereafter, strange things begin to occur and Baoling starts “seeing” phantoms of the dead at every turn. When she goes to confront Shi, his premises turn out to be abandoned, having burnt to the ground years beforehand. Ultimately, Baoling’s new contacts are the catalyst for a deadly journey into her own personal hell, one that the forces at work may prove impossible to escape.

 

Wang Baoling (Chen Szu Chia) becomes trapped in a terrifying world of the paranormal

It can be said with confidence that Ghost Eyes is one of the great unsung gems of the Shaw Brothers horror library, and a quite markedly disparate turn for Kuei Chih Hung, being that his previous titles had been heavily laced with quite potent amounts of sex and violence, while herein he winds down the more exploitative elements of his prior works and instead focuses on creating an enveloping atmosphere of dread and mounting fear. Like many of her predecessors, Chen Szu Chia makes an impressive debut (going on to become an actress of some note and suitable range hereafter) and Antonio Ho’s antagonist unexpectedly evokes the spirit of Barry Atwater, as there are strong similarities between his unstoppable ghost and Atwater’s role as the vampire Janos Skorzeny in American telemovie The Night Stalker (1972). Kuei definitely shows that he had done his homework as there is a palpable sense of terror pervading the film, and by the climax one wonders if Baoling will ever truly escape her demonic tormentor which only serves to highlight the ongoing hopelessness of her situation and the ghostly malevolence lauding over her.

 

Ku Feng and severed head: invoking a deadly curse in Black Magic (1975)

 

Taking advantage of relaxing censorship, Ku Feng casts a fertility spell

Ho Meng Hua returned to the exploitation genre, after a short spell of martial arts titles including The Master of Kung Fu (1973), Ambush (1974) and The Golden Lion (1975) with now legendary Shaw horror opus Black Magic (1975). This time out the Shaws drew on the heavy influence that their years working out of their Singapore facilities had had, inturn entwining their time as the foremost producers of Malay-language films for the Peninsula, which led to a horror production positively influenced by the folktales and superstitions of Malaysia and surrounding South East Asian regions. Xu Nuo (Ti Lung) is a high profile architect working in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, steadfastly approaching his planned marriage to the beautiful Wang Chu Ying (Lily Li), when they bump into wealthy woman of leisure Luo Yin (Tanny Tien Ni). While Luo Yin is busy eyeing out her opportunities of snatching Xu Nuo away from Chu Ying, shunned suitor Liang Chia Chieh (Lo Lieh) turns to witch doctor Shan Chien Mi (Ku Feng) to win over Luo Yin. Once Liang’s façade is exposed, Luo Yin sees the use of black magic as the perfect vessel to make Xu Nuo her own. Shan agrees to her demands, but makes a few of his own, and as we all know engaging the services of a witch doctors to cast a love spell never really ends up for best of any party involved, except maybe the magician himself. And when things get ugly, Shan turns out a lot more cunning, as well as powerful,  than he first appeared.

 

Ti Lung and blue screen backdrop from Black Magic’s effects-laden climax

 

Xu Nuo experiences horrifying visions under the sorceror’s curse

Although predominantly set-bound like the majority of Shaw productions, Black Magic benefits enormously from some gorgeous location shooting in and around Kuala Lumpur and its surrounds (retrospectively viewing as a regular visitor it’s a revelation just how explosively and spectacular the region has advanced in the last thirty years), and the perfect casting of veteran Shaw character actor Ku Feng as the wily “bomoh” (Malay for shaman). In hindsight it’s easy to determine why Black Magic drew the cult following that it has, as well as made such a lasting impact on Hong Kong horror films in general. Per its adult-flavoured pedigree, Ho peppers his story with more than enough nudity, sex and the prerequisite use of body doubles with his lead actresses, but ups the ante in the shock stakes with onscreen gore and carnage while engaging the varied black arts rituals of his eponymous sorcerer. A severed head and body fat are boiled down to oil, tongues are cut, people dissolve into putrescent puddles of gore, human milk is drawn as an ingredient for a love potion, worms wriggle under skin and possessed victims are fed centipedes as antidotes. It’s definitely one wild and grisly ride from beginning to end, but as the initiator of the whole “South East Asian black magic” cycle it’s a compulsory viewing experience as well as great introduction to the sub-genre, even if time has managed to dull some of its shocks.

 

Snake Prince director Lo Chen made his name with 60s musicals such as much loved classic The Shepherd Girl (1964)

 

What better way to open a fantasy-horror-musical than a poppy dance namber?

Moving forward, one of the most bizarre offerings of the period is Lo Chen’s The Snake Prince (1976), a wholly psychedelic cocktail of more genres than you can poke a stick at and perhaps one of the most unusual hybrid-oddities that the Shaws ever produced. Taking its lead from popular folklore, The Snake Prince delivers three snake-gods (Wu Hang

Taking its lead from popular folklore, The Snake Prince delivers three snake-gods (Wu Hang Sheng, Wong Yue and Ti Lung as the prince) who have perfected the art of transmogrifying into human form after centuries of practice. Spying charming village girl Hei Qin (Lin Chen Chi), the Prince is immediately smitten with her and offers the drought-stricken villagers vital irrigation from his eternal lake in trade for her hand in marriage. Reluctantly the village head, and Qin’s father, agrees and the village is saved. But jealousies and mistrust between the snake and human world continue to seethe, and things go awesomely pear-shaped when Hei Qin’s sisters discover their new brother-in-law is awash with riches beyond their wildest dreams.

 

When the village folk turn against them, the Snake Princes reveal their true colours

In the sixties Lo Chen was renowned for his musicals, inclusive of the trendsetting The Shepherd Girl (1964), and romantic dramas such as Between Tears and Laughter (1964) and Too Late for Love (1967), so its presents as somewhat eclectic that he eventuated The Snake Prince later in his career as it’s an odd hybrid: part pop musical, part romance, part martial arts, part horror and part giant monster movie. The various pieces of the pie never come together wholly enough to make for a satisfying (cinematic) meal, but it sure is nothing like you’ve ever seen! The giant snakes, when the three leads switch back to their native form, are effective in a Godzilla kind of way, but the sight of Ti Lung in snake-form making love to Lin Chen Chi’s body double is way out there, as is the completely unnecessary and gratuitous killing of a pair of live infant snakes onscreen (which goes on way too long as they are trampled under foot, the camera lingering on every dying convulsion of the poor animals). The Snake Prince isn’t a film that anyone could wholly recommend, but is definitely something almost impossible to top if one is looking for an experience well off the beaten path as it is unique in its own absurdity.

 

Danny Lee as the Oily Maniac, about thirty seconds away from becoming Castrol’s poster boy

 

Angela Yu Chien discovers there are worse things than a flagging career…

Returning to South East Asia, Oily Maniac (1976) saw Ho Meng Hua return to his more exploitative roots and the Shaws dig into Malaysian superstition to bring us another region-specific monster of populist folklore: the “Orang Minyak” (literally, from Malay, meaning “Oil Person”). For those unfamiliar with Malaysian folklore, the Orang Minyak is an oil-covered male phantom with a predilection for raping female virgins, often slipping into homes under the cover of darkness, which can only be warded off by biting its left thumb or covering it in batik (a patterned fabric created through the use of dyes and wax). Rather than taking the literal route of traditional folklore, Ho’s “oily man” is an altogether different creation, much more a distinct supernatural avenger than the predatory monster of superstition.

 

Chen Ping lends the Oily Maniac a generous amount of nudity in her role

When a dispute over the sale and ownership of a palm-oil factory leads to the accidental death of the new owner’s thugs, Ah Ba (Ku Feng) attracts the death sentence, but before his execution he imparts a powerful Malay spell to his polio-crippled son Sheng Yung (Danny Lee). Working for the lawyer who played a hand in his father’s death, Sheng witnesses injustice upon injustice day after day in his workplace (where money changes hand for satisfactory judicial outcomes), all the while pining for the beautiful Xiao Yue (Chen Ping) who only sees him as friend due to his disability and ignoring the interest of co-worker Xiao Ly (Lily Li), who sympathises with his plight. Eventually, Sheng’s temper boils and he invokes the spell, transforming into an oil-covered vigilante monstrosity that serves down throat-crushing, head-smashing justice on those that he determines have escaped their just deserts.

 

Even canoodling lovers aren’t safe from the Oily Maniac!

Ho Meng Hua’s Oily Maniac is one of those films, much akin to Lo Chen’s The Snake Prince, that really demands to be seen to be believed as, in its own way, it almost predates as a straight Chinese predecessor to Troma’s The Toxic Avenger (1985) being that both films feature monster vigilante protagonists who mete out gory justice on those they’ve determined have escaped punishment through the avenues of the judicial system. As was the norm of the period, the film is awash with nudity and salacious sexual interludes, which would appear at odds with the Malaysian locations as Malaysia itself is predominantly a conservative Islamic country, but all of the racier content was filmed domestically in the Shaw’s Hong Kong studios. Lee’s oily maniac takes two forms throughout: that of a rubber-suited humanoid creature and in stealthier moments an animated optical oil-slick, that is usually accompanied by John Williams’ Jaws theme(!). For all of its clunky monster-suit moments, as well as prurient diversions, Oily Maniac is an enjoyably engaging and entertaining slice of exploitation/horror cinema, with enough splashy treats and chunky head-crushing surprises to keep many a horror fan happy.

 

Lo Lieh shows just how hardcore he is when the shaman casts his spell in Black Magic 2 (1976)

 

Adopting the more is better adage, Black Magic 2 is a whole lot raunchier than the original

Continuing on in the same vein, Black Magic 2 (1976) returned the reigns to Shaw regular Ho Meng Hua, transplanting the action this time to Singapore (visitors to the region will immediately recognise locational footage of iconic landmark, The Merlion) and pressing on with a modestly more gruesome sequel than its predecessor. Two doctors (Ti Lung and Lin Wei Tu) and their wives (Tanny Tien Ni and Lily Li), whilst vacationing in Singapore (noted as the anonymous “A Tropical City” in the screen titles) investigate local beliefs in black magic and its direct effects on patients and their treatment at the city’s major hospital. This immediate raises the ire of the outlying bomoh (Lo Lieh) who has been responsible for a number of the medical cases as well as a series of inexplicable and mysterious deaths in the region. The shaman quickly zombifies Li, and places an adulterous spell over Ti’s wife (Tien) and his colleague (Lin). Expectedly, things go from bad to much worse, and the survivors call in the help of a rival shaman to escape with their lives.

 

Before you can face my enemy you must…EAT MY EYES!!!

Driving well beyond its already gruesome predecessor, Black Magic 2 pulls in some heavyweight black arts rituals and a whole plethora of suitably grisly sequences to delight and disgust its prospective audience. As with many sequels, Ho adopted the “more = better” adage and fills out this scenario with some astoundingly nauseating set-pieces, including but not limited to: naked native girls devoured by crocodiles, longevity potions derived from breast milk and pubic hair, lengthy iron nails driven into skulls to control zombie armies, worms disgorged from oozing sores, a victim’s sex partner turning from pert young-thing (ala Terry Liu) into withered old crone, and the ingestion of human eyeballs as a measure to channel supernatural energies. The sheer inventive outlandishness of it all is stupefying in the extreme, but again everything becomes a rich course in South East Asian superstition and ritualistic beliefs, leaving the film well beyond anything in the oft-pallid arena of most Western folklore. Akin to its predecessor though, Black Magic 2 ends up stunting itself somewhat with a climax that is underwhelming after the frenzied momentum of all that preceded it; that aside, it’s still more than worth a watch and expectedly gory to boot.

 

Shaw sexpot Dana spices up the otherwise dreadfully dull Fangs of the Cobra (1977)

Mention is worth being made of the modest thriller Fangs of the Cobra (1977) helmed by Shaw martial arts veteran Sun Chung which, although largely sold as a gender reversed successor to The Killer Snakes, is far removed from the production it shares a theme with nor is it a horror film at all. Rather it’s a modestly convoluted tale of a familial spat over a prized estate where one party, the naively innocent Ah Fen (Hsiao Yao) harbours a pet snake who does a bit of a land-borne Flipper by saving her from various near-misses and dastardly deeds set about by conniving couple Hu Lin (Frankie Wei) and Man Ling (Dana, best remembered for top-lining delightful sex-comedy Girl With the Long Hair a couple of years earlier). Other than numerous gratuitous nude scenes from co-star Dana, who was quite a doll in her heyday, there’s precious little to recommend this minor thriller, especially if one is expecting a retread of Kuei Chih Hung’s sleazy cult classic.

 

Wong Yue plays peekaboo with Gordon Liu: when is a corpse not a corpse?

 

…and to make matters worse, there’s a killer on the loose as well!

On the other hand, there is much to recommend in Liu Chia Liang’s The Shadow Boxing (1979) (aka: The Spiritual Boxer Part II), an in-name-only sequel to Liu’s similarly titled martial arts comedy of 1975 where hucksters Wong Yue and Chiang Yang feigned the channelling of spirits and deities as a means of tricking superstitious rich-folk out of their fortunes. The Shadow Boxing immediately crosses the parameters of the mortal world into the spirit realm by introducing us to its heroes, “Corpse Herders” Master Chen Wu (Liu Chia Yung) and his apprentice Fan Zheng Yuan (Wong Yue, 1955 -2008). “Corpse Herders” are specialist mediums responsible for delivering the wayward dead to their home for burial in jiang shi (literally “stiff corpse”, or zombie) form. Yes, you’ve guessed by now, this is the film that introduced the “hopping vampire” character into popular Hong Kong screen culture!

 

Not just one or two, The Shadow Boxing (1979) features a whole host of jiang shi!

Add in a dash of political intrigue, with a rebellious government soldier, Zhang Jie (Gordon Liu) masquerading as member of the jiang shi troupe so as to avoid government blockades, and the overall make-up becomes one of a resoundingly entertaining horror-comedy-kung fu hybrid. Much of the humour inherent derives from the Corpse Herders themselves, as they find themselves less than impressed that their tag-along body might hinder their delivery schedule, and the fact that they have constructed a whole martial arts philosophy based upon the vampires themselves. Essentially, there’s enough humour, light horror high-jinks, and patented spectacular fight choreography that one would expect of a Liu Chia Liang production that there ends up being something for everyone; especially worth checking out if you want to see where the jiang shi genre originated from.

 

Lo Meng: wondering why Chang Cheh stuck him in the middle of some very phallic spikes

Though not released theatrically until January 1980, Chang Cheh’s Heaven and Hell (1979) commenced production under the shooting title The Hell in 1975 before financing fell through and the film was temporarily shelved. In 1977 Chang  returned to the title with a new cast (for further details see our long-form review), eventually wrapping up in ’79 with an end result that’s an almost “experimental” side-step from the blood-drenched wuxia and action pieces he was more widely known for. Though not what many would define as a horror film by definition, Chang’s adoption of colleague Li Han Hsiang’s anthology format and a climactic (hour long) descent into Chinese Hell and its various torments and tortures assuredly makes the work a horror-hybrid by design if nothing else.

 

Yet another first for modern cinema: kung fu as interpretive dance

Utilising a single thread to tie its segments together, Chang takes his principle protagonist Xin Ling (Li Yi Min) through a journey of the reincarnating soul. Xin Ling starts out life as a Heavenly Guard who cast out to the mortal world when he assists two love-lorn deities (David Chiang and real-life wife Maggie Li) to elope, is reborn as a taxi-driver on Earth who is shot dead in a scuffle championing another couple (Alexander Fu Sheng and Jenny Tseng), and finally ends up the chivalrous protector of a young girl (Lin Chen Chi) in Hell. Though proceedings sometimes become an ordeal in viewer endurance, thanks to Chang’s predisposition towards interminably long martial arts bouts, the visualisation of Hell itself more than makes up for the film’s patch-work flaws.

 

Chiang Sheng cameos as Na Cha: don’t laugh at his glitter and feather boa

As much a Chinese variant on Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno” (from Divine Comedy) or Nobuo Nakagawa’s Jigoku (1960), Chang spares his audience none of the horror. Bodies are frozen, boiled in oil, ploughed asunder, split in two, hung from ceilings and skinned, tongues are torn out, fingers lopped off and tormented souls fed white-hot liquid gold or sold into slavery in the underworld’s brothels. Combining such jarring visuals with lengthy kung fu battles, musical numbers, teenage romance and high-wire fantasy throughout can, more often than not, produce a polarising effect. However, once one gets past the inspired lunacy of cobbling so may disparate genres together under the one umbrella, Heaven and Hell proves an effective genre piece as well as one that manages to operate well beyond its troubled production history.

 

Watch who you pick as a mistress – she may just steal your heart

 

Wang and Hua share an unnatural connection, though Wang is unaware of his ghostly host

Rounding out the decade in style, legendary Shaw director Li Han Hsiang once again turned his attentions from the kinds of historical dramas that had brought him accolades over the decades to the more commercially exploitative anthology pieces that had also brought him notice in that field. With raunchy sex comedies such as Sinful Confession (1974), Forbidden Tales of Two Cities (1975) and Crazy Sex (1976) under his belt, Li adopted their successful anthology form and applied it the horror genre. First of the two productions was The Ghost Story (1979), pairing two sexy ghost tales, a thousand years apart (with the core plot contrivance being reincarnation), commences with the humorous tale of three gorgeous spirits (Shirley Yu, Hu Chin and Lin Yang Yang) who lure men to their remote travellers’ inn, entertain them with food, wine and song, then transform them into cows at the height of sexual pleasure as a means to on-sell to local merchants for their financial benefit. When General Wang (Yueh Hua) and his platoon of soldiers arrive, the soldier to bovine ratio begins to alarm him, until he figures out a cunning trick to reverse the equation.

 

Hau transforms into a giant, multi-armed false Guanyin at the climax of The Ghost Story

A thousand years on Wang is reincarnated as a lecherous scholar, and inn-keeper Hua (Hu Chin) as a wandering ghost intent on seeking revenge in her new life. Once Hua insinuates her way into the Wang household, there seems nothing capable of preventing her from taking the heart of her former-life foe, unless of course the local Taoist priest can intervene. The opening story is played strictly for laughs, and cheeky ones at that due to the presence of Shaw’s superstar scarlet siren Shirley Yu, but the second story (although aggressively light in tone and similarly raunchy) harbours its fair share of ghostly antics including Hu rebuilding her phantom face from nothing as well as the aforementioned heart-devouring highlight. It goes orbital when Li wraps things up with a mind-boggling duel between the Taoist monk and a twenty-foot tall multi-armed Hu and her bevy of topless sword-wielding minions. Collectively, The Ghost Story is an effective blend of horror motifs and the sex-comedies that Li had made his own as well as a lot of ribald fun.

 

Towards the end of the 70s, Li Han Hsiang filled his anthologies with a wealth of prurient material

His follow-up anthology, Return of the Dead (1979) retained the headier adult-flavour of its predecessor, but plays its horror angle far straighter than the lighter tone of the previous film. Engaging three tales, related between the patients of an asylum, Return commences with a Chinese variant on W.W. Jacob’s “The Monkey’s Paw” supplanted to turn of the (20th) century Hong Kong with husband and wife bean-curd vendors (Ku Feng and Wang Lai) visited by a traveller who offers them a mystical amulet that can grant them three wishes. The consequence being that for each wish granted, an opposing misfortune must follow, so it’s with great carelessness that they wish for money to pay off their business when their son works at the local steel mill. The second tale relates the misfortunes of friends Jiang Tao (Yueh Hua) and Lin Kun Quan (Antonio Ho), who wash up on the shores of Blue Lake. Jiang is unconscious, and Lin dead. When interviewed by police Jiang explains how, one drunken evening, his meeting with a naked young woman swimming in the lake brought disaster to them both.

 

Would you believe…a naked female jiang shi? Crazy…but true!

The closing tale concerns a young beauty, Xiao Yun Yun (Linda Chu), who was rumoured to have died in the throes of pleasure in her marital bed-chamber. One evening a local rickshaw driver picks up a passenger who bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Xiao. She claims to be Xiao’s twin sister, but is she? Seemingly unrelated at first glance, further elucidation reveals that each story is linked by the consequences of seeking wealth with little forethought with which those ends are achieved. The first story is surprisingly effective, even if the subject matter is well-worn, and its conclusion especially unnerving. The twist in the second story most will twig to at the introduction of a primary character, however Li offsets this by having his female lead appear throughout the entirety of the tale sans wardrobe. The final episode ends the film on a lighter note, again with a healthy injection of gratuitous nudity, but the introduction of a grave-robbing necrophile succeeds only in transmuting the light tone to one of pitch black (comedy). Overall an impressive little anthology, and not without its merits.

 

 

SHAW BROTHER HISTORY

CHAPTER 1:- WELCOME TO MOVIETOWN (1957-1970)

 

Run Run Shaw

and his family had generated extensive wealth since the 1920s from various theatre and production companies spread across South East Asia, but rivals in Hong Kong were competitively ahead of them.

So in 1957,

Run Run Shaw went to personally oversee production and reinvent the company (Shaw and Sons) for modern times. He realised that this studio was primarily focused on exhibition rather than production and could not possibly compete with larger firms such as MP&GI. So on March 1958, he announced the establishment of a new company called Shaw Brothers and engaged in the construction of a modern Hong Kong film studio (1).

INDUSTRY

In 1961, Shaw Brothers’ studio “Movietown” was completed. To compete with rivals such as MP&GI, Run Run Shaw based his company on the Classical Hollywood mode of producing films where he “introduced a series of reforms to facilitate the implementation of the big studio system, that is, centralisation and systemisation of film production (2)” (Chung, 2003:9). For instance, his actors and staff were given fixed contracts, working on numerous pictures exclusively that allowed them to create and build on their successes at the Hong Kong box office (using director/star combos such as Jimmy Wang Yu and Chang Cheh repeatedly (3)). Through this system, the company was structured as a production line allowing films to come out fast and efficiently with 300 pictures in the company‘s first twelve years (4).

Yet despite mass producing films, each one would have high production values. The film industry in Hong Kong before the major studios arrived was primarily Cantonese cinema which was the dominant language spoken in the area and at the time relied only on the local market as its main source of exhibition. But Shaw Brothers favoured the Mandarin language (5) as it was spoken in other Asian countries such as Singapore and Taiwan and so this would allow them a larger market share internationally. Shaw’s were able to invest more money in their Mandarin films as the returns would be higher than if it were just for a local audience and so this devalued the Cantonese features with their lower production values which could only compete for a smaller market. Because of this, Shaw could comfortably invest HK$800,000 into every feature against the average Cantonese movie budget of about US$20,000 (6).

But Shaw Brothers had a major rival during the 60s that was in competition for the audiences. Before Run Run Shaw arrived in Hong Kong, its future rival MP&GI (later renamed to Cathay) flourished due to its westernised approach to filmmaking. Its manager, Loke Wan-tho adopted a “Fordist style” company similar to Shaw Brothers (featuring a patriarchal power structure (7)). Shaw knew that Loke would be his toughest competitor and made sure that Shaw Brothers would exclusively compete with the films of MP&GI, so “from the start, Shaw Brothers specifically targeted MP&GI and rushed to produce films that had been scheduled by their rival” (Zhang, 2004:168). However Shaw had the advantage since he had moved to Hong Kong to run his company allowing decisions to be made instantly. MP&GI on the other hand were based in Singapore and this caused MP&GI to drop various films just because Shaw Brothers could outpace their production or negotiate better deals with the local Hong Kong talent. As MP&GI’s headquarters were in Singapore, the line of communication was longer so decisions took longer to reach Hong Kong while Shaw was right at the top of his hierarchy (8).

With MP&GI struggling to compete, being outpaced by the efficiency of Shaw Brothers (and further set back by the unfortunate passing of Loke Wan-tho), Shaw’s created a virtual monopoly with no other major competitors since the local studios didn’t have the money to produce films of Shaw Brothers quality or the venues to distribute them such as the cinema chains that Shaw owned. “The professionalism, lavishness, rational management, advanced technology and aggressive marketing enabled Shaw Brothers to dominate the Hong Kong (and Southeast Asia) cinema” (Fu, 2000:79).

To consolidate its market, Shaw Brothers capitalised on generic trends and it was the martial arts picture that quickly became the most popular form of entertainment in Hong Kong. Shaw Brothers had originally found fame with their lavish wenyi melodramas and huangmei diao musical films such as The Kingdom and the Beauty (1959) and The Love Eterne (1963). Yet it is stated that “the huangmei diao musical was a monotonous form” (Law, 2000:131) which recycled old Chinese legends and tales so the audience desired new energy in their films. It was the wuxia (9) film which quickly gained the audience’s interest and when this genre proved successful, Shaw Brothers with their production line techniques quickly adapted to the trend with an increasing percentage of the studios assets and focus used on the “swordsplay” genre in particular (10) as their most important sector calling it the beginning of “the wuxia century“.

AESTHETICS

Two directors in particular represent the dominance of the Shaw’s wuxia genre and demonstrate the evolving martial arts film in the 1960s. The first is King Hu whose most famous work for the studio was Come Drink With Me (1965) which was Shaw Brothers first major wuxia box office hit and with this success led to a flood of sword fighting films with the genre becoming Shaw‘s most predominant. King Hu managed to fuse both Western and Eastern styles of filmmaking to create his own innovative approach. He had studied Peking Opera and incorporated this style into his films where “King Hu developed a unique style of motion and a film aesthetic grounded in traditional Chinese painting, literature and theatre” (Zhang, 2004:178). King Hu brought visual sophistication and energy to the new-style martial arts picture, for example his fighting scenes are synchronised with a percussive beat (drums and gongs) reminiscent of Peking Opera aesthetics. But to make the fights seem even more spectacular, King Hu fused these Eastern concepts of dance with Western forms of filmmaking.

King Hu had studied American styles of editing where “using Chinese cinema as a base, he endeavoured to include Western style of thinking and technology” (Zhang, 1999:17). King Hu was not an expert of fighting styles, yet his fights incorporate fast and fluid movements and to achieve this just like constructive editing, he broke the scenes down and called this technique “The Glimpse“. For example “Hu also frequently stages, shoots, and cuts his action so that it becomes too quick, too distant, or too sidelong for us to register fully” (Bordwell, 2000b:118). He would put in just enough of a comprehensive shot to make the audience think they have seen something spectacular but it is so quick to register that it plays with the audience’s imagination. These techniques allowed films such as Come Drink With Me to be huge successes as King Hu had created these magnificent martial arts heroes through tricks of the camera without using special effects such as wirework that can cheapen the action (11). This style was extremely successful because early martial arts films were shot statically. The camera would be motionless with long uncut takes, distanced from the action where two men perhaps would improvise a fight consistently for a few minutes (12) while King Hu used dance choreographers to plan the stylised action. It was the beginning of a progression into realism with directors appreciating the value of the fight scene. King Hu had managed to incorporate a sense of fantasy and energy in his films along with sophistication to the genre, which allowed it to become popular, but over time, the audiences wanted more realistic action aesthetics and this is where the second director arrived (13).

Chang Cheh was Shaw Brother‘s most successful wuxia director with his film The One Armed Swordsman (1967) being the first swordsplay film to make HK$1 million at the box office (14). Just like King Hu, Chang Cheh‘s “combat scenes seem strongly influenced by Japanese techniques” (Bordwell, 2000b:115). Shaw Brothers expansion into the wuxia genre could perhaps be seen in relation to the  popularity of the Japanese chanbara films flooding into the Hong Kong market such as Yojimbo (Kurosawa:1962) which became popular through their violence and realistic fight choreography (along with the strong leading man such as Zatoichi). Run Run Shaw was aware of the trend in Japan and the USA’s action cinema and influenced his directors by “scheduling mandatory screenings of Japanese and yakuza films for his staff” (Ho, 2000:115) to try and influence their style through the popular and more advanced Japanese cinema. Shaw had been influenced to such a degree from Japanese filmmakers that not only did he hire directors and technicians such as director Inoue Umetsugu, but he also sent his staff to Japan to learn various filmmaking techniques such as efficient set design and camera work. Shaw realised he could make money off this style of film and this helped boost the investment in Shaw’s wuxia films. For example Chang Cheh borrowed techniques used in chanbara (15) films such as Yojimbo featuring tracking shot‘s which follow the combat as a lone fighter proceeds to kill his opponents one by one and prolonged death sequences. Instead of the peaceful long shots that played a part in the Wong Fei-hung (Various:1955) series from the 1950s, Chang’s films were chaotic and full of quick cuts, handicams and fast zooms adding to the energy and innovation in the martial arts genre.

As mentioned earlier, realism was what the audience wanted in these martial arts films and Chang Cheh exploited this. Along with technological advances, his films used other various techniques to make them seem more “real”. Firstly Chang Cheh’s films used fake blood to make the fights appear more visceral instead of King Hu’s bloodless combat. Also weapon props were replicas made from metal, heightening the realism but most importantly, “the 1950s kung-fu films had simply allowed actors to improvise their fights, but now the martial-arts instructor became an important crew member” (Bordwell, 2000a:206). Chang Cheh was aware that the 1950s martial arts could never satisfy the tastes of the progressive 1960s audience due to its stilted combat and even King Hu’s action was more focused on dance traditions. So Chang Cheh used trained martial artists to choreograph the fights where Shaw‘s promotion stated that “the fake, fantastical and theatrical fighting and so-called special effects of the past will be replaced by realistic action and fighting that immediately decides life or death” (Ho, 2003:115). Choreographers enabled untrained actors to mimic actual martial arts moves and so the action began to move away from the style of dance choreography associated with Peking Opera to grittier, livelier and bloody aesthetic, reflective of the mood of the audience.

REPRESENTATION

When Shaw Brothers had started production and were competing with their rivals MP&GI, it was their huangmei film with high end production values which set them apart and allowed them to dominate the market. But with changing times and audiences, the studio’s focus as it began moving into the 1970s altered from a female focused studio into one that was more male orientated (in both audience and stars). Shaw Brothers and Chang Cheh specifically tried to cater for the audience of 1960s Hong Kong by creating heroes and plots reflective of the times and mood of the 60s, mentioned earlier by incorporating a sense of realism into the aesthetics. This can be pinpointed to 1967 with the Hong Kong Star Ferry riots (16). Hong Kong became a state of chaos and rebellion where violence and unrest went on for seven months. Young people in particular were challenging dominant patriarchs and rebelling against the system and the turbulence led to changes in entertainment. The audience needed escapism from the anarchy in reality but the current trends in romantic musicals could not possibly satisfy this new rebellious audience that needed a hero to represent these uncertain times (17). The trouble was the male characters of the 1950s were often scholarly and effete. The audience could see reflected in the films “characters to symbolise China’s subjugated and weak condition which prevailed for about a hundred years from the Opium Wars to 1949” (Teo, 1997:77). So there needed to be a change from the weak (such as the male lead of The Love Eterne (Han:1963)) or one dimensional heroes (such as Wong Fei-hung who critics claim lacked individuality or emotions) and Chang Cheh was the director to create the new heroic male version (18) who would embody the colony’s newly acquired self confidence and individuality rather than the older conservative Confucian values represented by Wong Fei-hung. “Young audiences were captivated, seeing the new trend towards violence as a purging of repressed emotions” (Teo, 1997:100).

Chang Cheh’s heroes suffer from living in their violent worlds and are usually self-reliant individualist’s (19). The character Fang Gang in The One Armed Swordsman for example, is a flawed hero (handicapped with one arm) that through sheer determination and the will to rise up against his violent surroundings turns his weakness into strength and makes his one arm powerful enough to defeat all of the villains (20). He starts the film off as a working class man who is not respected by his classmates due to his poor background but eventually rises to become respected and powerful (something which the young working class audience would associate with and so Shaw Brothers were able to exploit this as a character trait in their wuxia films). But occasionally even the villains overwhelm the hero and in these circumstances the hero dies a tragic death (unheard of before Chang Cheh‘s films). At the end of Vengeance! (Chang:1970), the main character battles hordes of enemies who easily outnumber him. But even with blood pouring from his wounds (heightening Chang‘s realistic aesthetic) and despite finding it difficult to stand, he fights to the bitter end until eventually dying, but not before vanquishing the villains so that he can rest in peace. These heroes are willing to sacrifice themselves for their “brothers” and for a better world (with slow motion shots to make their sacrifice more poignant). This conclusion could be accepted during the 1960s, as there was a lack of moral standards within the chaotic society. With themes of brotherhood and the betrayal of the patriarchy is a clear reflection of how Shaw Brothers could mass produce films which spoke directly to the Hong Kong audience and shows how in the late 1960s, they were the top of the Hong Kong film industry.

The aesthetics and representation of early Shaw Brothers films are due to the fact that “Zhang also said that violence was portrayed in films only because violence existed in society” (Teo, 2003:152). But as the violent wuxia hero was a portrayal of the feelings of late 1960s Hong Kong, could it still be popular in the 1970s as the violence in Hong Kong became subdued and economic stability arrived?…
 

ENDNOTES FOR CHAPTER 1

(1) Information from The Shaw Screen (Chung, 2000:7)

(2) For example, Shaw scheduled weekly production and script meetings to ensure every stage of filmmaking was systemised and that everything met his high standard of approval. Shaw Brothers films were practically Run Run Shaw’s films exclusively (every Shaw Brothers film has his name as a producing credit).

(3) For example the first time Chang Cheh and Jimmy Wang Yu worked together was on Temple of the Red Lotus (1965) but subsequently worked together again on Tiger Boy (1966), Magnificent Trio (1966), One Armed Swordsman (1967), The Trail of the Broken Blade (1967),  The Assassin (1967), The Golden Swallow (1968) and many others. Shaw Brothers realised that once a combination had success, they would repeatedly use them to make a “safe” profit.

(4) Information from Planet Hong Kong (Bordwell, 2000a:63)

(5) 90% of Hong Kong citizens speak Cantonese instead of Mandarin (Information from Cinema of Hong Kong (Desser, 2000:78). Mandarin is spoken by mainland Chinese.

(6) Figure from Planet Hong Kong (Bordwell, 2000a:62) (US$20,000 is around HK$100,000)

(7) Information from The Shaw Screen (Chung, 2003:8 )

(8) His business was almost like an empire with Run Run Shaw firmly in control. His actors and directors lived in apartments on his 65,000 square feet of land and he even had his own police force and bank for his staff.

(9) Wuxia is roughly translated as “Sword-fighting” (Cinema of Hong Kong, 2000: 97)

(10) Shaw Brothers is known primarily for their martial arts films despite making other popular genre films like Hong Kong Nocturne (Umeji: 1966), a musical but  “in 1968, Shaws released 12 wuxia films out of a total of 29. In 1969, 17 out of 35. In 1972 26 out of 37” (Law, 2003:138) showing that the wuxia film was priority for a long period.

(11) This filmmaking was related to constructive editing and enabled King Hu to portray spectacular feats without using acrobatics. With constructive editing, the action is broken down into stages for example a character would jump up into the air in the first shot. The second shot would be the man flying against the background of the sky and the final shot would be the man landing on a higher platform.

(12) Also the wuxia films of the 50s such as Buddha’s Palm featured magical feats such as fireballs. The wave of swordsplay films led by King Hu featured less magic though still exaggerated moves such as vaulting.

(13) King Hu had started as an actor with Shaw Brothers but in the mid 1960s he had begun co-directing work with Li-Han-hsiang with various huangmei diao films before eventually making the move to become a full time director. The success of Come Drink With Me was marred by the fact that Shaw was not happy with Hu’s filmmaking methods. Shaw Brothers was a company built on the principles of production line techniques so that films should be made fast and efficiently. Yet King Hu took his time with his filmmaking and this naturally didn’t fit with the structure of Run Run Shaw’s studio so it was no surprise that they parted ways after Come Drink With Me, while prolific directors like Chang Cheh lasted for a long period with the company.

(14) Information from Chinese National Cinema (Zhang, 2004:177)

(15) Chanbara (a.k.a. Chambara) is the name for the Japanese Samurai Action film

(16) Information from http://www.britains-smallwars.com/RRGP/HongKong.htm

(17) Which also links with International cinema with starts like Steve McQueen, Sean Connery and Toshiro Mifune dominating screens. Just as Run Run Shaw had observed the trends in popularity of the chanbara genre, he was also aware of the youth generations influence in cinema, especially in America. “While Chang and Shaws’ switch to a youth-orientated cinema was a response to a larger movement that originated from the West, the swing from a female sensibility to one of male took place at about the same time as -even ahead of- a similar trend in Hollywood” (Ho, 2003:118). Male characters such as James Dean and James Bond represented the fine line between good and bad with anti heroes popular in Chambara and Spaghetti westerns. But while these characters rebel against social conventions, it is Chang Cheh’s characters who must suffer if they are to succeed.

(18) Chang Cheh‘s heroes were predominantly male because “Zhang considered that the male image had suffered for nearly twenty years because of the long reign of female stars in traditional soft genres such as the wenyi (literary art) and melodramas….The female dominance had come about because of the conservatism of the female audience that made up the majority of cinema-goers” (Teo, 2003:148). It was Chang’s opinion that this situation was as it was because conservative women could not openly admit to liking male stars (so females watched females). Chang Cheh wanted to reform this by creating a hero that both men and women could enjoy through the strong male hero character.

(19) Chang Cheh’s often favoured themes of individuality but there were also strong themes of brotherhood where men would sacrifice themselves for other heroic men out of loyalty, respect and honour. Chang Cheh even coined a term for this brotherhood, calling it “yang gang”.

(20) The villains in Chang Cheh’s films such as The One Armed Swordsman or Golden Swallow are clearly representational of the patriarchy which the 1960s youth were challenging in reality. The villains of these films are overtly corrupted and devious who can only defeat the heroes through tricking them such as the villain of The New One Armed Swordsman using his former status as a hero to betray the martial arts world. It is only when the younger noble heroes arrive that the corrupted older hero/villain representational of the old establishment is punished and replaced.


 


CHAPTER 2: ENTER THE DRAGON (1971-1973)

After consolidating their power in the late 1960s by defeating MP&GI and striving to make films for the rising youth generation, Shaw Brothers met a new threat in 1970. Raymond Chow, a former production chief for Shaw Brothers, left the company to form his own called Golden Harvest. His biggest move in the industry was undoubtedly bringing Bruce Lee to Hong Kong and it was this arrival that marked the beginning of many problems for the Shaw organisation.

INDUSTRY

Golden Harvest formed as a response to the studio system of Shaw Brothers. Raymond Chow had reportedly left the company due to Run Run Shaw’s militaristic approach to running the studio (1) by how “he stressed not so much artistic innovation as standardization, rationalization, mechanization and efficiency” (Fu, 2000:79). Because of Shaw’s aggressive attack on MP&GI, Chow found luck in being able to buy the studio lot of Shaw Brothers former rivals. This posed a major problem for Shaw Brothers as a major company with MP&GI’s assets was once again challenging Shaw but this time the management was in Hong Kong so the ability to outpace production like they could with MP&GI was no longer feasible.

Golden Harvest’s mode of production was the opposite of Shaw Brothers. Instead of fixed contracts, Golden Harvest decentralised production, working through a system of independent organisations that “contrary to Shaw Brothers’ emphasis on huge scale and absolute control, which was typical of the studio system, Golden Harvest preferred “an independent production system where stars and directors could agree mutually profitable deals with the studio” (Zhang, 2004:179). For example, Golden Harvest would maintain “satellite” companies such as Concord Productions where Bruce Lee had broken records with his breakthrough film The Big Boss (Lo:1971), this arrangement put Lee on an equal footing with Raymond Chow, as opposed to simply being a hired actor. The result undermined Shaw Brothers’ studio system where actors began to realise that fixed contracts were potentially fatal to their careers. Before Golden Harvest, Shaw Brothers had a virtual monopoly on the industry with no real threats to their dominance but with Golden Harvest supporting independent studios, stars knew they could make more money elsewhere.

It was this offer of creative control that tempted Bruce Lee to join Golden Harvest. Lee had originally approached Shaw Brothers with a demand of US$10,000 a title but Shaw only offered US$2,000 per film and a 7 film contract. Shaw Brothers, despite Lee‘s potential, had fixed rates for offering new actors contracts and Shaw was not going to change that stance. Golden Harvest on the other hand countered with an offer of US$7,500 per title (2). While less money than what Bruce Lee wanted from Shaw Brothers originally, it did mean that Lee would gain the creative control that he desired and commercial stakes in his enterprises. Creative freedom was something that Run Run Shaw was not likely to give to his actors (3) as mentioned in the first chapter, he systemised and centralised the studio so that his decision was always final on matters such as script approval.

Using the talent of Bruce Lee, Golden Harvest capitalised on his potential and garnered the highest revenues seen at the box office. Originally The One Armed Swordman was one of the most profitable films in Hong Kong making over HK$1 million, however Bruce Lee’s debut film; The Big Boss made HK$3.2 million (4) and its success “ultimately resulted in the rise of a quasi-independent production mode in which a big studio such as Golden Harvest made deals with big stars to produce mega-hits and share profits” (Teo, 2000:97). While Shaw Brothers at the time had better production values, Golden Harvest now had greater star power and the Shaw studio system showed its first signs of weakness.

AESTHETICS

With creative control, Bruce Lee was able to escape the confines of formulaic production line films and form his own style. He was not only an actor but most importantly he was a highly skilled martial artist. Wuxia films had gone out of fashion with a further desire for realism and change from ancient Chinese tales, so kung fu had become the most popular genre of film in Hong Kong. Just as Shaw Brothers had continually recycled old stories for the huangmei diao genre, they fell into the same trap with the wuxia film, reusing old tales and themes and eventually it become monotonous.  However what this genre did was pave the way for another type of martial arts film. Kung fu was seen as modern compared to the fantasy and myth associated with previous Chang Cheh period wuxia films. Bruce Lee was an instant sensation starting a kung fu trend featuring “real” fighters using their own strength to fight without the gadgets and flying accustomed to many titles featured in the wuxia genre.

Run Run Shaw was aware of the hype being created by Bruce Lee and so Shaw Brothers’ own kung fu film, The Chinese Boxer (Wang:1971) was released ahead of Lee’s film The Big Boss. This demonstrates the keen business sense and ingenuity of Run Run Shaw, by making Shaw Brothers the first company to release a kung fu movie, taking away the spotlight from Lee’s arrival. At the time of being released, this move had worked because the audiences were experiencing a new type of action movie. The Chinese Boxer had more gritty realism than even Chang Cheh’s films with the lead character played by Jimmy Wang Yu using his raw strength to rip peoples eyes out and snap necks. But it also exhibits evidence of a rushed project to pre-empt Lee’s arrival. The film sacrifices artistic innovation, recycling the tired revenge narrative along with the typical heroic bloodshed styled character archetype from the 60s featured previously in many Shaw films (5) (a result of production line methods) which was further weakened by the insufficient physical ability of it‘s star.

Jackie Chan notes that Bruce Lee was a different kind of martial arts fighter. He says that “the film [Big Boss] showed a different kind of hero and a harder, faster, and more exciting kind of martial arts fighting- as quick and lethal as a cobra strike, pared down to the bare essentials” (Chan, 1999: 165). This fighting style was new to the audience mainly because they had been accustomed to actors performing martial arts but not martial artists performing the moves. Jimmy Wang Yu for example was never formally trained in fighting and required the choreographer to break down the moves for him one step at a time and he would mimic the actions (6) (learning the skills when required). Whereas Bruce Lee had trained since a young age in a form of martial arts called Wing Chun (7), so the audience was seeing a real fighter executing moves and the difference was clearly noticeable. For instance in the climatic battle of The Chinese Boxer, the hero executes five separate kicks on the villain and for those kicks, the shots are broken down into five separate shots along with various flips and somersaults, making the fight theatrical rather than realistic and breaking the motions. This disrupts the action and fluidity, and places into question the natural talent of Jimmy Wang Yu. On the other hand, “Bruce Lee insisted on longer takes and more distant views to assure viewers that his feats were real” (Bordwell, 2000a:214). Instead of broken down shots, Bruce Lee would position the camera so that the audience could see his whole body and know that there was no stunt double, executing numerous kicks in quick succession. For instance in Fist of Fury (Lo:1972), Lee when battling enemies in a Japanese dojo, proceeds to kick eight or nine of his foes in one take without pausing or editing the action/film into smaller shots.

Unlike King Hu’s filmmaking which uses constructive editing to create illusion, the lack of cuts emphasises natural ability as you can see Bruce Lee’s entire body performing kicks and punches as Bordwell notes, “the future belonged to a style that made constructive editing ever more crisp, legible and expressive” (Bordwell, 2000a:135). While King Hu was more interested in camera movements and trickery, Bruce Lee emphasised choreography and this led to a new form of realistic aesthetic, far away from the “dance-like” Peking Opera traditions of Shaw Brothers early kung fu films and wuxia epics. Bruce Lee’s approach was that “you learn kung fu in order to win real fights” (Bordwell, 2000a:52) which emphasises the gap between Lee’s realistic fights with King Hu’s dance theatrics and Chang Cheh‘s “artificial” fighters. So while Fist of Fury does reuse the revenge motif as its central theme, the story is allowed to often take a backseat since the addition of Bruce Lee’s charisma and talent allowed it to become a showcase of new forms of inventive choreography and editing which updated the genre.

Through independence, actors and directors had the chance to be inventive and escape the confines of the studio system. As previously mentioned Shaw always had to be kept up to date with film developments in his company and so productions usually took place in Movietown where he could monitor everything and have absolute control (alongside being cheaper than moving his cameras on location). But a company like Golden Harvest allowed creative freedom so stars like Bruce Lee could make their films wherever they wanted. Way Of The Dragon (Lee:1972) for example was the first ever Hong Kong film to be shot in Europe and not only did it give the audience exciting new visuals with the sights of a foreign country (instead of stock footage and painted sets) but it also indicated that kung fu films were moving into modern settings.

REPRESENTATION

Hong Kong society was beginning to change. No longer was there violence on the streets and the economy was improving so martial arts heroes began to change too (8) however the city and its people were still fragile from the past turmoil. Governor MacLehose (9) had just come into power and was starting to make changes to society such as economic stability and social welfare yet the violence of recent years was a close memory and this was a time of uncertainty if the changes could actually work. The steady transition in Hong Kong society from chaos to prosperity allowed change in the hero where training and victory were new themes instead of sacrifice and suffering. Shaw Brothers biggest kung fu successes of the early 1970s were The Chinese Boxer and King Boxer (Jeong:1973), both set in feudal Chinese eras with the Manchurians and Japanese as the villains. What Bruce Lee achieved outside the studio system was the ability to easily set his film in modern times and create a modern hero that could be more significant for the audience. While the themes of the period martial arts film may relate to the current times, as Chang Cheh’s violence was representational to the post 1967 moods, in The Big Boss and Way of the Dragon this was a hero fighting in present day scenarios, so perhaps the audience could see the direct link.  Teo suggests “the fact that Hu has stuck to period subjects almost always set in the Ming dynasty indicates that he is a director who relies on conventions of genre and myth. His affinity with ancient history is a sign of his alienation from the present” (Teo, 1997:88). Shaw films created mythical Chinese pasts while Bruce Lee represented modernity and his efforts helped begin to produce a modern Hong Kong identity moving away from the tradition of wuxia (which is typically seen as an ancient China tradition of storytelling) to create a sense of individuality and uniqueness. “Golden Harvest was less mechanised and China-centric….Golden Harvest’s productions gained vitality and freedom as they shifted from the ‘China dream’ to ‘Hong Kong sentiments” (Kei, 2003:43).

Lee’s characters were far from the self-suffering hero of Chang Cheh’s films like in The Boxer from Shantung (1972) or The Heroic Ones (1970). This was a regular man put into irregular situations and foreign lands (10) as Chan says; “Lee’s hero wasn’t a stoic noble soul, living his life in search of honourable revenge. He was a street brawler, a juvenile delinquent, sent away from home because of his love of fighting. In short he was a real guy” (Chan, 1999: 165). For instance the heroes of The Heroic Ones are princes and in The Chinese Boxer, the hero is a highly accomplished martial artist who learns near supernatural powers to defeat the enemies. While on the other hand in Bruce Lee’s Way of the Dragon, the hero is regarded as a “country bumpkin” by other characters. This is an everyday working class man who connected with the youth more than a wealthy prince could. “(Bruce Lee’s) arrogant and narcissist manners appealed to the young generation….the kung fu of Bruce Lee are demonstrations of a perfect body” (Lau, 1999:32)

The characters that Lee played were developments on Chang Cheh’s characters. For instance in The Big Boss, Lee plays a youthful and arrogant character that challenges the patriarchy (a drug lord) and fights for the innocent (the working class). Bruce Lee’s characters fight for the everyday man rather than the larger cause such as the Manchurian invasions. In The Big Boss and The Way of the Dragon the only reason that he has to fight is to protect his working class family. This was no longer the Chang Cheh model of a hero that must suffer for living in troubled times but a hero that could deal with his problems and succeed reflective of the transition from suffering to prosperity that Hong Kong was developing into during the MacLehose Era. Bruce Lee stood for a modern day martyr of Chinese self-respect, an updated version of the heroic model from Chang Cheh films that attempted to destroy the effete leading man. Bruce Lee emphasises that his fighting is real, (often demonstrated through real life tournaments) and the audience “are aware that his kung fu skills are not the result of supernatural strength or special effects” (Teo, 1997:114). Since his skills are available through training and fitness (11), the audience can take pride that Lee injects self-confidence into the common man who can achieve anything and destroys the “Sick man of East Asia” (12) stereotype with his body (instead of King Hu‘s heroes with artificial agility by “the glimpse”). Shaw Brothers representation of the leading hero was behind the times and trailing the much more relevant hero figure of Bruce Lee and this along with the cracks formed in the studio system, put Shaw Brothers behind their rivals for the first time.

However tragedy came to the Hong Kong film industry with the passing of Bruce Lee. With Golden Harvest losing their star, this was an opportunity for Shaw Brothers to capitalise and once again find their dominance in the Hong Kong film industry; however another type of hero was about to arrive which once again would upset the balance…

ENDNOTES FOR CHAPTER 2

(1) Information about Raymond Chow from I Am Jackie Chan (Chan, 1999:165)

(2) Information about Bruce Lee deals from Chinese National Cinema (Zhang, 2004:178)

(3) Jimmy Wang Yu for example asked Shaw Brothers for changes in his contract and the right to direct but Shaw didn’t agree and when refused, he left for Golden Harvest where he would be guaranteed creative control. *Information on Jimmy Wang Yu from The Cinema of Hong Kong (Desser, 2000:101)

(4) Figures taken from Chinese National Cinema (Zhang, 2004:178)

(5) For example, Chang Cheh in 1971 made The New One Armed Swordsman, which was partly a remake and an attempt to make money off the popularity of his own film 4 years previously, The One Armed Swordsman featured similar themes of revenge and mass bloodshed as does The Chinese Boxer.

(6) Noted in Planet Hong Kong (Bordwell, 2000a:207), Wang Yu was a trained swimmer.

(7) Information on Bruce Lee from Kung Fu Cult Masters (Hunt, 2003:30)

(8) Sourced from The Shaw Screen (Lui, 2003:172) which discusses the improvement of Hong Kong citizens lives after the troubles of 1967.

(9) Information on Governor MacLehose from The Shaw Screen (Lui, 2003:172)

(10) Bruce Lee sets himself out as “Chinese” against foreign oppressors. The Way of the Dragon features opponents highlighted as being from Japan, Rome and America and they are all defeated by Lee’s natural speed and strength. His characters are specifically Chinese and “Bruce Lee stood for…Chinese nationalism as a way of feeling pride in one’s identity” (Teo, 1997:110)

(11) This is especially demonstrated in the warm up scene before the final fight in The Way of the Dragon where for a long period of time, Lee warms up and physically stretches showing off his body that emphasises to the audience that his skills are a result of his training.

(12) Chinese in cinema had often been given the image of weakness, especially after Japan’s occupation in World War 2 and in Fist of Fury this is emphasised in two scenes. One where the Japanese villains call the Chinese, the “Sick Men of East Asia” and the second where Lee’s character tries to visit a park but a guard stops him, pointing to a sign saying “No Dogs and Chinese” humiliating his nationality. But Lee’s character uses his strength to physically destroy both signs and overcomes this prejudice and in doing so becomes a strong representation for China and Hong Kong in particular. Instead of battling the Manchu’s of Wuxia films, Lee was bringing an updated battle to contemporary audiences.


 


CHAPTER 3: INNOVATORS AND IMITATORS (1973-1985)

Shaw Brothers in the late 70s were still active and occasionally producing popular films such as Legendary Weapons of China (Liu:1982)  and House of 72 Tenants (Yuen:1973) however, box office revenues were not overall matching Golden Harvest‘s. Also independent studios were trying to capitalise on the kung fu phenomenon set out by Bruce Lee and this began to devalue the uniqueness of the genre. This was a chance for Shaw Brothers to capitalise and regain their dominance in the industry.

INDUSTRY

The death of Bruce Lee had put the Hong Kong film industry into a unique position. There were two major studios to produce high quality films but no major martial arts stars to rival the appeal of Lee in the still popular genre. Through the success of films such as Way of the Dragon, Golden Harvest now had the money to rival Shaw Brothers and compete on the same level of quality and “by 1975, [Raymond Chow] controlled the largest theatre circuit along with scores of screens throughout Asia” (Bordwell, 2000a:68). The kung fu genre was at its peak after Bruce Lee’s dominance and companies tried to exploit this with a wave of cheap movies but by having no strong star power, the quality began to dip. Shaw Brothers in particular as mentioned in the previous chapters capitalised on popular generic trends (in this case martial arts) and tried to saturate the market with similarly styled films like in 1972 where twenty-six out of thirty seven films from Shaw Brothers output were wuxia (1). Yet by putting most of their energy into one particular genre, once the kung fu film began to lose popularity they had few other stars groomed for stardom.

The rise of local television networks in Hong Kong however produced a new wave of stars into the industry yet Shaw Brothers failed to capitalise. For a period in the early 70s, production of Cantonese movies severely dropped (zero in 1972) in the face of the dominant Mandarin studios like Shaw Brothers (2) because small local based studios could not possibly compete with the quality and exportability of Mandarin films as mentioned in Chapter 1. Top Cantonese directors such as Chor Yuen were forced to produce films in the Mandarin language when Cantonese cinema vanished from the screens, demonstrating the impact the big studios of Hong Kong had on the industry and its talent. However during this period, television became popular (3) where local networks could specifically target the Hong Kong audience as its prime demographic.

As these TV shows were directed at the local audience, the programs were broadcast in Hong Kong’s most common dialect; Cantonese and when television stars moved into filmmaking such as Michael Hui they opted to make Cantonese movies over Mandarin (with one reason being that the local audience had become accustomed to these local entertainers speaking Cantonese through television drama series and variety shows). These television performers could achieve this at Golden Harvest which supported local independents such as Michael Hui‘s company. Hui had worked briefly for Shaw (4) but the creative freedom at Golden Harvest had enabled him to focus on Cantonese features where this language associated with the local audience allowed a sense of identity not present in the Mandarin films of Shaw Brothers. With the fear of the 1997 handover to China looming, Hong Kong was a colony with an identity crisis but with the rise of Cantonese cinema this led to a local voice being formed which spoke directly to the Hong Kong audience. This contrasts with how Shaw Brothers were trying to target a wider Chinese market by focusing on the Mandarin language and so their films tended to stay away from Hong Kong themes and politics to appeal to the larger audience without a clear identity (with narratives set in unspecific historical pasts such as in King Hu’s wuxia entries). Previously Cantonese films could not compete with Shaw’s wealth and so there was no comparison in quality, but with access to funds from Golden Harvest and its support of independent satellite groups, the local industry could flourish and the Hong Kong audience would stray away from Shaw‘s wider Chinese marketed films in favour of local varieties.

The interesting thing is Shaw Brothers had actually helped start the resurgence of Cantonese films in part by owning majority shares in the local television network HK-TVB and releasing the film House of 72 Tenants (5) but failed to capitalise on this revival because Cantonese stars and filmmakers like Michael Hui refused to work for the studio system when they could produce films for independent companies with freedom and better money. Also with the return of a strong Cantonese cinema, Hong Kong companies could make local films cheaper without the worries of competing in an international market (leading to many independents rising) and be without high studio overheads that burdened the prestigious Shaw Brothers (6) and the running of Movietown.

Shaw’s rivals in Hong Kong after the Cantonese resurgence were numerous and powerful unlike the days of the big studios where Shaw Brothers’ only major threat was MP and GI. This revival which Shaw had played his part in was another element in the studio’s demise and evidentially led to a dependence on their television department. Of course this rise in the popularity of television meant big budgeted studio features were at risk with the possibility of audience’s staying at home. So Run Run Shaw at least realised that the days of the studios in Hong Kong were numbered and was prepared to move into this new format by owning shares in a network.

Along with the wave of cheaply made independent kung fu films exploiting the legacy of Bruce Lee, the rise in quality of local regional specific films support by Golden Harvest and Cinema City weakened the status of Shaw Brothers whose high budgeted features had been a selling point to audiences. The success of Michael Hui’s Cantonese films (and later Jackie Chan) proved that the local market was dependable to make a profit from and so Hong Kong specific films could rise (7).

AESTHETICS

If it was Michael Hui who consolidated the new trend of Cantonese films in the industry, it was Jackie Chan who successfully combined the waning martial arts film with social comedy to create a new style of film. As previously noted, the kung fu movie was in crisis since “in terms of genre, it is true that the 1970s was unbalanced by the tendency of the industry to mass-produce martial arts pictures” (Teo, 2000:100). Many independent companies were searching for the “next” Bruce Lee with many clones such as Bruce Li and Bruce Le performing in cheaply made kung fu films, trying to cash in on the star power of Lee. This was simple to achieve through small independent companies since the kung fu film was much easier to make than the wuxia film before. There was no need for special effects or props as the spectacle was in watching men fight with their own strength. So this allowed a wave of poorly made kung fu films from independents which devalued the quality of the high budgeted Shaw Brothers output as people were growing sick of these Bruce Lee imitations and the constant barrage of kung fu films based on the tired motif of revenge. Shaw Brothers themselves were far from being inventive, reusing successful older formulas that were selling for example Chang Cheh’s films “were increasingly mechanical, running like clockwork, with action sequences and characters being repeated” (Teo, 1997:103). Chang’s films such as 5 Shaolin Masters (1974), Shaolin Temple (1976), and Two Champions of Shaolin (1978) repeatedly dealt with the basic narrative of the destruction of Shaolin Temple by the Manchus and the subsequent avengement by Shaolin masters (but typically still featuring the self sacrificing hero styled from The One Armed Swordsman). Chang Cheh’s films often still featured characters based on the turbulence of the late 60s not updating this model for modern audiences. Also if any upstart film company could make an average kung fu film, then to save the popularity of this genre, the model had to be updated.

The want for change clearly paved the way for the Cantonese comedy and more specifically the kung fu comedy. This was not exactly a realistic form of fighting but an over extended style of Peking Opera since “Chan and his contemporaries drew on the Peking Opera influence. Indeed, they intensified it, partly by absorbing Lee’s lesson that the action should be filled with emotion, partly by creating long routines displaying varied techniques and presenting a smoothly accented rhythm” (Bordwell, 2000a:56). This was the perfect balance that the Hong Kong audiences needed. The mix between the traditional arts and the modern themes represented in characterisation and comedy created a unique event to rejuvenate the genre from the cheap exploitation films which had devaluated it. While Chan’s outlandish moves on screen couldn’t be mistaken for real fighting moves, it is the fact that he is performing the stunts and sequences which differentiate him from King Hu and Chang Cheh actors (and even Bruce Lee who required a stunt double for acrobatics such as flips (8)). With the 15 minute fight at the end of Drunken Master (Yuen:1978) filled with athleticism and comedy, Chan had re-energised the martial arts fight scene building on the advances Bruce Lee made such as erasing constructive editing to demonstrate that there was no camera trickery involved.

Shaw’s output of the time was making profit but not on the same level of Golden Harvest’s in terms of box office. For example one of Shaw’s most popular films of the 1980s was Legendary Weapons of China making HK$9,913,000 at the box office. But compare this to Jackie Chan’s Project A (Chan:1983) which came out the following year with HK$19.3 million (9) and the tastes were clearly in favour of Cantonese kung fu comedy. Other examples include The Private Eyes (1976) from Michael Hui making 8.5 million HK dollars compared with Shaw’s martial arts film The Killer Clans (1976) making 1.5 million HK dollars. I do want to stress that box office receipts are not necessarily a sign of quality and while a great deal of Shaw Brothers later output could be seen as bland and repetitive (especially Chang Cheh’s reluctance to move away from formula), there were undoubtedly some classic films still being made by the studio, especially from an auteur such as Chor Yuen. His films such as Clans of Intrigue (1977) and The Magic Blade (1976) reinvented the wuxia genre when it was virtually moribund and of course as mentioned earlier, his film House of 72 Tenants revitalised Cantonese cinema. So it is true that Shaw Brothers had some energy left but the market was no longer theirs to dominate and the tastes of the audience were generally elsewhere with contemporary Cantonese comedy.  Perhaps part of the reason for this contrast could be that Shaw realised that they could cut costs by using martial arts choreographers to shoot whole movies, losing trained directors like Chang Cheh who privileged story as much as the fight scenes. The choreographers on the other hand would focus on the fights, with Shaw Brothers films becoming production line fight scenes losing quality and any need for “actors”.

Jackie Chan however realised the importance of narrative and characters to match the action and so created an interesting hero that would not face his problems with violence but with self-mockery and endurance. This was a regular person who beat his opponents through luck and determination, rather than natural kung fu talent and so this was a hero that working class Hong Kong audiences could relate to unlike the advanced Shaolin masters of Shaw‘s late 70s output like in Executioners From Shaolin (Liu:1977).

REPRESENTATION

Hong Kong society had been constantly progressing while Shaw Brothers were in production. The late 1960s were times of chaos and through Chang Cheh’s hero, there was an embodiment of violent sacrifice. But the late 1970s “was an unsettling time of double-digit inflation, economic recession, stock market crash, rampant crime and corruption” (Zhang, 2004:180). There was no violence in the streets and living was generally improved under Governor MacLehose but uncontrollable problems such as the stock market crash presented discomfort. This was a time when comedic relief was needed and Michael Hui and Jackie Chan in particular exploited this.

 This type of hero progressed further from Bruce Lee’s character type which had become a stereotype with the “clones”. Lee’s character in The Way of the Dragon (discussed in Chapter 2) is portrayed as a “country bumpkin” but is still an intense kung fu fighter. In Jackie Chan’s Young Master (Chan:1980), the hero is also a naïve buffoon but importantly, he lacks fighting skills and a “hard body”. He only defeats the villain by luck and in the end credits he is covered in bandages, victorious but only through determination (10). Shaw Brothers heroes like Jimmy Wang Yu created the illusion of them being masters through effects and choreography but Chan created the opposite illusion of being a regular working class hero. Whereas a film like Shaw Brothers The Heroic Ones punishes the hero for being a working class shepherd (who dies from jealously of others due to his rise from lower status to riches), the new comedy films focused on turning weakness into strength and class did not dictate power (11).

As the economy improved “the advent of the affluent lifestyle and the emergence of the middle class led to the belief that the institutionalisation and regulation of society (in 1976, the dream of hitting it rich was institutionalised with the introduction of the lottery) could bring about new opportunities for the people” (Lui, 2003:172). Economic development created self confidence (unlike the late 60s) so Chan’s characters that use luck and brawn to head off disaster were more accepted than violent sacrificing heroes. Since in the 60s there was no consensus for social order, to sacrifice yourself for greater goals was part of the ideology but in the 70s with economic stability, there were other ways to win battles.

Chan even reinvented classical Cantonese tales to relate to the wave of localised films targeting specifically the Hong Kong audience. His comedy take on the Cantonese popular series, Wong Fei Hung in Drunken Master was an indicator of Cantonese cinema moving into modern times and eventually in Police Story (Chan:1985) he set the action in the present day city and with this sense of time and place, Jackie Chan represented modern Hong Kong. On the other hand some of Shaw’s biggest directing names over the decades such as Inoue Umetsugu from Japan or Chor Yuen from Guangzhou, China could not infuse their films with the same levels of Hong Kong familiarity such as the natives Hui and Chan. Even their stages and sets in the studio helped add to distance the audience from the social realism of Hong Kong.

Shaw Brothers were quickly becoming trend followers with output such as The Master (Lu:1980) copying the storyline almost identically of Chan’s film Snake in Eagle Shadow (Yuen:1978), reflecting a lack of innovation. This left Shaw’s Mandarin period films (which avoided local politics in favour of myths and sentiments) trailing the infused local spirit of Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong films. Shaw’s films were still often featuring their China focused plots which on some levels worked for the International Chinese market but suffered in the local territory where Michael Hui with his political/social satires reigned supreme at the box office. Even Bruce Lee’s image was often more about Chinese empowerment than specifically Hong Kong but it had been important because it signalled change and the new wave stars developed on that. With Michael Hui’s and Jackie Chan’s success, it allowed the local Cantonese-dialect pictures to flourish and with the local language being represented on screen, the audience could see heroes who represented Hong Kong rather than the more generic Chinese sentiments of Shaw Brothers.

By this stage Shaw Brothers rivals were numerous and powerful and the days of the studio system were truly over. In 1985 they stopped production, moving their resources into television…

Horror, Humor and Hopping in Hong Kong

by Ian Whitney

Movies were made for horror. In North America and Europe, frightening films appeared not long after the first narrative films. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, considered the first psychological horror film, was made in 1920 and less than 10 years later, horror films were an established genre. Whatever the reason – World War I, industrialization, immigration or other unnerving assaults on the status quo – westerners wanted movies to frighten them. The feeling was not universal.

 

Leslie Cheung on the verge of succumbing to the tempation that is Joey Wong in A Chinese Ghost Story.

In Hong Kong, horror films were not big business; or, at least, no native filmmakers embraced the genre. Before 1980, all of the icons of western fears – the creeping vampire, the lumbering undead, the misunderstood freak – had little impact on films in the British colony. The Universal horror films of the 30s and 40s and the Hammer remakes of the 60s did not inspire, as they did in so many other countries, endless knockoffs. Hong Kong, it seems, simply didn’t want to be scared.

One reason, perhaps, is that Chinese mythology and religion have a radically different idea of the afterlife. Although it’s typically called “Hell,” the afterlife in China is usually described as an endless shadow world that’s more of a waiting area than a torture chamber. More important and frightening than the western notion of a fiery underworld were souls that had lost their way or corpses who had absorbed too much energy from the moon. These creatures, while dangerous, simply needed the guidance of a Taoist priest towards reincarnation. These creatures of legend made few appearances in Hong Kong film before 1980, either because no one was interested or because the audiences were perfectly happy with their operas, romances and swordplay films.

 

The Enchanting Shadow, an early supernatural romance from Shaw Brothers.
Not exactly scary, it it?

It wasn’t until the late 70s that Hong Kong made a serious attempt at western-style horror. As Shaw Brothers, the dominant Hong Kong film studio, faced real competition from upstart companies like Golden Harvest and western imports, they responded by adding horror films to their lineup of period kung fu and romance films. After co-producing Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1973) with England’s Hammer studios, Shaw released a few films like Human Lanterns, and Black Magic – psycho meldings of period kung fu and western third-generation horror imports like Italian zombie films. These films went on to inspire a slew of Asian exploitation horror, eventually evolving into films like Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome, but for most of the 80s, these films were on the fringes of the Hong Kong cinema industry. In 1983, Shaw Brothers ceased movie production and focused on TV; apparently kung fu killers wearing monkey costumes were not more lucrative than soap operas.

During the late 70s, Hong Kong audiences were more interested in laughing than screaming. New filmmakers like Sammo Hung found increasing success with a mishmash of kung fu, slapstick, bathroom humor and word play. Hung, who had been working in films since 1969’s A Touch Of Zen, used his Chinese opera school classmates Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao in a series of revolutionary comedies like Fearless Hyena (1979), Drunken Master (1979) and Knockabout (1979).

Based on the broad physical comedy of the stage, the films were juvenile (it’s not a true comedy until someone gets kicked and/or punched in the testicles), sexual and unsubtle. They were also incredibly successful. Throughout the 1980s, a river of comedies poured from Hong Kong studios, probably outnumbering the bullet-blasting ballets and fist-filled films that most western audiences identify with Hong Kong filmmaking.

Sammo Hung is an innovator in a film industry that’s more than willing to repeat past triumphs. While he has made his share of straightforward comedies, he is also willing to try something untested and bizarre. In 1981 (or 1980, depending on the source) he took his potent mix of bizarre comedy and elaborate fight choreography and added a third element, Chinese myths of the supernatural. With Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind (aka, Spooky Encounters) a new genre, the vampire comedy, was born and Hong Kong finally discovered a love for being scared.

 

Sammo has spells painted onto his body by Chung Fa in Spooky Encounters,
one of many films in which Sammo shows off his butt.

Like most genres, the vampire comedy is bound by specific rules, many of which came from Chinese folklore and were set in celluloid stone by Spooky Encounters. Knowing the rules is vital to understanding the films.1

Rule 1: Vampires Hop. Stiffened by death, the undead are not known for their agility. Instead, they hop, arms outstretched. Obviously, hopping monsters are not all that threatening, which is probably the main reason Hung used them for comic effect.

Indeed, Chinese vampires (sometimes called gyonshi or jiang shi by fans) are not what most people consider vampiric. They generally don’t suck blood; instead, they stab their victims with long blue/black fingernails. They don’t transform into bats or fear garlic. They don’t have bug-eating assistants or chase after long-lost loves. They are often blind and use their nose to find their victims, who can be treated with sticky rice and snake wine. They aren’t killed by crosses or stakes, but by a combination of magic and kung fu. And no monster is truly dead until it explodes.

 

Gyonshi at rest.
The paper that looks like a post-it note is a spell that immobilizes them.

These rules, however, are far from concrete; each movie gives its vampires a unique set of skills, often mixing in aspects of Dracula-style vampirism. Some films, in order to stage more elaborate fight scenes, grant their vampires greater mobility. Other rules are added or dropped for comic effect. Sometimes the film takes a break to explain how their vampires work, but in most cases you have to figure it out for yourself.

Rule 2: Beautiful women want to kill you. Hung’s first spooky encounter with a female ghost in a mirror updates a common Hong Kong rule for the supernatural world. In many Shaw Brothers classics, scheming women sent men to their doom. In Spooky Encounters and its offspring, ghosts and demons disguise themselves as attractive women in order to lure young men, whose energy the ghosts consume, to their deaths. Invariably the young men think with their crotch and take the bait, only to discover the ghost’s true, horrible form after a heavy make-out session.

 

I kissed that?!
A ghost shows her deadly side in Mr. Vampire.
Did I mention they can also detach their heads?

Rule 3: Spells, not fighting skills, rule the afterlife. Vampire comedies feature a lot of fighting, but, like all of those army attacks on Godzilla, brute force often proves useless. Fighting the undead requires a different type of weapon, the magical knowledge of a Taoist priest. Although they are only supporting characters in Spooky Encounters, the yellow-clad priests (Chung Fa and Chan Lung) steal the show. Writing with chicken blood, chanting over a coin sword and performing gymnastic rituals, these priests quickly became the whirling, dynamic center in nearly every supernatural comedy, once the right actor was discovered.

Spooky Encounters was a success, but did not inspire a lot of imitators. Perhaps because the comedy revolution in HK was still in its early phases; or perhaps it was just five years ahead of its time. In 1982, Sammo produced another horror comedy, The Dead And The Deadly. Featuring the same cast as Spooky Encounters, it also wasn’t followed by a horde of knock-offs. In 1984, he tried again with Hocus Pocus. Again, no takers. In 1985, the genre finally took hold with the release of the Sammo-produced Mr. Vampire, the first in Hong Kong’s longest series of vampire comedies. The film is a radical change from Hung’s earlier attempts, and the vampire comedy genre emerges from Mr. Vampire fully-formed, as if it had just emerged from a cocoon – or a coffin.

 

Ricky Hui burns incense to placate the dead in Mr. Vampire.
Taoist priests use more incense than a class of college freshman at Berkeley.

Mr. Vampire added two new rules to the genre, solidifying the basic formula that would be followed by all of its progeny.

Rule 4: The Taoist priest is the star. Lam Ching Ying, a gifted actor, thrilling fighter and opera student (watch 1981’s The Prodigal Son for a full sampling of Lam’s abilities) had a roles in Sammo’s earlier horror comedies, but in Mr. Vampire, he finally assumed the role of the Taoist priest, a role that controlled the next twelve years of his life (he died, at the age of 45, of liver cancer in 1997).

In nearly every film, Lam’s priest is a combination of magician and stern kung fu master. Grumpy, but hiding a tender heart, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the spells and rituals that became increasingly complex throughout the development of the vampire comedy. He’s also recognizable by his bizarre eyebrows (or, more commonly, unibrow). Lam would go on to star or appear in at least 15 vampire comedies before his death, and his priest is often cited as a highlight of every single film.

 

Lam Ching Ying in the costume, and eyebrow, that would define the last twelve years of his life.

Rule 5: The Priest will have two bumbling assistants. One will be especially bumbling and ineffectual, the other will be somewhat irresponsible but have kung fu skills when the need arises.

Really, a Taoist priest’s life would be so simple without his students. He captures an evil vampire and their silly games free it again. He starts a ritual and they’ve bought the wrong kind of rice. He tells them not to fall prey to beautiful women (see Rule 2) and they go off and get possessed. Almost invariably it is the assistants’ mistakes that free the villainous vampire and set the plot in motion.

But the second, less ineffectual assistant is always there with an impressive kick or stunt when the time is right. Mr. Vampire follows the example of Spooky Encounters by interweaving impressive fight choreography with the vampires and comedy, another reason the physically gifted Lam Ching Ying was so popular in the priest role.

 

Fighting and stunts, like this one by Siu-hou Chin in Mr. Vampire, added excitement to the vampire comedy genre.

By 1985, the rules were set and a genre was born – an incredibly popular genre. Hong Kong rarely goes halfway; if an idea is popular, hordes of producers will seize on it and sequels will appear at a dizzying pace. Exact numbers are hard to determine, but a conservative estimate is that between 1985 and 1990, at least 45 horror comedies were released, including three sequels to Mr. Vampire.2 Almost one third of these films were released in 1990, the peak of vampire comedy production. Hong Kong at this time was one of the world’s largest film producers, turning out an incredible amount of films. But, even if these 45 films were only a small portion of the total output, that’s still a lot of vampire comedy and the genre quickly began to wear out its welcome.

Many of these films replicated the Mr. Vampire formula: Fighting + Horror + Comedy = Box Office Gold! But not all of the films were simple retreads. In 1987, Tsui Hark, who combined western effects and traditional Chinese wuxia pian swordplay stories in Zu, Warriors of The Magic Mountain (1983), produced Chinese Ghost Story, updating the Shaw Brothers 1960 supernatural melodrama The Enchanting Shadow. Tsui’s movie uses some of the established conventions, such as the Taoist fighter played by Hong Kong veteran Wu Ma, but is more interested in the lush visuals and the combination of Evil Dead-style effects and weepy Chinese romances. Less slapsticky and better acted, thanks to the late Leslie Cheung, Chinese Ghost Story is no less bizarre than its bawdy brethren; few movies sport tree demon villains who kill with thousand-foot-long tongues. The film, like nearly all films in Hong Kong, was followed by sequels.

 

The influence of western horror films on the creatures of Chinese Ghost Story is obvious.

 

But western influences can’t explain the giant tongue that has encircled Leslie Cheung.
That’s pure Tsui Hark.

Even the films that copied directly out of the Mr. Vampire book added new twists that make each film a unique, bizarre experience. A later, non-supernatural Hong Kong film captures the genre perfectly with its title Expect the Unexpected (1998). Disembodied onanism? That’s in Spooky Spooky (1986). Spiritual opera battles? Check out Hocus Pocus (1984). Zombies who look like members of Flock Of Seagulls? Go straight to Ultimate Vampire (1987). Lumpy, alien-like ghosts that can be distracted by menstrual blood? The Dead and the Deadly (1982), of course! All Chinese vampire films may start with the same set of rules, but each mutates them to create a constantly surprising genre.

After 1990, the production of vampire comedies began to wane and producers were obviously trying to find wacky ways to renew interest. Crazy Safari (1991) is a Mutt & Jeff pairing of vampire comedy and The Gods Must Be Crazy. One review captured the essence of the film in a single phrase, “Holy shit!”, which is exactly what most people say after watching Lam Ching Ying ride an ostrich.

 

Political subtext fills the screen when Taoist priest Lam Ching Ying meets Catholic priest Wu Ma in Exorcist Master.

In another attempt at innovation, Chinese vampires met western vampires in films like Vampire vs. Vampire (aka, One-Eyebrow Priest, 1989), Doctor Vampire (1990) and Exorcist Master (1993). These films, along with Tsui Hark’s Chinese Ghost Story films, transform readings of the vampire comedy genre from lewd comedies to an attempt to salvage traditional Chinese mythology from encroaching western media. Hong Kong’s conflicted feelings over British rule and the impending handover to China manifest themselves in the various treatments of western and Chinese vampires. In some films, all vampires are villains and must be destroyed. In others, the western vampires are an invading army, defeated by Chinese vampires or the power of Chinese Taoism.

 

Mr. Vampire gave gyonshi fangs, although many vampire comedies left them out.

Imitation, overexposure, the decline of the Hong Kong film industry and the early death of the genre’s greatest star sent vampire comedies back to the grave. Between 1991 and 1994, about a twenty vampire comedies were made; still a lot, but a significant drop off from the vampire-mad late 80s. After 1994, in which only two vampire comedies were released, the films disappear from Hong Kong theaters.

Of course the undying gyonshi continue to hop up from time to time; 2001 saw the release of Vampire Controller, and Tsui Hark returned to the genre with the animated version of Chinese Ghost Story (1997) and The Era of Vampires (2002, released in the US as Vampire Hunters) but, more often than not, vampires in today’s Hong Kong films, such as 2003’s The Twins Effect (to be released in the US as The Vampire Effect), are of the western, non-hopping variety. Perhaps the political subtext of the battles with western vampire were spookily prescient.

Hong Kong’s appetite for horror didn’t disappear along with the gyonshi. Cheap and quick horror compilations, featuring two or three self-contained stories, took the place of vampire comedies in the mid-90s. Troublesome Night, the best known horror compilation series, has pumped out 20 installments over the last six years. Beyond these quickie compilation films, Hong Kongies were increasingly finding their scares in a new wave of Asian horror.

Footnotes

1: Many people have used “The Rules” in order to explain vampire comedies. I am indebted to Stephan Hammond and Mike Wilkins, authors of Sex and Zen: A Bullet In The Head, for introducing me to the commandments of comedy horror.

2: These numbers are just short of wild-ass guesses. Searching through IMDb and the Hong Kong Movie Database turns up around 40 vampire horror comedies. But a quick skim through reference guides like Asian Trash Cinema turns up several dozen films that don’t appear in any other film database. Many of these films were made on the super-cheap by companies that have long since disappeared, taking the films with them. In this primer, I’ve mostly stuck to talking about the available horror comedies, but there are dozens more films available to the dedicated searcher.

 

GreenCine Recommends…

For a complete list – plus comments – of films to check out here at GreenCine, please see, well, this list. As for furthering your exploration:

The holy trinity of vampire comedies is available on DVD. Start with Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind and Mr. Vampire. These two films will ground you in an understanding of the Chinese supernatural comedy.

If those only whet your palate, pick up The Dead and the Deadly to complete your undergraduate degree in gyonshi studies. This overlooked film is light on the supernatural, instead focusing most of its plot on shysters who take advantage of superstition. But it makes up for its lack of vampires by featuring one of Sammo Hung’s finest fight scenes. Truly amazing. Technically, this film is Lam Ching Ying’s first appearance as a Taoist priest, but he’s a peripheral character and not the dominant force he would become in Mr. Vampire.

 

Many a vampire film ends with magical frogs. Don’t ask why.

All of the Mr. Vampire movies can be found on DVD, although you may not want to watch them all. Mr. Vampire 2 (1986) is a treacly story of a family of vampires set in the modern day. Radically different from Mr. Vampire, it led to a kiddie vampire craze in Japan, but is otherwise awful and should only be seen by the masochistic completist. Mr. Vampire 3 (1987) returns to more traditional vampire fighting, adding Richard Ng as a Taoist sham artist who works with a father-son vampire team. Mr. Vampire 4 (aka, Mr. Vampire Saga, 1988), arguably the best in the series, is an odd couple story of a fussy Taoist priest and his laid-back Buddhist monk neighbor. It’s one of the few great vampire comedies that does not star Lam Ching Ying.

Almost every vampire movie starring Lam Ching Ying is fun; unfortunately, many of them have not been released on DVD. Of those that are available, the best are Magic Cop (1990), which successfully transports the genre to modern Hong Kong and Exorcist Master (1993), which takes a while to get moving but is one of the better Western vs. Eastern vampire movies and features a hilariously schizophrenic ending. The one vampire comedy he directed, Vampire vs. Vampire (1989), is sadly forgettable. Movies unavailable on DVD can still be found on VHS if you’re fortunate enough to live near a Chinatown or a video store that specializes in obscurity.

All four Chinese Ghost Story movies (CGS 1, CGS 2, CGS 3 and CGS Animated) are available, many in unspectacular “Special Editions.” The third, despite the presence of Hong Kong superstar Tony Leung (Hard Boiled, In The Mood For Love), should be avoided as it’s nothing more than a poor remake of the first CGS. However, all of the films feature the lush visuals, beautiful actresses and insane monsters that made the original an international hit.

While New Mr. Vampire (1986) isn’t a great movie, the DVD release is notable for including an English commentary track by Rick Meyers who not only describes the genesis of gyonshi movies, but who also traces the career of every actor in the movie. It’s a great set of lessons about the often unnoticed but prolific Hong Kong actors like Wu Ma and Chung Fa. However, not even Meyers can bear sitting through the entire movie, leaving 10 minutes before the end.

Doctor Vampire, a comedy with invading western vampires, is full of great gags as Bowie Lam fights his conversion from a lazy doctor to a western vampire. It’s also one of the few vampire comedies that features no Chinese vampires.

Ian Whitney is the editor and designer of The Dual Lens, as well one of the site’s four authors. A long-time fan of Chinese vampire movies, he has organized showings of gyonshi classics and worked with Asian Media Access, one of the few remaining regular exhibitors of HK film. Sitting in his closet is a Taoist priest costume that is anxiously awaiting Halloween.

 

ENDNOTES FOR CHAPTER 3

(1) From (Law, 2003:138). This also led to a lot of repetition of narrative.

(2) Information from The Cinema of Hong Kong (Stephen Teo, 2000:91).

(3) The popularity of local television was due to the fact that ”in 1972, 72 percent of households had television sets” (Teo, 2000:91 ) which allowed for the rise of new Hong Kong talent. Many Cantonese performers were forced to work on television, since they were moved away from the film industry by Mandarin features and television was cheaper to produce.

(4) They had worked together on the film The Warlord (1972). But losing Michael Hui to the rivals just as they had failed to sign Bruce Lee, showed again the weakness of Shaw’s rigid studio system against independent satellite companies and also their failure to predict star potential

(5) House of 72 Tenants was an extremely popular Cantonese film from Shaw Brothers and helped bring prestige back to the language in cinema.

(6) So Shaw’s with their high costs of running Movietown had to produce these extravagant films for the international Chinese market rather than the domestic market, as they needed the larger returns. Independent companies could easily just make films for the local public as they could be made cheap but Shaw Brothers required more than that market for profit.

(7) Kung fu is heavily associated with Cantonese cinema (with the kung fu series of Wong Fei-hung being a famous Cantonese entry). The rise of comedy kung fu can clearly be seen linked with a return to Hong Kong traditions.

(8) Chan highlights the difference between special effects and realistic aesthetics by advertising the danger of the stunts he performs and that he does not use camera tricks like King Hu. Chan utilises outtakes in his films to prove that no stuntman was involved, creating an off-screen persona that is as powerful as his on-screen characters.

(9) Box Office figures taken from www.hkcinema.co.uk

(10) If Bruce Lee’s hero could be related to because his body had become perfect through training, Jackie Chan’s hero who doesn’t need any abilities but luck and adaptability to win, could be even more closely related to by the audience.

(11) Chan’s persona who could relate to both children and adults. The rebellious nature of Chan’s character and his slapstick comedy targets the youth demographic while his characters confidence projected the vision of Hong Kong entrepreneur spirit who refuses to give up despite the odds against him, unlike the self sacrificing hero or immortal warrior.


 


CONCLUSION

At the end of one of Shaw’s last films, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (Liu:1984) the hero wanders off into the sunset claiming he has lost his place in the world. This self-reflective scene seems to acknowledge that by 1984, Shaw Brothers had completely lost their market and by 1985 they stopped production forever.

This work has explored the unique rise and fall of a studio, emphasising the chain of significant events which shaped Hong Kong cinema and explaining Shaw Brothers importance in film history. Each chapter has explored key moments from 1957 to 1985,  identifying how Shaw Brothers came to power and subsequently lost their dominance. For instance Chapter 1 looked at the late 1960s where Shaw Brothers consolidated power. Through production line methods, Shaw could mass produce popular films to defeat slower competition. No other rivals had the money or star power to match these films that exploited the violence in society through realistic aesthetics and self-sacrificing heroes. King Hu’s Peking Opera traditions had given the martial arts genre visual sophistication and Chang Cheh had rejuvenated the genre with gritty realism. Shaw Brothers in their early stages were incredibly astute to the market being able to spot international trends like the growing popularity of the action film and reinvent it in a Chinese form.

Yet as Chapter 2 demonstrates, Shaw Brothers faced their biggest challenge with Golden Harvest and Bruce Lee. Despite practically creating the craze for martial arts films in the 70s, issues such as losing Raymond Chow and not being able to sign Lee clearly left an impact and were the first signs that the industry giant could be faulted. Through localised independent companies, stars like Lee could update the genre for modern times and replace actors who mimic martial arts moves for genuinely trained fighters. Shaw’s violent self sacrificing hero was less relevant in calmer times, replaced by Lee’s rebellious hard bodied youth; a martyr for modern Chinese pride and respect.

As Chapter 3 concludes, the rise of Cantonese cinema marked the return of a local voice represented by Jackie Chan whose heroes spoke directly to the Hong Kong audience instead of the generic universality of Shaw’s attempt to appeal to International markets and its generic Chinese studio style stories. While the company had once been a frontrunner for new exciting aesthetics and genre’s, new companies with smaller overheads and local talent could easily outpace the large studio. Losing touch with the modern market by recycling older narratives featuring violent self-sacrificing heroes from the 1960s, Shaw Brothers had lost their dominance to “flexible” local companies who could easily adapt to changes in the industry. It became impossible for a studio like Shaw Brothers to run in this market.

Though despite their fall, Shaw Brothers have left a lasting impression in Hong Kong and indeed world cinema. Their films such as The One Armed Swordsman and Come Drink With Me are rightly recognised as genre making classics and directors such as Chang Cheh set in motion the need for realistic aesthetics of martial arts, paving the way for stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan to develop and shape a unique industry. Shaw Brothers influence and trend setting of the late 60s have enabled the creation and development of a powerful Hong Kong cinema.



FILMOGRAPHY

· The 72 Tenants (Chor Yuen: Hong Kong 1973)
· 5 Shaolin Masters (Chang Cheh: Hong Kong 1974)
· The Big Boss (Lo Wei: Hong Kong 1971)
· The Boxer from Shantung (Chang Cheh: Hong Kong 1972)
· The Chinese Boxer (Wang Yu: Hong Kong 1971)
· Come Drink With Me (King Hu: Hong Kong 1966)
· Drunken Master (Yuen Woo-ping: Hong Kong 1978)
· Fist of Fury (Lo Wei: Hong Kong 1972)
· The Heroic Ones (Chang Cheh: Hong Kong 1970)
· King Boxer (Jeong Chang-hwa: Hong Kong 1973)
· Legendary Weapons of China (Liu Chia-liang: Hong Kong 1982)
· The Love Eterne (Han Hsiang Li: Hong Kong 1963)
· The Master (Lu Chin-ku: Hong Kong 1980)
· The One Armed Swordsman (Chang Cheh: Hong Kong 1967)
· Police Story (Jackie Chan: Hong Kong 1985)
· Project A (Jackie Chan: Hong Kong 1983)
· Shaolin Temple (Chang Cheh: Hong Kong 1976)
· Snake in Eagle Shadow (Yuen Woo-ping: Hong Kong 1978)
· Two Champions of Shaolin (Chang Cheh: 1978)
· Vengeance! (Chang Cheh: Hong Kong 1970)
· Way Of The Dragon (Bruce Lee: Hong Kong 1972)
· Wong Fei-hung (TV series, Various: Hong Kong 1955)
· Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa: Japan 1962)
· Young Master (Jackie Chan: Hong Kong 1980)
 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

· Bordwell, D. (2000a)  Planet Hong Kong  Harvard University Press

· Bordwell, D. ‘Richness through Imperfection’ in Desser, D. (2000b) Cinema of Hong Kong: History, Arts, Identity  Cambridge University Press

· Chan, J. (1999)  I Am Jackie Chan  Ballantine Books

· Chung, P. ‘The Industrial Evolution of a Fraternal Enterprise’ in Ain-Ling, W. (2003)  The Shaw Screen  Hong Kong Film Archive

· Fu, P. ‘Modernity, Youth Culture and Hong Kong Cantonese Cinema’ in Desser, D. (2000) Cinema of Hong Kong: History, Arts, Identity  Cambridge University Press

· Ho, S. ‘One Jolts, the Other Orchestrates’ in Ain-Ling, W. (2003)  The Shaw Screen,  Hong Kong Film Archive

· Kei, S. ‘Shaw Movie Town’s ‘China Dream’ and ‘Hong Kong Sentiments’’ in Ain-Ling, W. (2003)  The Shaw Screen,  Hong Kong Film Archive

· Lau, T. ‘Conflict And Desire’ in Leung, R. (1999)  The Making of Martial Arts Films  Hong Kong Film Archive

· Lui, T. ‘Intrigue Is Hard to Defend’ in Ain-Ling, W. (2003)  The Shaw Screen,  Hong Kong Film Archive

· Teo, S. (1997)  Hong Kong: The Extra Dimensions  BFI Publishing

· Teo, S. (2002) ‘Movement and Transition’ in Desser, D. (2000) Cinema of Hong Kong: History, Arts, Identity  Cambridge University Press

· Teo, S. (2003) ‘Shaw’s Wuxia Films’ in Ain-Ling, W. (2003)  The Shaw Screen,  Hong Kong Film Archive

· Zhang, C. ‘Creating The Martial Arts Film’ in Leung, R. (1999)  The Making of Martial Arts Films  Hong Kong Film Archive

· Zhang, Y. (2004)  Chinese National Cinema  Routledge

 

THE END @ COPYRIGHT 2012

The Legend Of chinese Qing dynasty Kungfu Hero Wong Fei Hong

 

the LEGEND of WONG FEIHONG

created by

Dr Iwan suwandy,MHA

cOPYRIGHT @ 2012

THIS STORY OF WONG FEI HONG DEDICATED TO MY SON ALBERT AND ANTO JIMMI AS THE REMEMBRANCE DURING THE YOUNG BOYS THEY LOOK AT THE WONG FEI HONG FILM VCD WITH THEIR GRANDPA DJOHAN OETAMA

BIOGRAPHY

Wong Fei-Hung

Claimed to be the only known photograph in existence of Master Wong Fei-Hung – Some dispute this


The statue sitting in the Wong Fei Hung Museum in the Fu Shan district of China.


Jet Li playing the role of Wong Fei-Hung in Tsui Hark’s “Once Upon a Time in China II”

             Wong Fei-Hung was born in 1847 in the Fushan district of China. He died in 1924 of natural causes. His contributions to modern day Hung-Gar are unmatched, and can be considered one of the forefathers of modern day martial arts. He was renowned for protecting the weak and helping the poor. Wong Kay-Ying was his father, who was a physician and great martial arts master also..

        Wong Fei-Hung’s father ran a famous medical clinic called Po Chi Lam, and Wong Fei-Hung grew up there, assisting his father. He learned traditional Chinese medicine, and also learned many important values such as generosity and compassion. Wong Kay-Ying always treated a patient, even if he or she couldn’t afford any treatment. 

        The Ch’ing Dynasty consisted of Manchu emperors, who had conquered China from there home in Manchuria. They were foreign invaders to the southern Chinese.

The southern Shaolin Temple in Fukien was a place where the resistance would go to train to fight against the Ch’ing. The temple was first  burned down in 1734, but the few monks and students who survived traveled across China

 

teaching  their skills to others worthy

 enough along the way. Variations on the Southern Shaolin styles soon emerged such as

 

Wing Chun Kungfu style (Bruce Lee’s original style)

 

and Hung Gar Kung Fu style (Wong Fei-Hung’s style).

 

Hung Gar is a traditional Chinese martial arts system, the most widespread of the five prevalent southern systems. Its origin is from the “fighting monks” of the first Shaolin Temple in Henan province. The Shaolin system derived from Chuan (Zen) Buddhism, a hybrid of Dharma Buddhism and Taoism. As early as 500 AD, Da Mo, the legendary Bodhidharma, taught breathing exercises (qi-gong) to the monks. This helped them improve their physical health so they could endure longer periods of meditation. The breathing exercises evolved into a fluid self defense system that was much softer in execution of movement than what developed later. It included techniques, mimicking five animals – tiger, white crane, dragon, snake and leopard. These were developed, in an effort to protect the Henan temple, the most splendid of all the monasteries, from bandits and invaders.During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Shaolin monks reached the pinnacle of their fighting skills, warding off intruders and assisting the ruling sovereignty and neighboring villages against attackers. This was the last native Chinese Empire, and the most fertile period for all the arts. It was also during this time when the majority of fighting styles was developed, including Hung Gar. Gee Sin Sim (Chi Shin), an abbot originally from the Henan Shaolin Temple, is given credit for planting the seed of Hung Gar, as well as other traditional systems. During the Ching Dynasty (1644-1912), in the mid 17th century, Ming family and former officials took refuge in the temple, masquerading as monks. The abbot opened the Shaolin system to these outsiders, in hopes of garnering support to overthrow the Manchurians. Of these followers, Hung Hei Goon stood out the most. His talent caught the attention of the abbott, who wanted to train him personally. The Shaolin monks, who were supported by the Ming government, were thought to be a threat to the new government. After many attacks to the temple, the Ching regime was successful in burning down the monastery. Most of the Shaolin monks died, defending their temple. Several of the surviving monks, including the abbot, fled to the southern temple in the Nine Lotus Mountain located in Fijian province. There, Gee Sin Sim felt the urgency to systematize the training, facilitating mastery of the system to further protect the temple.Hung Hei Goon was a tea merchant from Fijian, but couldn’t prosper in Kwungtung province under the tyranny of the Ching government. Hung Hei Goon’s grandfather was an official of the Ming Dynasty, and he, a supporter. Out of loyalty to the deposed government, he changed his family name from Jyu to Hung, in honor of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Jyu Hung Mo. Under the directive of the abbot, Hung Hei Goon returned to Kwungtung province to open a school and spread the knowledge. The system was taught as the Hung Gar (Hung Family) system so it would not be associated with its source. He married Fong Wing Chun who learned the White Crane system from its founder, Ng Mui, a surviving abbess from the Henan Shaolin Temple. (Fong Wing Chun should not be confused with Yim Wing Chun, for whom the abbess named her White Crane system.) Hung Hei Goon became famous for his martial arts and gained the namesake of “The Southern Fist”. Hung Gar evolved as he incorporated the Shaolin Five Animals style with his wife’s White Crane system. The reputation of the school, and its master, became widespread in southern China. By this time, Gee Sin Sim had more followers. He sent his best students to Hung Hei Goon for further training. Luk Ah Choy who later became known as the forefather of several traditional Chinese systems, was among the students sent. After his training, Luk Ah Choy was sent to Guangzhau to spread the knowledge.In Guangzhau, Wong Tai became a student of Luk Ah Choy. He taught his son, Wong Kay Ying. In search of more knowledge, Wong Kay Ying studied with Luk Ah Choy and other disciples of Hung Hei Goon. He passed all this knowledge to his son, Wong Fei Hung. During a street performance, Wong Kay Ying and his son, rescued a martial artist in trouble for accidentally hurting a bystander. The performer was Luk Fuh Sing who was a student of Tit Kue Sam, a disciple from the Shaolin Temple. Luk Fuh Sing was so grateful that he passed on the knowledge of the “secret form” to the father and son. This form, Iron Wire Fist (Tit Seem Kuen) is considered to be the most advanced form in the Hung Gar system. The Tiger Crane (Fu Hok) form became the signature of Wong Fei Hung. Reputed as one of the “Ten Tigers of Kwungtung”,

READ MORE INFO ABOUT TEN TIGERS

 

Southern Chinese Kung Fu – Hung Gar Kuen  

 

The name of the style literaly means Hung Family Fist in Cantonese. It’s probably one of the most popular and best known kung fu styles in the world. This is of course for a part due to the legendary ‘Wong Fei Hung’, about whom there are more than 100 kung fu films made. ‘Wong Fei Hung‘ was born in the end of the 19th century, and became a legend in the first part of the 20th century, during the boxer rebellions in China. He created the most famous of all Hung Gar forms; the ‘Tiger & Crane‘ form. But before we tell you more about ‘Wong Fei Hung‘, let’s first start with the history and development of Hung Gar Kuen.

 

 

History :

 

Hung Gar Kuen is one of the original styles that came from the southern Shaolin (‘Siu Lum‘ in Cantonese) temple in Fukien after its destruction by Manchurian troops in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Its founder was a Shaolin disciple named ‘Hung Hei Goon‘, a student of the famous last abbot of the southern Shaolin temple ‘Gee Shan Sin Si‘.  

 

Gee Shan Sin Si‘ was famous as a kung fu master because he helped create the ‘36 chambers of Shaolin‘, the ‘18 wooden Luohan dummies‘, and was the teacher of many monks and famous fighters such as ‘Fong Sai Yuk‘, ‘Luk Ah Choy‘, and ‘Ma Ling Yee‘.

 

While ‘Hung Hei Goon‘ was completing his training at Shaolin, the Qing army had found out about the rebel’s (that’s how they regarded the Shaolin monks) secret base and planned a full scale attack on the temple. The Qings knew about the high level of fighting skill of the monks, so they were hesitant in attacking, until they found their advantage in a traitor, named ‘Ma Ling Yee‘. He was a former monk who resented his difficult training at the temple, and decided to seek revenge by helping the Qings, and telling them of the temple’s secret escape tunnels. Some sources claim that it was actually ‘Bak Mei‘, (famous for the white eyebrow style), and not ‘Ma Ling Yee‘, that was a treacherous monk. Other sources claims that they were actually the same person with one real name, and one nickname. When the manchurians destroyed the temple, the famous fighters ‘Hung Hei Goon‘, ‘Luk Ah Choy‘, ‘Gee Shan Sin Si‘, and others , and others escaped. 

 

However the manchurian ‘Bak Mei‘ continued his pursuit for years, and finally killed ‘Fong Sai Yuk‘, ‘Gee Shan Sin Si‘, and others. 

 

Years before this all took place, ‘Hung Hei Goon‘ had married a girl named ‘Fong Wing Chun‘, and they had a son named ‘Hung Man Ting’. ‘Hung Hei Goon‘ was an expert in kung fu, along with his wife and son, but he only specialized in the powerful ‘tiger’ techniques (Because of this Hung Gar stylists often use their left hand as a tiger’s claw while greeting.), while his wife specialized in the elegant ‘crane‘ techniques. ‘Hung Hei Goon‘ was very powerful, and reportedly had killed a man with one punch, but when he fought ‘Bak Mei‘, no matter how many times he hit him, he couldn’t hurt him. This was because of ‘Bak Mei‘s skill in the ‘Iron Shirt Qi Gong‘. Eventually ‘Bak Mei‘ killed ‘Hung Hei Goon’ in addition to the other fugitives from Shaolin, making his revenge complete. 

 

Now, ‘Hung Man Ting‘ knew that in order to avenge his father and kill ‘Bak Mei‘, he would have to combine the techniques of his parents, and so kill ‘Bak Mei‘. When the encounter finally occured, ‘Hung Man Ting‘ was able to win, getting around his ‘Iron Shirt‘ defense, and killing him with a ‘crane’s beak‘ attack. 

It was mainly ‘Luk Ah Choy‘ (student of ‘Gee Shan Sin Si‘ and ‘Hung Hei Goon‘), and ‘Hung Man Ting‘ that were able to carry on the teaching of the Southern Shaolin Kungfu. They were still fugitives, and Shaolin was still associated with the rebels, so they had to go underground, and disguise their kung fu. That’s why they called it ‘Hung Kuen‘  (Hung Fist). Nowadays, it’s known as Hung Gar Kuen, (Hung family fist), and goes alongside the other famous family styles of the south such as Lau Gar, Mok Gar, Choy Gar, Fut Gar, and Li Gar.

 

 The tradition carried on from master to student from ‘Luk Ah Choy‘, to ‘Wong Tai‘, to ‘Wong Kay Ying‘ and his famous son, ‘Wong Fei Hung‘.

 

Wong Kay Ying‘ and ‘Wong Fei Hung‘ became two of the famous “Ten Tigers of Guangdong“, a group of the top ten kung fu masters in Guangdong province. Another master from the ‘ten tigers‘ was ‘Tiet Kiu Sam‘, whose real name was ‘Leung Kwan‘. He was also a Hung Gar master, whose master, ‘Kwok Yan Sin Si‘, had also learned at the Southern Shaolin Temple under ‘Gee Shan Sin Si‘. ‘Tiet Kiu Sam‘s top student, ‘Lam Fook Shing’ also played an important role in Hung Gar history, because he taught ‘Wong Fei Hung‘ the internal energy form ‘Tiet Sien Kuen‘ (Iron Wire Form), when he was young. . ‘Wong Fei Hung‘ also learned traditional Chinese medicine from his father. Both had earned excellent reputations for their medicine and martial arts.. There were many adventures that ‘Wong Fei Hung‘ was involved in, from training the military and being the leader of the Canton militia. One of those was a famous fight on the docks of Hong Kong where he was attacked by the dockyard workers. The story goes that he fought over a hundred men some armed with sticks and metal hooks. He was armed with a long staff, and had to fight and run to save his life. ‘Wong Fei Hung‘ also had several wives and children. Sadly the first 3 wives all died of illnesses, and his eldest son, ‘Wong Hon Sum‘, was killed by gangsters in the streets of Hong Kong. After this tragedy, he refused to teach any of his children martial arts, for fear that evil people would try to get to him through his children. 

Wong Fei Hung‘s fourth wife was ‘Mok Gwai Lan‘, a master of ‘Mok Gar‘ kung fu, another southern Chinese style. The story of their meeting is rather ironic, because ‘Wong Fei Hung‘ and his students were performing a lion dance and kung fu demontstration, when his shoe accidentally came off and struck ‘Mok Gwai Lan‘ in the face. Despite ‘Wong Fei Hung’s attempts to apologize, she slapped him.. ‘Wong Fei Hung‘ fell in love with her, and later married her, and had children with her. ‘Mok Gwai Lan‘ was responsible for the women’s kung fu and gynecology at her husband’s school and clinic, ‘Po Chi Lum‘. Later on in life, at age 87, she gave a powerful performance of the ‘Fu Hok Seung Ying‘ form, on HKTV, showing her high level of skill, and the benefits of good training. 

Wong Fei Hung‘ had thousands of students learning martial arts from him. Two of the most famous masters were ‘Lam Sai Wing‘ and ‘Tang Fung‘. ‘Lam Sai Wing‘ was a pork butcher from Canton. He was trained in many styles of martial arts, (many people believe he was trained in ‘Lau Gar‘ kung fu and ‘Choy Lay Fut‘ kung fu), and decided to challenge ‘Wong Fei Hung‘ in a fight. Even though ‘Lam Sai Wing‘ was a good fighter, he was defeated by ‘Wong Fei Hung‘s famous ‘Mo Ying Guek‘ (no shadow kick), which was called like that because it was so fast that one said it had no shadow. After seeing ‘Wong Fei Hung‘s high level of skill, he asked ‘Wong Fei Hung‘ to teach him his style of kung fu. ‘Lam Sai Wing‘ achieved a very high level of skill in Hung Gar and had many famous students including ‘Chan Hon Chung‘, ‘Wong Lee‘, ‘Jee Yu Jai‘, ‘Lum Jo‘, and others. ‘Lam Sai Wing‘ was also trained in medicine and passed his art down to ‘Chan Hon Chung’. He also added the ‘Lau Gar‘ kung fu forms, and numerous weapons to the Hung Gar kung fu. 

Tang Fung‘ was another student of ‘Wong Fei Hung‘. Together with ‘Lam Sai Wing‘ and a few other kung fu people, he had taken a job as a security force for a Chinese Opera company in Canton that was continually being robbed by gangsters. When the gangsters arrived, there was a huge fight. The kung fu masters were locked inside the theatre with a few of the gangsters, while the other criminals got reinforcements and set the building on fire. ‘Wong Fei Hung‘s students managed to break out of the building, but were severely outnumberred and almost unarmed. ‘Lam Sai Wing‘ unrooted a small tree to use as a staff for fighting their attackers. After they escaped, they decided to keep a low profile, with ‘Tang Fung‘ moving to Singapore, and ‘Lam Sai Wing‘ moving to Hong Kong. 

Nowadays Hung Gar kung fu has spread around the world, with thousends of followers, making it one of the most popular kung fu systems in the world.

 

Kung Fu : 

 

Like in every kung fu style, the first and most important aspect a student will learn are the basic stances (‘Ma Poh Fan Kai‘ in Cantonese):

 

(Click on the pictures to enlarge…)

 

Pai Tjoek Ma
Zee Ping Ma
Pad Chi Tai Ma
Ting Chi Ma
Tieuw Kug Ma
Chi Ng Ma
Kauw Ma
Kwai Ma
Poc Tooi
Tan Kug Ma

 

Fist Forms :

 

The first forms (called Kuen-Toh in Cantonese) a student will learn, when studying the Hung Gar system, are usually the long greeting and the first square, and then the second square (Sap Chie Kuen Toh). Then there are lots of other forms to be studied in this system, like : 

 

Gung Ji Fook Fu Kuen (taming the tiger form) 
Fu Hok Sueng Ying Kuen (tiger and crane form) 
Tiet Sin Kuen (iron wire form) 
Mui Fa Kuen (plum blossom form) 
Lau Gar Kuen (Lau family form) 
Deep Jeung (butterfly palm) 
Muk Yan Jong (wooden dummy form) 
Sup Ying Kuen (five animals, five elements form) 
Da Mo Yit Gung Ging (Bodhidharma muscle changing classic) 
Siu Lum Yut Jie Sin (Shaolin one finger zen) 
Gum Gong Yu Ga (Gum Gong Yoga)

 

 

read more about the shaolin Kung Fu art

 

Shaolin kung fu (shaolin Martial Arts)

 

learn shaolin kung fu in China

The students can learn traditional shaolin kung fu in China kunyu shaolin kung fu school with authentic shaolin masters from shaolin temple.

The Chinese Shaolin kung fu is not a creation of one person, but an accumulation of works by millions of people. Shaolin martial art is the pearl of Chinese wisdom, which was handed down by numerous generations of China’s top martial artists.

Shaolin kung fu training is very health mentally and physically,there are professional shaolin class in school.

Shaolin kung fu was divided into five major shaolin schools: Hen Na (Song Shan) shaolin, Fu Jian shaolin, Guang Dong shaolin, Si Chuan shaolin and Hu Bei shaolin. Shaolin began with many small schools and styles within the Shaolin art. It also can be divided respectively into northern and southern shaolin style as well.

Shaolin kungfu has a vast content and numerous forms. There are some important aspects of gong fu such as: internal kungfu, external kungfu, hard kungfu, light kungfu, qi gong, etc. The internal kungfu mainly focuses on practicing the strength of one’s body; the light kungfu focuses on the jump especially; qi gong includes practise and maintenance of qi. Shaolin Gongfu includes hand-to-hand defense as well as the use of weapons. There are forms: staff, spear, broadsword, straight sword, various other weapons, combat, equipments, performance sparring, sparring with weapons, etc.
Sadly, in time, many forms and soft-hard combination kungfu have been lost. According to some statistics, 234 kinds of boxing and 137 kinds of equipments/weapons exist, having been passed down from early generations. Many other styles of kungfu have been passed down as well.

These are pictures of students following masters learn shaolin kung fu in the academy.
shaolin kung fu traininglearn shaolinshaolin kung fushaolin kung fulearn kung fu
1. Shaolin Boxing
Shaolin Boxing is the origin of martial arts. Shaolin fist has the following forms: luo han quan, xiao hong quan,da hong quan, shaolin wu quan, zhao yang quan, lian huan quan, gong li quan,tan tui, rou quan, liu he quan,nei gongquan, tai zu chang quan, pao quan, di tang quan, shaolin quan, mei hua quan, tong bei quan, jin gang quan, qi xing quan, xin yi quan, fu hu quan, drunken fist, monkey fist, fan zi quan, eagle fist, chicken fist, puma fist, crane fist, dragon fist, tiger fist, snake fist, duck fist, dog fist, mantis fist, toad fist and so forth.
The performance sparring has san he quan, yao shou liu he quan, ti da liu he quan, fifteen he li wai heng pao, twenty four pao, shaolin dui quan, a hundred and eight dui quan, hua quan settled sparring, jie tan tui etc.

 

shaolin master-kunyu mountain shaolin kung fu academy


Shaolin kung fu boxing is hard, strong, fast and according to the Chinese is “filled with softness inside.” It also is plain and practical with every action, both attack and defense as well as in pose. As the old saying goes: practise in a place where only a cow can lie; such is shaolin boxing, you’re not limited by the place and its size. The shaolin style embodies a word — hard. It is practiced with both attack and defense, but mostly attack. The form is not only beautiful, but also practical. The stride is flexible. Shaolin teaches you actions forward, actions of retreat, reaction and to punch directly in front of you. On body and fist, it is required that the arm is not too straight and to keep all the forward and backward motion natural. The foot technique must be stable and flexible, the eye technique requires staring at the opponent’s eyes and for the breathing, the Qi should be “down to your dan tian'” before the Qi is released. “The action is as fast as a flash, a spin- like a turning wheel, a stance like pine and jump like a fly.” Shaolin boxing is divided into two schools, Southern, which emphasizes fists, and Northern, which emphasizes legs. There are many styles also within both Southern and Northern Shaolin kung fu.

 

ShiXingQing

             shaolin masters

 

2. Shaolin Staff
Shaolin staff has the following forms: drunken staff, monkey staff, feng huo gun, qi mei gun, da gan zi, qi mei gun, da ye cha gun, xiao ye cha gun, shaolin gun, xiao mei hua gun, yun yang gun, pi shan gun, yin shou gun, wu hu qin yang gun etc.
Performance staff sparring has pai gun,chuan suo gun, liu he gun, po yun shi er lu etc.
The staff is practical and forms and sparring can include several people. Staff practice has strong rhythm and an involved technique. It is fast, bold and swift; it can not only strengthen body, but also win the battle. It played an important role in fighting for generations.

3. Shaolin Spear
Spear was the king of the martial equipments in the old times. The shaolin spear school has shaolin qiang, wu hu qiang, ye zhan qiang, thirteen qiang, ti lu qiang, lan men qiang, jin hua shuang she qiang, twenty four ming qiang, twenty seven ming qiang, thirty one ming bao hua qiang, thirty six qiang, liu men qiang shi, shi qiang jia, six lu hua qiang, bao hua qiang, etc.
The settled spear sparring has spear vs spear, hand vs spear, double broad sword vs spear, zhan qiang, liu he qinag, thirty six spear po fa settled sparring, twenty one ming qiang poke each other etc.

 

shaolin weapon


There is a poem for shaolin spear: body technique like cat, poke like fighting with tiger and in a line, spear like an arrow from a bow, retract the spear like a tiger, jump for a step like climbing hills, one hand maneuvers the spear like a tiger, the other hand as a fulcrum, now spear like picking dragon.” The eyes look up and body technique should be natural: block, capture, pick jerk, sweep etc. These actions all have important meaning in Gong Fu.

4. Shaolin Broadsword
For over a thousand years, the broad sword has been one of the most important martial art weapons. Thus every action in broadsword needs to be brave and generous.

Shaolin broadsword has the following forms: chun qiu da dao, meihua dao, shaolin single broadsword, shaolin double broadsword, fen yong dao, xue pian dao, bao yue dao, pi shan dao, shaolin road one broadsword, road two broadsword, liu he single broadsword, road six broadsword, road eight double broadsword, tai zu crouching dragon broadsword, ma men single broadsword, swallow tail broadsword, mei hua shuang fa dao, di tang double broadsword, yun tang dao, dan dao chang xing dao, wu hu shaolin zhui feng dao, etc.

 

learn shaolin kung fu in china

The performance broadsword sparring has broadsword vs. broadsword, er he double broadsword, chop each other single broadsword, chop each other big broadsword, single broadsword vs. double broadsword etc. The characteristics of using broadsword are winding head, twisting body, chopping, sweeping, poking, slashing, bracing, picking and so on. And there are sayings like: watching hand when playing single broadsword, watching footwork when playing double broadsword, watch poking hand when playing big broadsword, chopping, slashing, cutting and poking are all like furious tiger.
5. Shaolin Straight Sword
Straight sword technique is ancient and prestigious, handed down from ancient times with characteristics: elegant, robust and strong.
Shaolin straight sword technique has the following forms: da mo jian, qian kun jian, lian hua jian, tai yi jian, drunken straight sword, dragon shape straight sword, flying dragon straight sword, white ape straight sword, ti pao jian, liu xuan de shuang jian, qing feng jian, walking dragon straight sword, martial double straight sword etc.
Performance straight sword sparring has er tang jian, wu tang jian dui ci, shaolin jian dui ci etc. The straight sword poem:”Straight sword is the blue dragon one, do it calmly when practicing and let the Qi follow the straight sword, eyes follow the tip, make the Qi down to the lower body and then it will be stable, body technique natural, move straight sword like flying swallow, land straight sword like wind stopping, retreat straight sword like flower and poke like steel staple.”

6. Other Shaolin Martial Arts Equipment
Shaolin martial equipments are numerous and varying in long, short, hard, soft, with hook, with spine and with blade and difficult to count. Beside the spear, staff, broadsword, straight sword above, it still has fang bian chan, e mei ci, yue ya chan, double hammer, big axe, double axe, san jie gun, shao zi gun, qi jie bian, jie jie bian, double whip, dao li jia bian, sheng biao,tiger head double hook, ji tou gou, mei hua dan guai, liu he shuang guai, horse teeth spine, turtle ring, shuang jian, qian kun ring, chan zhang, feng mo zhang, bow and shield, and so on.

shaolin weapon


7. Weapons, Performance Sparring, and Weapons vs. Boxing
Forms of equipment settled sparring and equipment vs. boxing include snatch broadsword with empty hands, snatch spear with empty hands, single broadsword vs. spear, snatch dagger with empty hands, stuff vs. spear, hake vs. spear, shao zi gun vs. spear, broadsword vs. spear, double broadsword vs. spear, qi mei gun vs. spear, dan guai vs. spear, shuang guai vs. spear, guai zi vs. qi mei gun, tiger head hook vs. spear, horse teeth spine vs. spear, tao san huan vs. spear, fang bian chan vs. spear, yue ya chan vs. double spear, yue ya he jian, san gu cha vs. spear, fang tian hua ji vs. spear, san jie gun vs. spear, big broadsword vs. spear, san jie gun vs. double spear, e mei ci vs. spear, etc
.

Shaolin kung fu in China-Kunyu mountain shaolin martial arts academy China

 

8. Shaolin Combat Technique
Shaolin combat technique is divided into ancient techniques, which means traditional combat and modern which is divided into San Da and actual combat. The ancient techniques include shan zhen yi shen ba, hu bu ba, you long fei bu, dan feng chao yang, shi zhi luan ba, ye di tou tao, hei hu tao xin, lao hou ban zhi, jin si cha fa, ying men tie shan zi, bo bu pao and so on.
Shaolin boxing nowadays features these kind of movements; boxing and Buddhism as a system, combination of spirit and movement, aggressive attack together with violent strikes and proceed or retreat with parts of the body. Generally speaking, Shaolin forms are short and the routine of the movements are mostly linear. The requirements of Shaolin actions and stances are as follows: straight head and follow the movements of the body (with extremities), eyes focused on a point, use great awareness, open chest and straighten back, and for the knees, hips and toes they are all pointed slightly inside to protect the groin. The shoulders should be relaxed, and the arms slightly curved when attacking. Make sure that when you are attacking you don’t forget to defend yourself and use decisive, strong, swift defense in event of another’s attack. Keep your balance at all times, be flexible when moving and stable when stationary. The footwork should be low when proceeding with attack, and high when retreating to coordinate the entire body. All movements should be fast!

9. Shaolin QiGong

Qi gong has a large influence on shaolin kungfu. Qi gong was taught in the Shaolin temple, and includes: yi jin jing, xiao wu gong, zhan zhuang gong, yi shou yin yang fa, hun yuan yi qi gong, da zuo, etc.

 

shaolin Chi kung-kunyu mountain shaolin martial arts academy


10. Combination of Soft and Hard kung fu
There are many Shaolin styles to practice the combination of soft and hard kung fu. For example, the martial aspects of xie gu fa, chin na fa, dian xue mi fa, duan da shou fa, all kinds of medicine methods, jiu zhi fa and so on.
Beside the Shaolin martial arts above, there are seventy-two other important kinds. They are distinguished by being either internal (i.e. xi ying gong) external (i.e. tie niu gong), soft (i.e. zhu sha zhang) or hard (i.e. tie bu shan).

 

shaolin Kungfu basic trainning

One. hand style and technique

palm

shaolin kung fu
P1         P2         P3          P4

P1 front standing palm  P2 side standing palm  P3 inversing stang palm    P4 turnning palm


P5                  P6

    P5 facing upward palm         P6 horizontal palm

claw

claw variouses in different types and techniques, such as dragon claw,monkey claw, eagle claw, tiger claw and five-flower claw etc.


P7                    P8

     P7 dragon claw              P8 monkey claw


P9           P10           P11

    P9 eagle claw     P10 tiger claw    P11 five-flower claw


hooking hand

hooking hand is seldemly used in shaolin boxing, while it is widely used in mantis boxing,five-animal boxing, wuzi boxing etc.(P12)


P12

fist

Being the most commonly used hand type in shaolin boxing, fist has two
variations. (P13\P14)


P13                   P14

shaolin kung fu
P15            P16            P17

   P15 biao fist        P16 yang fist     P17 yin fist


P18           P19            P20

   P18 crashing fist    P19 chopping fist     P20 flying fist


elbow

elbow is the complement of hand technique. holding fist and curving elbow rushing forward the opponent’s chest or abdomen is called rushing-heart elbow.(P21)

shaolin kung fu
P21

Two. foot type and trainning method

foot plays an important role in shaolon boxing

foot type

It is sorted in three types: stretching tight foot, flat foot and hooking foot.

foot technique and training method


P22            P23            P24

  P22 step-on foot   P23 swing-outside foot    P24 splashing foot


P25                 P26

      P25 hooking foot           P26 whirlwind foot


P27                 P28

P27 both flying foot        P28 crossed foot

Three. body type and trainning method

straight body, sideward body, slanted body, contract body, turn-over body, turnning body, facing down body, facing up body, rolling body.


Four. eye technique

apparent technique, hidden technique, empty technique, full technique, angry technique, meditation technique, wave technique, narrowing-eye technique.


Five. footwork and foot technique

footwork


P29             P30          P31

  P29 bow stance     P30 horse-riding stance   P31 empty stance


P32            P33           P34

  P32 insert stance  P33 sideward-leg stance    P34 rest stance

kung fu training
P35                P36

      P35 combining stance        P36 T-style stance

foot technique

foot technique is one of the important basics in shaolin boxing.

forward step, retreat step, jump step, arrow step, flying step, moving step, vertical step, hoping step.


Six. Leg technique

training of leg technique


P37           P38            P39

   P37 front stretch     P38 side stretch   P39 higher side stretch

shaolin kung fu
    P40               P41        P42

P40 backward leg   P41 highest lever front stretch P42 highest lever side stretch


P43            P44            P45

  P43 crouch holding     P44 sleep holding     P45 hang holding

Shaolin Kung fu school China
P46         P47              P48     

   P46\P47 to-the-back holding         P48 side split


P49

P49 front-back split


commonly used leg technique

Shaolin Kung Fu
   P50          P51            P52

    P50 treading leg     P51 front kick       P52 side kick


  P53             P54          P55

    P53 reverse kick   P54 front-flipping leg  P55 empty-flipping leg


P56                 P57

P56 swing-outside leg        P57 swing-inside leg

learn shaolin kung fu
P58

P58 front-sweeping leg


Seven. Jump technique

jump technique is a kind of sports that combines with foot technique and leg technique.


Eight. Acrobatic technique

shaolin kung fu school
P59                 P60

P59 wheel-turning         P60 flying-turning


Nine. Training of stance kungfu

shaolin kung fu
P61              P62

P61 horse-riding stance       P62 bow stance  

The ‘Tiger & Crane’ form, as created by ‘Wong Fei Hung’ :

 

 

´Tit Sin Kuen´ :

 

 

´Gun Ji´ :

 

 

Weapon Forms :

 

Hao Jie Kwun or Chai Mei Kwun (monkey king staff or eyebrow height staff) 
Lau Gar Pang (Lau family single headed staff, a.k.a. rat tail staff) 
Pek Kua Do (cutting the trap broadsword) 
Ng Long Pa Kua Kwun (fifth son’s eight trigrams staff) 
Hang Yuet Seung Do (moon flowing double broadsword) 
Seung Long Do (double dragon broadsword) 
Wu Diep Do (butterfly knives) 
See Gar Cheung (See family spear) 
Chun Choy Dai Do (spring and autumn big knife, a.k.a. General Kwan’s halberd) 
Kwan Lun Gim (kunlun mountain straight sword) 
Yu Gar Dai Pa (Yu family tiger fork) 
Cho Tao (hoe) 
Fu Tao Seung Ngao (tiger hooks) 
Luen Fa Bo Dang (lotus flower wooden bench) 
Gau Jie Bien (nine section whip) 
Seung Gau Jie Bien (double nine section whip) 
Ng Jie Bien (five section whip) 
Seung Ng Jie Bien (double five section whip) 
Tiet Sien (iron fan) 
Tong Siew (bronze flute) 
Gee Sau (dagger) 

 

Sparring Forms :

 

Gung Jie Fook Fu Doy Dar (gung jie fook fu sparring form) 
Fu Hok Doy Dar (fu hok sparring form) 
Ng Long Pa Kua Kwun vs Ng Long Pa Kua Kwun (ng long pa kua kwun sparring form) 
Do and Tung Pai vs Cheung (broadsword and Rattan shield vs Spear sparring form) 
Wu Diep Do vs Chueng (butterfly knives vs spear sparring form) 
Dan Do vs Chueng (single broadsword vs spear sparring form) 
Chai Mei Kwun vs Chai Mei Kwun (eyebrow height staff sparring form) 
Chai Mei Kwun vs Dang (eyebrow height staff vs wooden bench sparring form) 
Gim vs Gim (straightsword sparring form)

 

(Click on the Pictures to enlarge…)

 

 

choy lay fut hung gar wing chun

 

today, he is immortalized, with many movies and publications portraying his life. Wong Fei Hung’s life was also filled with tragedies; several of his wives died prematurely. A son he trained died in an ambush, and thereafter, he thought that he could protect his other sons by not teaching them. He later married Mok Gwai Lan, another descendent of one of the five southern systems, Mok Gar

 

One of Wong Fei Hung’s best students was Lam Sai Wing, a pork butcher from Guangzhau. He was a disciple for fifteen years before he was entitled to advanced training. Credit goes to Lam Sai Wing for perpetuating the system that we know today and setting precedence for future masters in the Hung Gar system. This system remains closest to its original Shaolin style and has maintained the integrity of the system.   Second row, third from left-Lam Jo, Lam Sai Wing to the right of him

 

Second row-Lam Jo, third from left, Kwong Tit Fu, far right Without any sons to carry on his legacy, Lam Sai Wing adopted his orphaned nephew, Lam Cho at age 6. He assisted his uncle in teaching the system at his schools and made his own imprint on the system. His hand techniques were superior, and he was reputed to have the agility of a northern stylist and the strength of a southern stylist. Today, Lam Cho continues to practice the Iron Wire Fist form. His sons, Lam Chun Fai and Lam Chan Sing now carry the family tradition. Lam Chun Fai, as the elder son, is now the reigning grandmaster of the Siu Lam Fu Hok Pai Hung Gar. 

 

Kwong Tit Fu began his Hung Gar training in Guangzhau under his uncle, Kwong Chong Sau. He learned several systems, and to further his knowledge, he sought out Lam Cho in Hong Kong. He later emigrated from Hong Kong to the United States. In 1971, shortly after Kwong Tit-Fu’s arrival, Calvin Chin secured him as a Kung Fu instructor for a youth athletic club where he was a martial arts instructor. He assisted his new teacher in establishing the first Hung Gar Tiger Crane school on the East Coast. After many years of extensive research and development, Kwong Tit Fu founded his own system, Fu Hok Tai He Morn. This system is a synthesis of the methods and principles of Hung Gar Fu Hok kung fu, Wu style tai chi and Mu Dong – Yat Hei Ngm Hahng Morn, an advanced level internal system. After receiving a black belt in the Uechi Ryu Karate system, Calvin Chin wanted to further his knowledge by studying a traditional Chinese system. He tried several different systems before he heard of Kwong Tit-Fu’s martial arts prowess. Calvin Chin was president of his teacher’s school, and its chief instructor. Today, he remains the top disciple of the Fu Hok Tai He Morn system and continues the tradition at his own school

read more about Wong Fei hong

 


WONG FEI HUNG (HUNG GAR)

 
WONG FEI HUNG (HUNG GAR)
Wong Fei Hung (; simplified Chinese:; Pinyin: Huáng Fēihóng; Cantonese Yale: Wòhng Fēihùhng) (July 9, 1847–March 25, 1924) was a martial artist, Chinese medicine practitioner, and revolutionary who became a Chinese folk her and the subject of numerous television series and films. As a healer and medical doctor, Wong practiced and taught acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine ‘Po Chi Lam’ , his clinic in Foshan, Guangdong Province, China , where he was known for his compassion and policy of treating any patient. A museum dedicated to him was built in Foshan. Amongst Wong’s most famous disciples were Lam Sai Wing, Leung Foon, and Ling Wan Gai. He was also associated with Chi Su Hua, aka the Beggar So.
Early years
Legend has it that Wong Fei Hung was born in Foshan on the ninth day of the seventh month of the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Emperor Daoguang (1847). When Wong was five, he began his study of martial arts under his father Wong Kei Ying. To supplement his poor family’s income, he followed his father to Foshan, Guangzhou and throughout the rest of Guangdong Province to do martial arts performances and to sell medicines.

Well within his youth, Wong began showing great potential as a martial artist. At the age of thirteen, while giving a martial arts demonstration at Douzhixiang, Foshan, Wong Fei Hung met Lam Fuk Sing, the first apprentice of Tit Kiu Saam, who taught him the “tour de force” of Iron Wire Fist and Sling, which helped him become a master of Hung Gar. When he was sixteen, Wong set up martial arts schools at Shuijiao, Diqipu, Xiguan, Guangdong Province, and then opened his clinic ‘Po Chi Lam’ (寶芝林) on Renan Street in Foshan. By his early 20s, he was fast making his mark as a highly-respected physician and martial artist.

Later years
As a famous martial arts master, he had many apprentices. He was successfully engaged by Jiming Provincial Commander-in-Chief Wu Quanmei and Liu Yongfu as the military medical officer, martial art general drillmaster, and Guangdong local military general drillmaster. He later followed Liu Youngfu to fight against the Japanese army in Taiwan. His life was full of frustration, and in his later years he experienced the loss of his son and the burning of Po Chi Lam. On lunar year, the twenty-fifth day of the third month in 1924, Wong Fei Hung died of illness in Guangdong Chengxi Fangbian Hospital. His wife and two of his prominent students, Lam Sai-Wing and Tang Sai-King, moved to Hong Kong, where they continued teaching Wong’s martial art. Wong became a legendary hero whose real-life story was mixed freely with fictional exploits on the printed page and onscreen.

As a martial artist
Wong was a master of the Chinese martial art Hung Gar. He systematized the predominant style of Hung Gar and choreographed its version of the famous Tiger Crane Paired Form Fist, which incorporates his “Ten Special Fist” techniques. Wong was famous for his skill with the technique known as the “No Shadow Kick”. He was known to state the names of the techniques he used while fighting. Wong Fei Hung also became adept at using weapons such as the wooden long staff and the southern tiger fork. Soon after, stories began circulating about his mastery of these weapons. One story recounts how he defeated a 30-man gang on the docks of Canton using the staff.

Wong is sometimes included in the Ten Tigers of Canton (ten of the top martial arts masters in Guangdong towards the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), a group to which his father Wong Kei Ying belonged).Wong Fei-Hung was born in 1847 in the Fushan district of China. He died in 1924 of natural causes. His contributions to modern day Hung-Gar are unmatched, and can be considered one of the forefathers of modern day martial arts. He was renowned for protecting the weak and helping the poor. Wong Kay-Ying was his father, who was a physician and great martial arts master also..

Wong Fei-Hung’s father ran a famous medical clinic called Po Chi Lam, and Wong Fei-Hung grew up there, assisting his father. He learned traditional Chinese medicine, and also learned many important values such as generosity and compassion. Wong Kay-Ying always treated a patient, even if he or she couldn’t afford any treatment.

The Ch’ing Dynasty consisted of Manchu emperors, who had conquered China from there home in Manchuria. They were foreign invaders to the southern Chinese. The southern Shaolin Temple in Fukien was a place where the resistance would go to train to fight against the Ch’ing. The temple was first burned down in 1734, but the few monks and students who survived traveled across China teaching their skills to others worthy enough along the way. Variations on the Southern Shaolin styles soon emerged such as Wing Chun (Bruce Lee’s original style) and Hung Gar Kung Fu (Wong Fei-Hung’s style). The father of modern day Hung-Gar was Hung Hei-Kwun (another martial arts master that was portrayed by Jet Li in New Legend of Shaolin).

At first Wong Fei-Hung’s father was reluctant to teach him Hung-Gar, but his martial arts training soon began by his father’s teacher, Luk Ah Choi. Luk Ah Choi taught Wong Fei-Hung the basics of Hung Gar. After, Wong Kay-Ying took over his son’s training. By his early 20’s, Wong Fei-Hung had made a name for himself as a dedicated physician and a martial arts prodigy. In addition to becoming a master of Hung-Gar, he created the tiger-crane style and added fighting combinations now known as the “Ten Forms Fist / Sup Ying Kuen”, which consisted of the set of 10 individual fighting stances of: Dragon, Tiger, Crane, Snake, Leopard, Wood, Metal, Earth, Fire, and Water. Wong Fei-Hung was also skilled with many weapons, especially the long wooden staff and the southern tiger fork. On one occasion where he utilized his skill with the staff was when he defeated a thirty-man gang on the docks of Canton (Similar scene is Once Upon A Time in China I). He also protected the weak and poor from both criminal gangs and government forces. Wong Fei-Hung, like his father before him was know as one of the TEN TIGERS of CANTON. A title bestowed on the best of the best martial artists of the time.

Wong Fei-Hung’s son, Wong Hawn-Sum, followed his father’s ways of defending the weak. Unfortunately, he was killed in the 1890’s after being gunned down by the gang Dai Fin Yee. After this tragedy, Wong Fei-Hung vowed never to teach his remaining 9 sons martial arts to protect them from challengers seeking fame.If ever there really existed a true hero of martial arts, a person worthy of that title would definitely be Wong Fei-Hung. This website and online community is a tribute to that great hero Wong Fei-Hung.

Wong Fei Hung
A Painting of Wong Fei HungWong Fei Hung was born(circa 1847) in the Nam hoi district of Kwungtung province into a well respected and famous family of Gung Fu practitioners. He is undautabley the most famous and extremely well known hung gar master to date whose life has been immortalized by hundreds of movies, publications, TV shows etc. Wong Fei Hung is widely considered as the father of the modern day Hung Gar due to his additions and the pivotal role on the development of Hung gar as we know today.

Wong Fei Hung started learning gung fu and traditional Chinese medicine from a very early age under the guidance of his father Wong Kei Ying. As a young boy Wong Fei Hung traveled with his father all over China which gave him the opportunity to meet and train with some of the best gung fu masters of the time. During one of these travels (as mentioned above) he met Lam Foon Sing a student of the famous Master Tid Kiu Sam. Lam Foon Sing passed all his knowledge on to Wong Fei Hung including the form Tid Sin Kuen which was created by Tid Kiu Sam.

As Wong Fei Hung grow up, he earned an excellent reputation for his gung fu as well as for his skills as a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine. He also became known and respected for his strong character, honesty, righteousness and moral values. He always helped those in need without asking for anything in return. Wong Fei Hung’s martial skills and the effectiveness of his style (Hung Gar) was tested and proven time and time again in many open challenge’s. Many famous and skilled gung fu fighters of the time came to cross hands with Wong Fei Hung but none could defeat him. During his life Wong Fei Hung met many challengers and never lost a fight. He soon became one of the most famous masters of his time if not the most famous. His name and stories about his gung fu skills and moral values spread far and wide. Wong Fei Hung eventually inherited his fathers school and clinic “Po Chi Lum” where thousands of people came to be accepted as his disciple and study his famous gung fu Hung Gar. It must be mentioned that besides his martial and medical skills, he was well know for his excellent Lion Dance and was referred to as the “King Of Lions”. Wong Fei Hung was also the head instructor of the Kwuntung army and leader of the Civilian Militia.

A Painting of Wong Fei HungAs mentioned earlier, grandmaster Wong is widely known as the father of modern day Hung Gar due to the reason that using his excellent knowledge and hand on experience he further developed and modified Hung Gar.One of his greatest legacies and masterpiece is the Fu Hok Sheong Yin Kuen, or Tiger and Crane set, which he re-choreographed and further developed. Many important aspects and principles were further developed and added in , such as the unique internal training handed down by the Tid Kiu Sam, 10 special hands(sup duk sao- sup jeut sao) also known as 10 killing hands, theory of yin-yang, 5 elements, 7 stars etc. The ten special hands were the ten most favored techniques/principles of Wong Fei Hung which he used in many challenges to defeat his opponents.He is also accredited for developing and creating the Sup Ying Kuen as a bridge form between Fu Hok Seung Ying Kuen and Tid Sin Kuen.

Wong Fei Hung was married four times and had many children. Three of his wifes sadly died due to illness. It is said that his first wife died not long after their wedding. Wong had no children from the first wife however his second wife bore him two boys who were named Wong Hon-Sum and Wong Hon-Lam. Sadly she also died. Grandmaster Wong’s third wife did not live long either, she also bore two sons for Wong, they were named Wong Hon-Hei and Wong Hon-Hsu. It is said that Wong Fei Hung’s first son Wong Hon-Sum was excellent in gung fu, however he was ambushed and shot dead by gangsters. After this tragic incident Wong Fei Hung stopped teaching gung fu to his other children only to protect them.

Lion DanceHe did not remarry again for many years until he met Mok Gwai Lan(see photo)through a funny but rather embarrassing indecent on Wong Fei Hungs behalf. It is said that Wong Fei Hung and his students were asked to perform lion dance and demonstrate gung fu for the anniversary of the Lam Hoi Association. After excellent Lion Dance performance and gung fu demonstration by his students, the grandmaster Wong Fei Hung stepped out to demonstrate his famous skills to the eagerly waiting crowd. During his performance, one of his shoe accidentally came of, flew into the crowd and hit a young woman in the face. Wong Fei Hung quickly approached her and apologized. However the young woman was furious and slapped Wong in the face and told him off in front of the whole crowd saying that such a famous master of gung fu had no excuse and should be more carefully. After this incident Wong Fei Hung could not forget about the young woman and later found out that her name was Mok Gwai Lan and she was not yet married. She was also from a respectable family of gung fu masters and was skilled in her family style of Mok Gar gung fu. ( Mok Gar is one of the 5 main family styles of the southern gung fu). It is sad that she learned Mok Gar under his uncle who was also a good friend of Wong Fei Hung. Despite the age difference Wong Fei Hung eventually married Mok Gwai Lan. Because of her back ground in Mok Gar gung fu and her interest, grandmaster Wong taught her the Hung Gar system. Later she became an instructor at her husbands school and was responsible for teaching a all women’s class. After Wong Fei Hung passed away (circa 1924) she moved to Hong Kong with her children and lived in Wanchai where she carried on teaching gung fu until her death. She was interwieved by Hong Kong TV a few times in the late sixties, and seventies. When She was about 83, she was interviewed by the Hong Kong TV and performed the famous Tiger and Crane form .

Wong Fei Hung had many outstanding students. One of the most famous and well known of his student who carried on the legacy and teachings of his master was Lam Sai Wing. Wong Fei Hung had two other excellent students Leung Foon and Ling Wan Gai. However they both died at a young age and never had students of their own. It is said that Leung Foo was one of grandmaster Wongs top student, but sadly he got addicted to opium and soon fell ill and died.
Wong Fei Hung remains as the most famous of all Hung Gar masters to date. The story of his life has been immortalized by over hundred movies, publications, TV and radio shows. Kwan Tak Hing a well known Chinese actor rose to fame playing the character of Wong Fei Hung over 80 plus black/white and colured movies. Even today many movies and TV shows are still made about his life and his adventures by such famous actors like Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

 
 

 

 

The father of  modern day Hung-Gar was Hung Hei-Kwun (another martial arts master that was portrayed by Jet Li in New Legend of Shaolin). 

 

         At first Wong Fei-Hung’s father was reluctant to teach him Hung-Gar, but his martial arts training soon began by  his father’s teacher, Luk Ah Choi. Luk Ah Choi taught Wong Fei-Hung the basics of Hung Gar. After, Wong Kay-Ying took over his son’s training. By his early 20’s, Wong Fei-Hung had made a name for himself as a dedicated physician and a martial arts prodigy. In addition to becoming a master of Hung-Gar, he created the tiger-crane style and added fighting combinations now known as the “Ten Forms Fist

/ Sup Ying Kuen”, which consisted of the set of 10 individual fighting stances of:  Dragon, Tiger, Crane, Snake, Leopard, Wood, Metal, Earth, Fire, and Water. Wong Fei-Hung was also skilled with many weapons, especially the long wooden staff and the southern tiger fork. On one occasion where he utilized his skill with the staff was when he defeated a thirty-man gang on the docks of Canton (Similar scene is Once Upon A Time in China I). He also protected the weak and poor from both criminal gangs and government forces.  Wong Fei-Hung, like his father before him was know as one of the TEN TIGERS of CANTON.  A title bestowed on the best of the best martial artists of the time.

        Wong Fei-Hung’s son, Wong Hawn-Sum, followed his father’s ways of defending the weak. Unfortunately, he was killed in the 1890’s after being gunned down by the gang Dai Fin Yee. After this tragedy, Wong Fei-Hung vowed never to teach his remaining 9 sons martial arts to protect them from challengers seeking fame.

        If ever there really existed a true hero of martial arts, a person worthy of that title would definitely be Wong Fei-Hung. 

Wong Fei Hong

Wong Fei Hong or Huang Fei Hung (traditional Chinese: 黃飛鴻; simplified Chinese: 黄飞鸿; pinyin: Huáng Fēihóng; Cantonese Yale: Wòhng Fēihùhng) (1847–1924) was a martial artist, a medical doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, and revolutionary who became a Chinese folk hero and the subject of numerous television series and films.As a healer and medical doctor, Wong practiced and taught acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine at ‘Po Chi Lam’ (寶芝林), his private practice medical clinic in Foshan, Guangdong Province, China, where he was known for his compassion and policy of treating any patient. A museum dedicated to him was built in Foshan.Amongst Wong’s most famous disciples were Lam Sai Wing, Leung Foon, Tang Fung, and Ling Wan Gai. He was also associated with Chi Su Hua, aka Beggar So.Wong Fei Hung (Cantonese) or Huang Fei Hong (Mandarin), was a real life person and Kung Fu Grand Master who lived in Foshan City. He was a renowned Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and a Kung Fu Grand Master. He was supreme in the Hung Ga form of Kung Fu. There is a school and museum dedicated to him in Foshan city today, located near Xi Qiao Shan. China Expat’s knows this well – we can see it from our office.Spelling and pronunciation:
This is basically a nightmare! We will use the official Mainland Cantonese, which is Wong Fei Hong. Wong Fei Hung is Hong Kong Cantonese. Huang Fei Hong is Mandarin. Now lets try ‘Hung Ga’ … well, there are around 20 different spellings of this worldwide, of which frequent alternatives are ‘Hun Gar’, ‘Hung Gar’, and ‘Hung Ga’. As this is a Cantonese name, and Cantonese cannot pronounce the letter ‘r’ and also drop last letter ‘g’ to a silent component – so you can see why we end up in a muddle. We will use the official Maniland Cantonese ‘Hung Ga’Then of course, Chinese people love to play tricks with langauge, and you may consider this name to also mean yellow (wong, huang) vs (fei) red (hong). Hung in HK Cantonese can mean ‘red’ or other things. And of course, the Characters are not correct – but the implied meaning is, and is presented as a joke or test – depending upon your personal perspective. Here is China!
 
Image: Wong Fei Hong   Biography:
Legend has it that Wong Fei Hung was born in Foshan on the ninth day of the seventh month of the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Emperor Daoguang (1847). When Wong was five, he began his study of martial arts under his father Wong Kei Ying, one of the Ten Tigers of Canton. To supplement his poor family’s income, he followed his father to Foshan, Guangzhou and throughout the rest of Guangdong Province to do martial arts performances and to sell medicines.
Well within his youth, Wong began showing great potential as a martial artist. At the age of thirteen, while giving a martial arts demonstration at Douzhixiang, Foshan, Wong Fei Hung met Lam Fuk Sing, the first apprentice of Tit Kiu Saam, who taught him the “tour de force” of Iron Wire Fist and Sling, which helped him become a master of Hung Gar. When he was sixteen, Wong set up martial arts schools at Shuijiao, Diqipu, Xiguan, Guangdong Province, and then opened his clinic ‘Po Chi Lam’ (寶芝林) on Renan Street in Foshan. By his early 20s, he was fast making his mark as a highly-respected physician and martial artist.Later years
As a famous martial arts master, he had many apprentices. He was successfully engaged by Jiming Provincial Commander-in-Chief Wu Quanmei and Liu Yongfu as the military medical officer, martial art general drillmaster, and Guangdong local military general drillmaster. He later followed Liu Youngfu to fight against the Japanese army in Taiwan. His life was full of frustration, and in his later years he experienced the loss of his son and the burning of Po Chi Lam, an academy that went unsurpassed in martial arts competitions. On lunar year, the twenty-fifth day of the third month in 1924, Wong Fei Hung died of illness in Guangdong Chengxi Fangbian Hospital. His wife and two of his prominent students, Lam Sai-Wing and Tang Sai-King, moved to Hong Kong, where they continued teaching Wong’s martial art. Wong became a legendary hero whose real-life story was mixed freely with fictional exploits on the printed page and onscreen.
 
Martial ArtistWong was a master of the Chinese martial art Hung Fist. He systematized the predominant style of Hung Fist and choreographed its version of the famous Tiger Crane Paired Form Fist, which incorporates his “Ten Special Fist” techniques. Wong was famous for his skill with the technique known as the “Shadowless Kick”. He was known to state the names of the techniques he used while fighting.Wong Fei Hung also became adept at using weapons such as the wooden long staff and the southern tiger fork. Soon after, stories began circulating about his mastery of these weapons. One story recounts how he defeated a 30-man gang on the docks of Canton using the staff.Wong is sometimes incorrectly identified as one of the Ten Tigers of Canton (a group of ten of the top martial arts masters in Guangdong near the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912). His father Wong Kei Ying was one of the Ten Tigers, but Wong Fei-Hung was not. Due to his heroic efforts in defending China’s pride during a period when Chinese morale was at an all time low, Wong Fei-Hung is sometimes known as the “Tiger after the Ten Tigers.”Note:
For those new to Chinese Kung Fu and Martial Arts in China, please accept that fighting skills are always only one aspect of the Art. They are always complimented by Philosophy, Mental agility, Medicine, use of weapons, and other skills such as true Lion Dance and especially Chinese Calligraphy.It is said that a Chinese Grand Master of Kung Fu uses identical movements when wielding a Calligraphy brush and a sword. A fine example of this can be demonstrated in the excellent movie ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ which stars Jet Li as a bonus! One subplot centres around a Grand Master being requested to find the 20th way of writing the character for ‘Sword’ Eventually he solves the conundrum, and writes the new character in a large sand box using continuous and unbroken strokes of a sword.Tourism:
Please note we live in Foshan, and Candy (Jonno’s PA) lives about half a mile from the Wong Fei Hong school and museum based in Xiqiao. We know this area very well, and though never claiming to be ‘travel agents’, we can get you a great deal at local prices. We can also make enjoyable excursions for partners who are not into Kung Fu studies, but travel with you.
 
 
Wong Fei Hung 黃飛鴻 – The Hung Gar Kuen Hero Who Fought 30 Gangsters By Himself AloneWong Fei-hung (July 9, 1847 – May 24, 1924) was a Chinese martial artist, a traditional Chinese medicine physician, acupuncturist and revolutionary who became a folk hero and the subject of numerous television series and films. He was considered an expert in the Hung Ga style of Chinese martial arts. Wong is visibly the most famous Hung Ga practitioner of modern times. As such, his lineage has received the most attention.As a physician, Wong practiced and taught acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine at Po-chi-lam (寶芝林), his private practice medical clinic in Foshan, Guangdong, China. A museum dedicated to him was built in Foshan. Wong’s most famous disciples included Wong Hon-hei (his son), Lam Sai-wing, Leung Foon, Tang Fung, Wong Sai-wing and Ling Wan-kai. Wong was also associated with “Beggar So” of the Ten Tigers of Canton.BiographyWong was born in Foshan during the reign of the Daoguang Emperor in the Qing Dynasty. At the age of five, he started learning Hung Ga from his father, Wong Kei-ying. When he was 13, he learnt the Tour de Force of Iron Wire Fist and sling from Lam Fuk-sing (林福成), a student of “Iron Bridge Three” Leung Kwan, after meeting Lam in Douzhixiang during a martial arts street performance. He learnt the Shadowless Kick from Sung Fai-tong (宋輝鏜) later.In 1863 at the age of 17, Wong set up his first martial arts school in Shuijiao. 26 years later in 1886, he opened his Po-chi-lam (寶芝林) clinic at Ren’an. In 1919, Wong was invited to perform at Chin Woo Athletic Association’s Guangzhou branch during its opening ceremony.Wong died of illness on May 24, 1924 in Chengxi Fangbian Hospital in Guangdong. He was buried at the foot of Baiyun Mountain. Wong’s wife, Mok Kwai-lan (莫桂蘭), and his two sons, along with his disciples Lam Sai-wing and Tang Sai-king (鄧世瓊), later moved to Hong Kong and established martial arts schools there.In legend, Wong was recruited by Liu Yongfu, commander of the Black Flag Army, to be the army’s medical officer and martial arts instructor. Wong also instructed Guangdong’s local militia in martial arts. He followed Liu’s army to fight the Imperial Japanese Army in Taiwan before as well.
LifeWong married four times in his life. His last wife, Mok Kwai-lan, died in Hong Kong on March 11, 1982. He had four sons. The oldest, Wong Hon-sam (黃漢森), was shot to death by a colleague in a drunken brawl in 1923.Wong was a master of Hung Ga (also called Hung Fist). He systematized the predominant style of Hung Ga and choreographed its version of the famous “Tiger Crane Paired Form Fist”, which incorporates his “Ten Special Fist” techniques. Wong was famous for his skill with the technique known as the “Shadowless Kick”. He named the techniques of his skills when he performed them.Wong was adept at using weapons such as the staff and southern tiger fork. One tale recounts how Wong defeated a group of 30 gangsters on the docks of Guangdong using the staff.Wong is sometimes incorrectly identified as one of the “Ten Tigers of Canton”. His father, Wong Kei-ying, was one of the ten but he was not. Wong is dubbed as “Tiger after the Ten Tigers” for his heroic efforts to defend the pride of the Chinese when the Chinese faced oppression from foreign powers.
 

THE  STORY OF WONG FEI hONG

Wong Fei-hung (aka Huang Fei-hong)

is one of the most revered folk heroes in China, particularly among residents of Guangdong Province and Hong Kong where he came to be immortalized on screen more often than any other historical figure in the world. Although he died long before his fame spread into the film arena and elsewhere, this figure has come to epitomize the ideal Chinese hero.

For the past 70 years, mostly fictional exploits of Wong Fei-hung and his top martial arts students have been retold in serialized novels, TV series and in over 100 martial arts films. Wong has been repeatedly portrayed by such illustrious screen-fighting legends as Kwan Tak-hing, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. While relatively little is known about his personal life, this celebrated kung fu expert and healer has become a symbol of Chinese pride and has left an indelible mark on Hong Kong cinema and the martial arts world.

“Every great civilization has its cultural heroes. America has Davy Crockett; the British have Robin Hood. The Chinese have Wong Fei-hung, master of the martial arts and healing.”

 

In Chinese kung fu, one’s martial arts lineage is of nearly equal importance to one’s family lineage. The handing down of kung fu techniques from sifu (teacher) to student is of grave importance as many of the forms and techniques widely used today can often be traced back to a single figure. Such is the case for the Southern Fist technique which would become the basis for Wong Fei-hung’s Hung Kuen or Hung Fist style, a branch of Southern Shaolin kung fu.

Avid kung fu movie fans have likely seen at least one movie dealing with the destruction of the Southern Shaolin Temple. While the facts of this event and even the existence of the temple itself remain shrouded in myth, it is known that the Qing Dynasty began to look on the martial arts-trained monks of Shaolin as a potential threat and this forced many of the temple’s students to take their training underground.

 

Through years of rigorous and highly disciplined training these monks had become highly skilled in unarmed and armed combat. They had been recruited by emperors and warlords to fight invaders and Japanese pirates. In addition, they had for years trained emperors and generals in their fighting arts. Shaolin had long been seen as an ally of the government but during the Qing Dynasty, the temples became havens for rebels.

In the mid-1700s,

the Manchu government reputedly sacked the Southern Shaolin Temple and the surviving monks and lay students scattered throughout Southern China, particularly in the Guangdong region. One such student of notable skill was Hung Hei-kwun who settled near the city of Guangzhou and began teaching martial arts. His most successful student was Luk Ah-choy. Luk, himself a monk handed down his skills to Wong Tai. Wong Tai handed down his knowledge to his son, Wong Kai-ying. Wong Kai-ying became the father of Wong Fei-hung and in due time passed on what had become the family’s martial arts to his son.

Wong’s father was himself a folk hero of considerable distinction. He was a member of the Ten Tigers of Guangdong, all martial descendents of the Southern Shaolin Temple. Although it is unlikely that they interacted with each other much, if at all, the Ten Tigers of Guangdong were reputed to be the greatest fighters among their generation in Southern China. Like Wong Fei-hung, their exploits became the subject of popular stories.

Wong Fei-hung was born in 1847 at the end of the Qing Dynasty, by some accounts in Foshan, a city within Guangdong Province which borders Hong Kong in Southeast China. According to an alternate legend, his father would not teach Fei-hung martial arts for fear that it might endanger his life. Still desiring to learn, Fei-hung purportedly took lessons from his father’s master. More likely, Wong learned directly from his father.

The young Fei-hung was known to travel frequently with his father and perform kung fu in the streets for money, as seen in the 1993 kung fu movie IRON MONKEY. As a young adult, he took on the responsibility of becoming a martial arts instructor to the 5th Regiment of the Cantonese army as well as the Guangzhou Civilian Militia. He became quite involved with the local government after having trained two generals and becoming the assistant to the governor of the Fujian province.

Much of the political turmoil surrounding Wong as fictionally depicted in ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA and its sequels centered on a popular uprising where the people of Fujian demanded that the governor be appointed head of a new democratic state. Wong was to become the commander-in-chief. This riot was suppressed by thousands of government troops. This put an end to Wong’s political career as he fled to Guangzhou. There, Wong opened an herbal medicine shop called “Po Chi Lam” and took on a number of martial arts students.

Wong was married four times and endured the loss of his first three wives to illnesses. His fourth wife, Mok Kwai-lan was only a teenager when she married the elderly Wong. He lived to the age of 77 and died in 1924. This was not long after Po Chi Lam was burned down during the Guangzhou Merchant Corps Rebellion.

As a martial artist, Wong Fei-hung was famed for his skill in Hung Kuen. Early films depicted Wong performing what became signature forms such as the Iron Wire Fist, Five Forms Fist, Vanquishing Fist, and the Shadowless or No-Shadow Kick. Wong was also known to have excelled at the traditional Southern Chinese art of Lion Dancing. In Guangzhou, he was known as the “King of the Lions,” a title borrowed for one of the many Cantonese movies made about him.

Wong had a number of students to pass on his martial arts training. Notable disciples included Leung Foon, Ling Wan-kai, Chan Tin-biu, and Lam Sai-wing (aka Butcher Wing). While Wong spent little time in Hong Kong during his life, possibly as a result of killing a man in a street fight, his students set up academies in Hong Kong, the most famous run by Lam Sai-wing who also published several widely distributed fist form manuals. Lam had a number of students in Hong Kong, one of them was Lau Cham, father of future legendary kung fu moviemaker Lau Kar-leung and a kung fu consultant on the initial Wong Fei-hung films.

It wasn’t until a decade after his death that Wong Fei-hung’s legend began to seep into popular culture with the serialized publication of the Legend of Wong Fei-hung, authored by Chu Yu-chai, another one of Lam Sai-wing’s students. The topic of this fictional account, printed in local newspapers, propelled Wong Fei-hung’s posthumous fame to mythic proportions with heroic tales embellished by the author’s imagination.

It is suggested by Hong Kong film critic Po Fung that Chu’s writing was highly flawed by literary standards. It typically put Wong Fei-hung into crude plots involving simple challenges against an endless assortment of villains. Po unflatteringly describes the stories as repetitive and boring and reserves praise only for Chu’s authentic depiction of Guangdong customs. Of more noteworthy importance in its relevance to the Wong Fei-hung legend is Chu’s worldly and aggressive depiction of the hero which includes references to smoking opium and being a combative youth. In subsequent years, this rugged persona would gradually be replaced by the more idealistic and Confucian image depicted on screen.

The first feature film concerning the exploits of Wong Fei-hung appeared in 1949 and created a sensation that lasted for over a decade. THE STORY OF WONG FEI-HUNG: PART ONE was director Wu Pang’s adaptation of a radio drama, itself based on Chu Yu-chai’s novel. Chu was a consultant on the film, as was Wong Fei-hung’s son Hon-hei and his surviving wife Mok Kwai-lan. Mok also played a fighting role in PART THREE.

Cast in the starring role was a 44-year-old, steely-eyed Chinese opera performer named Kwan Tak-hing who had earlier toured China in support of the war movement against Japan during World War II. With morale still low in Hong Kong following the end of Japanese occupation, Kwan’s portrayal of a famed kung fu hero proudly fighting against challengers with realistic techniques must have struck a chord with audiences. Not only did Wu Pang direct three close-knit sequels but he went on to film over 50 more serial features through 1961 with Kwan in the lead. Nearly half were released in 1956 alone during an unprecedented peak for a film franchise

Promotional flyers for WONG FEI-HUNG, PART 2: WONG FEI-HUNG BURNS THE TYRANTS’ LAIR (1949). Image courtesy of Jean Lukitsh.

The Wong Fei-hung films began during a surge in martial arts movie production in Hong Kong after Word War II and were virtually the only films of their kind to survive a genre decline in the early ’50s. This could be partly attributed to the success of their stars. Kwan was a gifted performer with tremendous presence who grew to be nearly as legendary as the character he portrayed so often. In addition to substantial acting and opera experience, Kwan was skilled in White Crane kung fu and managed to adapt it with the aid of the Lau family to fill in for Wong Fei-hung’s Hung Kuen techniques. Playing opposite Kwan in the majority of the Wong Fei-hung films was Sek Kin, another screen legend, trained in several northern kung fu disciplines. Sek was always defeated by Wong and yet generally lost graciously, thus making him just as popular among audiences. Sek would eventually gain worldwide fame in 1973 when starred as the villainous Mr. Han in ENTER THE DRAGON.

In the first four Wong Fei-hung films, great attention was paid to realistic action choreography and stunt work that set a new standard for its time, where previously Shanghai and Hong Kong martial arts cinema had been dominated by fantasy wuxia conventions. Takes were very long and stunt actors were required to come up with long sets of sparring routines, many of them improvised on the spot. A high volume of Wong Fei-hung films in a short amount of time provided the perfect test bed for the martial artists, Cantonese opera performers and stuntmen and women working on the series. In these films we can find the roots of what would become the kung fu movie genre leading up to as far as Jet Li’s FEARLESS. It was on the set of these early kung fu films that future martial arts action directing masters Lau Kar-leung and Yuen Wo-ping learned their craft.

Even while Lau Kar-leung and his cohorts honed their skills behind and in front of the camera for what would become the foundation for the ’70s martial arts boom, the emphasis on shooting quality action scenes gradually decreased as the speed of shoots increased to meet demand. Action choreography would not take its next evolutionary step until the late 1960s when director Chang Cheh teamed with some of the same stuntmen from the Wong Fei-hung series to produce cutting-edge action choreography for his slick Mandarin-language wuxia and kung fu films. By this point, the Wong Fei-hung series was fading into irrelevance despite a brief comeback from 1967 to 1970.

It could be argued that the downfall for the Wong Fei-hung series was its descent into Confucian morality. It was a Chinese-styled “Disneyfication” of of history and myth that, along with the increasingly stiff action choreography, would look increasingly out of step with edgier action film trends developing in the 1960s. Kwan Tak-hing’s depiction of Wong Fei-hung had evolved over the years to embrace the kind of high-minded virtuousness that was already widely reflected by heroes in the wuxia genre. Unlike his early depictions on screen, Wong was no longer the aggressive fighter quick to throttle his adversaries as described in Chu Yu-chai’s novel and depicted in the first few movies. Over time, the character became intertwined with the aging actor and it was increasingly difficult to tell the two apart, especially since the unembellished accounts of Wong Fei-hung’s real life had been almost completely consumed by the fictional accounts.

By the time that the original Wong Fei-hung series finally came to an end with the release of WONG FEI-HUNG: BRAVELY CRUSHING THE FIRE FORMATION in 1970, a total of 77 movies had been released with Kwan Tak-hing starring in all but three. Although Kwan and Sek would find opportunities to reprise their characters in supporting roles, their time as the bearers of the Wong Fei-hung legend had come to an end. In addition, Cantonese-language cinema was in decline and young audiences were itching for a new kind of action. The Wong Fei Hung series stuntmen were finally getting to unleash their full potential in the martial arts films of Golden Harvest and Shaw Brothers. For the legend of Wong Fei-hung it was only a transitional state as the next generation took their turn at telling the story in a new way.

The influence of the early Wong Fei-hung movies on the kung fu boom of the 1970s cannot be understated. Many of the actors in the original series were parents or mentors of future kung fu movie legends like Bruce Lee, Yuen Wo-ping and Lau Kar-leung. Some would pass the torch by appearing alongside next generation stars. Kwan Tak-hing reprised his famous role in several new Wong Fei-hung films produced by Golden Harvest including THE SKYHAWK (1974), THE MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER (1980) and DREADNOUGHT 1981). Meanwhile, Sek Kin re-teamed with Wong Fei-hung series filmmaker Wong Fung by co-starring in RIVALS OF KUNG FU (1974).

Many of the supporting cast from the original series would turn up in new martial arts movies as well. Series regular Walter Tso made a comeback as an elder in many Shaw Brothers martial arts movies during the late 1970s and early ’80s. By far, the biggest comeback by an elder veteran of the Wong Fei-hung series was by none other than Yuen Clan patriarch Simon Yuen who was brought in by his son, Wo-ping to portray an iconic kung fu master for several films including the biggest Wong Fei-hung movie since Wu Pang’s 1949 serial premiere.

Jackie Chan’s breakout role in DRUNKEN MASTER (1978) was as a younger and more irresponsible Wong Fei-hung, re-tooled for a new generation of viewers. Unlike previous portrayals of Wong, Chan and director Yuen Wo-ping realized that rather than focus on the noble deeds of his later life, it would be more interesting to see how he might have developed into the legend with more of an irreverent twist in keeping with their sensibilities. Having created a unique action comedy formula in their previous film, SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW, Chan and Yuen brought physical slapstick humor Wong Fei-hung for the first time. Creating a story of a mischievous adolescent Fei-hung who must overcome his own faults proved to be a huge success and turned Chan into Hong Kong’s new martial arts superstar. Like Wu Pang’s 1949 film, the success of DRUNKEN MASTER led to a series of mostly inferior knockoffs. Jackie Chan, who was looking to break out of the period kung fu scene, would not revisit this character in a sequel until 1994.

Wong Fei-hung was featured in a variety of films of the classic kung fu era (1970-1985) with different actors taking on the mantle and virtually all of them had Yuen Wo-ping, Lau Kar-leung or Sammo Hung involved in one way or another. Talented filmmaker Ho Meng-hua had Yuen assist him in directing kung fu cinema’s greatest character actor, Ku Feng, in one of his few starring roles as Wong Fei-hung in Shaw Brothers’ THE MASTER OF KUNG FU (1973). In this film Ho took an unusual approach by putting Wong into a more realistic and gritty setting, likely influenced by the hard-biting, karate-styled martial arts action that followed in the wake of Bruce Lee’s THE BIG BOSS (1971) and Chang Cheh’s THE BOXER FROM SHANTUNG (1972). Yuen’s other Wong Fei-hung entries were DRUNKEN MASTER, DREADNAUGHT and THE MAGNIFICENT BUTCHER which was a rare collaboration with Sammo Hung who played Wong’s famous student Lam Sai-wing. In addition to this film, Hung co-starred and choreographed the action for THE SKYHAWK.

Working at Shaw Brothers, Lau Kar-leung was not to be outdone by his peers at Golden Harvest. He cast his emerging star protégé Gordon Liu as Wong Fei-hung in CHALLENGE OF THE MASTERS (1976). Lau followed this up in 1981 with MARTIAL CLUB where Liu again portrayed Wong. Of all the classic kung fu era Wong Fei-hung films, these two arguably stay closest to the moral-driven films of Kwan Tak-hing’s era. Also, as the only martial descendent of Wong Fei-hung who was directing films at the time, Lau had a unique opportunity to explore the intricacies of Hung Fist in ways that no other martial arts filmmaker could. Lau visited the topic of Wong Fei-hung only twice but repeatedly worked authentic Hung Kuen forms into the choreography of many of his films.

The 1970s saw the rise of television in Hong Kong as a major competitor to film and it was inevitable that the tales of Wong Fei-hung would find their way onto television sets. What no one could have predicted is that a TV series would ultimately have as much if not more impact on the future development of the Wong Fei-hung legend than any feature film or novelization. In 1976, Kwan Tak-hing portrayed Wong Fei-hung in a 13-part series for TVB. The series delved into the historical backdrop of Wong Fei-hung’s era in greater detail than any film had previously. It developed elements that would become a staple of not only future incarnations of the Wong Fei-hung legend but also a sizable number of loose spin offs. It was in this series that Wong Fei-hung was introduced to historically-inspired plots involving slave trading, opium smuggling and underground sects. It was from this broad historical perspective that filmmaker Tsui Hark approached the Wong Fei-hung legend with the highly ambitious “wire-fu” epic, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, a film that briefly rekindled the kung fu movie genre in the early 1990s amid an explosion of advanced, wire-enhanced stunt work.

Tsui Hark enjoyed a rare level of commercial and artistic success in Hong Kong as a director, producer and occasional actor. He first established himself as one of Hong Kong’s emerging New Wave directors with his debut, a horror-wuxia hybrid titled THE BUTTERFLY MURDERS (1979). Taking his experience in studying American film, his limitless imagination and his tireless devotion to the craft, Tsui began a career of redefining genres within the Hong Kong film industry. ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (1983) brought Hollywood special effects to Hong Kong, A BETTER TOMORROW (1986) created the heroic bloodshed craze and A CHINESE GHOST STORY revolutionized the classical Chinese ghost story. With success in just about every other film genre it was only a matter of time before Tsui turned his attention to the kung fu genre.

After the success of THE SWORDSMAN (1990), which revitalized the wuxia film, Tsui began work on an epic reworking of the Wong Fei-hung legend. This time, Wong would be portrayed neither as a Confucian master who uses martial arts only as a last resort or a comically naive bumpkin, but as an intense and commanding martial artist in his prime. Jet Li, a mainland Chinese actor and wushu champion was chosen over local talent to become this latest incarnation. Li, with his boyish looks and astounding wushu abilities had starred in several mainland-produced kung fu films promoting the new Shaolin Temple.

Tsui Hark’s ONCE UPON A TINE IN CHINA (OUATIC) premiered in 1991 and was a huge success. Jet Li went on to play the same character in three sequels. Vincent Zhao played Wong in the fourth installment.

The commercial success of this film franchise guaranteed that kung fu films would rule the box office for at least the first half of the decade as numerous period martial arts films appeared shortly after. Director and choreographer Yuen Wo-ping, who had helped to create the comic Wong Fei-hung in DRUNKEN MASTER, returned to the legend in 1993 with IRON MONKEY. Yuen went even further back to create a fictional account of an adolescent Fei-hung. The young Fei-hung was portrayed by Tsang Sze-man, a talented young girl who gave a surprisingly impressive performance. Visually, the highly-stylized film is a huge departure from the more authentic martial arts seen in the original film series. Yuen’s best wirework was on full display and created a fun, if purely fantastical representation of Fei-hung’s childhood.

One of the most entertaining films to feature Wong Fei-hung during this period was conceived by Jackie Chan as an answer to the excessive wire-enhanced kung fu seen in the films of Tsui Hark and Yuen Wo-ping. DRUNKEN MASTER 2 (1994) brought back Chan’s breakthrough 1978 role as a bungling drunkard who must rise above his faults to defeat the villain. Although past his physical prime, Chan gave the performance of a lifetime in this film which featured more authentic kung fu without the use of wirework to give the martial arts a superhuman quality. Like Chan’s previous film, DRUNKEN MASTER 2 used Wong’s name but made little effort to accurately recreate the man or what is known of his life. The film also provided a historic teaming of Jackie Chan with Lau Kar-leung, although it was short-lived. Creative differences compelled Lau to leave the production early and tackle DRUNKEN MASTER 3. This was a sequel in name only and a poor one at that

Since the release of DRUNKEN MASTER 2, Hong Kong’s film industry has shrunk and kung fu movie production has gone into indefinite hibernation apart from the occasional genre work of Yuen Wo-ping. Wong Fei-hung has not been seen on the big screen in nearly a decade, apart from Sammo Hung’s East-meets-West actioner ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA AND AMERICA and his brief and simplified portrayal of Wong Fei-hung in Disney’s AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. In Chinese territories, kung fu on television remains popular and several Wong Fei-hung series have aired such as TVB’s WONG FEI-HUNG: MASTER OF KUNG FU (2004).

As entertaining as many of the existing Wong Fei-hung films may be, none can claim to be a definitive filmic depiction. Each has its own strengths. Tsui Hark’s OUATIC series is the best-rounded in terms of story development and provides an excellent starting point. However, its martial arts action is dominated by contemporary wushu and extensive wirework that falls far from Wong Fei-hung’s Hung Kuen skills and its initial depiction in the films of Kwan Tak-hing. Jackie Chan’s DRUNKEN MASTER films are genre masterpieces but awful representations of Wong Fei-hung. Lau Kar-leung’s two films, CHALLENGE OF THE MASTERS and MARTIAL CLUB, are closer in spirit to the original film series but they also share the same simplistic plotting. They do possess some of the best Hung Fist-inspired choreography of any of the Wong Fei-hung films, although not as good as some of Lau’s other films

Audiences can find parodies of the original Wong Fei-hung legend in a number of Hong Kong films. From the maniacal mind of Wong Jing, LAST HERO IN CHINA is a complete parody of Wong Fei-hung as depicted in Tsui Hark’s OUTIC. It’s made funnier by having Jet Li lampoon his own previous performance. Kwan Tak-hing briefly reprised his role in ACES GO PLACES IV while Sek Kin participated in a humorous spoof of the original series in Sammo Hung’s THE MILLIONAIRE’S EXPRESS. Stephen Chow even paid tribute to the original series in ROYAL TRAMP where he and an opponent mimic the distinctive poses Kwan and Sek would assume when facing each other.

This all proves that the legend of Wong Fei-hung, in all of its states, has become as much of an integral part of popular culture in Southeast China as wuxia novels and Bruce Lee. Thanks to home video and the internet, the popularity of Wong Fei-hung has grown even more throughout the world.

Whether fact or fiction, Wong Fei-hung is remembered as a Chinese patriot, a healer, a philosopher, and a superb martial artist who stood for the rights of the oppressed within a country long plagued with corrupt leadership and foreign invasion. Yet the more we see Wong portrayed in film, the less we really know the man. While still hugely popular in China, little serious effort has been made in film or fiction to chronicle an accurate version of his little-known life. Portrayed as a budding martial artist, an immature young adult, an austere patriot, or as a Confucian father figure, the real Wong Fei-hung continues to elude us. Perhaps this is not so important. Like all great heroes of history, the legend of Wong Fei-hung will undoubtedly continue to inspire and entertain people around the world for years to come.

The Music of Wong Fei-hung

Over the years, Wong Fei-hung has become closely associated with a distinctive theme song. Wu Pang’s original series frequently used an old folk tune titled “On the General’s Order.” The late composer James Wong rearranged this music with new lyrics for Tsui Hark’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA. The result was a powerful ballad titled “A Man of Determination” (aka “A Man Should Better Himself”), originally sung by artist George Lam and later by action star and singer Jackie Chan for the closing credits to OUATIC 2.

“A Man of Determination” (WONG FEI-HUNG theme song / nan er dang zi qiang)
Written by James Wong and originally performed by George Lam
Chinese lyrics

With a defiant spirit, I sneer at all adversity.
With a spirit burning hotter than the red hot sunlight,
With daring forged of iron, with character forged in steel,
With the broadest aspirations, with a far-sighted vision,
I vow to push myself to become a true hero.

To become a great hero, each day you have to push yourself:
A man’s spirit should burn brighter than the red hot sun.

I’ll gather the power of the seas and the skies,
I’ll rend the heavens, and split open the earth,
Just so I can seize upon my dreams.

Gaze upon the lofty, azure waves and the vast blue skies:
That is me, the man of determination.

Step confidently and stand boldly, like pillars of the nation! Become true heroes!
Use my example to ignite a hundred souls, shining forth like a thousand points of light.

To be a true hero, your soul and your courage must burn, burn brighter than the red hot sun

Wong Fei-Hung cinematography

2004 – Around the World in 80 Days
1997 – Once Upon a Time in China and America
1994 – Drunken Master 2
1994 – Once Upon a Time in China 5
1993 – Iron Monkey
1993 – Last Hero in China
1993 – Once Upon a Time in China 4
1993 – Once Upon a Time in China 3
1993 – Kickboxer
1993 – Fist from Shaolin
1992 – Once Upon a Time in China 2
1992 – Martial Arts Master Wong Fei-Hung
1991 – Once Upon a Time in China
1986 – Millionaire’s Express
1981 – Dreadnaught
1981 – Martial Club
1980 – The Magnificent Kick

1979 – Butcher Wing
1979 – The Magnificent Butcher
1978 – Drunken Master
1977 – Four Shaolin Challengers
1976 – Challenge of the Masters
1974 – The Skyhawk
1974 – Rivals of Kung Fu
1970 – Wong Fei-Hung: Bravely Crushing the Fire Formation
1969 – Wong Fei-Hung in Sulphur Valley
1969 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Combat with the Five Wolves
1969 – Wong Fei-Hung: The Duel for the Shark Reward
1969 – Wong Fei-Hung: The Conqueror of the Sam-hong Gang
1968 – Wong Fei-Hung Conquers Mooi Fai Chong
1968 – Wong Fei-Hung: The Eight Bandits
1968 – Wong Fei-Hung: The Duel against the Black Rascal
1968 – Wong Fei-Hung Challenges Ng Yong Seng
1968 – Wong Fei-Hung: Duel for the Championship
1967 – Wong Fei-Hung against the Ruffians
1961 – How Wong Fei-Hung Smashed the Five Tigers
1960 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Battle with the Gorilla
1960 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Combat in the Boxing Ring
1959 – Wong Fei-Hung on Rainbow Bridge
1959 – The White Lady’s Reincarnation
1959 – How Wong Fei-Hung Defeated the Tiger on the Opera Stage
1959 – Wong Fei-Hung Trapped in the Hell
1958 – How Wong Fei-Hung Pitted an Iron Cock against the Eagle

1958 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Victory at Ma Village
1958 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Story: Five Poisonous Devils against Twin Dragons
1958 – How Wong Fei-Hung and Wife Eradicated the Three Rascals
1958 – How Wong Fei-Hung Stormed Phoenix Hill
1958 – How Wong Fei-Hung Subdued the Invincible Armour
1958 – Wong Fei-Hung Seizes the Bride at Xiguan
1958 – Wong Fei Hung’s Battle with the Five Tigers in the Boxing Ring
1958 – Wong Fei Hung Saves the Kidnapped Leung Foon
1958 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Fierce Battle
1957 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Rival for a Pearl
1957 – How Wong Fei-Hung Spied on Black Dragon Hill at Night
1957 – How Wong Fei-Hung Smashed the Flying Dagger Gang
1957 – Wong Fei-Hung, King of Lion Dance
1957 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Battle at Saddle Hill
1957 – How Wong Fei-Hung Fought a Bloody Battle in the Spinster’s House
1957 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Three battles with the Unruly Girl
1957 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Fight in He’nan
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Pitted a Lion against the Unicorn
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Saved the Lovelorn Monk from the Ancient Monastery
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Story: Iron Cock against Centipede
1956 – How Wong Fei-hung Set Fire to Dashatou
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Subdued the Two Tigers
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Pilgrimage to Goddess of the Sea Temple
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Vanquished the Twelve Lions
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Battle at Mount Goddess of Mercy
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung and the Lantern Festival Disturbance
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung Goes to a Birthday Party at Guanshan
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Battle at Shuangmendi

1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Seven Battles with Fiery Unicorn
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Fight in Foshan
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung at a Boxing Match
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung and the Courtesan’s Boat Argument
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Thrice Captured So Shu-lim in the Water
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Vanquished the Bully at the Red Opera Float
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Pitted Seven Lions against the Gold Dragon
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Fought Five Dragons Single-Handedly
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Thrice Tricked the Lady Security Escort
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Saved the Dragon’s Mother Temple
1956 – How Wong Fei-Hung Vanquished the Ferocious Dog in Shamian
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Victory in Xiao Beijiang
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung Rescues the Fishmonger
1956 – Wong Fei-Hung Wins the Dragon Boat Race
1955 – The True Story of Wong Fei-Hung 2
1955 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Victory at the Fourth Gate
1955 – The True Story of Wong Fei-Hung
1955 – Wong Fei-Hung’s Rival for the Fireworks
1955 – How Wong Fei-Hung Vanquished the Bully at a Long Dyke
1954 – Wong Fei-Hung Tries his Shadowless Kick
1954 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung and Lam Sai-Wing
1953 – How Wong Fei-Hung Defeated Three Bullies with a Rod
1953 – How Wong Fei-Hung Redeemed Haitong Monastery Part 2
1953 – How Wong Fei-Hung Redeemed Haitong Monastery Part 1
1951 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung: Grand Conclusion

1950 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung 4: The Death of Leung Foon
1950 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung 3: The Battle by Lau Fa Bridge
1949 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung 2: Wong Fei-Hung Burns the Tyrant’s Lair
1949 – The Story of Wong Fei-Hung 1: Wong Fei-Hung’s Whip that Smacks the Candle

the end@copyright 2012

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THE ANCIENT CHINA NUMISMATIC HISTORY COLLECTIONS PART THREE

THIS THE SAMPLE OF E-BOOK IN CD-ROM,THE COMPLETE CD EXIST BUT ONLY FOR PREMIUM MEMBER

 

TANG DYNASTY
AD 618 to 907

The death of Yang Ti of Sui resulted in a civil war from which Li Yuan (of Western Wei) and his son Li Shih-min arose victorious, establishing the T’ang dynasty and extending the unification of China for another 300 years. Li Yuan, adopting the title T’ang Kao Tsu, ruled from AD 618-626 then abdicated in favor of his son Li Shih-min who adopted the title T’ai Tsung and ruled from AD 627 to 649. Both were able rules under whom T’ang began its rise to greatness. The next 300 years was a time of relative calm, prosperity and enlightenment with the cultural arts dominating over the military arts.


 

EMPERORS OF T’ANG

RULER

DATES

Kao Tsu
also known as Li Yuan

AD 618 – 626

T’ai Tsung
also known as Li Shih-min

AD 627-649

Kao Tsung

AD 649-683

Chung Tsung

AD 684-690

Wu Tsu-t’ien
Empress

AD 690-705

Chung Tsung
2nd reign

AD 705-710

Juei Tsung

AD 710-712

Li Lung-Chi
also known as Hsuan Tsung (Ming Hsuan)

AD 712-756

?????
son of Li Lung-chi

AD 756

Su Tsung
(full control)   (nominal control)

AD 756-757
AD 758-761

Shih Su-ming
rebel

AD 757-761

Tai Tsung

AD 762-779

Te Tsung

AD 780-805

Hien Tsung

AD 806-820

Mu Tsung

AD 821-824

?????

AD 824-827

Wen Tsung

AD 827-841

Wu Tsung

AD 841-846

Siuan Tsung

AD 847-855

?????

AD 856-859

Yi Tsung

AD 860-873

Hi Tsung

AD 874-888

Chao Tsung

AD 889-904

Chou We
through puppet emperor Ngai Tsung

AD 905-907

 

Considering the almost 300 years and over 20 emperors of the T’ang Dynasty, the coinage is fairly conservative with only a few distinctive issues. For the most part, the standard K’ai-yuan type was all that circulated. For those emperors that issued coins, or emperors with important historical interest, a discussion follows.


 

Emperor LI YUAN
AD 618-626

Reign title: T’ang Kao Tsu, AD 618-626

 

The K’ai-yuan coinage, usually attributed to T’ANG KAO TSU, was cast almost continuously throughout the 300 years of T’ang rule, with the only major change the addition of mint marks in AD 841.

 

S-312+. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “K’AI-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” (Currency of the K’ai-yuan period). Reverse blank. There are three major variations of the character “Yuan”. Average (17 specimens) 25 mm, 4.1 grams.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00     XF   $6.50

 

S-406. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “K’AI-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” (Currency of the K’ai-yuan period). Reverse blank. Schjoth’s sepecimen was 24 mm, 4.02 grams. Rare and of uncertain date. Value not established.

 

The general fabric and style of K’ai-yuan was the same as that introduced with the Wu shu of the Sui dynasty, but at an average of between 3.0 and 4.0 grams they are heavier. Wu (5) Shu was no longer expressed on the coins, but K’ai-yuans are Wu Shus by another name, cast to the official weight standard of 0.65 grams per shu rather than the coinage standard of 0.50 grams, an experiment seen earlier on the Ssu-shu issue of Emperor Wen, introduced in AD 430, as well as several other issues of that period. This was an enlightened move as, with no profit in casting full weight coins, counterfeiting was only profitable when light-weight coins were cast, which are more difficult to pass. The experiment must have worked as light-weight examples are seldom encountered. The economic stability thus created probably contributed greatly to the success of the T’ang Dynasty.

We do not actually know what the new denomination was called when first introduced, but it may have simply been known as a “K’ai-yuan”. We know that some future dynasties called it that and even issued larger coins with the denomination designated in multiple “K’ai-yuan”, but today this is the denomination we call the “Cash”, which remained the basic denomination of China until the late 19th century.

There are hundreds of minor varieties, from subtle differences in calligraphy to various small crescents, lines and dots on the reverses. These differences probably identified specific issues, but the meanings of these codes have probably been lost forever. We are compiling a list of the major varieties in the hope that some pattern will emerge, but there is no guarantee of success.

 

S-312 variety with a star-shaped hole. “K’AI-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. The star-shaped hole is created by turning the center hole 45 degrees with respect to the inner rim. This occurs on so many different issues that it must be intentional, but the meaning is uncertain. Sometimes the star hole is combined with reverse symbols, in which case the example is worth a small premium.

F   $6.00     VF   $8.00     XF   $10.00


 

SINGLE REVERSE CHARACTER

 

S-315+. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “K’AI-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: single crescent, line or dots in any of various positions. We have no records of relative rarity for the varieties, so at the this time cannot assign any differences in value.

F   $4.00     VF   $6.00     XF   $8.00

 

The exact position of these marks can vary from coin to coin, and we cannot be certain a crescent tilting slightly left or right is intentional or simply a minor shift in position. It is likely many types exist for each of the major calligraphy variations of “YUAN”, which is certainly of significance. Our research in this area is just beginning and it is far too early to draw any conclusions as to the meanings.

TOP

crescent out

crescent in

crescent out
sl left

crescent out
sl right

crescent in
sl right

dot

             

TOP RIGHT

crescent out

         
             

RIGHT

crescent out

crescent in
sl down

vertical bar

     
             

BOTTOM RIGHT

crescent out

 

crescent left

     
             

BOTTOM

crescent out

 

crescent out
sl left

crescent out
sl right

crescent left

 
             

BOTTOM LEFT

crescent out

crescent in

       
             

LEFT

crescent out

crescent in

vertical bar

     
             

TOP LEFT

NONE NOTED

         

 

* out – faces outer rim.    * in – faces inner rim     * sl left or right – tilts in that direction.
* the vertical bar may actually be a crescent with a very shallow curve.

 

We have not yet recorded an example with a single symbol in the top left corner, but all other positions exist with at least an outward facing crescent. One may turn up, but if not, this must have some significance.


 

TWO REVERSE CHARACTERS

 

S-335+. Bronze 1 cash. “K’AI-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: two symbols (crescents, dots or lines) in various positions (less common than single-symbol types). We have handled one variety with crescents at top and bottom. The listed values are for that type. Some of the other types are scarcer.

F   $12.00     VF   $14.00     XF   $18.00

 

TOP & BOTTOM

thin crescents out

thick crescent out

     

LEFT & RIGHT

thin crescents out

crescents out left, dot right

     

TWO AT TOP

dot inside crescent out

 
     

TOP & RIGHT

crescents out

 
     

TOP LEFT & RIGHT CORNERS

crescent out in each corner

 

 

* out – faces outer rim.     in – faces inner rim

 

Schjoth lists a few examples with small dots in various positions on the obverse. We assume these to be casting defects of little significance and will include them only if we find out otherwise.


 

Emperor KAO TSUNG
AD 649-683

Kao Tsung, son of T’ai Tsung, extended Chinese control over much of Korea and part of Manchuria. He defeated the Japanese fleet, ending Japanese influence on the mainland for many years. The later years of his reign saw his father’s concubine, Wu Tsu-t’ien, asserting power, probably ruling from behind the scenes. She proved ruthless, eventually seizing power in her own name (AD 705-710).

 

Title: Ch’ien-feng, AD 666-??

K’ai-yuan was probably the basic coinage of this period, but another issue was cast.

 

  S-350-351. Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-FENG CH’UAN-PAO” (Currency of the Ch’ien-feng period). Reverse: blank. Average (3 specimens) 4.68 grams, 25.4 mm, slightly larger and heavier than the normal K’ai-yuans.

VF   $135.00

We have not found out why this fiduciary 10 cash was cast, but the experiment seems to have failed with these coins being cast only briefly in AD 666.


 

Rebel Emperor SHIH SU-MING
AD 757-761

The rebel Shih Su-ming declared himself Emperor in AD 757 after killing Li Lung-chi’s son. He controlled a large area including the T’ang capital at Lo-yang, may have held more power than the official T’ang Emperor. As such, one could consider him to be the real ruler of T’ang during this short period period, during which he issued some interesting coins.

 

  S-407, FD-747. Bronze value 100 cash. Obverse: “TE-YI YUAN-PAO” (the currency of unity). Reverse: crescent opening upwards at the top. Average (3 specimens) 35.9 mm, 18.98 grams (but the weights vary quite a bit).

F   $125.00     VF   $175.00

 

FD-747, as S-407 but reverse blank. Bronze value 100 cash. Obverse: “TE-YI YUAN-PAO” (the currency of unity). Reverse: Blank. 35.5 mm. The one specimen we have handled of this type weighed 11.9 grams.

F   $110.00     VF   $145.00

 

  S-409, Bronze value 100 cash. Obverse: “SHUN-T’IEN YUAN PAO” (a currency agreeable to heaven). Reverse: crescent opening upwards at the top. Average (4 specimens) 36.5 mm, 20.12 grams.

F   $65.00     VF   $85.00     XF   $110.00

 

At 36-37 mm and about 20 grams these are both fiduciary issues, circulating at 20 times the value in their copper content.

Schjoth reports an example of this type (S-410) with an incuse “WANG” on the reverse. We have never seen one, and consider the use of an incuse character on coin like this to be suspect. It is possible the character was engraved into the reverse privately, long after the coin was cast.


 

Emperor SU TSUNG
AD 756-762

Reign title: CH’IEN-YUAN, AD 758-762

 

While the rebel Shih Su-ming ruled much of China, the legitimate T’ang emperor Su Tsung worked to restore order. In 758 he cast high denomination fiduciary coins to finance the war, but they proved a financial disaster.

 

  S-355. Bronze 50 cash (?). Obverse: “CH’IEN-YUAN CHUNG-PAO” (Heavy currency of Ch’ien-yuan). Reverse: blank except for double rims. Average (6 specimens) 35 mm, 14.6 grams.

F   $25.00     VF   $35.00     XF   $48.00

 

At 35 mm and averaging around 14.6 grams, these contain only 4 cash worth of metal but were issued with a circulating value of 50 cash. The resulting inflation and wide spread counterfeiting of lower weight coins, caused great hardship. The coins were quickly devalued to 30 cash, which was not enough to stop the inflation and counterfeiting, and must have been a nightmare for anyone in possession of them from prior to the devaluation.

 

S-356-7. Bronze 50 cash ?. Obverse: “CH’IEN-YUAN CHUNG-PAO” (Heavy currency of Ch’ien-yuan). Reverse: crescent and double rims. 33 mm. Schjoth’s two specimens weighed 10.73 and 12.92 grams. It is unclear if these were still valued at 50 cash, or were issued at the reduced 30 cash denomination. We have not yet established a value for this type.

 

S-358. Bronze 50 cash (?). Obverse: “CH’IEN-YUAN CHUNG-PAO” (Heavy currency of Ch’ien-yuan). Reverse: “CHI” (?) and double rims. 33 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighted only 7.92 grams while Mitchiner’s (#3398) was 13.5 grams. There is some question if the character on the back is really “CHI”, as on some specimens it is not solid and sometimes described as a cloud or even a bird. We have not yet established a value for this type, but it is scarce.

 

The effects of coinage debasement can be seen throughout history. One need only look around today’s world to see how leaving the gold standard (effectively token coinage replacing silver and gold) has resulted in inflation in every country on eatch, and major economic devastation in many countries. The saying “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” certainly applies here.

 

By AD 759, smaller versions were cast of this coinage was cast, at first at a five cash (30 mm, 7.5 grams) denomination, which was later devalued to devalued to two cash reflecting it’s true metal value of 2 cash.

  S-352. Bronze 5 or 2 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-YUAN CHUNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (4 specimens) 30 mm, 7.92 grams.

F   $12.00     VF   $17.00     XF   $27.00

 

There is also a rare series within this issue with what is sometimes referred to as an Auspicious Cloud on the reverse. At this point, we have not been able to determine the true reason or meaning behind these rare coins.

 

Shangi Encyclopedia #684. Bronze 5 or 2 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-YUAN CHUNG-PAO” (Heavy currency of Ch’ien-yuan). Reverse: Auspicious Cloud at the bottom, double rims. The only specimen we have handled of this type was 31 mm, 7.1 grams.

   gVF   $450.00

 

finally some time around AD 760 the Ch’ien-Yuan Chung-pao coinage was issued as a one cash denomination, ending this brief experiment in feduciary coinage.

S-353. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-YUAN CHUNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank with single rim. Average (2 specimens) 24.5 mm, 3.42 grams.

VG   $5.00     F   $7.50     VF   $12.50

 

  S-361-3. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-YUAN CHUNG-PAO”. Reverse: single rim and crescent (several varieties are known with the crescents in various positions. 24-25 mm, 3 to 3.5 grams).

VG   $6.50     F   $10.00     VF   $15.00

 

S-364. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-YUAN CHUNG-PAO”. Reverse: a character possibly reading “YEN” and a single rim. Schjoth speculates this type was cast at Yen-chou-fu in Shantung. We have not yet established a value for this type.

Soon after these 1 cash Ch’ien-Yuan Chung-pao coins were issued, they were discontinued in favour of a return to the earlier Kai-yuan coinage, which helped re-introduced which re-established some degree economic stability. By AD 762 the rebel Emperor Shih Su-ming had been defeated and the capital of Lo-yang was was once again under the control of the rightful emperor Su Tsung. But soon after Su Tsung also died and the T’ang entered a period of decline during which real power shifting to the Court eunuchs.


 

Emperor TE TSUNG
AD 780-805

S-365. White brass 10 cash. Obverse: “K’AI-YUAN T’UNG PAO”. Reverse: blank. Schjoth (page 23) reports that in the 1st year of Chien-Chung, at Kuangtung mint, large K’ai-yuan coins were cast of white brass. We have never seen one of these, but he lists a specimen of 41 mm weighing 24.65 grams. This is at the lowest acceptable weight for a 10 cash, indicating this was not a fiduciary coinage. We cannot suggest a value for such a coin at this time.


 

Emperor WU TSUNG
AD 841-846

Reign title: HUI-CH’ANG, AD 841 – ?

Schjoth notes (page 23) in the first year of Hui-ch’ang (AD 841) many Buddhist monasteries were destroyed. The copper bells and images were melted and cast into coins. Li Shen, revenue commissioner of Yang-chou, received permission to place the character “ch’ang”, short for Hui-ch’ang, on the reverse. It is likely this was done at other mints as well.

 

S-366. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “K’AI-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: “Ch’ang” (indicating a coin struck in the year “Hui-ch’ang” (AD 841). This seems to be the only dated coin of the T’ang dynasty.

VG   $4.00     F   $12.50     VF   $17.50

 

As with almost all K’ai Yuan coins with reverse characters, the reverse character will be somewhat weaker than the rest of the coin on this type (as explained below). We hope to replace this illustration with a better one when an example comes available.


 

K’AI-YUANS WITH MINT MARKS

Late in AD 841 it was decided to replace “Ch’ang” marks indicating the mint of issue. These mint marks were hand stamped into each mould, after impressing the main coin, with the result that they are often stamped deeper into the mould than the balance of the coin, becoming the high point on the coin and subject to the most wear. Others were poorly impressed and difficult to read on even the highest grade specimens. Only occasionally is one encountered with the mint mark as clear as the obverse, so our valuations assume the mint mark to be one grade lower than that of the obverse. Especially weak or strong mint marks affect the values accordingly.

REF.

MARK

MINT

VALUATION

S-367

Ching (at top)

Ching-chao
in Lo-yang

not yet determined

S-368

Ching (at top) (star hole)

Ching-chao
in Lo-yang

F   $14.00
VF   $20.00

S-369

Ching (at top)
(crescent below)

Ching-chao
in Lo-yang

F   $10.00
VF   $16.00

S-370-371

Lo (at top)
S-370 – round hole

Lo-yang in Honan

F   $12.50
VF   $17.50

Lo (at top)
S-371 -star hole

Lo-yang in Honan

F   $14.00
VF   $20.00

S-372

Yi (at top)

Hsi-ch’uan
(Ch’eng-tu in Szechuan)

F   $12.50

S-373

Lan (at right)

Lan-t’ien
(Hsi-an-fu in Shansi)

F   $12.50
VF   $17.50

S-377

Lan (at left)
(crescent at top)

Lan-t’ien
(Hsi-an-fu in Shansi)

not yet determined

S-380

Hsiang (at top)

Hsiang-chou
in Chihli

F   $12.50
VF   $17.50

S-381

Hsiang (at right)

Hsiang-chou
in Chihli

not yet determined

S-382

Ching (at right)

Ching-chou
in Hupei

not yet determined

S-383

Yueh (at bottom)

Yueh-chou
in Chekiang

VG   $7.00
F   $12.50
VF   $17.50

S-384

Hsuan (at left)

Hsuan-chou
in Anhui

F   $15.00
VF   $22.50

S-385

Hung – (at top)

Lin-chiang Fu
in Kiangsi

F   $12.50

S-386

Hung – (sideways at right)

Lin-chiang Fu
in Kiangsi

not yet determined

S-387

Hung – (sideways at right)
(crescent at top)

Lin-chiang Fu
in Kiangsi

not yet determined

S-388

Hung – (sideways at left)
(crescent at top)

Lin-chiang Fu
in Kiangsi

not yet determined

S-389

Hung – (upside down
at bottom)

Lin-chiang Fu
in Kiangsi

not yet determined

S-390

T’an (at left)

Ch’ang-shu
in Hunan

F   $12.50
VF   $17.50

S-391

Yen (at top)

Yen-chou Fu
in Shantung

not yet determined

S-393-394

Jun (at top)
S-393 – round hole

Chinkiang
in Kiangsu

VG   $7.00
F   $12.50
VF   $17.50

Jun (at top)
S-394 – star hole

Chinkiang
in Kiangsu

not yet determined

S-395

O-chou (at top)

Wu-ch’ang
in Hupei

not yet determined

S-396

P’ing (at top)

P’ing-chou
(Yung-p’ing fu in Chihli)

VF   $80.00

S-397

P’ing (at top)
(crescent at bottom)

P’ing-chou
(Yung-p’ing fu in Chihli)

not yet determined

S-398

Hsing (at top)

Feng-hsiang Fu
in Shansi

VG   $7.00
F   $12.50
VF   $17.50

S-399

Liang (at bottom)

Liang-chou
in North Hupei

not yet determined

S-400

Kuang (at right)

Kuang-chou Fu
in Kuangtung

not yet determined

S-402-3

Tzu (at top).
There are a number of variations
on this character.

Tung-ch’uan Fu
in Szechuan

F   $12.50
VF   $17.50

S-404

Tan (at top)

Tan-chou
in Shensi

F   $99.50

FD-734

Gui (at top)

???

F   $50.00

 

These coins are all bronze 1 cash with “K’AI-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” on the obverse
and are about 24 mm and between 3 and 4 grams.

 

We assume, but are not certain, that the K’ai-yuans with blank or symbol reverses were not cast once the mint mark came into use. The mint mark issues probably continued until the end of the T’ang Period.

Chao Tsung, the last real T’ang emperor, was assassinated by Chou Wen in AD 904. After placing Ngai Tsung on the throne as a puppet emperor, Chou Wen was in control but in AD 907 he deposed Ngai Tsung, establishing himself as Emperor of his new Posterior Liang Dynasty and bringing the period of T’ang to a close.

 

PERIOD OF THE FIVE DYNASTIES
AND TEN KINGDOMS

The fall of T’ang plunged China into turmoil, with power shifted through a series of dynasties, culminating in the establishment of the Northern Sung dynasty. Direct transfer of power from T’ang to Northern Sung involved five dynasties, but at least another 10 dynasties existed and influenced the history of this period.

Only some of the roughly fifteen dynasties are known to have issued coins, but the numismatic history of this period is rich and complex. There are many very rare issues that are not listed in the standard reference books, including some which have not yet been fully identified. We have started by listing only the more well-known issues, but when time permits we will be including more of the rare ones.

The following outline gives the sequence of events that led to the establishment of the Northern Sung Dynasty. It is beyond the scope of this site to include a detailed history.

AD 907

The last T’ang Emperor is killed, and Chu Wen establishes the Posterior Liang. Taking advantage of the resulting confusion, Li K’o Yang establishes the rival Posterior T’ang dynasty. Both dynasties are caught up in internal power struggles. Chun Wang becomes the second emperor when he assassinates his own father in AD 914.

AD 923

The Posterior Liang Dynasty ends as Chun Wang is overthrown by Lo Tsun Hsu, son of the Posterior T’ang emperor Li K’o Yang. Lo Tsun Hsu becomes Emperor of Posterior T’ang in AD 927.

AD 936

Posterior Chin begins when Shih ching T’ang, a Turkish general in the Posterior T’ang army, conducts a coup from within, with the help of the Khitan border tribe.

AD 947

After eleven years of receiving annual tribute for their help in establishing the Posterior Chin dynasty, the Khitan disposed of Shih Chin T’ang, leaving the Posterior Chin throne vacant. Another Turkish general, Liu Chih Yuan, using the title Kao Tsu, established the Posterior Han. Fearing the Khitan, he immediately declared war and defeated them, but died the following year leaving his son on the throne (we have not found his name).

AD 950

A coalition of generals killed Liu Chih Yuan’s son, taking control of Posterior Han.

AD 951

The leader of the coalition, Kou Wei, established the Posterior Zhou dynasty. Power transferred, in AD 954, to Kou Wei (his adopted son) who was in turn killed in AD 959, by his chief General Chao K’ung Yin.

AD 960

Chao K’uang Yin took the reign title T’ai Tsu, as first Emperor of the Northern Sung Dynasty.

 

Some of the additional dynasties that existed during this period were:

Liao (AD 907-1125)
Anterior Shu (AD 907-960/976)
Southern Han (AD 917-942)
Northern Han (AD 950-976/997)
Southern Tang (AD 907-978)
and Ch’u (AD 930-970’s)

 

POSTERIOR HAN DYNASY

Emperor KAO TSU
AD 947-948

“Kao Tsu” was also the name adopted by the first T’ang Emperor. We have to assume this name was chosen to imply a connection to the family T’ang, thus establishing his right to rule. This name was also adopted by the first emperors of Anterior Shu, Posterior Liang and Posterior Chin, presumably for the same reason.

There is a record (Schjoth page 25) that in AD 947 mints were set up at the Posterior Han capital. In order to cast enough coins to pay the army, all copper was called in. This also had the result of suppressing counterfeiting by removing the raw materials from the hands of the counterfeiters.

 

S-411. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HAN-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. 2.94 grams. Schjoth’s specimen appears to have a dot in the lower right of the obverse.

VF     $45.00

 

  S-412-3. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HAN-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: crescent (S-412 with crescent at top, S-413 with crescent at bottom). Average (2 specimens) 24.1 mm. 3.57 grams.

F   $75.00     VF   $100.00

 

“Han-yuan” is a reference to the Han Dynasty, not a reign title. Issuing coins with this type of inscription is fairly common from about this time until the Northern Sung period. Schjoth had four specimens which averaged 3.48 grams, the same standard established during the T’ang Dynasty.

 

ANTERIOR SHU DYNASTY

Emperor KAO TSU
AD 907-918

“Kao Tsu” was also the name adopted by the first T’ang Emperor. We have to assume this name was chosen to imply a connection to the family T’ang, thus establishing his right to rule. This name was also adopted by the first emperors of Posterior Liang and Posterior Chin and Posterior Han, presumably for the same reason.

 

S-435. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-SHU T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.15 grams. We have not handled one of these and cannot provide a value at this time.

 

“Ta-shu” is not a reign title, but rather a reference to the “Great Shu” Dynasty. For some reason Schjoth does not attribute this coin to any particular emperor, but there is a pattern all through this period where the first issue of each dynasty has a reference of this nature rather than a reign title. We can see no reason not to attribute this coin to the earliest issue of Kao Tsu, probably in AD 907.


 

Reign title: T’UNG-CHENG, AD 911-912

 

S-429. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’UNG-CHENG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: crescent at top, dot at bottom. Average (2 specimens) 3.18 grams, 22.8 mm. We have seen specimens both with and without the star hole in the center.

F   $125.00     VF   $185.00

 

FD-771, as S-429 but reverse blank. Obverse: “T’UNG-CHENG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. The specimen we recently handled was 23.5 mm, 2.65 grams and had very poorly developed reverse rims.

VF   $185.00


 

Reign title: T’IEN-HAN, AD 912-913

Kao Tsu adopted the reign title T’ien-han in AD 912 and at the same time temporarily changed the name of the Dynasty to Han. The name was changed back within a year.

 

S-430. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-HAN YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: crescent at top. Average (4 specimens) 23 mm (range 22.5 to 24.0), 2.65 grams (range 2.0 to 3.1 grams). These tend to be somewhat crudely cast with a fairly broad range in size and weight.

F   $55.00     VF   $75.00


 

Reign title: KUANG-T’IEN, AD 913-915

S-431-2. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “KUANG-T’IEN YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.49 grams. From specimens of this type that we have recently handled, it appears that they type was fairly crudely and somewhat weakly cast.

F   $45.00     VF   $65.00


 

Emperor WANG YEN
AD 918-925

Reign title: CH’IEN-TE, AD 918-924

 

S-433. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-TE YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.04 grams.

VG   $12.50     F   $22.50

 

S-not listed. Hartill-not listed. FD-not listed by mention in his comments about #775). Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-TE YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (1 specimen) 24.2 mm, 3.77 grams (the specimen illustrated above is of this iron coin.

F   $75.00 (estimated only)


 

Reign title: HSIEN-K’ANG, AD 924-925

 

S-434, Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSIEN-K’ANG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (3 specimens) 24 mm, 3.07 grams. Schjoth (page 26) reports that these tend to be very poorly cast and quite ugly coins. We have never seen a really nice one.

VG   $60.00     F   $75.00     gF   $100.00

 

SOUTHERN HAN DYNASTY

Emperor: LIU YEN
AD 917-942

Reign title: CH’EIN-HENG, AD 917-942

 

Most coins of this reign title are of lead, with a fabric that suggests they are die struck, possibly with wooden dies, as they do not look at all like cast coins, with characters that are both very angular and shallow. There are two major variations on these coins that one occassionally see’s :

 

BLANK REVERSE S-436 to 438, 1 cash made of Lead, “CH’IEN-HENG CHUNG-PAO”, reverse: blank. Average 25.9 mm, 3.90 grams (These vary a little as Schjoth had three specimens ranging from 23 to 28 mm, averaging 3.7 grams).

F   $19.50    VF   $30.00     XF   $40.00

  FD-828, Lead 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-HENG CHUNG-PAO”. Reverse: “YONG” probably a mint mark. 25 mm, average (7 specimens) 4.2 grams.

F   $22.50     VF   $32.50

 

Although we have never seen one, Fisher’s Ding lists three examples of the “Ch’ien-heng” coins in bronze, as FD 829 to 831, where they are listed as being rare. The lead issues are normally seen grading VF or better, but are sometimes weakly cast (or struck). This suggests they saw little circulation, as any amount of circulation would quickly wear out a lead coin. It is doubtful people would have wanted to accept such an unusual issue that was obviously fiduciary.

 

SOUTHERN T’ANG DYNASTY
AD 937-978

The Southern T’ang Dynasty was one of the “Five Kingdoms” established during the turmoil following the fall of T’ang Dynasty. Controlling a large portion of China from their capital in Nanking, the dynasty was fairly successful, lasting until AD 978 when it was finally over run by T’ai Tsu who had established the Northern Sung Dynasty some 18 years earlier. Southern T’ang coins do not have reign titles on them, but we have listed the titles under which each type was cast. No coins were issued by the first Southern T’ang Emperor Lieh Tsu (AD 937 to 943) or under Yuan Tsung (AD 943 to 961) until about AD 955, so it is likely T’ang Dynasty Kai Yuan coins were still in use.


 

Emperor Yuan Tsung
AD 943-961

Reign title: Li Kung, AD 955 to 961

S-439. Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “YUNG-T’UNG CH’UAN-HUO” (meaning Eternal Circulation Coin). Reverse: blank. This is a large coin at about 33 mm with Schjoth’s specimen weighing 14.48 grams. This is a rare type and we have never actually seen, and cannot currently provide a value for it. Variations on it exist in orthodox and seal scripts, and they are known in both bronze and lead. all variations are rare.

 

Li Kuang was fighting wars of expansion in Southern China, which caused a strain on the treasury. At the suggestion of minister Chung Mo, these fiduciary 10 cash coins were cast using 40% of official weight a full value 10 cash. As very few fiduciary coins had been issued in the previous 300 years, people were not used to the concept and would have refused to accept them, resulting in even further financial trouble for the treasury. Schjoth (page 26) quotes an old record of them having been quickly withdrawn, with the minister who suggesting issuing them (Chung Mo) incurring the displeasure of the Emperor, which probably means he was executed. They were replaced with the full value bronze 1 cash coins below.

 

S-440. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-T’ANG T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script (meaning Great T’ang currency). Reverse: blank. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 2.16 grams and was about 21 mm, however a recent specimen we handled (illustrated above) was 4.45 grams and 23.7 mm. We are not yet sure if these are two different issues or (and more likely) Schjoth’s specimen may have been an light weight counterfeit of that time.

F   $55.00     VF   $85.00

 

The “Ta-T’ang” inscription would be expected on the earliest issues of the dynasty, usually the first or second year following it’s establishment, but in this case it is the second issue following the unsuccessful fiduciary 10 cash coins. Most major references indicate these were issued about AD 960 which is the year the Northern Sung dynasty was established and these may be a propaganda statement announcing the Southern T’ang was still strong in spite of the rise of the Sung.

 

S-441-442. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’ANG-KUO T’UNG-PAO” in seal script (meaning T’ang Kingdom Currency). Reverse: blank. Average 24-25 mm, average about 3.34 grams (based on 23 examples). This is a consistently well cast issue with clear characters.

VG   $3.00     F   $5.50     VF   $9.50

 

S-445. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’ANG-KUO T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script (meaning T’ang Kingdom Currency). Reverse: blank. 23-24 mm. Average (2 specimens) 3.77 grams, 25 mm. This type is normally fairly well cast.

VF   $42.50

 

Schjoth had two specimens, one of 2.2 grams and the other of 3.34 grams (our last specimens was 4.2 grams). It is highly likely the smaller specimen was a contemporary counterfeit and we have not included it in the average weight calculations.

 

FD-816, S-not listed. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’ANG-KUO T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: large dot. The specimen we recently handled as 23 mm and 3.15 grams.

VF   $135.00

 

The T’ang Kuo coins would probably be issued immediately after the Ta-T’ang coins, placing their first appearance in AD 961. On page 26, Schjoth records that that due to a money shortage these T’ang-kuo were valued at 1/2 Kai-yuan, which makes no sense as they are the same size and weight as a Kai-yuan. In a time time of shortage it would make much more sense if they were issued at a value of two Kai-yuan. Schjoth had an example with “WU” on the reverse (#443) which if genuine would suggest the intended denomination was 5 shu, which is a Kai-yuan, however there is reason to doubt the authenticity of that example and we have decided to leave it out of our listing.


 

Emperor LI YU
AD 961-978

The T’ang Kuo coins in seal script are far too common to be only a one year issue in AD 961, and it is likely were continued during the first year to two of Li Yu, until he replaced them with his Kai yuan coinage.

 

S-446, “KAI-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” in seal script (meaning “The Inaugural coinage”). This is a clear reference to the Kai-Yuan coins of the T’ang Dynasty, and shows they were issued at the Kai-Yuan denomination (5 shu). Reverse: blank. 25 mm, average (17 examples) 3.3 grams

F   $5.00     VF   $8.50     XF   $12.00

 

The old records indicate that 40% of Li’s issues were of iron, but these are seldom seen today.

 

POSTERIOR ZHOU DYNASTY
AD 951-960

Emperor SHIH TSUNG
AD 954-959

Because of a shortage of copper, in the second year of this reign (AD 955) Shih Tsung confiscated the bronze objects from 3360 monasteries, including all the images of Buddha, and cast them into coins. Many of these coins, being cast from melted-down images of Buddha and now are used as charms for midwives. The following year he ordered all publicly owned bronze to be turned in and forbade the casting of any bronze objects other than for official purposes, copying an order given in AD 947 by Emperor Kao Tsu of the Posterior Han Dynasty.

 

S-414, Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “ZHOU-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. We have seen examples with star holes. Average (5 specimens) 3.83 grams and 24.5 mm (we have seen a range from 23.5 to 25.2 mm).

VG   $12.00     F   $16.00     VF   $22.00

 

Shih Tsung does not appear to have adopted a reign title. The “Zhou-yuan” inscription simply refers to the Zhou dynasty. This is a practice common to several dynasties in this era.

 

S-415-26. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “ZHOU-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: crescent, bar or dot in any one of several positions. We have only seen a few of the types, but assume they are all of about the same value.

F   $22.00     VF   $37.50

 

The following variations have been noted:

POSITION

   

TOP

.

.

.

TOP RIGHT

crescent

.

.

RIGHT

crescent

bar

dot

BOTTOM RIGHT

crescent

.

 

BOTTOM

crescent

bar

.

BOTTOM LEFT

crescent

.

.

LEFT

crescent

bar

dot

TOP LEFT

crescent

.

.

 

S-427. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “ZHOU-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: crescent at the top and a dot at the bottom. We cannot provide a value for this variety at this time.

 

S-428. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “ZHOU-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: “MI” at the top. This is thought to be a mint mark for Mi-yuan at Shun-t’ien Fu in Chihli. We cannot provide a value for this variety at this time, but it should be worth more than the other types.

 

Schjoth had 15 examples from this series. The lightest one weighed 2.37 grams and the heaviest 4.61 grams, but the average was 3.28 grams.

 

CH’U DYNASTY
AD 930 TO ca AD 970

Ch’u was founded by Ma Yin, who was the governor of Hunan and part of Kuangsi during the late T’ang Dynasty and allied himself with Che Wen as the Posterior Liang Dynasty was established at the overthrow of T’ang. In AD 930 Ma Wen established the Ch’u Dynasty when he revolted against the Posterior Liang, but he died the same year. His Dynasty continued until absorbed by the Northern Sung in about AD 970, but we have found little further information about it.

 

S-447. Bronze 10 cash (?). Obverse: “T’IEN TS’E FU PAO”. Reverse: “YIN” (probably a reference to Ma Yin). This is a large coin of 42 mm. Schjoth’s example weighed 18.36 grams. Based on other coins from this era it is likely a fiduciary denomination of 10 cash was intended. We cannot provide a value for this type at this time.

 

FD-787. Iron 10 cash (?). Obverse: “T’IEN TS’E FU PAO”. Reverse: blank. This is a large coin of 42 mm. Weight not available. The denomination of this coin is not certain, but it is likely a fiduciary 10 cash. We cannot provide a value for this type at this time, but it is very rare.

 

Ma Yin held the title of “the Chief Commander of T’ien Ts’e”. The obverse legend of these coins, and the reverse of the following, refer to this.

 

S-448. Bronze 10 cash (?). Obverse: “CH’IEN-FENG CH’UAN-PAO”. Reverse: “T’IEN”. This is a large coin of 38 mm. Schjoth’s example weighed 29.04 grams and is listed as bronze, but the size and weight suggest either iron, or an iron-bronze alloy is more likely. Iron was cheaper than bronze, an alloy of bronze and iron, at this weight, could have about the same metal value as S-447 above. We cannot provide a value, but this is a very rare type.

 

FD-791. Iron 10 cash (?). Obverse: “CH’IEN-FENG CH’UAN-PAO”. Reverse: “T’IEN”. This is a large coin of 38 mm. No weight is available at this time. We cannot provide a value, but this is a very rare type.

 

Ding Fubao lists a number of variations on the coinage of Ma Yin, most of them cast in Iron. The Ch’u dynasty was centered in Hunan, an area rich in iron, hence the large number of iron issues from this dynasty. Unfortunately this is a very rare series, seldom offered for sale.

 

UNCERTAIN DYNASTY

Recently a group of iron spade moneys, based on the bronze spades of the Hsin Dynasty of Wang Mang came on the market. It is not certain which dynasty was responsible for issuing them, but it is reasonably certain they date to the Five Dynasties period in the 10th century AD. Prior to this group, only one of the three types was known and it is the only type in the common literature, listed in Hartill, Ding Fu Pao, and the Shanghai Encylopedia :

 

  Unknown to Schjoth, but listed as FD-842. Iron value 300 spade. Obverse: “HUO PU” copied directly from the Huo Pu reverse coins of Wang Mang (S-148). Reverse: “SAN-PAI” (300), based on the value 300 spades of Wang Mang.

 

F   $185.00     VF   $275.00

 

The hoard that came on the market contain two additional types not recorded in the standard reference books :

 

  Possibly representing a value 100 coin. Obverse: “HUO PU” copied directly from the Huo Pu reverse coins of Wang Mang (S-148), as as on the value 300 spade type above. Reverse: blank.

 

These have changed hands more recently in Fine at the $125 range, and VF in the $200 range, but please see my comments about them below.

 

  Iron, value 1000. Obverse: “TA-PU HUANG-CH’IEN”. Reverse: blank. Based on the value 1000 spade of Wang Mang (S-147). The reverse is blank.

 

These have changed hands more recently in Fine at the $125 range, and VF in the $200 range, but please see my comments about them below.

 

The denominations of the value 300 and value 1000 spades are obvious, as it is stated on the coins. The denomination of the possible value 100 spade is not not certain, but these appear to be part of a series for which 100, 300 and 1000 cash round coins were issued (reference FD-838-845), which we will list here at some future date.

There is a great deal of controversy over these coins and the hoard they are reported to have come from. As I commented above, prior to this group only the value 300 type was known to exist, so when this group came on the market the are fakes, with the two new types being modern fantasy coins. What I do know is there were numbers of very low quality examples, including damaged and some fragmentary examples. The value 1000 example above was an exceptional quality one, but the value 100 example is more typical of what they looked like, and as you can see, it has a rather convincing look of an old iron coin. Having seen a number of these coins up close, I lean toward the hoard being a genuine hoard with two of previously un-known denominations, but iron is a very easy metal to artificially age, and proving authenticity on any iron coin is difficult at best. The true status of these coins is at this time uncertain and may remain so for some time to come.

THE NORTHERN SUNG DYNASTY

 

This is a guide to the coins of the Northern Sung Dynasty (AD 960 to 1126), not a list of coins for sale. A list of the ancient and medieval Chinese coins we currently have available can be viewed on our : our vcoins store.

 

Images on this site (more coming soon) represent types,
but bear no relationship to actual size.

 

The Sung Dynasty, established in AD 960, saw relative stability in China, although conflict with the Tartars and Mongols continued. In AD 1127 the northern provinces were lost to them and the capital had to be moved from K’ai-feng Fu (Pien-liang) in the north to Lin-an Fu (Hangchou) in the south. We now refer to the period before the move as the Northern Sung and after the move as Southern Sung.

This is a complex series, with nine Emperors using dozens of reign titles and many inscription and calligraphy variations which defined dates and mints. If all the variations were catalogued, they would number in the thousands. Unfortunately the key to understanding them no longer exists.

If you have not done so, we recommend reading the following comments about the nature of Northern Sung coins. If you are already familiar with this section, you can click here to proceed directly to our listing of the coins.


 

OUTLINE OF THE BRONZE COINS

At the standard in use since the T’ang, the Northern Sung monetary system was based on full weight bronze 1 cash averaging 3.5 grams, 2 cash averaging 7 grams cast sporadically after AD 1093, and on a few occasions, usually during times of war, bronze 3 and 10 cash fiduciary coins cast to the 2 and 3 cash standard. In addition to bronze coins, fiduciary iron coins were also cast through much of this period.

AD 960 to 1041. The only bronze coins were full-weight 1 cash.

AD 1041. Fiduciary 3 cash (S-505) of about 7 grams and 29 mm. This was the earliest North Sung issue higher than a 1 cash. As a fiduciary issue it proved unpopular and subject to counterfeiting and in AD 1059 was devalued to 2 cash, consistent with the weight.

AD 1070. Fiduciary bronze 10 cash (S-538) of 7.2 grams and 30 mm were issued to raise funds for the Western Wars. As with the earlier fiduciary issues, these were unpopular and subject to counterfeiting and were devalued to 2 cash at the war’s end. Iron 10 cash were also issued at this time.

AD 1093. Full-weight 2 cash of about 7.0 grams and 29 mm. (S-575) were introduced as a regular part of the currency, but only issued sporadically.

AD 1102. Fiduciary 10 cash (S-621) were cast in an attempt to introduce them as a regular part of the coinage. At about 11 grams and 31 mm these contained 3 cash worth of metal and were devalued to value 3 cash in AD 1111.

AD 1107. A full weight 10 cash was issued (S-630) at about 27 grams and 50 mm, but was withdrawn within a year. These appear to have been hoarded, and used as a cheap source of metal for counterfeiting the fiduciary 10 cash issues still circulating from the issue of AD 1102.


 

OUTLINE OF THE IRON COINS

The earliest iron coins consisted of non-fiduciary 1/10 cash. Schjoth (page 28) records: “In the 2nd year of Ching-te (AD 1005) large iron coins were cast in the two localities of Chia-ting Fu and Chiung-chou in Szechuan, value one copper cash or ten small iron cash. These all circulated jointly and gave much satisfaction.”

The large iron coins, of bronze 1 cash value, seem to be S-472 (10.83 grams, 35 mm). We believe the “small iron cash” valued at 1/10th of a copper cash are the well known iron issues of bronze cash size and weight which start with the T’ai-p’ing (S-462) issues of AD 976-984. This would explain a passage where Schjoth records Mr. Hu, in AD 978, paid for copying some sacred classics with 120 strings of iron money. Recording payment specifically in iron money would not be necessary unless iron and copper cash were valued differently. This establishes iron at about 1/10th the value of copper, a figure very important to understanding other iron issues. The larger iron coin (S-472), at about 11 grams, was fiduciary with only about 0.3 cash worth of iron.

A careful analysis of the coins, as well as the literary evidence, suggests the following sequence:

AD 978. Non-fiduciary 1/10 cash iron coins are first cast. It is possible that earlier specimens may one day come to light.

AD 990. Non-fiduciary 1/10 cash iron coins cease to be cast, but continue to circulate until at least AD 1005.

AD 1004 (possibly a little earlier). Fiduciary iron 1 cash ware introduced (S-472) at 11 grams, 35 mm and issued sporadically throughout the Northern Sung period but at ever-reducing weights and sizes.

AD 1017. The standard for iron 1 cash is reduced to about 7 grams, 28 mm (S-483).

AD 1023. The size of iron 1 cash is reduced to about 25 mm, but the weight remains at about 7.0 grams (S-487).

AD 1070. Fiduciary iron 10 cash (S-542a) of 35 mm and variable weight between 7.5 and 11 grams are issued to finance the Western Wars. At the end of the war these are devalued to 2 cash.

AD 1093. Iron 2 cash (S-580) introduced at the same standard as the 10 cash of AD 1070, but prove an unsuccessful experiment and by the end of AD 1094 are trading at scrap iron prices (about 0.4 cash).

AD 1101. The weights of iron 1 cash become variable (S-615) averaging about 5.75 grams but specimens between 3.5 and 7 grams are encountered. The size remains consistent at about 25 mm.

AD 1111. Iron 2 cash (29 mm, 7-10 grams) (S-643) and 3 cash (32 mm, 9-11 grams) are cast but again faile to be accepted.


 

THE NATURE OF THE FIDUCIARY ISSUES

When we were first writing this site, the issuing and later devaluations of fiduciary coins appeared somewhat random, but it quickly became obvious this was not the case.

All of the iron coins, with the exception of the early 1/10 cash issues were fiduciary. Fiduciary 1 cash iron coins were accepted throughout this period, but all attempts at higher denominations were rejected.

It appears that almost all fiduciary bronze coins, and most fiduciary iron over 1 cash, were only cast during times of war or other emergencies and afterwards the bronze coins were devalued to denominations consistent with their size and weight, while iron coins were demonetized and withdrawn from circulation.

Fiduciary bronze was always cast to standards consistent with lower denominations, allowing them to be devalued later and still fit into the pre-existing coinage system. This shows planning, suggesting they were cast with the full intent of a future devaluation. (The same is not true of fiduciary iron coins).


 

INSCRIPTION VARIETIES

Northern Sung coins present a complex series of inscription variations which, while easily catalogued, are poorly understood. Date and mint codes are probably hidden in these variations, but it is possible we will never understand them.

 

CALLIGRAPHY STYLES

Schjoth’s introduction to Northern Sung coinage (page 27) says: “As regards the style of writing, the coins in the ‘seal’ writing come first, followed by those in the clerkly or orthodox writing, and ultimately finishing up with the ‘running’ hand, or ‘grass-character’ style of writing.”

By using “or” he is saying “clerkly” and “orthodox” are one script style, “running hand” and “grass-character” are a second. Seal script is the third style. A quick examination of the coins shows his statement of only three styles of calligraphy are correct.

1) “SEAL” – a very formal style of writing. Rounded characters with a fixed form and all details of each character included. The differences between coins are minor. There is no real Western equivalent, but type set block capital letters come closest.

2) “ORTHODOX” – also referred to as “clerkly”. Angular characters with a generally square or rectangular appearance in which most details are made up of distinct either straight or slightly curved stokes. The general layout of a character is fixed, but small details can be left out. From coin to coin there can be significant differences. The closest Western equivalent is handwritten small-case printing.

3) “GRASS” – also referred to as “running hand”. Flowing characters on which several details of a character can be represented by a single wavy or jagged line. A form of shorthand in which a character can show major differences from coin to coin. This is distinctly like Western handwriting (as opposed to hand printing).

Confusion throughout the general listings, such as for S-633-637 (page 33) where he states the type exists in both “clerkly” and “orthodox” script leads us to believe Schjoth did not write this part of the catalogue. It must have been written by someone working from his rough notes in which must the terms have been used interchangeably.

We relied on Schjoth’s drawings and descriptions to determine the calligraphy style of most issues, but the drawings are not always accurate. Some of the drawings show coins with a mix of orthodox and grass characters, in which cases we list the coin by the style of the 12 o’clock character. If actual specimens confirm this mixing of types, we will comment on them later.

 

CALLIGRAPHY VARIETIES

From the work of Mr. Berger, we know the Ch’ing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911) used subtle calligraphy variations indicating dates, with two changes per year at each mint. With many mints operating, this produced hundreds of variations for any type issued for more than one or two years. Northern Sung coins also have many variations per issue, suggesting a similar system was already in use, but unlike the Ch’ing coins, for which many official records have survived, and the code has been broken, the Northern Sung code is unlikely to be completely understood (we are told Mr. Berger is trying).

 

INSCRIPTION ENDINGS

In his introduction to the Northern Sung coinage, Schjoth (page 27) writes “It will be noted that the Yuan-paos, implying the ‘opening’ or ‘beginning’ currency are placed before the T’ung-paos, implying the principle of the ‘flowing’ currency.”

A simple examination of the coins shows no such relationship exists. There is also a third ending,”Chung-pao”, which Schjoth has ignored in this passage. We have noted the following pattern in the use of these endings:

AD 960 to 989 – all coins use “T’UNG PAO”.

AD 990 to 1007 – all coins use “YUAN-PAO”.

AD 1008-1016 – both “T’UNG PAO” and “YUAN-PAO” during the same reign title.

AD 1041 – a third ending of “CHUNG-PAO” was introduced.

AD 1017-1041 – only one ending was used during any reign title, but it could be either “T’UNG PAO”, “YUAN-PAO” or (after AD 1041) “CHUNG-PAO.

AD 1053-1126 – no evident pattern. Anywhere from one to three endings used in any reign title. In the cases where only one was used, it could be any of the three.

At this time we cannot comment of the significance of these endings, but there must be one. Coins of some reign titles are very rare and it is possible new types may turn up which will help establish a more significant pattern.

INSCRIPTION ORIENTATIONS

Northern Sung coins occur with inscriptions reading either TOP, BOTTOM, RIGHT, LEFT or TOP, RIGHT, BOTTOM, LEFT. Both orientations occur throughout and some issues can be found either way. We have not yet been able to determine any significance of these two orientations.


 

MINTING TECHNIQUES AND WEIGHT VARIATIONS

Starting in the late 5th century AD, the majority of Chinese coins were cast in two-piece moist sand molds into which a master coin (called a seed) was used to make many impressions. Channels were cut to connect the impressions and, after joining the two pieces, molten metal was poured in. When taken apart, the mold yielded what looked like a tree studded in coins, which was then cut apart.

The impression of the mold’s sand grains leaves a granular surface. The coins were run over a rasp to smooth the surfaces, leaving a series of parallel file marks which wear off very quickly and are only visible on very high grade specimens (a few Ming Rebel issues have courser file marks that do not wear off). The lower points on the coin are not affected by the rasp and usually retain some evidence of the pebbled surface on all but the most worn coins (difficult to see on a heavily patinated coin).

Cutting the coins from the tree left a rough spot on the edges which was then filed smooth. The coins were cast with wide rims to allow for this filing.

This method was easy, very fast and, because all of the coins were impressed with the same seed coin, thousands and even millions of identical coins were possible, allowing calligraphy variations to be used as mint and date control marks. Each coin would be exactly the same diameter except for small size variations caused by filing the edges. The only major drawback was in controlling the weights. It was impossible to control the exact depth of each seed impression, and a slightly deeper impression gave a heavier coin and a shallow one a light coin. Weights could vary as much as 25% from coin to coin, so officials concerned themselves with the average weight of one thousand coins, not the weight of each individual coin, as discussed earlier.

Earlier coins were often cast in handcarved stone (steatite) moulds. No two molds could have identical calligraphy, and controlling the exact depth of the carving was difficult, so coins cast by this method (many of the knife, spade and ban-liang) could vary considerably in weight. The molds had a limited useful life and one could not cast tens of thousands of identical coins. Other early coins were cast in non-reusable clay molds which were produced with a type of seed coin, but the mould-making process was too slow to serve the needs of China’s expanding population. The Chinese were aware of lost-wax casting, and used it for many purposes, but the process was far too slow for casting hundreds of millions of coins.

It is difficult to determine the intended denomination of a coin simply by weight. The problem is not too bad with Northern Sung bronze 1 cash which were cast to a standard of 3.5 grams, but could weigh between 2.75 and 4.5 grams. It is worse for 2 cash which at a 7 gram standard vary from 5.5 to 9 grams and overlap with 3 cash at a 10.5 gram standard but vary between 8.25 to 13.5 grams. As can be seen, the heavier 2 cash can weigh more than a light 3 cash. The problem gets worse for higher denominations.


 

SIZE AND DENOMINATION

These small copper coins did not have a lot of purchasing power and except for the smallest transactions, they were tied together in strings of 100 coins. In this form it was impossible to weight each coin, so how could one be sure a string was not of mixed denominations? The answer is fairly simple. Make each denomination a consistent size and without any special equipment and even a blind man would be able to tell if there were a few small coins in the middle of a string of large coins (or vice versa).

The following chart shows the sizes and average weights known to exist for bronze coins of each reign title (omitting reign titles for which no coins are known). It leaves little doubt that there were distinct size ranges.

 

DATE

TITLE

under
23
mm

23-26
mm

27-30
mm

31-35
mm

over 35
mm

968-975

KAI-PAO

3.2 grams

976-984

T’AI-P’ING

3.1 grams

990-994

SHUN-HUA

3.2 grams

995-998

CHIH-TAO

3.5 grams

998-1004

HSIEN-P’ING

3.6 grams

1004-1007

CHING-TE

3.5 grams

1008-1016

HSIANG-FU

3.7 grams

1017-1021

T’IEN-HSI

3.2 grams

1023-1031

T’IEN-SHENG

3.7 grams

1032-1033

MING-TAO

3.9 grams

1034-1037

CHING-YU

3.7 grams

1038-1039

PAO-YUAN

3.6 grams

1040

K’ANG-TING

3.3 grams

1041-1048

CH’ING-LI

3.3 grams

7.2 grams

1049-1053

HUANG-YU

2.7 grams

1054-1055

CHIH-HO

3.7 grams

1056-1063

CHIA-YU

3.5 grams

1064-1067

CHIH-P’ING

3.6 grams

1068-1077

HSI-NING

3.5 grams

7.2 grams

1078-1085

YUAN-FENG

3.3 grams

7.0 grams

1086-1093

YUAN-YU

3.2 grams

7.8 grams

1094-1097

SHAO-SHENG

3.7 grams

7.0 grams

1098-1100

YUAN-FU

1.7 grams

3.2 grams

7.4 grams

1101

CHIEN-CHUNG

2.0 grams

3.6 grams

6.5 grams

1102-1106

CH’UNG-NING

2.7 grams

10.3 grams

1107-1110

TA KUAN

3.85 grams

?? grams

23.5 grams

1111-1117

CHENG-HO

3.3 grams

7.2 grams

1118

CHUNG-HO

4.9 grams

1119-1125

HSUAN-HO

3.4 grams

6.1 grams

6.7 grams

1126

CHING-K’ANG

7.3 grams

 

Included in the average weights are numbers of worn coins which reduce the average weight slightly. In most cases, the original weights were probably about 0.2 grams higher than the average of the surviving coins.

Many of these issues are extremely rare and, for many types, we have been unable to locate actual specimens from which to take weights and measurements. The only readily available source of this information is the Schjoth catalogue, so we have based this table, and our descriptions of the types, on information provided by Schjoth. It is possible, especially for sizes, that some errors are included, but we will modify our listing if actual specimens indicate discrepancies.


 

COUNTERFEITS

It is important to read our discussion of weights before proceeding in this section.

 

TYPE 1

By counterfeit, we refer to illicit castings made at about the same time as the official castings, with the intent of spending them. These can be difficult and in some cases impossible to tell from official castings. Coins made recently, with the intent of fooling collectors, are called forgeries and are generally much easier to spot. No discussion of the forgeries will occur on this site as it would inform the forgers as to what they are doing wrong and allow them to make forgeries that are much more difficult to spot.

Chinese cash were all cast, making the counterfeiter’s job very easy, as casting is also the easiest of all counterfeiting methods.

By gathering heavier coins and recasting them as lighter coins, a counterfeiter could turn one hundred coins averaging 4 grams into 145 coins averaging 2.75 grams, a profit of 45%. Assuming an official coin was used as the master, each counterfeit would be at the low end of the acceptable weight range with the correct alloy, size, and calligraphy.

These coins must have been very difficult to spot back then, and almost impossible today. We can safely assume many coins at the lower end of the weight standards are counterfeits, but cannot be sure which ones. Official and counterfeit coins freely circulated side by side at the time, so both are part of China’s numismatic history and we therefore see little reason to worry about them.

 

TYPE 2

Many coins, including some listed by Schjoth, are much smaller and generally lighter than the normal standard. It is likely that most of these are illicit castings. There are some documented cases of very crude, small, light coins with Northern Sung (and other) types being cast for local use in parts of Southeast Asia. They were never meant to fool anyone in China and in some cases were cast hundreds of years after the official castings. They are an interesting collecting area unto themselves.

 

Emperor CHAO K’UANG YIN
AD 960-976

Chao K’uang Yin, chief General of the Posterior Zhou Dynasty disposed of Emperor Shih Tsung in AD 959, declaring himself Emperor and casting Posterior Zhou coins with the “ZHOU-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” inscription. Within one year he established the Northern Sung Dynasty, adopting the T’ai Tsu reign title.

 

Reign title: T’AI TSU, AD 960-968

Schjoth (page 27) lists “T’ai Tsu” as the Emperor’s name and not a reign title. We cannot identify any coins of this period, but the “SUNG-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” issues attributed to the following reign title may have first been cast at this time, as one would expect these to have been Chao K’uang Yin’s first issue.

 

Reign title: KAI-PAO, AD 968-975

 

S-451
Orthodox Script

 

Kai-pao is Chao K’uang Yin’s second reign title, but does not appear on his coins as it was considered incorrect for the character for “Pao” to occur twice on the same coin. Rather, “SUNG-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” (referring to the coinage of Sung) was used.

 

S-451. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SUNG-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Average (10 specimens) 25.2 mm, 3.40 grams.

VG   $2.50     F   $4.00

 

We recently notice some specimens of this type that were only about 23.0 mm and around 2.40 grams (not included in the average above) while this type is nearly always over 25 mm and greater than 3 grams (we have seen one that was 25.7 mm, 4.20 grams). At this point we are not certain what the status of these smaller coins is, but suspect they are either contemporary counterfeits, or possibly Japanese or Annamese imitative coins.

 

S-452-8. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SUNG-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: any of various nail marks, dots and vertical strokes, but there are more types than Schjoth lists. Average (4 specimens) 25.0 mm. Average 4.71 grams.

VG   $5.00     F   $7.50     VF   $11.50

 

We have noted the following variations:

 

TOP

 

crescent

 

UPPER RIGHT

crescent

   

RIGHT

vertical stroke

   

LOWER RIGHT

     

BOTTOM

crescent

   

LEFT

 

crescent

vertical stroke

UPPER LEFT

crescent

   

 

S-459. Iron 1/10 cash (see above). Obverse: “SUNG-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 4.09 grams. We have not seen one of these and cannot assign a value at this time.

 

These are reported to have been cast in Szechuan, Shansi or Fukien. Ding Fubao (Fisher’ s Ding) suggest these might be mother cash (models used to cast the seed cash), but average rim width makes that impossible.

 

Emperor T’AI TSUNG
AD 976-997

Reign title: T’AI-P’ING, AD 976-984

 

S-460
Orthodox Script

 

S-460. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’AI-P’ING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script (meaning “Money of the Heavenly Kingdom”). Reverse: blank. Average (4 specimens) 24.8 mm, 3.21 grams.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

S-461. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’AI-P’ING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: crescent at top. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.1 grams We have not had one, and cannot provide a value at this time (this does not necessarily mean it is rare).

 

S-462. Iron 1/10 cash. Obverse: “T’AI-P’ING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 4.16 grams. These are rare and we have no record of a value for the issue.

 

(The 1/10 cash denomination is based on information discussed above.)

It is recorded that a proposal was put forward to cast larger iron coins for this reign title. We assume the larger 1 cash similar to those of the “CHING-TE” reign title were intended, but we find no evidence they were cast.

 

Reign title: ??, AD 985-989

Schjoth, Fisher’s Ding and Mitchiner record no information about this period, but clearly show a gap between the preceding and following reign title. We will have to look further into this in the future.

 

Reign title: SHUN-HUA, AD 990-994

   

S-463
Orthodox Script

S-464
Running hand Script

 

S-463-464. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SHUN-HUA YUAN-PAO” in orthodox and running hand script. Schjoth says there is a grass script type by we have not seen one, and neither Schjoth nor Hartill lists one. Reverse: blank. We have noted specimens with star holes. Average (4 specimens) 24.4 mm, 3.3 grams.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

Reign title : CHIH-TAO, AD 995-998

     

S-465
Orthodox Script

S-467
Mixed Scripts

S-468
Grass Script

 

S-465-468. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIH-TAO YUAN-PAO” in orthodox, grass script and one type of mixed scrip (top and bottom in grass script, left and right in orthodox script). Reverse: blank. 24.6 mm. Average (12 specimens) 3.58 grams (excluding a 2.2 gram specimen must have been a contemporary counterfeit).

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

Emperor CHEN TSUNG
AD 998-1022

Reign title : HSIEN-P’ING, AD 998-1004

 

S-470
Orthodox Script
Broad rims

 

S-469-470. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSIEN-P’ING YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. There is only one caligraphy style for this issue, but it comes with both narrow (S-469) and wide (s-470) rims. Average (6 specimens) 24.5 mm, 3.54 grams.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

Reign title: CHING-TE, AD 1004-1007

 

S-471. Bronze cash. Obverse: “CHING-TE YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Average (9 specimens) 24.6 mm. 3.78 grams

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

Schjoth (page 28) records 1,830,000 strings of this issue were cast in each of the four years of this reign title. Each string was 100 coins, indicating about 732 million coins cast.

 

S-472. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “CHING-TE YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 35 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 10.83 grams. Rare, no value can yet be assigned.

 

In spite of the weight, it is fairly certain these were issued as 1 cash (see our discussion of iron coins). He records (page 28) these were cast in the second year of Ching-te (AD 1005) at Chia-ting Fu and Chiung-chou in Szechuan.

 

Reign title: HSIANG-FU, AD 1008-1016

   

S-474
Orthodox script
Yuan-Pao ending

S-477
Orthodox script
T’ung Pao ending

 

With “T’UNG PAO” and “YUAN-PAO”, this is the first occurrence of multiple inscription endings during a reign title (See our discussion of inscription varieties).

 

S-473-474. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSIANG-FU YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script (large and small calligraphy). Reverse: blank. Average (5 specimens) 24.9 mm. 3.94 grams.

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

S-475. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSIANG-FU YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Schjoth’s specimen was 26.0 mm. 5.58 grams. This coin has very wide rims, is 1.2 mm larger than usual, and is considerably above the 1 cash standard weight range. It has all the characteristics one would expect from a SEED CASH and as such should be considered a very rare specimen, however the size is in line with 2 examples of S-477 we describe below, and in fact this may turn out to be fairly common. More research needs to be done on this issue, and we cannot currently assign a value to it.

 

S-478. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “HSIANG-FU YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 34 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 10.82 grams (about the same as S-472). This is a rare coin and we cannot provide a valuation.

 

S-476-477. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSIANG-FU T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script (large and small calligraphy) Reverse: blank. Average (2 specimens) 25.7 mm, 4.55 grams (Schjoth shows his specimens as about 24 mm. Average 3.8 grams, however the 2 specimens we recently examined averaged 25.7 mm, 4.55 grams, suggesting Schjoth’s listing may have been in error).

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

Reign title: T’IEN-HSI, AD 1017-1021

   

S-479
Four different scripts.

S-480
Orthodox Script

 

Schjoth (page 29) records that during the last year (AD 1021) at least four mints were casting copper coins (Yung-ping at Jao-chou in Kiangsi, Yung-feng at Ch’ih-chou in Anhui, Kuang-ning in Fookien, and Feng-huo at Chien-chou in Shansi) and a few other mints may have operated briefly at Pien-liang (the capital) and Hangchow. Three mints cast iron coins (Chiung-chou, Chia-ting-fu and Hsing-chou, all in Szechuan) and in one year 1.5 million strings were cast, but it is not clear if this includes the iron issues.

He also records a formula for the bronze alloy: in 5 cattie of coins was 3 cattie 10 ounces of copper, 1 cattie 8 ounces of lead and 8 ounces of tin.

 

S-479. Not in Hartill or FD, so a scarce type. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-HSI T’UNG-PAO” in four different scripts. Reverse: blank. Average (1 specimens) 23.8 mm, 2.79 grams.

F   $25.00     VF   $45.00.

 

Schjoth states that this type has a different calligraphy styles on each of the four characters: “T’IEN” – seal script, “HSI” – orthodox script, “T’UNG” – grass script, “PAO” in li (official) script, and while this is not clear from his drawings, the specimens we have now seen bare this out. This is the earliest occurrence of seal script on a Northern Sung coin, possibly an experimental coin to see how it would look. However, this is controversy over this type, as while Schjoth believed it to be a Chinese issue (hence we include it here) there are others that think it is an Annamese issue, but there appears to be no clear consensus on this.

 

S-480,482. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-HSI T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Average (2 specimens) 24.5 mm, Schjoth had two specimens, one of 24 mm. 4.16 grams. Schjoth has a specimen that was only 21 mm, 2.48 grams, which is likely a counterfeit of the period and which has be left out of our average size and weight figure.

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

S-481. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-HSI T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: crescent at top left. 24 mm. 3.15 grams. We have not had this type and cannot provide a valuation at this time.

 

S-483. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-HSI T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 28 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 7.52 grams. This is a very rare coin and we cannot provide a valuation at this time.

 

This is smaller and lighter than the iron coins cast during the previous two reign titles, but slightly heavier than those of the next. Please see our general discussion of the iron coins for why we believe they are 1 cash and not 2 cash as Schjoth suggests.

 

Reign title: CH’IEN-HSING, AD 1022

No coins seem to have been cast for this reign title.

 

Emperor JEN TSUNG
AD 1023-1063

Jen Tsung used nine reign titles, casting coins for all of them. He used as many as ten denominations of mixed iron and bronze, with numerous variations in script style and orientation, providing dozens of major and hundreds of minor varieties.

 

Reign title: T’IEN-SHENG, AD 1023-1031

   

S-484
Seal Script

S-486
Orthodox

 

S-484-486. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-SHENG YUAN-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. Average (12 specimens) 24.8 mm 4.11 grams.

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

S-487-488. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-SHENG YUAN-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. Schjoth had two specimens of 25 mm and averaging 6.6 grams, smaller and lighter than those cast in the previous reign title. This type is rare and we have not been able to establish a value for it.

 

Reign title: MING-TAO, AD 1032-1032

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IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-489
Seal Script

S-490
Orthodox Script

 

S-489-490. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “MING-TAO YUAN-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. 25 mm. Schjoth had two specimens averaging 4.0 grams. The orthodox script variety is common but we are not certain about the rarity of the seal script type.

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

S-491. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “MING-TAO YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. 25 mm. Reverse: nail mark in top left corner. Schjoth had one specimen of 3.55 grams. We have not yet determined a value for this variety.

 

Schjoth does not record any iron coins for this reign title.

 

Reign title: CHING-YU, AD 1034-1037

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IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-492
Seal Script

S-494
Orthodox Script

 

S-492-494. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHING-YU YUAN-PAO” in seal and orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 25 mm. Average 3.73 grams.

   

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $5.00

 

S-495. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “CHING-YU YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 25 mm. 6.8 grams. We have not handled one of these and cannot provide a valuation for it.

 

Schjoth records: “Hsu Chia’s proposal to cast coins by a chemical process, of fusing copper and iron, was adopted.”. We assume this refers to a copper-iron alloy but have not been able to determine which coins these were. As copper was worth more than iron, it makes little sense to issue iron coins with a copper content, but a considerable saving could be had by adding some iron to mostly copper issues. Some years ago we had a few North Sung cash that looked like rusty iron, but were non-magnetic, which we assumed just had a peculiar patination. However, they were issued under the reign title HSUAN-HO around AD 1119-1125 which is 100 years after this (An image of one is available via this link).

 

Reign title: PAO-YUAN, AD 1038-1039

   

S-498
Seal Script

S-500
Orthodox Script

 

“Huang-Sung” was used instead of “Pao-Yuan” on these coins. To do otherwise would have repeated the character “Pao”, a practice considered to be incorrect.

 

S-496-500. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HUANG-SUNG T’UNG-PAO” (Imperial currency of Sung) in seal and orthodox script. Reverse: blank but one example with a star shaped hole. Average (2 specimens) 24.5 mm. 3.35 grams.

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

S-501-502. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “HUANG-SUNG T’UNG-PAO” (Imperial currency of Sung) in seal and orthodox script. Schjoth had two specimens, one of 24 mm, 7.53 grams and the other of 25 mm, 7.07 grams. These are rare and we cannot provide a valuation at this time.

 

Reign title: K’ANG-TING, AD 1040

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S-503
Orthodox Script

 

Jen Tsung only used this reign title for less than a year and very few coins were issued. We have never seen one.

 

S-503. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “K’ANG-TING YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 18 mm. 3.35 grams. This specimen is far too small for an official casting, but the weight is too high to suggest a contemporary counterfeit. As this is very rare and does not fit with then normal structure of the coinage, it may be a modern forgery. We note Fisher’s Ding (Ding Fubao) lists two Iron 1 cash for this reign title, but no bronze coins.

 

Schjoth (page 29) records: “In the K’ang-ting year, the official, Pi Chung-yuan, drawing attention to the bad state of the finances and the requirements for frontier expenditure, proposed the issue of a large currency, ‘value ten’ of copper and iron.” We have found no evidence that value ten cash were cast during this or either of the next two reign titles, but this passage is important as it shows that iron and copper coins could be cast and be circulating at identical denominations.

 

Reign title: CH’ING-LI, AD 1041-1048

   

S-504
read from top, then
around to the right

S-505
read top-bottom-right-left

 

S-506. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’ING-LI CHUNG-PAO” in orthodox script reading top-bottom right left. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. 3.35 grams. We have not recorded a value for this type.

 

S-504 and 505. Bronze, 3 cash. Obverse: “CH’ING-LI CHUNG-PAO” in orthodox script with orientations reading top-bottom right-left (504) and top around to the right (505). Reverse: blank. Average (10 specimens) 7.4 grams with a range from 6.2 to 8.6 grams, 30-31 mm (the 8.6 gram specimen was 32 mm).

F   $15.00     VF   $25.00

 

These weights are correct for value 2 cash, but Schjoth (page 30) records: “In the 4th year of Chia-yu (AD 1059), owing to the increased casting by the people of illicit coins, the ‘value three’ coins of the heavy issue of Ching-li chung-paos were reduced to the value of two cash”.. This clearly suggests the heavier “Ch’ing-li” coins were issued as a fiduciary three cash, making them subject to counterfeiting.

 

Reign title: HUANG-YU, AD 1049-1053

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S-507
Orthodox Script

 

S-507-508. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HUANG-YU YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. 23 mm. Schjoth had two specimens weighing 2.15 and 3.2 grams. This issue is rare and we have no record of a price for it.

 

It appears from Schjoth (page 30) that during this reign title an order was given to cast value 10 large copper and iron coins, but there is no evidence that these coins were actually cast.

 

Reign title: CHIH-HO, AD 1054-1055

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S-509
Seal Script
with YUAN-PAO

S-511
Orthodox Script
with YUAN-PAO

 

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IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-512
Seal Script
with T’UNG-PAO

S-513
Orthodox Script
with T’UNG-PAO

 

S-509-511. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIH-HO YUAN-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Average 3.72 grams.

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

S-512-513. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIH-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Average 3.62 grams. We have no valuation records for this type.

 

Reign title: CHIA-YU, AD 1056-1063

IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

 

S-514
Seal Script

S-515
Orthodox Script

 

S-514-515. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIA-YU YUAN-PAO” in seal and orthodox script. Reverse: blank. We have noted an orthodox script example with a star shaped hole. 24 mm. Average 3.87 grams.

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

S-516-518. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIA-YU T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Schjoth notes an orthodox script example with a star shaped hole. 24 mm. Average 3.32 grams.

VG   1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

Emperor YING TSUNG
AD 1064-1067

Reign title: CHIH-P’ING, AD 1064-1067

   

S-519
Seal Script

S-522
Orthodox Script

S-519-523. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIH-P’ING YUAN-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Average 3.34 grams.

VG   1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

This type often exists with an unusual style of “CHIH”. Munro believes these were cast in Japan, which is possible. We will elaborate on this at some future date.

 

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IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-524
Seal Script

S-526
Orthodox Script

S-524-526. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIH-P’ING T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Average 3.97 grams. Our records do not include a price for this type, but it is probably the same as those above.

 

Schjoth (page 30) records that during this reign title, 1,700,000 strings of cash (100 coins per string) were cast annually from six minting departments.

 

Emperor SHEN TSUNG
AD 1068-1085

Schjoth (page 31) records that as many as twenty-six mints operated during this period, with a combined annual mintage as high as five-and a half million strings.

 

Reign title: HSI-NING, AD 1068-1077

     

S-527
Seal Script version 1
with Yuan-pao

S-529
Seal Script version 2
with Yuan-pao

S-535
Orthodox Script (one of several styles)
with Yuan-pao

 

     

S-538
Seal Script
with Chung-pao

S-537
Orthodox Script style 1
with Chung-pao

S-542
Orthodox Script style 2
with Chung-pao

 

All coins of this reign title read from the top around to the right. Early in the reign only 1 cash coins were cast, and those with orthodox script tend to be style 1. Later in the reign the large denominations were cast, on which those with orthodox script tend to be style 2. It is not yet clear to me is the 1 cash denomination continued to be made after the larger denominations were introduced.

 

EARLY ISSUES

S-527-530 and 532-535. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSI-NING YUAN-PAO” in seal (two different versions) and orthodox scripts (3 different versions). Reverse: blank. Average (2 specimens) 23.8 mm. Average 3.12 grams. One with a star-shaped hole has been noted.

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

One of Schjoth’s specimens weighed only 1.63 grams. It is probably a contemporary counterfeit and in not included is the average weight calculation.

 

S-531. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSI-NING YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: crescent at bottom. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.7 grams. We have not recorded a value for this type.

 

S-544. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “HSI-NING YUAN-PAO” (or “T’UNG-PAO”) in orthodox script. Schjoth’s specimen must have been in poor condition as the exact reading was uncertain). Reverse: blank. 25 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 7.53 grams. We cannot provide a valuation for this type at this time.

 

At 7.53 grams and 25 mm, this appears to be a 1 cash and must have been part of this early series.

 

S-536-537. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSI-NING CHUNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. 25 mm. Average 3.57 grams. Our records do not currently include a value for this type.

 

Schjoth describes these as larger than usual, but 25 mm is not enough larger to be significant.

 

LATER ISSUES

Schjoth (page 31) records the following passage: “During the years the armies moved westward, coins value ten were cast. When the war was ended and the armies withdrawn, the illicit casting of coins set in, and the value of the large coinage had to be reduced to ‘three’ and eventually to ‘two’. On the recommendation of some high officials, henceforward, of the larger issues of coins only value two were cast and these circulated throughout the empire.”

 

S-538-42a. Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “HSI-NING CHUNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox script. Reverse: blank. The size of these varies between 30 and 32 mm, with significant weight variations between about 6.5 and 8.5 grams. Based on 43 specimens we found an average weight of about 7.8 grams. These fit a 2 cash standard but appear to have been issued at 10 cash, later devalued to 2 cash. We have noted one example with a star-shaped hole.

VG   $2.50     F   $4.00     VF   $7.50, gVF   $9.00

 

From a recent hoard we noticed that the type S-538 seems to come in both the 30 to 32 mm size (later re-valued to 3 cash) and in the 28 to 29 mm size (later re-valued to 2 cash). It is possible that the 28-29 mm specimens were a distinctly different issued from the 30-32 mm specimens.

 

S-543. Iron 10 cash. Obverse: “HSI-NING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. 35 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 10.54 grams. These are rare and we have not seen one, and cannot provide a valuation for it.

 

The passage about war-issue 10 cash coins (see above) does not mention iron coins, but at 35 mm these are large coins and are likely of this series as they do not fit anywhere else.

 

Reign title: YUAN-FENG, AD 1078-1085

IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

   

S-546
Orthodox Script

S-545
Seal Script

S-556
Grass Script

 

1 CASH ISSUES

S-545-550. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FENG T’UNG-PAO” in seal, orthodox and grass scripts. Reverse: blank or with crescent. We have also seen one example with a star hole (add about 60% to the price for a crescent or star hole). Average (36 specimens) 24.5 mm, 3.90 grams. We have noted that there is a range of sizes with specimens noted from 23.5 to 25.1 mm.

VG   $1.75     F   $2.75     VF   $5.00

 

S-551-552. Bronze larger 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FENG T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. Average (3 specimens) 25.6 mm, 3.56 grams (range 2.87 to 4.15 grams). These are interesting coins, and the consistently large size suggest they are a separate issue from those above, but the weights are well within the 1 cash weight range. At this point, we do not know why the two issues exist, but we do not that coins of this size were cast during earlier reign titles (see S-477 above).

VG   $7.50     F   $9.75     VF   $12.50

 

S-563-564. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FENG T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. Schjoth had two specimens of 25 and 24 mm. Average 7.05 grams. The same weight and size as the iron 1 cash cast prior to the war and appear to be a re-introduction of that denomination at the end of the war. We have not seen an example of these and cannot provide any valuation for them at this time.

 

LARGE ISSUES

S-553, 556. Bronze 10 (2) cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FENG T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass script. Reverse: blank. These vary between about 28 and 31 mm (average is 30 mm), and based on 31 specimens we found an average weight of 7.44 grams. We have also seen some examples with a star hole which should be worth a small premium).

VG   $2.50     F   $4.00     VF   $6.00

 

S-554, 555, 557-559. Bronze 10 (2) cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FENG T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass script. Reverse: several varieties with an assortment of dots and crescents. 28 mm. Schjoth had 5 specimens averaging 6.45 grams. We do not have any records of valuations for these variations, but they should be worth some premium over the plain-reverse examples above.

 

S-560-562. Iron 10 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FENG T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse blank or with a nail mark. 30 mm. Averaging 11.88 grams, these are of the same standard as the fiduciary 10 cash issues cast during the previous reign title. We have not handled any of these and cannot provide a valuation at this time.

 

The Western Wars were ongoing during the early years of this reign title, so these heavy coins were probably a continuation of the fiduciary 10 cash of the previous reign title which were devalued at first to 3 and then to 2 cash.

Schjoth records (page 31): “In the 8th year of Yuan-yu ‘(AD 1086)’, when Che Tsung ascended the throne, fourteen of the old mints were closed. During the eight years that followed Shansi had orders to re-issue its small currency.”

It appears Shansi issued larger coins until AD 1086. We have not found the year in which the Western War ended, but it appears to have been before AD 1086 indicating some of these heavy coins were cast at a 2 cash denomination (we believe this probably only applies to the bronze issues). As the bronze 10 cash were cast to the two cash standard, it is probably not possible to differentiate early 10 cash from later 2 cash.

 

Emperor CHE TSUNG
AD 1086-1100

Reign title: YUAN-YU, AD 1086-1093

   

S-565
Seal Script

S-567
Grass Script

 

S-565-8. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-YU T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. 24.5 mm. Average about 3.85 grams (17 specimens).

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

S-569-572. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-YU T’UNG-PAO” in seal script. There are unusual North Sung issues with the following reverses: S-569 – numeral 1, S-570 – numeral 2, S-571 – “Ch’uan” (a stream) and- S-572 – characters meaning “ten months”. 24 mm. Average 2.96 grams. These are rare. We have never seen one and cannot provide a valuation for them.

 

These coins do not fit with the rest of the North Sung series. Schjoth’s suggestion that these may have been cast is Japan could be correct. There is no indigenous coinage from Japan during the Northern Sung period and it appears Japan used Chinese coins during this period, so it is likely some North Sung types were cast in Japan.

 

S-573-574. Metal ?? value ??. Obverse: “YUAN-YU T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Schjoth lists these as bronze 1 cash, but the weights of 6.06 and 5.52 grams fit into the weight/size standard for iron 1 cash. Until we are able to confirm the alloy and weights of these two coins, we do not wish to classify them. We would appreciate hearing from anyone with access to the Schjoth collection (we think it is in Oslo, Norway) who can check them for us.

 

S-577-578. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-YU T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. 24 mm. Averaging about 7.12 grams. The weight and size are at the iron 1 cash standard suggesting these are early issues of this reign title. Schjoth does not mention orthodox script for this type, but his illustration of S-578 shows “YUAN” in orthodox script. We have not handled any of these and cannot currently provide a valuation for them.

 

ISSUES OF AD 1093

Schjoth (page 31) records value two cash were re-introduced in AD 1093, but discontinued in favor of 1 cash after two years. This title ends in the first year, so some must have been cast under the following reign title. Schjoth indicates all two cash were discontinued, but numismatic evidence indicates only iron 2 cash were discontinued while bronze two cash continued to be cast.

 

S-575-576. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-YU T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. 29 mm. Average 7.85 grams (the weight standard previously established for bronze 2 cash). We note these usually show up in gF or better.

F   $3.50     VF   $5.50

 

S-580-581. Iron 2 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-YU T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. 34 mm. Average 11.03 grams (the standard used during the previous two reign titles for 10 cash later reduced to 2 cash).

F   $25.00     VF   $37.50

 

These are the earliest Northern Sung iron coins we have seen available in recent years. It is very possible they came from a single hoard and may turn out to be scarcer than the values we have seen would indicate.

 

Reign title: SHAO-SHENG, AD 1094-1097

   

IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-582
Seal Script
with YUAN PAO

S-586
Grass Script
with YUAN-PAO

S-592
Orthodox Script
with T’UNG-PAO

 

ISSUES OF AD 1094

S-597-598. Iron 2 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-SHENG T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. 34 mm. Average 11.0 grams (the size and weight standard of the iron 2 cash issued in AD 1093).. These must be part of the series discontinued after AD 1094.

F   $25.00     VF   $42.50

 

Schjoth records that the “Book of Economical Economy of Sung” (v. Hui-k’ao, vol iv p. 24a) states: “During the first years of the Shao-sheng style, the copper coins were daily becoming more scarce, while the iron ones were increasing numerous, a thousand copper-cash were received in exchange of two thousand five hundred of iron.”

This is an interesting passage. It appears bronze coins were being issued at their metal value of about 3.5 grams per cash (see below), but the 11-12 gram iron 2 cash had been demonetized (or people refused to accept them) and were trading at their scrap iron value. Two and a half iron 2 cash, between 27.5 and 30 grams of iron, were exchangeable for a 3.5 gram copper 1 cash (an 8 or 9 to 1 ratio). This supports our earlier belief that iron was worth about 10% of copper and that this had changed little by the late Northern Sung period.

The government’s response was to withdraw the iron 2 cash coins, although it appears that iron 1 cash were still cast and accepted. We find no evidence of iron 2 cash being cast again during the balance of the Northern Sung period, but some brief but unsuccessful attempts at other denominations did occur.

 

OTHER ISSUES OF AD 1094 AND LATER

S-582, 585, 586, 591. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-SHENG YUAN-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse blank. Average (4 specimens) 24.5 mm, average 3.90 grams (excluding S-585 which at only 21 mm and 1.82 grams is probably a contemporary counterfeit).

F   $2.50     VF   $4.50

 

583-584, 587-590. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-SHENG YUAN-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: a variety of crescents and dots. Average (6 specimens) 24.5 mm, 3.87 grams. We have no records of values for these, but they should be worth some premium over the blank-reverse type.

 

S-596. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-SHENG YUAN-PAO” in grass script. 24 mm. Reverse: blank. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 7.02 grams. We have no records of value for this type at this time.

 

S-593-595. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-SHENG YUAN-PAO” in seal and grass script. Reverse: blank. Average (3 specimens) 29.3 mm, 6.85 grams.

F   $3.50     VF   $5.50

 

S-592. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-SHENG T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse blank. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 2.94 grams. We have no record of handling this type.

 

Reign title: YUAN-FU, AD 1098-1100

 

IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-606 vareity
Seal Script
with T’UNG-PAO

S-602
Grass Script
with T’UNG-PAO

 

S-599, 602. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FU T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. 23 mm. Average about 3.21 grams.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.50

 

S-600-601. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FU YUAN-PAO” in seal script. Reverse: crescents in various positions. 23 mm. Average about 3.41 grams. We have no record of handling these.

 

S-603. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FU T’UNG-PAO” in grass script. Reverse: blank. At 21 mm and 1.66 grams this is probably a counterfeit.

 

S-606. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FU T’UNG-PAO” in seal script. Reverse: blank. 29 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 5.86 grams. We do not have a valuation for this type.

 

S-604-605. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FU T’UNG-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. 28 mm. Average 7.40 grams.

VG   $2.50     F   $3.50     VF   $6.50

 

H-16.336 (Schjoth does not list this denomination). Iron 3 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-FU T’UNG-PAO” in seal script. Reverse: blank. Average (1 specimen) 34.2 mm, 13.23 grams.

F   $30.00     VF   $45.00

 

Emperor HUI TSUNG
AD 1101-1125

Hui Tsung’s coinage is very complex with several attempted reforms, including the introduction of some new fiduciary issues. We have done our best to sort these out, but in some cases only speculations can be offered.

 

Reign title: CHIEN-CHUNG CHING-KUO, AD 1101

   

S-607
Seal Script

S-609
Grass Script

 

An unusual reign title, composed of four rather than two characters, which does not fit the normal coin layout. “SHENG-SUNG” was used instead.

 

S-607, 609. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SHENG-SUNG YUAN-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. Average (3 specimens) 24 mm. Average 3.65 grams.

VG   $1.75     F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

S-608, 610. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse “SHENG-SUNG YUAN-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. S-608 at 19 mm, 1.92 grams and S-610 at 21 mm, 2.16 grams. The size and weights suggest Schjoth’s specimens were contemporary counterfeits, but the types do exist at regular size and weight.

 

S-611. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SHENG-SUNG YUAN-PAO” in grass script. Reverse: crescent. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.28 grams. We have not handled one of these and cannot currently suggest a value.

 

S-612-614. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “SHENG-SUNG YUAN-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. 28 mm. Average 6.53 grams.

VG   $2.50     F   $3.50     VF   $5.50

 

The iron coins of this reign title are a little perplexing. This is one of the areas where we can only offer speculations, and more study is needed.

 

S-615-617. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “SHENG-SUNG YUAN-PAO” in seal and grass scripts. Reverse: blank. The sizes and weights of Schjoth’s specimens are very inconsistent. One of 23 mm, 3.91 grams, one of 25 mm, 5.67 grams and one of 21 mm, 2.72 grams.

VG   $55.00     F   $70.00     VF   $100.00

 

During the balance of the Northern Sung, 23 to 24 mm iron coins were sporadically cast at both a 5 to 6 and 3 to 4 gram standard. It is important to remember iron coins are fiduciary, even at the heavier standard containing about 0.2 cash worth of metal. It has been our observation that size is more significant than weight in determining denomination, and that both of these standards are intended to be value 1 cash. We believe the 21 mm specimen above may have been a counterfeit of the period.

 

S-618. Iron coin of uncertain denomination. Obverse: “SHENG-SUNG YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. At 33 mm and 12.59 grams this coin is larger and heavier than the iron 2 cash issued earlier, but the same as the earlier iron 10 cash that were later demonetized. This appears to be an attempt to introduce a large fiduciary iron coinage, but we have found no evidence to suggest the intended denomination, although the size is the same as the bronze 10 cash of the next reign title. Rare, we have no valuation currently available.

 

Reign title: CH’UNG-NING, AD 1102-1106

   

IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-620
Orthodox Script
CH’UNG-NING CHUNG-PAO
read top-bottom-right-left

S-621
Orthodox Script
CH’UNG-NING T’UNG-PAO
read top-right-bottom-left

S-626
Orthodox Script
CH’UNG-NING YUAN-PAO
read top-right-bottom-left

 

While the coins with the Chung-Pao ending, and those with the T’ung-Pao ending, appear to have very different caligraphy styles, they are both variations of Othodox Script.

Schjoth lists value 1, 5 and 10 cash for this series, but his literary reference mentions only 10 cash. We have so far found no convincing evidence of any coins cast with the intent of a 5 cash denomination.

 

REGULAR SERIES

S-626. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’UNG-NING YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. 25 mm. 6.04 grams. We have not seen an example of these and cannot provide a valuation at this time.

 

Schjoth does not list any bronze coins with the “YUAN-PAO” inscription, but the existence of this iron coin proves the inscription was used. It is likely that bronze issues exist but are very rare.

 

S-619, bronze 1 cash, “CH’UNG-NING T’UNG-PAO”. Orthodox script. 25 mm. 3.27 grams. This is consistent with a 1 cash denomination. The 1 cash is rare with this inscription.

VF   $90.00

 

S-625, iron 1 cash, “CH’UNG-NING T’UNG-PAO”. Orthodox script. 24 mm. At 3.46 grams, this is consistent with the iron 1 cash denomination (S-615) issued under the previous reign title. We have not seen one of these and cannot provide a value.

 

S-620, bronze 1 cash, “CH’UNG-NING CHUNG-PAO”. Orthodox script. 25 mm. At 2.12 grams it is unlikely that this is an official issue, but it may be a contemporary counterfeit of a value 1 cash coin of this type. We cannot provide a value for this type at this time.

 

FIDUCIARY 10 CASH SERIES

 

Schjoth records (page 32): “In the 1st year of Ch’ung-ning (AD 1102) the Board of Revenue directed that the four minting departments of Chiang, Yao, Shih and Chien should hand in samples of the new currency …… Each string of a thousand of the value-ten coins weighed 14 catties 7 liang, 9 catties 7 liang 2 mace being copper, 4 catties 12 liang 6 mace being lead, 1 catty 9 liang 2 mace being tin, the waste by melting being 1 catty 5 liang. Each coin weighed 3 mace.”

As far as we have been able to determine 3 mace is about 11 grams, so this passage must be referring to an issue of larger bronze coins. We also note that the two halves may not belong together. The first is about testing 1000 coins that already exist. In the second part “waste by melting” suggests the formula is the amount of metal needed to cast 1000 coins, including the casting sprew that is left after the coins are removed from the trees. This is still open to interpretation.

Schjoth (page 33) also records: “In the 1st year of Cheng-ho (AD 1111), orders were issued that ‘value ten’ coins, which grasping officials for momentary gain some years before had issued to the harm of the government and the people, should be reduced to ‘value three’. The Minister Chang Shang-ying (died 1121) obtained leave to demonetize all the spurious ‘value 10’ coins met with and cast them into light weight Hsiao-p’ing cash”.

Bronze 3 cash should weigh about 10.5 grams, but this passage also makes it clear that 10 cash coins were being cast to a 3 cash standard. It is also clear that counterfeits were abundant. We believe the large coins of this period are the coins referred to, and that any under 8 grams are probably examples of the counterfeits.

 

S-621. Bronze 10 cash (Schjoth calls it a 5 cash). Obverse: “CH’UNG-NING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Average (8 specimens) 34.1 mm, 11.47 grams (at the 3 cash standard). These are generally well cast coins with bold characters and fairly high rims.

F   $8.00     VF   $15.00     XF $22.50

 

S-624 is a double-obverse example of the S-621 issue (31 mm, 12.38 grams). Double-obverse coins were never a tradition in China and it is unlikely to be an authentic issue. There are other double-sided fantasy coins that are believed to have been cast during the 19th century for the collector’s market.

 

S-622, 623. Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “CH’UNG-NING CHUNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Average (7 specimens) 9.65 grams, with the range between 7.6 and 13.3 grams. The range from 34 to 36 mm. Two of the specimens were under 8 grams were poorly cast and probably old counterfeits, leaving an average of 10.5 grams for the remaining specimens. These are generally bold, well cast coins.

F   $10.00     VF   $15.00

 

Schjoth (page 32) records a story of the enemy melting iron coins to manufacture iron weapons, so tin and lead were added to the alloy to make the metal soft and brittle, not suitable for weapons. The iron coins of this series may be those referred to. “Enemies making weapons” shows these fiduciary coins were cast in a time of war, just as similar coins were cast during the Western Wars 35 years earlier.

 

S-627. Iron 10 (?) cash. Obverse: “CH’UNG-NING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 32 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 10.07 grams. This is in the same weight and size standard as the bronze 10 cash issue, suggesting this was intended to circulate at that denomination. Rare.

 

Reign title : TA KUAN, AD 1107-1110

 

 

S-630
Orthodox Script

“TA-KUAN YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script, with very fine calligraphy said to be in the Emperor’s own hand, which Hartill refers to as “slender gold” script. They come in a number of different denominations, in both bronze and iron, all with blank reverses. In later times this was a popular model for amulets with a wide variety of reverse types, which are are not coins.

 

Bronze 1 cash, 23 to 24 mm, average 3.85 grams. S-628-629.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

Bronze 2 cash, 29 mm. FD-1059, Hartill 16.421.

F   $60.00     VF   $85.00

 

Bronze 10 cash, average (5 specimens) 41.0 mm, 17.5 grams. S-630.

VF   $25.00     XF   $45.00

This is a large and impressive type first cast in AD 1107, which is reported to have been withdrawn in AD 1109 due to excessive counterfeiting, although we expect that report is a little muddled. When these were issued at about 17 grams, the 11 to 12 gram value 10 coins of the previous reign title were still circulating and counterfeiters could make a significant profit melting these and using the bronze to cast the earlier type. The recall was probably to stop this counterfeiting of that earlier type. These are far too common for a coin officially withdrawn after only two years, suggesting they were hoarded in large numbers at the time.

Schjoth’s specimen weighs 23.52 grams and 40 mm, equivalent to value 8 cash, but it was double-sided and probably an amulet made much later (probably Ming or even Ching period).

 

 

S-632 – iron
Orthodox Script

 

Iron 1 cash. Schjoth’s specimen was about 23 mm, 3.42 grams. S-631.

F   $40.00     VF   $75.00

 

Iron 10 cash (what Hartill calls a 2 cash). Average (2 specimens) 30.5 mm. 7.35 grams. S-632. The size and weight are within the standard for fiduciary 10 cash of the previous reign and since those 10 cash were not devalued to 3 cash until after these coins were issued, we believe these were also issued as feduciary 10 cash.

F   $30.00     VF   $55.00

 

Reign title: CHENG-HO, AD 1111-1117

   

S-645
Seal Script

S-646
Orthodox Script

 

S-633-636. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHENG-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Average 3.37 grams.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00     XF   $7.00

 

S-637. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHENG-HO T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox scripts. Reverse: crescent. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.11 grams. We currently have no record of a value for this type.

 

S-638-640. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “CHENG-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse blank. Average (4 specimens) 29 mm, 6.89 grams.

F   $3.50     VF   $5.50

 

S-641-642. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “CHENG-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Schjoth has two specimens, one of 25 mm, 6.51 grams and another of 21 mm, 5.56 grams (possibly a counterfeit).

F   $25.00     VF   $45.00

 

No bronze 3 cash were cast during this reign title, but Schjoth (page 33) records information suggesting many bronze value 3 cash must have been in circulation: “In the 1st year of Cheng-ho (AD 1111), orders were issued that ‘value ten’ coins, which grasping officials for momentary gain some years before had issued to the harm of the government and the people, should be reduced to ‘value three’. The Minister Chang Shang-ying (died 1121) obtained leave to demonetize all the spurious ‘value 10’ coins met with and cast them into light weight Hsiao-p’ing cash”.

This passage cannot be referring to the type S-630 as these contained at least 8 cash worth of copper and had been recalled in AD 1109. The 10 cash of the western wars had been devalued long before, so the reference must be to the value 10 coins of the Ch’ung-ning reign title which contain about 3 cash worth of metal.

“Hsiao-p’ing cash” is a term that can describe any lightweight cash. In some other references it appears to refer to value 1 cash of either bronze or iron, but in a few references seems to specifically mean fiduciary iron coins where “lightweight” means coins which weigh far less than the value at which they circulated, in which case they may be the following two coins:

 

S-643-644. Iron 2 cash. Obverse: “CHENG-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse blank. 29 mm. Schjoth had two specimens, 6.82 and 9.66 grams. The size and weight of these suggests a value 2 denomination was intended.

F   $25.00     VF   $45.00

 

S-645-646. Iron 3 cash. Obverse: “CHENG-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse blank. Average (2 specimens) 31.8 mm, 32 mm. Average 9.10 grams. The size and weight of these suggests a value 3 denomination was intended.

F   $25.00     VF   $45.00

 

Reign title: CHUNG-HO, AD 1118

 

IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-647
Orthodox Script

 

S-647. Bronze 1 (?) cash. Obverse: “CHUNG-HO T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 26 mm. 4.97 grams. This coin is peculiar in not fitting into any of the regular size and weight standards. If truly a medieval coin, it would probably be a counterfeit value 2 cash, and being a rare type, we would prefer to examine it for authenticity before committing to a classification for it.

 

Reign title: HSUAN-HO, AD 1119-1125

   

IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-656
Seal Script
with T’UNG PAO

S-660
Orthodox Script
with T’UNG PAO

S-652
Orthodox Script
with YUAN PAO

 

S-648-650 & 653-655. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSUAN-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Average 3.51 grams.

F   $3.50     VF   $6.00

 

S-651. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSUAN-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal script. Reverse: crescent at the top and star (more like a donut) at the bottom. 24 mm. 3.05 grams. We have not had this type, and cannot suggest a value at this time.

 

S-662. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSUAN-HO T’UNG-PAO”. Orthodox (?) script. Reverse: “SHEN”. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.0 grams. These are rare and we cannot currently assign a value to them.

 

We assume “SHEN” is a mint mark (very unusual on a Northern Sung coin). Schjoth lists this as a bronze pattern for the iron coin of the same type (see below), but at this time we have no reason to believe this to be true.

 

S-666. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “HSUAN-HO T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox (?) script. Reverse: “SHEN” (see above). 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.58 grams. These are rare and we cannot currently assign a value to them.

 

S-663-665. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “HSUAN-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. Schjoth’ had two of 23 mm averaging 5.85 grams, and one of 21 mm, 4.16 grams. These appear to be of and iron 1 cash but the 21 mm specimen may be a counterfeit. These are rare and we cannot currently assign a value to them.

 

S-656-657. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “HSUAN-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. Average (4 specimens) 28.1 mm. Average 6.28 grams. These are common, and must have been a huge issue as these are very common.

F   $3.50     VF   $5.50

 

S-658-661. Bronze 2 or 3 cash. Obverse: “HSUAN-HO T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox script. Reverse: blank or with a crescent. Average (five specimens) 30 mm, 6.6.84 grams. The crescent reverse should be worth a premium. These are common, and must have been a huge mintage.

F   $3.50     VF   $5.50

 

These larger “HSUAN-HO T’UNG-PAO” coins are a bit of a mystery. The two distinct sizes of 28 and 30 mm suggests two denominations, but both specimens weigh in the 2 cash standard. We need to examine more specimens, and study the coins that follow in the Southern Sung, before commenting further on this series.

 

S-652. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSUAN-HO YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weighed 3.24 grams, which he notes had an alloyed appearance, but we are not certain what he meant by that. We have no record of a value for this type.

 

Emperor CH’IN TSUNG, AD 1126

Reign title: CHING-K’ANG, AD 1126

IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-667
Seal Script

S-670
Orthodox Script

 

Coins of this reign title are all rare although we have had a few over the years. Unfortunately we do not have a record of the prices. We are attempting to track down the purchasers in order to retrieve this information and image the coins.

 

S-669-670. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “CHING-K’ANG T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Schjoth had two specimens, one of 21 mm, 5.7 grams and the other of 24 mm, 7.13 grams. These fall into the weight standard for late North Sung iron 1 cash, but the 21 mm specimen is too small and may be a counterfeit. Rare, no valuation available.

 

S-667-668. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “CHING-K’ANG T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 30 mm. Average 7.25 grams. Rare, no valuation available.

 

Schjoth mentions the existence of varieties not represented in his collections, including some with the “CHING-K’ANG YUAN-PAO” inscription, as well as specimens with orthodox script.


 

The dynasty name was changed to Southern Sung after the northern provinces were lost to the Mongol invaders in AD 1127. For a discussion of the Southern Sung coinage please continue to the next page.

THE SOUTHERN SUNG DYNASTY

 

This is a guide to the coins of the Southern Sung Dynasty, not a list of coins for sale. A list of the ancient and medieval Chinese coins we currently have available can be viewed on our : our vcoins store.

 

Images on this site (more coming soon) represent types,
but bear no relationship to actual size.

 

The Northern and Southern Sung Dynasties are really two parts of one dynasty. The division between then is traditionally placed where the Capital was moved from K’ai-feng Fu to Lin-an (modern Hangchou) following the lose of the Northern territories to Mongol invaders. Kao Tsung, first Emperor of Southern Sung, actually ruled from the Northern capital of K’ai-feng Fu for his first two years and could also be considered the last Emperor of Northern Sung.

We have still in the process of researching this portion of our reference guide. We have tried several formats of presenting the information, and have settled on the style currently used for the last few reign titles, but it will take a little while to change over the entire page to that format. For the moment, we are including a number of tables, working theories and various observations in the introduction and body of the text. In many cases these will be removed after the information derived from them has been incorporated into the text. In some cases we may make them available on a separate page.

Please remember that this part of our site is still in a very rough form and is far from complete. There will undoubtedly be a number of errors that will eventually be corrected, and a complete proof reading is still to be performed.


 

AVERAGE WEIGHTS

We have decided to put a chart of the denominations, sizes and weights under each reign title. When the listing is complete the larger table of this information will be eliminated from the site. It this formate proves effective, will will incorporate the it into other parts of the site. Each of these tables has a heading for “#” at the end. This refers to the number of specimens used to determine the average weight.


 

DENOMINATIONS

The bronze denominations used during this dynasty are similar to those used during the Northern Sung dynasty with the additions that there are some non-feduciary 5 and 10 cash issues, as well as one issue of feduciary 100 cash.

A minor difference occurs in the bronze 1 cash in that, while the Northern Sung bronze 1 cash are generally about 24 mm throughout the dynasty, the Southern Sung issues vary between 22 and 25 mm, although there is usually a consistent size within any one reign title and thought, no matter what size, the average weights seem to have remained fairly consistent with an intended weight standard somewhere just over 3 grams.

The iron denominations are very different than those used during the Northern Sung. They are still all feduciary issues, but there seems to have been more acceptance of them as a regular part of the currency although we still have some questions about this. Iron was only issued prolifically during the middle years of the dynasty with no iron issues during the last few reign titles, and there were regular issues of 1 and 2 cash, as well as fairly regular issues of 3 and 5 cash. As many of these issues have survived in fairly large numbers, we have to assume that they were not recalled and melted for scrap metal as the Northern sung issues above 1 cash seem to have been (and are thus much rarer).


 


 

MINTS

Many Southern Sung coins, and in particular the iron coins, have actual mint marks on them. We are just beginning to build this section, and will be adding additional mints as images of the mint marks become available.

 

T’UNG

Refers to the T’ung-an district in Fuken.

 


 

Dates

Many Southern Sung coins, have regnal date marks indicating how many years into the particular reign title the coin was minted. From these we can calculate the exact year of issue, of any coin with such a mark. The date marks we have so far imaged are below, and we will be adding more as become available.

 

YEAR 2

 

YEAR 3

 

YEAR 5

 

YEAR 6

 


 

VALUATIONS

For many type we have not provided a valuation. This does not mean that the type is rare or overly valuable. It simply means we have not found what we feel is an acceptable valuation for the type. In other cases, where a valuation is given for a description which included several year variation, the valuation is for the commonest year that we have handled. If we determine that another year is especially rare or valuable, we will make not of it.

All of our valuations are in Canadian dollars,
which at the time I last updated this are virtually on part with the US dollar.

 

BRONZE & IRON MINT MARKS – NO DATE MARKS

Reign Title

Date

Reverse Types

     

Bronze

Iron

     

CHIEN-YEN

1127-1130

blank
CHUAN

blank

     

SHAO-HSING

1131-1162

blank
crescent
crescent & dots

LI

     

LUNG-HSING

1163-1164

blank

blank

     

CH’IEN-TAO

1165-1173

blank
crescent & dot
CHENG

CHIUNG
T’UNG

     

SHUN-HSI

1174-1189

blank
T’UNG
CH’UAN

crescent & 2 dots
LI
CHIUNG

     

SHAO-HSI

1190-1194

 

crescent & 2 dots

     

CH’ING-YUAN

1195-1200

blank*

crescent & 2 dots

     

CHIA-T’AI

1201-1204

blank **

       

K’AI-HSI

1205-1207

 

blank

     

CHIA-TING

1208-1224

Ch’un/value 5

blank
crescent & 2 dots
TING/crescent & 2 dots
CH’UAN/value 5
LI/value 5
HUI/value 5
value 5
value 10

     

PAO-CH’ING
(using Ta-sung)

1225-1227

 

blank

     

SHAO-TING

1228-1233

         

TUAN-P’ING

1234-1236

blank**
LI/value 10**

blank
CHIUNG/value 5
TING-WU/value 5
HUI/value5/SHI- SHANG

     

CHIA-HSI

1237-1240

blank **
blank *

       

SHUN-YU

1241-1252

value 100

       

PAO-YU
(as Huang-sung)

1253-1258

         

K’AI-CHING

1259

         

CHING-TING

1260-1264

         

HSIEN-SHUN

1265-1274

         

 

* – for some types, blank reverses seem to indicate year one.
** – an unusual large coin, not part of the regular series.

 

COIN WITH REVERSE NUMBERS (USUALLY DATES)
(note that this list is currently far from complete)

Reign Title

Date

Metal

Mint

Year Marks Seen

   

CHIEN-YEN

1127-1130

bronze

blank

none

   

SHAO-HSING

1131-1162

bronze

blank

none

   

LUNG-HSING

1163-1164

bronze

blank

none

   

CH’IEN-TAO

1165-1173

bronze

blank

none

   

SHUN-HSI

1174-1189

bronze

blank

7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16

   

iron

Ch’un

9,11,13,14,15,16

   

iron

T’ung

14,15

   

SHAO-HSI

1190-1194

bronze

blank

1,2,3,4,5

   

iron

Ch’un

3,4,5

   

iron

T’ung

1,4,5

   

iron

Han

1,2,3,4,5

   

CH’ING-YUAN

1195-1200

bronze

blank

1,2,3,4,5,6

   

iron

Ch’un

1,2,3,4,6

   

iron

T’ung

1,2,3,4,5,6

   

iron

Han

1,2,3,4,6

   

iron

CHUAN

5, 6-3, 7-3, 9, 6/73

   

iron

crescent
& 2 dots

1-5, 2-5, 3-5, 4-5

   

CHIA-T’AI

1201-1204

bronze

blank

1,2,3,4

   

iron

Ch’un

1,2

   

iron

T’ung

2,3

   

iron

Han

1,2,3

   

iron

Li

96 (probably not a date)

   

iron

CHUAN

1/83, 2/93, 3/40

   

K’AI-HSI

1205-1207

bronze

blank

1,2,3

   

iron

T’ung

1,2,3

   

iron

Ch’un

1,2,3

   

iron

Han

1,2,3

   

iron

Li

10-6 (or 16) (not a date)

   

iron

CHUAN

3/24

   

CHIA-TING

1208-1224

bronze

blank

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14

   

iron

blank

3 above & below, 3 above,

   

iron

blank

2 (an unusual type)

   

iron

Li-chou

1

   

iron

Li

3

   

iron

T’ung

1

   

iron

Ch’un

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

   

iron

Han

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13

   

iron

Ting

2

   

iron

various

complex unusual series S-934-958
not part of the regular series.

   

CHIA-TING
as Shao-hsing

1208

iron

Li

5 (probably denon. mark)

   

iron

blank

5 (probably denon. mark)

   

PAO-CH’ING
(using Ta-sung)

1225-1227

bronze

blank

1,2,3

   

iron

Ch’uan

3

   

SHAO-TING

1228-1233

bronze

blank

1,2,3,4,5,6

   

iron

Ch’un

3

   

TUAN-P’ING

1234-1236

bronze

blank

1

   

CHIA-HSI

1237-1240

bronze

blank

1,2,3,4

   

SHUN-YU

1241-1252

bronze

blank

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11

   

PAO-YU
(as Huang-sung)

1253-1258

bronze

blank

1,2,3,4,5,6

   

K’AI-CHING

1259

bronze

blank

1

   

CHING-TING

1260-1264

bronze

blank

1,2,3,4,5

   

HSIEN-SHUN

1265-1274

bronze

blank

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

   

 

At the moment it appears the”crescent & dot” reverse may indicate value 2 coins,
and the “crescent & 2 dots” reverse value 3 coins.

 

SIZES AND PROBABLE DENOMINATIONS

Reign Title

Date

Alloy

mm.

Gr.

Prob. Denom.

 

CHIEN-YEN

1127-1130

bronze

24

3.7

value 1

 

bronze

28

6.0

value 2

 

iron

21

5.0

value 1 (?)

 

SHAO-HSING

1131-1162

bronze

24

3.0

value 1

 

bronze

28

6.0

value 2

 

bronze

30

8.6

value 3 ?

 

iron

18

3.5

value (?)

 

iron

24

3.6

value 1

 

iron

27

6.5

value (?)

 

LUNG-HSING

1163-1164

bronze

24

3.2

value 1

 

bronze

28

7.5

value 2

 

iron

18

4.3

value (?)

 

iron

28

7.8

value 2

 

CH’IEN-TAO

1165-1173

bronze

28

6.0

value 2

 

iron

21

3.7

value (?)

 

iron

21

7.0

value (?)

 

iron

24

8.2

value (?)

 

iron

28

7.7

value 2

 

SHUN-HSI

1174-1189

bronze

24

3.0

value 1

 

bronze

25

3.8

value 1

 

bronze

27

6.0

value 2

 

iron

18

3.0

value ?

 

iron

28

6.5

value 2

 

iron

28

9.0

value 3 (cres\2 dots)

 

iron

31

13.0

value 3 (cres\2 dots)

 

SHAO-HSI

1190-1194

bronze

24

3.4

value 1

 

bronze

28

7.2

value 2

 

iron

23

4.9

value 2

 

iron

27

7.1

value 2?
(1-cres\2 dots)

 

iron

31

10

value 3 (cres\2 dots)

 

CH’ING-YUAN

1195-1200

bronze

22

3.2

value 1

 

bronze

30

6.7

value 3 (?)

 

bronze

31

10.3

value 3

 

iron

24

4.1

value 1

 

iron

29

6.7

value 2

 

iron

30

9

value 3 (cres\2 dots)

 

iron

32

12

value 3 (3 mark)

 

CHIA-T’AI

1201-1204

bronze

24

3.2

value 1

 

bronze

29

6.4

value 2

 

bronze

34

10.7

value 5 or 10 ?

 

iron

29

7.5

value 2 or 3

 

iron

29

10

value 2 or 3 ?

 

iron

32

11

value 3 or 5 ?

 

K’AI-HSI

1205-1207

bronze

23

3.5

value 1

 

bronze

27

6.0

value 2

 

iron

28

6.0

value 2

 

iron

30

10.5

value 3 or 5 ?

 

CHIA-TING
as Shao-hsing

1208

iron

33

11.0

5 (5 mark)

 

CHIA-TING

1208-1224

bronze

24

3.25

value 1

 

bronze

28

6.5

value 2

 

bronze

33

14.0

value 5 or 10 ?

 

bronze

51

38.3

value 10 marked

 

iron

24

4.8

value 1

 

iron

27

7.2

value 2 ?

 

iron

33

9-13

value 3 or 5

 

iron

32

11-14

value 3

 

iron

34

10-14

value 3 or 5

 

PAO-CH’ING
(using Ta-sung)

1225-1227

bronze

23

3.5

value 1

 

bronze

29

6.3

value 2

 

iron

29

7.7

value 2

 

iron

31

12.8

value 3 ?

 

SHAO-TING

1228-1233

bronze

23

3.4

value 1

 

bronze

29

6.6

value 2

 

iron

26

5.9

value 1 or 2

 

TUAN-P’ING

1234-1236

bronze

23

3.8

value 1

 

bronze

34

10.6

value 5 ?

 

bronze

40

26.6

value 10 marked

 

iron

25

7.2

value 1 or 2

 

iron

29

10.9

value 2 or 3

 

iron

35

11.4

value 3 or 5

 

CHIA-HSI

1237-1240

bronze

22

3.6

value 1

 

bronze

27

6.7

value 2

 

bronze

35

15.1

value 5 (?)

 

bronze

48

40.0

value 10 marked

 

SHUN-YU

1241-1252

bronze

23

3.1

value 1

 

bronze

28

5.9

value 2

 

bronze

37

14.2

value 100 marked

 

bronze

50

28.4

value 100 marked

 

PAO-YU
(as Huang-sung)

1253-1258

bronze

23

3.0

value 1

 

bronze

29

5.5

value 2

 

K’AI-CHING

1259

bronze

23

3.1

value 1

 

bronze

27

7.0

value 2

 

CHING-TING

1260-1264

bronze

23

3.1

value 1

 

bronze

28

6.2

value 2

 

HSIEN-SHUN

1265-1274

bronze

22

3.1

value 1

 

bronze

28

4.9

value 2

 

 

UNUSUAL REVERSE TYPES

Schjoth #

Inscription

Possible Translations
or meaning

   

S-683, 687, bronze 2 cash

crescent

Possibly some type of mint mark. Could indicate the number 1 (or 1st mint).    

S-725, bronze 1 cash

crescent/dot

Some suggest this indicates a value 2 cash, but we no longer agree and believe it may be a mint mark although it could indicate 2 or (2nd mint).    

S-703, 727, 728, bronze 2 cash

crescent/dot

   

S-781, iron 2 cash

2 dots/crescent

Some suggest this indicates a value 3 cash but S-781 appears to be a value 2 cash. The number 3 (or 3rd mint) could be intended.    

S-783, 784, 785, 786, 787, 823, 830, 831, 832, 829, iron 3 cash

2 dots/crescent

   

S-784, iron 3 or 5 cash

crescent/2 dots,
fourth six

An usual series of the crescent/2 dots with additional marks. These are the only iron issues of this reign title not baring a clearly identifiable mint mark in this position occupied by the crescent/2 dots, leaving us will little doubt that this is also a mint mark). The secondary marks, running through two reign titles, form a continuous sequence of numbers from 47 to 54 if one accepts, as is apparent from S-785, 786 and 787, that the meaning is the same whether the characters are side by side at the bottom or on opposite sides of the hole.We have developed what we believe to be a strong theory as to the meaning. S-823 bares the crescent/2 dots reverse but no numeric marks giving a total of 5 types in the Ching-yuan title, which is a five year title. The three specimens in Chia-Tai title appear to be dated years 1, 2 and 3 so are sequential with those above, as are the numeric marks. This strongly suggest these numeric marks are annual sequential marks, suggesting #46 (S-784) was cast in AD 1191 (assuming the un-numbered example was cast before the numbering was started). Forty six years earlier was AD 1145 which is in the Shao-Hsing reign title where we see S-683-684-683-84 and S-686-88 which is the first occurrence of the thick crescent on a Southern Sung coin. This suggest these are annual sequential marks dating from when the mint was opened. For this theory to work, we must make one assumption in that Crescent, Crescent/dot and Crescent/2 dots must come under one authority, as the first occurrence does not use the Crescent/2 dots. This does fit with the concept that at least the early mint marks were actually marks of not individual mints, but of governmental districts possibly in charge of more than one mint (as discussed elsewhere).    

S-785, iron 3 or 5 cash

crescent/2 dots,
fourth seven

   

S-786, iron 3 or 5 cash

crescent/2 dots,
fourth eight

   

S-787, iron 3 or 5 cash

crescent/2 dots,
fourth nine

   

FD-1294, iron 3 or 5 cash

crescent/2 dots, fifty

   

S-830, iron 3 or 5 cash

crescent/2 dots,
fifty one

   

S-831, iron 3 or 5 cash

crescent/2 dots,
fifty two

   

S-832, iron 3 or 5 cash

crescent/2 dots,
fifty three

   

S-833, iron 3 or 5 cash

crescent/2 dots,
fifty four

   

S-824, iron 3 or 5 cash

Chuan, five

This is an odd series. Cast during a six year reign title, no number above six can be a year mark.The marks here are not as clear cut as on the crescent/2 dots series, but we can make a few speculations. First, as the Chuan mint mark resembles the number 3 turned on it’s side, it is possible that S-824 could also be read as 35, and S-827 as 38. One the crescent/2 dots type we have shown and the numbers either side of the hole should be read as if the hole is not present, so S-825 becomes 37 and S-826 becomes 36. The only problem is S-828 with would now read as having both 36 and 37 on it. In spite of this analysis, the meaning of these numbers is still unclear. (remember that this is only a theory and by no means proven.    

S-826, iron 3 or 5 cash

Chuan, six, three

   

S-828, iron 3 or 5 cash

six, Chuan,
thirty seven

   

S-825, iron 3 or 5 cash

Chuan, seven, thirty

   

S-827, iron 3 or 5 cash

nine, Chuan

   

S-854, iron 3 cash

one Chuan
thirty eight

Another unusual series. The one, two and three appear to be year marks. The thirty eight, thirty nine and fourth are uncertain but seem to be continuous with the thirty seven of the series above. The reverse marks clearly seem to be consecutive and not directly related to the reign title. FD-1238 and S-856 are the only two we have so far noted with the same year mark but different reverse marks.    

S-855, iron 3 cash

two Chuan
thirty nine

   

S-856, iron 3 cash

three Chuan, forty

   

FD-1238, iron 3 cash

three Chuan, forty one

   

S-873, iron 3 cash

Chuan, three, forty two

This coin continues the sequence of the two series above. A pattern is definitely here.

   
         
         

 

The data collected in these charts is based on a limited number of sources. It is almost a certainty that more dates will eventually be added to the date chart, and that there may be denominations and possible mints that we have not yet come across. The current information should cover most issues but it is possible some new discoveries may cause us to re-evaluate some of our interpretations in the future.

The weights listed in this chart are only quick estimates based on the specimens in the Schjoth collection. It should be assumed that many of the coins were worn and possibly corroded (especially the iron) and that the average weight when cast would have been as much as 10% higher.

From these tables we are able to make the following observations:

1) There do not seem to be any examples of the same mint mark appearing on both bronze and iron coins during a reign title.

2) Early bronze coins sometimes have mint marks, and most later bronze coins have date marks, but be have not found an example where both occur together on a bronze coin.

3) The “mint” marks may be more complex then they first appear, and in some cases may not be true mint marks. At no more than eight in any one title, and in some cases only one is used, there seem to be too few mints to account for the numbers of coins that should have been needed. At times the Northern Sung at as many as twenty-six mints operating. With the loss of the Northern Territories, the Southern Sung would have had a smaller population, but they did occupy the most populous parts of China and the needs would have been cut no more than in half. Schjoth (page 34) notes that “Li”, “Chuan” and “Chiung” were all district names rather than distinct cities.

4) There must have been a major currency reform during the Shun Hsi reign title (AD 1174-1189). The use of mint marks on iron coins was greatly expanded sometime between 1174 and 1180. In 1180 date marks were introduced. It also appears that during this period the use of iron coins was greatly expanded.

5) The use of iron coins is greatly reduced at AD 1224 and seems to stop around AD 1230.

6) The normal working denominations and standards for bronze coins do not seem to have changed a great deal from the Northern Sung period. The basic one cash seems to been cast under most reign titles at a standard between 3 and 4 grams with the size early in the dynasty about 24 mm and gradually reducing to about 22 mm by the end of the dynasty. Most reign titles cast bronze 2 cash of a standard between 5.75 and 7.5 grams (also as in the Northern Sung) with the size varying between 27 and 30 mm, a slightly wider range than in the Northern Sung. A few reign titles cast bronze 5 and 10 cash coins, several of which are clearly marked as to their denomination, but in most cases are cast to a weight standard close to official standard (15-17 grams for a 5 cash and 30-35 grams for a 10 cash). Only in one instance were high denomination feduciary bronze coins cast (at a value of 100 cash).

7) At first glance the iron coins seem to work on a system similar to the Northern Sung system whereby size if important but weights vary considerably. We are still working on this part, but it appears that value 2 iron cash were cast at about 28-30 mm with weights abut 6.5 to 8 grams, about the same as the bronze value 2. Value 3 iron cash at about 31-33 mm but with weights between 8 and 13 grams. Something what were cast here, but not during the Northern Sung, were value 5 iron coin. There is little doubt about them as some types were clear marked as value 5. They tend to be about 34 mm 10 to 15 grams.

8) At first is appeared that the crescent/dot and 2 dots/crescent reverse types indicated value 2 and value 3 coins. A closer examination of the coins shows that this is probably not the case. It would imply the the crescent only types, such as 683 and 687 were value 1 cash, but those two are obviously 2 value 2 cash. S-725 bares the crescent/dot reverse but appears to be a 1 cash. While the 2 dots/crescent reverse usually occures on value 3 cash, S-781 is an example where the marks occure on a value 2 cash. The meaning of these marks still remains a mystery, but at the moment it appears that the most likely explanation is that they are mint marks of some type. We have noted that they only occur on bronze coins during the early period when other mint marks also appear on bronze coins. Later, when mint marks only occur on iron coins, these marks also only occur on iron coins. At the moment, this early draft of this site may have some types described with these marks listed as denomination marks, but these comments will be removed from the next draft.

 

Emperor KAO TSUNG
AD 1127-1162

Reign title: CHIEN-YEN, AD 1127-1131

S-671, 673 Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIEN-YEN T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox and seal scripts. Reverse: blank. 23-24 mm.

 

S-672, Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIEN-YEN T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: “CHUAN” which Schjoth believes referes to Western Szechuan (probably Ch’eng-tu Fu mint). 22 mm.

 

S-674-676. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “CHIEN-YEN T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox and seal scripts. Reverse: blank. 28 mm. Average average 6.5 grams (ranging from 5.33 to 8.6 grams). Schjoth assigned a value of 3 cash to the 8.6 gram specimen all three are the same size and fit into the Northern Sung standard for a 2 cash.

F   $9.00     VF   $15.00

 

S-677-678. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIEN-YEN T’UNG-PAO”in seal script. Reverse: blank. 20 m. Average 5.08 grams. These are very small coins, but weights fit with earlier Iron 1 cash. These need further study.

 

We believe the iron and bronze coins of similar size circulated at the same values, with the iron coin being fiduciary by a ratio of about 10 to 1 by weight. A discussion of the development of the iron coinage during the North Sung Dynasty can be found of that part of our site.

 

Reign title: SHAO-HSING, AD 1131-1162

S-679. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-HSING YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weight 2.81 grams.

 

S-680. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-HSING YUAN-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: crescent. 24 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weight 3.07 grams.

 

S-681-689. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-HSING YUAN-PAO” in seal script. Reverse: blank or with a variety of crescents and dots. 28-29 mm. Schjoth’s specimen weight 5.50 grams but include a number of relatively light weight specimens that may be contemporary counterfeits. It appears that the intended standard may have been somewhat over 6 grams.

 

SCRIPT

REVERSE

TOP

TOP/BOTTOM

TOP RIGHT

ORTHODOX

blank

crescent

crescent/dot

crescent

SEAL

blank

crescent

crescent/dot

 

 

This chart shows in interesting trend in that, with the exception of one rather oddly positioned crescent, there appears to be parallel development in the crescents and dots in both script styles. The exact meaning of this is not yet clear, and more types may exist, but we currently speculate that the crescents and dots are mint marks.

 

S-690, 691. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-HSING T’UNG-PAO” in seal and orthodox scripts. Reverse: blank. 29 mm. Schjoth had two specimens averaging 6.87 grams.

 

S-692. Iron 2 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-HSING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 27 mm. Schjoth had one specimen of 6.82 grams.

 

S-693. Iron 2 (or 1) cash. Obverse: “SHAO-HSING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: “LI”. 26 mm. Schjoth had one specimen of 5.82 grams.

 

On this type, Schjoth (page 34) has recognized that the reverse mark “LI” is not a city name, but rather the name of a governmental area made up of parts of Szechuan and Shensi. This suggest that rather than a mint mark, it is a governing authority in charge of possibly several mints. It is possible this is also the case for the other Southern Sung “Mint Marks” that occur later in the series.

 

S-694. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-HSING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 23 mm. Schjoth had one specimen of 3.84 grams.

 

S-695. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-HSING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: “LI”. 23 mm. Schjoth had one specimen of 3.52 grams.

 

S-696. Iron 1 (?) cash. Obverse: “SHAO-HSING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. 18 mm. Schjoth had one specimen of 3.20 grams.

 

These small (under 22 mm) iron cash is something new to the Sung series. We cannot dismiss them as a counterfeit as similar coins were cast during the following reign titles. Further analysis is needed on these.

 

Emperor HSIAO TSUNG
AD 1163-1189

Reign title: LUNG-HSING, AD 1163-1164

Reign title: CH’IEN TAO, AD 1165-1173

 

ORTHODOX SCRIPT

T’UNG MINT

Hartill 17.150, iron 2 cash,”CH’IEN-TAO YUAN-PAO”, mint mark at the bottom, no date mark. Average (1 specimen) 26.0 mm, 4.69 grams.

VF   $95.00

 

Reign title: SHUN HSI, AD 1174-1189

NO MINT MARK

S-725 variety, bronze 1 cash, “SHUN-HSI YUAN-PAO”, Reverse: crescent and two dots at bottom.

gF   $8.50

 

S-730, bronze 2 cash, “SHUN-HSI YUAN-PAO”, no year mark.

gF   $7.00

 

MINT AND DATE MARKED COINS

Sometime in the first 6 years of Shun-hsi, the practice of putting Mint marks on the reverse was introduced for Iron but not bronze coins. The 7th year saw the introduction of regal dates on the reverse of almost all coins, bronze and iron. Schjoth (page 34) states the dates were added to stop illicit casting, and were successful in doing so. There has to be more to this than meets the eye. We see no reason why the practice would have affected counterfeiting by the general population, as they would have simply made coins bearing the date and mint marks. Since the counterfeiting stopped, we can assume the problem was not with the general public. On the other hand, when mint and date marks are combined, it makes it possible to identify the mint official responsible for any given issue. This would be a great deterrent to the casting of sub-standard coins by official mints.

The next question that is raised is why were mint marks not added to bronze coins. The obvious answer would appear to be that there was only one mint casting bronze coins, but is not certain. The bronze coins of this reign title are fairly common, and seem to exist in numbers far to large for the production of a single mint. Another possible answer is that bronze coins, being non-feduciary in nature, were not as easy a target for sub-standard casting and as tight of controls were not deemed necessary. This is an area that needs more research.

 

S-735, bronze 2 cash, “SHUN-HSI YUAN-PAO”, Year-11.

F   $6.00

 

S-735, bronze 2 cash, “SHUN-HSI YUAN-PAO”, Year-11.

gVF   $12.00

 

S-738, bronze 2 cash, “SHUN-HSI YUAN-PAO”, Year-14.

aVF/F   $7.00

 

CH’UN MINT

S-751, iron 2 cash “SHUN-HSI YUAN-PAO”, Year-14.

gF   $45.00

 

T’UNG MINT

NOT LISTED, like S-726 but iron 2 cash,
“SHUN-HSI YUAN-PAO”, no year mark,
Reverse: mint mark at the top.

gF   $40.00

 

NOT LISTED, iron 2 cash, “SHUN-HSI YUAN-PAO”,
Year-14. Reverse: mint mark at the top.

aVF   $65.00

 

NOT LISTED, iron 2 cash, “SHUN-HSI YUAN-PAO”,
Year-15 (to left), Reverse: mint mark to the right and date to the left (unusual).

gF   $75.00

 

Emperor KUANG TSUNG
AD 1190-1194

Reign title: SHAO-HSI, AD 1190-1194

 

CH’UN MINT

S-772, iron 1 cash, “SHAO-HSI T’UNG-PAO”, Year-5.

VF/F   $39.50

 

NOT LISTED, iron 2 cash, “SHAO-HSI T’UNG-PAO”,
Year-3 to left, mint mark to the right, orthodox script.

VF/F   $75.00

 

T’UNG MINT

NOT LISTED, iron 2 cash, “SHAO-HSI T’UNG-PAO”,
mint mark at the top. There is no year mark but it may have been removed.

VF   $10.00

 

NOT LISTED, iron 2 cash, “SHAO-HSI T’UNG-PAO”, Year-5.

VF/G   $40.00

 

HAN MINT

It appears that the Han mint (in Hupei province) was opened in the first year of Shao-hsi (AD 1190). While Schjoth did not have one, we have owned an example of Han year-1.

 

Emperor NING TSUNG
AD 1195-1224

The coinage of Ning Tsung is by far the most interesting and diversified of the Sung Dynasties, and possibly any Chinese Emperor. During as 29 year reign he used 5 reign titles, issued prolifically in both bronze and iron, and made extensive use of mint and date marks. Schjoth lists about 180 different examples, which is by no means a complete listing of what must have existed.

 

This is the part of this site that we will be working on next.

 

Reign title: CH’ING-YUAN, AD 1195-1200

 

 

Schjoth (page 36) says “In the 3rd year of Ch’ing-yuan (A.D. 1197) the Shen-ch’uan mint cast ‘value three’ coins from the accumulated copper utensils obtained”. The coins referred to appear to be the larger copper issues, S-800-802, which do not bear mint marks. Schjoth has specimens date years 4, 5 and 6. This appears to be the same mint that cast a set of unusual iron coins (S-854-856) which appear to be dated years 1, 2 and 3. This is the first evidence we have found that during a single reign title a mint cast both non-mint-marked copper coins and mint marked iron coins, but it should be noted that there is no overlap in the date marks, so there is still no evidence of both being cast at one mint at the same time.

 

CH’UN MINT

S-806, iron 1 cash, “CH’ING-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”, Year-5.

F   $35.00

 

S-806, iron 1 cash, “CH’ING-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”, Year-5.

gF   $40.00

 

NOT LISTED, iron 1 cash, “CH’ING-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”, Year-6.

VF/F   $40.00

 

S-814, iron 2 cash, “CH’ING-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”, Year-3.

VF/VG   $35.00

 

S-816, iron 2 cash, “CH’ING-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”, Year-6.

F   $40.00

 

HAN MINT

NOT LISTED iron 1 cash, “CH’ING-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”, Year-4.

aF   $29.50

 

T’UNG MINT

NOT LISTED, iron 1 cash, “CH’ING-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”, Year-5.

VG/F   $25.00

 

NOT LISTED,iron 1 cash, “CH’ING-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”, Year-5.

VG-F   $25.00

 

S-812, iron 2 cash, “CH’ING-YUAN T’UNG-PAO”, Year-5.

VG-F   $29.50

 

CHUAN MINT

Schjoth 824-828 represent an unusual series of iron coins. The meaning of Chuan mint mark is fairly clear but there are other characters of uncertain meaning. S-824 has a “5” to the left which may or may not be a date mark. S-825 as two marks, 7 at right and 30 at left (formed by a combined 3 and 10), neither of which can be a date mark as this title only lasted six years. S-826 has a “6” at the left and “3” at the right. Either one, but not both, could be date marks but S-825 and S-827 suggest this series is not dated. S-827 has a “9” at the top beside “Chuan”, which cannot be a date mark. S-828 has a “6” at the top beside “Chuan” and the same 7 and 30 marks seen on S-826, at the bottom. The meaning of these is unclear, but it should be noted that a similar series (S-854-856), also of the chuan mint, have similar marks, as does S-873. It appears that the Chuan mint used a different system than other mints. At 33 mm, these coins are larger than the normal series (although the same as S-829-834 discussed next). It is possible they are some type of emergency issues but we are as yet unable to provide an explanation of them.

 

IRON COINS WITHOUT MINTMARKS

Schjoth 829-833 are another odd series of iron coin. Since they are also 33 mm, they are probably related to S-824-828. Schjoth lists these as of unclear meaning, but we have a theory about them. All have the crescent with 2 dots at the top, which Schjoth suggests means value 3 cash, which we will accept for the moment (but are uncertain about). The marks at the bottom 1-5 (or 15), 2-5 (or 25), 3-5 (or 35), 4-5 (or 45) and 6-5 (or 65). Note there is no 5-5 but there is a type with no numbers on the reverse that may occupy that position in the series (the Chinese of this period did not like to repeat characters on coins, as can be seen from some unusual reign titles). Also note we have not yet documented any year-5 iron coins from other mints. It is possible that in year 5 an experiment was tried whereby the 1, 2, 3, 4, blank=5, and 6 indicate the mints of issue. Other explanations are possible, including that the numbers indicate furnaces (workshops) with one central mint. It has also been suggested that these are mould series marks, but as non-reusable sand molds were probably used, and every mould was different, mold numbers would be pointless.

At first glance, S-823 to 833 all appear to be value 3 cash. Some bare the crescent with 3 dots mark which may indicate value 3. There seem to be two weight standards in use. S-823-829 are all in the 11 to 13 grams range while 830 to 833 are at a 9 to 10 gram range. The 9 to 10 grams coins have no mint marks but the crescent with 2 dots mark at the top, with double digit mark at the bottom composed a 5 on the right and A 1, 2, 3 or 4 on the left. This confused the issue slightly and needs to be given more consideration. The heavier coins, S-823-829 are years 5, 6, 7 and 8 as well as one with no date mark.

 

Reign title: CHIA-T’AI, AD 1201-1204

 

ORTHODOX SCRIPT

S-843. Bronze 3 cash. Obverse : CHAI T’AI TUNG PAO (read clockwise from the top). Reverse : blank. Average (1 specimen) 34.6 mm, 10.54 grams.

S-852 is shown in Schjoth’s illustration as a blank reverse, but in the text he notes it is a blurred reverse, indication something was there.

 

S-853 is an unusual coin. It has the “LI” mint mark at the top and the numbers 9 and 6 (or 96) at the bottom. Neither digit can be a date. This seems to be related to S-829-833 above although it is not over-sized as they were. We do not yet have an explanation this.

 

S-854-856 are also unusual. On the top of the reverses they all have the Chuan mint mark with the digits 1, 2 and 3 beside. This appear to be year marks. At the bottom they each have another double digit mark, 8-3 (or 83), 93 (or 93) and 10-4 (or 40). As yet we do not have an explanation for them.

 

Reign title: K’AI-HSI, AD 1205-1207

BRONZE ISSUES

Under the K’ai-Hsi title bronze coins were issued in both the 1 and 2 cash denomination, with date marks but not mint marks. The 1 cash average (3 specimens) 3.44 grams, 24 mm. The 2 cash average (3 specimens) 5.73 grams, 28 mm.

S-857. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse : “K’ai-Hsi T’ung-pao”. Reverse : “Yuan” for year-1 (AD 1205). Value not yet recorded.

S-858. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse : “K’ai-Hsi T’ung-pao”. Reverse : Year mark for year-2 (AD 1206).     F   $4.00     VF   $6.50

S-859. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse : “K’ai-Hsi T’ung-pao”. Reverse : Year mark for year-3 (AD 1207). Value not yet recorded.

S-860. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse : “K’ai-Hsi T’ung-pao”. Reverse : “Yuan” for year-1 (AD 1205). Value not yet recorded.

S-861. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse : “K’ai-Hsi T’ung-pao”. Reverse : Year mark for year-2 (AD 1206). &Value not yet recorded.

S-862. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse : “K’ai-Hsi T’ung-pao”. Reverse : Year mark for year-3 (AD 1207). Value not yet recorded.

IRON ISSUES

The iron issues of the K’ai-hsi period are for the most part fairly standard. There are issues for year 1, 2 and 3 from each of the three principle mints of T’ung, Han and Ch’un, but only in the two cash denomination.

S-863 to 871. Iron 3 cash. Obverse : “K’ai-Hsi T’ung-pao”. Reverse : date and mint mark. These will be written up at some future date.

Schjoth listed the following three issues that do not fit the standard pattern but appear to be of a 3 cash denomination.

S-872. Iron 3 cash. Obverse : “K’ai-Hsi T’ung-pao”. Reverse : blank. Average (1 specimen) 10.93 grams. The blank reverse on this specimen seems rather odd and does not fit with other issues of this period. I suspect Schjoth’s specimen was simply too corroded and what ever was on the reverse was not visible. Value not yet determined.

S-873. Iron 3 cash. Obverse : “K’ai-Hsi T’ung-pao”. Reverse : “SAN CH’UAN SSU ERH” (thee Ch’uan twenty four). It seem likely that 3 Ch’uan means third year at Ch’uan mint, but the meaning of the 24 is as yet unclear (Schjoth speculates it is a mold number that seem unlikely to me). Average (1 specimen) 11.58 grams. value not yet determined.

S-874. Iron 3 cash. Obverse : “K’ai-Hsi T’ung-pao”. Reverse : “LI LIU SHIH” (LI sixty). LI may be the mark for the Shao-Hsing mint in Li-chou. The meaning of the number sixty is as yet uncertain. Average (1 specimen) 9.35 grams.

 

Reign title: CHIA-TING, AD 1208-1224

S-903-904 iron only unusual in that the Li-chou mint mark is written in full rather than with only the Character for LI.

 

S-905 iron is unusual as it does not have a mint mark and the date mark is at the top. It is a typical type for an bronze coin. It should be checked to see if it is really iron.

 

S-934-958 are a complex series of coins that will need a lot of study to sort out. This will have to wait until later.

 

Emperor LI TSUNG, AD 1225-1264

Not that Schjoth (top of page 40) notes that Li tsung’s government was over-burdened with the difficulties of war. This must be considered when interpreting this next series of coins. It might help explain the unusual series S-983-990. Is the stopping iron issues (from S-991 on) related to this war?

 

Reign title: PAO-CH’ING, AD 1225-1227

To use the Pao-ch’ing reign title on a coin would have required the character for “Pao” to occur twice on the same coin. It had long been established that characters were generally not repeated on the obverse of Chinese coins, so in a tradition stating much earlier, an inscription commemorating the Sung Dynasty was chosen. In this case it was “TA-SUNG YUAN-PAO” which means roughly “coinage of the great Sung dynasty”.

Schjoth seems to think that coins with the “Pao-ch’ing” inscriptions were cast in the first few months of this title, but he did not have a specimen and we have never seen one. Since is would have gone against long standing tradition to have cast such coins, we would want to examine any such specimens for authenticity before including them in this listing.

 

DENOMINATION

SIZE

WEIGHT

#

Bronze 1 cash

23 mm

3.45 gr

2

Bronze 2 cash

29 mm

6.29 gr

3

Iron 2 cash

29 mm

7.74 gr

2

Iron 3 cash

31 mm

12.83 gr

1

       

 

BRONZE COINS

S-959-960, bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-SUNG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. All years from 1 to 3 been documented (we once had the year 2 that Schjoth was missing).

VF   $27.50

 

S-961-963,bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “TA-SUNG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. Years 2 and 3 have been documented. Schjoth had a year three with a crescent in the bottom right corner. We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

IRON COINS

NO MINT MARK

S-965 iron 2 cash. Obverse: “TA-SUNG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. This coin is an anomaly for this period, as blank reverses are not normal on iron coins. Sometimes the reverses are weak on these and if the coin was in poor condition, possibly not legible. This coin should be examined very closely. We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

S-966 iron 2 cash. Obverse: “TA-SUNG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: “LI-CHOU HSING-SHIH” (the currency of Li-Chou). Not that these is not date on this type. We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

CH’UAN MINT

S-964 iron 3 cash. Obverse: “TA-SUNG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: “CH’UAN SAN” (Ch’uan mint year 3). Only year 3 has been documented but we would expect others to exist. We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

Schjoth listed all three of these iron coins as value 3 cash, but both the sizes and the weights clear indicate that two different denominations were intended

 

Reign title: SHAO-TING, AD 1228-1233

DENOMINATION

SIZE

WEIGHT

#

Bronze 1 cash

23 mm

3.37 gr

7

Bronze 2 cash

29 mm

6.65 gr

6

Iron 1 cash

25 mm

5.89 gr

1

       

 

BRONZE COINS

S-967-972, 975 bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-TING T’UNG PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. All years from 1 to 6 been documented.

F   $5.00     VF   $9.00

 

S-973, 974, 976-979 bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-TING T’UNG PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. Only year 1 has been documented. We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

Schjoth describes his example #975 as a clipped two cash, but if the diameter within the rims are drawn accurately, we so no reason to believe it was not cast as a one cash.

 

IRON COINS

CH’I-CHUN MINT

S-980 iron 1 cash. Obverse: “SHAO-TING T’UNG PAO”. Reverse: “CH’UN SAN” (Ch’un mint year 3). Only year 3 has been documented but we would expect others to exist. We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

Reign title: TUAN-P’ING, AD 1234-1236

This is the last Southern Sung reign title under which iron coins were cast, and for which mint marks were used.

 

DENOMINATION

SIZE

WEIGHT

#

Bronze 1 cash

22 mm

3.76 gr

1*

Bronze 5 cash

34 mm

10.64 gr

1

Bronze 10 cash

40 mm

26.58 gr

1

Iron 1 cash

25 mm

7.19 gr

1

Iron 2 cash

29 mm

10.92 gr

1

Iron 5 cash

35 mm

11.36 gr

1

 

* One of the two specimens Schjoth had is listed as weighing 5.91 grams, which is so far off the usual standard we have to assume the listing is an error and have only included one of the specimens in the weight calculation. Hopefully we will be able to locate more specimens in the near future.

 

BRONZE COINAGE

S-981-982, bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TUAN-P’ING YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. Only year 1 has been documented. We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

S-983, bronze 5 cash. Obverse: “TUAN-P’ING YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. A recent specimen we handled was 35.5 mm, 10.4 grams. This is a fairly common type.

F   $15.00     VF   $25.00

 

S-984, bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “TUAN-P’ING YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: “LI CHE SHIH” (Li-chou value 10). We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

Schjoth (page 39) suggest this is a bronze trial casting for an iron type. As it bears a mint mark this is possible, but as of yet we have not seen any evidence for iron examples having been issued. The presence of bronze value 10 cash coins in the next reign title, as well as under Chia-ting (AD 1208-1224), suggest it was more likely was intended as a bronze 10 cash. The mint mark makes it an anomaly amoung bronze coins of this period, but many of the coins of this reign title are unusual types.

 

IRON COINAGE

The iron coins of this reign are unusual in that none of the specimens we have so far documented bear dates, and only some of them bear mint marks. This shows some type of coinage reform was underway, which seems to have resulted in a total stop to the issue of iron coins by the end of this period.

 

CHIUNG MINT

S-985, iron 5 cash. Obverse: “TUAN-P’ING YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: “CHIUNG WU” (Chiung mint value 5). We have not yet determined a value for type.

 

TING-CHOU MINT

S-986, iron 5 cash. Obverse: “TUAN-P’ING YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: “TING-WU PEI-SHANG” (value five of Ting-chou, upper north). We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

HUI (MIN) MINT

S-988, iron 5 cash. Obverse: TUAN-P’ING T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: “HUI-WU HSI-SHANG” (value five of Hui Mint, upper western). We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

Schjoth illustrates both S-986 and 988 as being without rims, but makes no comment about this. We assume that his specimen was just in very poor condition, which is not unusual for iron coins. Both types have reverse inscriptions which are not yet understood. Like some other South Sung Iron coins of this general period, there is a reference to a geographic direction and a rank with these as upper, S-1000 as second. We are not sure if his translation is correct and wonder if upper could also mean something like main, first or primary, in which case we might take these to mean that the mint mark lists the governmental office in charge and that the secondary mark referes either to a specific mint, or a workshop within a mint. This needs more research and the help of a better translator.

 

NO MINT MARKS

S-989, iron 1 cash. Obverse: “TUAN-P’ING T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. We have not yet determined a value for this type yet.

 

Schjoth refers to this as a 2 cash but at 25 mm it is far more likely to have been intended as a 1 cash. At 7.19 grams it a little heavy, but all the evidence indicates that size is far more important then weight in determining denomination (see our discussion of size and weights under the Northern Sung dynasty) and it is not unusual for iron coins to be significantly heavier than bronze coins of the same size. (the same applies to the 2 cash below).

 

S-990, iron 2 cash. Obverse: “TUAN-P’ING T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Schjoth refers to this as a 3 cash but at 29 mm it is far more likely to have been intended as a 2 cash. We have not yet determined a value for this type yet.

 

S-987, iron 5 cash. Obverse: “TUAN-P’ING YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. We have not yet determined a value for this type yet.

 

Reign title: CHIA HSI, AD 1237-1240

 

 

DENOMINATION

SIZE

WEIGHT

#

Bronze 1 cash

22 mm

3.58gr

3

Bronze 2 cash

27 mm

6.66 gr

5

Bronze 5 cash

37 mm

15.75 gr

3

Bronze 10 cash

48 mm

40.04 gr

1

 

S-991-993, bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIA-HSI T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. All years from 1 to 4 have been documented.

VG   $3.50     F   $5.00

 

S-994-998, bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “CHIA-HSI T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. All years from 1 to 4 have been documented, plus a year 2 with a crescent at the top. We have not yet determined a value for these.

 

S-999, bronze 5 cash. Obverse: “CHIA-HSI CHUNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. We recently had a two specimens, both of 37 mm. The average weight of thee specimens was 15.75 grams. The specimens we have had were well cast with bold deep characters.

F   $50.00     VF   $75.00

 

Schjoth considered these to be value 3 cash, but at 35-37 mm and about 16 grams, it is much larger than the 31-32 mm and 10.74 grams one would expect (based on a average 3.58 for the one cash) but only slightly below the range one would expect for a value 5 cash. The next issue, S-1000, is clearly intended to be a value 10 cash, and at 40.0 grams is just at the upper limit for a full weight 10 cash, we feel it is safe to assume S-999 was intended as a non-fiduciary 5 cash.

 

S-1000, bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “CHIA-HSI T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: denomination mark for 10 at the top with “HSI ERH” at the bottom. We have not yet determined a value for this type.

 

As the weight of this issue is consistent with a 10 cash, we so no reason not to believe that the “10” at the top of this coin is not a mark of denomination. The ‘HSI ERH” at the bottom is more of a mystery. Schjoth translates it to “Western second (series)”, the meaning of this is as yet uncertain. We can speculate that this is a type of mintmark. Earlier we mentioned that some of the “mint marks” are in fact the names of governmental admistrative districts, rather than specific mints, and that it is possible that several mints may have opperated withing each of these areas. It is possible that the term “Western second series” is a designation of a specific mint within one of these areas.

 

Reign title: SHUN-YU, AD 1241-1252

DENOMINATION

SIZE

WEIGHT

#

Bronze 1 cash

23 mm

3.09 gr

10

Bronze 2 cash

28 mm

5.87 gr

10

Bronze 100 cash

37 mm

14.22 gr

1

Bronze 100 cash

50 mm

28.41 gr

1

 

S-1001-1010, bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “SHUN-YU YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. All years from 1 to 12 have been documented

VG   $3.50     F   $5.00     VF   $9.00

 

S-1011-1021, bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “SHUN-YU YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. Years 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 have been documented. We have not yet determined a value for these.

 

S-1022-1023, bronze 100 cash. Obverse: “SHUN-YU YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating the denomination. These do not have year marks. We have had one example of the smaller version in

gF   195.00.

 

S-1022 is half the weight of S-1023. It may be significant that that S-1022 is about the same standard as S-999 (probably a 5 cash), and S-1023 is about the same as S-1000 (10 cash), both of the previous reign title. The question is why would such fiduciary issues be necessary. A study of the history of this reign title might suggest something. The most likely cause would be an economic crisis brought on by war. It is likely the two sizes date to different parts of the reign, but without date marks we may never know for sure.

 

Reign title: PAO-YU, AD 1253-1258

 

 

Coins of this reign title us the inscription “HUANG-SUNG YUAN-PAO” which means “the currency of the Imperial Sung”. This was done was using Pao-yu would require repeating the character for Pao, which was considered to be incorrect. A similar situation occurs on some coins of the Northern Sung period.

 

DENOMINATION

SIZE

WEIGHT

#

Bronze 1 cash

23.0 mm

3.00 gr

7

Bronze 2 cash

29.1 mm

5.54 gr

6

 

S-1024-1029, bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HUANG-SUNG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. All years 1 to 6 have been documented.

F   $4.50

 

S-1030-1035, bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “HUANG-SUNG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. All years 1 to 6 have been documented.

F   $6.00     VF   $9.00

 

Reign title: K’AI-CHING, AD 1259

DENOMINATION

SIZE

WEIGHT

#

Bronze 1 cash

23 mm

3.13 gr

1

Bronze 2 cash

27 mm

6.97 gr

1

 

S-1036, bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “K’AI-CH’ING T’UAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark for Year-1. We have not yet determined a value for these.

 

S-1037, bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “K’AI-CH’ING T’UAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark for Year-1. We have not yet determined a value for these.

 

Reign title: CHING-TING, AD 1260-1264

DENOMINATION

SIZE

WEIGHT

#

Bronze 1 cash

23 mm

3.06 gr

4

Bronze 2 cash

28 mm

6.19 gr

7

 

S-1038-1041, bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHING-TING YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. Years -1, 2, 3 and 4 are known.

VG   $3.50     F   $6.00     VF   $8.50

 

S-1042-1048, bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “CHING-TING YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. All years from 1 to 5 have been documented. As well, Schjoth has one example of year 4 with a crescent at the right. We have not yet determined a value for these.

 

Emperor TU TSUNG
AD 1265-1274

Tu Tsung was the last emperor of the Sung dynasty, ruling for 10 years with only one reign title.

 

Reign title: HSIEN-SHUN, AD 1265-1274

DENOMINATION

SIZE

WEIGHT

#

Bronze 1 cash

22 mm

3.11 gr

6

Bronze 2 cash

28 mm

4.86

9

 

S-1049-1054, bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSIEN-SHUN YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. Years -1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8 are known. We have not yet determined a value for these.

 

S-1055-1063, bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “HSIEN-SHUN YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: mark indicating year of issue. All years from 1 to 8 have been documented. As well, Schjoth has one example of year 4 with a crescent at the right. We have not yet determined a value for these.

 

The current data suggest that there was a weight reduction in the 2 cash, from about 6.2 to 4.9 grams. We need to see more specimens to be sure this is really the case, but if it is, it may have been a measure take as the Mongols were closing in.


 

BRONZE CURRENCY BARS

Schjoth lists these as talley sticks, which we take to mean they were used to keep track of accounts. The inscriptions state they were “current” which clearly indicated they circulated and were therefore money. Similar items, but of bamboo, were made and circulated at the end of the Ching Dynasty and early in the Republic.

It is not clear when, or by whom, these were issued, but Schjoth (page 40) indicates that Lin-an-fu (now Hangchow) only had that name from AD 1129 until the end of the Sung period. If this is correct, then these must have been cast during the Southern Sung Dynasty.

 

S-1064, bronze 500 cash currency bar. Obverse: “LIN-AN-FU HSING-YUNG” (current in Lin-an Prefecture”. Reverse: “CHU WU PAI WEN SHENG” (Value five hundred cash with a reduction). 22×70 mm, 26.14 grams. No value yet determined.

 

S-1064a, bronze currency bar. Obverse: “LIN-AN-FU HSING-YUNG” (current in Lin-an Prefecture”. Reverse: “CHU WU PAI WEN SHENG” (Value two hundred cash with a reduction). 20×65 mm, 18.80 grams. No value yet determined.

 

The statement that they are valued with a reduction is something we do not yet understand. We have seen a number of these offered for sale in recent years. In our opinion, none that we examined were genuine.

TARTAR, MONGOL, MING DYNASTIES
(A.D. 960 to 1644)

 

This page is a reference guide for Chinese coins issued by the Tartar, Mongol, Ming and other medieval non-Sung Dynasties between (A.D. 960 to 1644), not an offering of coins for sale. A listing of the ancient and medieval Chinese coins we currently have available can be viewed on our : our vcoins store.

 

Images used on this page represent the types, but bear no relationship
to the actual size of the coins. Where known, the actual sizes will be listed.

 

LIAO DYNASTY, AD 907-1125

The Liao were a Tartar Dynasty known as the Ch’i-tan or Ki-tan Tartars, first established by T’ai Tsu in AD 907 during the period of the 5 dynasties. The dynasty lasted for 218 years until AD 1125, ruling from their capital at Beijing. For most of their existence they existed along side the Northern Sung Dynasty, in what appears to be somewhat less than peaceful co-existance.

The first Emperor of Liao did not issue any coins. There were five Emperors between AD 907 and 1031 who issued coins, but only a handful of each type is known to exist and it is unlikely any genuine examples will come on the market. We have not listed them here as it is unlikely anyone viewing this site to identify a coin will have one, but you will find information on them on page 216 of David Hartill’s book CAST CHINESE COINS. Schjoth (page 41) notes a record of the Liang Dynasty Emperor Mo, using the reign title Lung-te, issuing large numbers of coins during this period, which are likely what circulated in the Liao region for what little need the Liao people had of coins at that time.

The earliest readily available coins of Liao begin with the Emperor Hsing Tsung during his second reign title of Ch’ung Hsi after he established the first Liao central mint in Manchuria in AD 1053. The mint was not particularly skilled and most Liao coins are fairly crude, poor quality castings.

There are some differences in the dating of the Liao reign titles by Schjoth and Hartill, and we have chosen to use those given by Hartill as it is much more recent and almost certainly more reliable research.


 

Emperor HSING TSUNG
AD 1031-1055

reign title: CHING-FU, AD 1031

No coins were cast by Emperor Hsing Tsung under this title.

 

reign title: CH’UNG-HSI, AD 1032-1055

S-1065. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’UNG-HSI TUNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank Average 24 mm. These coins tend to be poorly cast.

VF   $250.00

 

Schjoth (page 41) records that “in the 22nd year of Ch’ung-hsi (AD 1053) a cash bureau was established at Ch’ang-ch’un in Manchuria”. We assume this is the same as saying a Mint was established there. From this time on, the coinage of Liao becomes much more abundant. We hope to one day look into the events that may have prompted them to take such a move.


 

Emperor TAO TSUNG
AD 1055-1101

reign title: CH’ING-NING, AD 1055-1064

 

S-1066. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’ING-NING T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (1 specimen) 2.57 grams, 24.3 mm (but the specimen was rather worn). These coins tend to be poorly cast, and we apologize for the image of a very worn specimen, bu it is the best specimen we have been able to image.

F   $95.00     VF   $135.00

 

reign title: HSIEN-YUNG, AD 1065-1074

 

S-1067. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSIEN-YUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. These very somewhat in weight. Th average of what we have seen (3 specimen) is 24.3 mm and 3.53 grams, but we have seen them from 2.75 to 3.9 grams. As with most Liao coins, this tends to be a a poorly cast issue. It is also the most common coin of the Liao Dynasty.

VF   $135.00

 

reign title: TA-K’ANG, AD 1075-1084

 

S-1069. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-K’ANG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average 24 mm. These coins tend to be poorly cast.

F   $115.00

 

S-1068. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-K’ANG Y’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average 24 mm. These coins tend to be poorly cast. We have handled this type, but it was before we started recording values and do not currently have a value for it.

This appears to be the only time when two distinct types were issued during the Liang Dynasty. We note that all Liao coins previous to this reign title were caste with “T’UNG-PAO”, and all Liao coins afterwards with “Y’UNG PAO”. We assume that means that for this reign title, the T’ung-pao issues are the earlier of the two. We wonder if this might present a clue as to why many Northern Sung reign titles also occur with more than one of these (and other) variations.

 

reign title: TA-AN, AD 1085-1094

 

S-1070-71.Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-AN YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (1 specimen) 24.5 mm, 3.51 grams. There are some varieties in this type, with Schjoth noting one with a star hole, and another with a small dot in the upper left corner. We have owned a specimen with a small nail mark on the reverse. These variations would be worth a premium. These coins tend to be poorly cast with slightly irregular rims.

F   $95.00     VF   $135.00

The presence of a dot or nail mark on the reverse, or a star hole on a coin of this type is probably intentional, as similar star holes are very common on Northern Sung coins of this same period. Their meaning is as yet uncertain.

 

reign title: SHOU-CH’ANG, AD 1095-1101

 

S-1072. H 18.19. Obverse: “SHOU-CH’ANG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (2 specimen) 24.0 mm, 3.62 grams. These coins tend to be poorly cast and somewhat irregular rims, and that must be allowed for in their grading.

F   $95.00   VF   $145.00


 

Emperor T’IEN CHA
AD 1101-1125

reign title: CH’IEN-T’UNG, AD 1101-1110

S-1073. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-T’UNG Y’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average 24 mm. These coins tend to be poorly cast.

F   $95.00     VF   $135.00

 

reign title: T’IEN CH’ING, AD 1111-1120

S-1074. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN CH’ING Y’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average 24 mm. These coins tend to be poorly cast.

F   $85.00     VF   $120.00

 

This appears to be the last coin issued by the Liao Dynasty, even though the dynasty was to last for another five years after this title ended. Hartill (CAST CHINESE COINS, page 217) discusses and additional group of coins which are sometimes attributed to the Liao Dynasty, although all are rare and seldom encountered types which we have not included here.

 

WESTERN HSIA DYNASTY

This was a dynasty fo the Tangut people. Their capital was in Kansu Province, but it is not certain if their capital was in Kanchow or Soochow. In AD 1227, after breaking a promise to support Genghis Khan, this dynasty was exterminated.


 

Emperor JEN TSUNG
AD 1140-1193

reign title: T’IEN-SHENG, AD 1149-1168

 

As S-1078 but copper 1 cash. Obverse: ‘T’IEN-SHENG YUAN PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (13 specimens) 23.9 mm, 3.51 grams.

F   $12.00     VF   $25.00

 

These are always well cast coins with bold characters and seldom seen in a grade below gF. The the brass has a very distintive light-brown tone to it. Schjoth says that the copper of this type is rare and that iron is common, but we currently find the opposite to be true

 

reign title: CH’IEN-YU, AD 1169-1193

 

S-1080. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’IEN-YU YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (4 specimen) 24.8 mm, 3.82 grams.

F   $35.00     VF   $75.00

 


 

Emperor HSIANG TSUNG
AD 1206-1212

reign title: HUANG-CHIEN, AD 1210-1212

S-1081, “HUANG-CHIEN YUAN-PAO”. This is an unusual coin in that the inscription starts at the top and is read around to the right, rather then the usual top-bottom-left-right.

gVF   $145.00

 


 

Emperor SHEN TSUNG
AD 1212-1222

reign title: KUANG-TING, AD 1212-1222

 

S-1082, “KUANG-TING YUAN-PAO. This is an unusual coin in that the inscription starts at the top and is read around to the right, rather then the usual top-bottom-left-right. The specimens of this type that we have seen tend to be crudely cast from course sand molds. Average (1 specimen) 24.9 mm, 4.07 grams.

F   $75.00     VF   $110.00

 

CHIN DYNASTY, THE NU-CHENG TARTARS

Emperor WAN-YEN LIANG
AD 1149-1161

reign title: CHENG-LUNG, AD 1156-1161

 

S-1083. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHENG-LUNG YUAN-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (12 specimen) 3.83 grams. 25.1 mm.

F   $6.00     VF   $8.50     XF   $12.50

This is a fairly well cast coinage, with consistently clear characters and very well formed rims. We have found that the size and weights have very little variation within most specimens.


 

Emperor SHIH TSUNG
AD 1161-1189

 

reign title: TA TING, AD 1161-1189

 

S-1085-1086. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-TING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Average (7 specimens) 25.4 mm, 4.14 grams.

F   $6.00     VF   $8.50    XF   $12.50

 

  S-1087. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-TING T’UNG-PAO” in orthdox script. Reverse: “SHEN” at top indicating this type was struck in AD 1188. Average (2 specimen) 3.29 grams. 24.4 mm.

F   $20.00     VF   $35.00     XF   $55.00

 


IMAGE NOT
YET AVAILABLE

S-1088. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-TING T’UNG-PAO” in orthdox script. Reverse: “SHEN” at bottom indicating this type was struck in AD 1188. Average (1 specimen) 2.95 grams. 24.5 mm.

F   $20.00     VF   $35.00     XF   $55.00

 

  S-1089. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-TING T’UNG-PAO” in orthdox script. Reverse: “YU” at top indicating this type was struck in AD 1189. Average (4 specimen) 3.37 grams. 25.6 mm.

F   $22.50     VF   $39.50     XF   $60.00

We recently handled a specimen of this type that was only 2.25 mm and 2.3 grams. The patination and casting showed that the coin is genuine from the time, but we suspect it is a contemporary (of the time) counterfeit.

 


IMAGE NOT
YET AVAILABLE

S-1090. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-TING T’UNG-PAO” in orthdox script. Reverse: “YU” at bottom indicating this type was struck in AD 1189. Average (1 specimen) 3.50 grams. 25.4 mm.

F   $20.00     VF   $35.00     XF   $55.00

 


IMAGE NOT
YET AVAILABLE

S-1091. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-TING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: “TA-TING T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Schjoth had such a specimen, but we doubt that it was authentic. At 2.75 grams is was light for coins of the period.

 


IMAGE NOT
YET AVAILABLE

S-1092. Iron 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-TING T’UNG-PAO” in orthdox script. Reverse: blank. Schjoth had such a specimen, which weighed 3.41 grams. We cannot confirm if the type actually exists or not, but if it does it has to be very rare and we cannot establish a value at this time.

 

Emperor CHANG TSUNG
AD 1190-1208

reign title: T’AI-HO, AD 1201-1208

 

S-1093-94. Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “T’AI-HO CHUNG-PAO” in seal script. Reverse: blank. The two different Schjoth numbers are for narrow (1093) and wide (1094) rims, with the wide rim variation being the scarcer. We have seen narrow rim examples from 16.29 to 24.3 grams with the average of 3 specimens was 19.91 grams, 44.5 mm. The single wide rim example we saw was 27.75 grams, 47.6 mm.

Narrow -VF   $80.00     XF   $120.00
Wide – VF   $125.00     XF   $175.00

 

Schjoth records four specimens of this series, two with blank reverses averaged 16.35 grams, one with Ch’uan Huo on the reverse at 17.24 grams, and one that is most probably a later amulet, with the obverse repeated on the reverse at 32.92 grams. Because of the very high relief of this issue, they are never seen below a grade of VF, and are always very well made coins.

 

YUAN (MONGOL) DYNASTY

Emperor CH’ENG TSUNG
AD 1295-1306

reign title: YUAN-CHEN, AD 1295-1296

 

FD-1711. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “YUAN-CHEN T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. Average (1 specimen) 24.2 mm, 3.08 grams.

VF   $650.00

 

There is some question in our mind about the authenticity of the specimen illustrated above. We would appreciate hearing form anyone that can give a reasonable informed opinion on it.


 

Emperor WU TSUNG
AD 1308-1311

reign title: CHIH-TA, AD 1308-1311

   

S-1098
Orthodox Script

S-1099
Mongolian Seal script

 

S-1098. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIH-TA T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox script. Reverse: blank. The size and weigh of this issues seems to vary somewhat. The last two specimens we had access two were 24.5 mm at 3.1 grams and 23.5 mm at 2.85 grams.

VG   $3.00     F   $5.00

 

S-1099, Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “TA-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” in Mongol seal-writing. Reverse: blank. Average (5 specimens) 42.3 mm, 20.5 grams. These are said to have been first cast in the third year of Chih-Ta (AD 1310). These tend to be crudely cast, often with casting holes in the fields, and attractive specimens are scarce and command a premium.

F   $32.00     VF   $45.00

 

Paper money was used extensively during this period, although to the best of my knowledge only two examples of Yuan Dynasty paper money are know to still exist today.


 

Emperor HEN TSUNG
AD 1312-1320

reign title: HUANG-CH’ING, AD 1312-1313

S-1102, “CHIH-CHENG T’UNG-PAO” in Mongol seal-writing. Value 2. RARE. The only specimen was have handled was VG with the top character weakly cast.

VG   $225.00

 


Emperor SHUN TI
AD 1333-1367

Shun Ti’s coins of the first two years of his reign (AD 1333 to 1334) do not have a reign title on them, but rather come YUAN TONG YUAN BAO inscription in Chinese characters.

 

reign title: CHIH-YUAN, AD 1335-1340

Shun Ti adopted the title CHIH-YUAN in AD 1335 and used it until 1340. The coin of this period are rare, and we do not have one yet available to image.

 

S-1102. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “CHIH-YUAN T’UNG-PAO” in Mongolian square script. Reverse: blank. Schjoth specimen was about 28 mm, 5.08 grams.

VG   $225.00

 

reign title: CHIH-CHENG, AD 1341-1367

 

IMAGE NOT YET AVAILABLE

S-1103
Orthodox Script

S-1102
Mongolian Seal script

Shun Ti adopted the title CHIH-CHENG in AD 1341 and used it until he died in 1367. This is an interesting series, in that many of the coins have date and/or denomination indicators on them.

 

S-1103. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIH-CHENG T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox Chinese script. Reverse: “MAO” in Mongol seal script. MAO is short for HSIN MAO, indicating this coin was struck in AD 1351. The date indicator on the reverse is normally somewhat weak on these. Average (2 specimens) 25 mm, 3.55 grams.

F   $65.00     VF   $85.00

 

  S-1109. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: CHIH-CHENG T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox Chinese script. Reverse: The number “2” written in Mongolian script above the hole, and in chinese numbers below the hole. Average (2 specimen) 28.9 mm, 6.2 grams (range 5.04 to 7.15 grams)

F   $65.00     VF   $100.00

 

S-1107. Bronze 3 cash. Obverse: “CHIH-CHENG T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox Chinese script. Reverse: “SSU” in Mongol seal script. SSU is short for Kuei Ssu indicating this coin was struck in AD 1353. Average (2 specimens) 30.1 mm, 8.5 grams.

F   $75.00     VF   $100.00

 

  S-1108. Bronze 3 cash. Obverse: “CHIH-CHENG T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox Chinese script. Reverse: “SHEN” in Mongol seal script. SHEN is short for PING SHEN indicating this coin was struck in AD 1356. Average (1 specimens) 34.0 mm, 11.22 grams.

F   $75.00     VF   $115.00     XF   $195.00

 

  S-1110. Bronze 3 cash. Obverse: CHIH-CHENG T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox Chinese script. Reverse: The number “3” written in Mongolian script above the hole, and in chinese numbers below the hole. Average (2 specimen) 35.5 mm, 11.55 (range 9.85 to 12.24 grams)

F   $75.00     VF   $110.00

 

S-1111. Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “”CHIH-CHENG T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox Chinese script. Reverse: the denomination indicator as the Mongol seal script word for “10” above the hole. Average (two specimens) 45 mm, 22.9 grams.

F   $75.00     VF   $110.00

 


FULL IMAGE

FD-1810. Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “”CHIH-CHENG T’UNG-PAO” in orthodox Chinese script. Reverse: the denomination indicator as the Mongol square script word for “10” above the hole, and the Chinese number “10” with a dot above it, below the hole. Average (1 specimen) 48 mm, 63.6 grams. The casting on this particular coin is rather crude with only partially finished rims. The specimen illustrated while grading only F for visual appearance is pretty much as cast with full original file marks on the high points.

F   $450.00

 

This type tends to be bold and well cast with high rims,
but the edges tend to be poorly finished.

 

YUAN REBELS

Pretender Emperor CH’EN YU-LIANG OF HAN
AD 1358-1363

reign title: T’ien-ting, ca. AD 1363

 

S-1124, Bronze 3 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN TING T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (2 specimens) 32.5 mm, 8.89 grams.

F   $175.00     VF   $245.00

 

CHU YUAN-CHANG as the REBEL PRINCE WU
AD 1364-1367

Chu Yuan-Chang (later to become Emperor Tai Tsu, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (see below)) was one of the Yuan Rebels fighting each other to see who would take control of China at the eventual fall of the Yuan Dynasty. His coins of this period bare the inscription TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO but TA-CHUNG is not actually a reign title.

I have run into some confusion over the Ta-Chung coinage, because Schjoth states that the inscription was first cast by Chu Yuan-Chang in AD 1361 when the Pao-Yuan Minting Department was set up at Nanking, however as he did not declare himself as Prince Wu until 1364, this draw into question exactly who he was minting them for between 1361 and 1364. Apparently only the 1 cash denomination was cast during this period.

In 1364, after defeating Ch’en Yu-liang of Han (another of the Yuan Rebels), and gaining control over a much larger part of China, Chu Yuan-chang declared himself the Prince Wu and adopted the reign title of Ta-ming but rather than putting the Ta-ming title on the coins he continued casting the Ta-Chung types, but now from a number of mints. In 1368 he controled enough of China to Declare himself as Emperor T’ai Tsu of the Ming Dynasty, at which time he adopted the reign title Hung-Wu.

The Ta-chung coinage tends to be somewhat crudely cast when compared to the later coins cast under the Ming Dynasty.

 

S-1127. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (5 specimens) 23.5 mm (range 23.2 to 24.0 mm), average 3.30 grams. These coins tend to be of inferior quality to the later coinage of Ming.

VG   $4.50     F   $8.50     VF   $15.00

S-1128. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: “PEI-P’ING” (a mint in Chihli). Average (1 specimen) 23.5 mm, 3.44 grams. We do not have a record of a price for this type at this time.

S-1129. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: “CHE” (Chekiang mint). Average (1 specimen) 23.5 mm, 2.53 grams. We do not have a record of a price for this type at this time.

 

S-1130. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (1 specimens) 29 mm, 6.11 grams.

VF   $35.00

 

S-1131. Bronze 3 cash. Obverse: “TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (1 specimens) 35 mm, 10.10 grams.

VF   $49.50

 

S-1132. Bronze 5 cash. Obverse: “TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (1 specimens) 41 mm, 17.49 grams.

VF   $42.50

 

S-1133. Bronze 5 cash. Obverse: “TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: “YU” (Honan mint). Average (1 specimens) 40 mm, 15.41 grams.

VF   $145.00

 

  S-1134. Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: “SHIH” (for value 10). Average (2 specimens) 45.5 mm, 23.8 grams (these vary several grams either side of this).

VG   $65.00     F   $99.50

 

S-1135. Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: “SHIH CHE” (for value 10 of Chekiang mint). Average (1 specimens) 45.5 mm, 25.69 grams. We have not yet recorded a value for this type.

 

S-1136. Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “TA-CHUNG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: “SHIH CHI” (for value 10 of Shantung mint)). Average (1 specimens) 45.5 mm, 27.09 grams. We have not yet recorded a value for this type.

 

MING DYNASTY

After 88 years of rule by the Mongols of the Yuan dynasty, the Chinese people finally regained control in AD 1368. The Ming dynasty is noted for a high degree of culture with a strong literature, and for the fine porcelain they produced.

There were a total of 17 emperors during the Ming dynasty. Most of them cast coins, but some of them are very rare. In spite of this being one of the more recent dynasties, the exact attribution of some of the rarer Ming coins is still in question.


 

Emperor T’AI TSU
AD 1368-1398

As discussed above, T’ai Tsu began his rise to power as Chu Yuan-chang Prince of Wu, one of the Yuan Rebels. Most references include issues of that period as Ming Coins, although that is not technically correct andwe have chosen to incude them under the heading of Yuan Rebels.

 

reign title: HUNG-WU, AD 1368-1398

 

The Hung-wu reign title was adopted after the fall of the Yuan and the defeat of the other Yuan Rebels, thus this is the first true reign title of the Ming Dynasty.

 

S-1137. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HUNG-WU T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (18 specimens) 23.8 mm, 3.50 grams (the weight vary considerable and we have records of specimens from 2.2 to 4.1 grams)

F   $2.50     VF   $4.50     XF   $7.50

The Hung-Wu 1 cash also is found with a number of different reverse symbols and mint marks, of which we have so far noted the following all have the standard Hung-Wu Obverse:

IMAGE

DESCRIPTION

VALUE

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1138. Reverse: crescent at right

VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1139. Reverse: crescent at bottom right

VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1140. Reverse: crescent at left

VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1141. Reverse: crescent at bottom slightly left

VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1142. Reverse: YI-CH’IEN (1 cash) to the right

VG $2.50
  F $4.50
XF $8.50

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1143. Reverse: PEI-P’ING (Pei-p’ing Fu in Chihli)

VG $2.50
  F $4.50
XF $8.50

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S=1144. Reverse: YU (in Honan)

VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1145, 1146. Reverse: CHE at top (Chekiang mint mark).
One example with star hole.

  F  $5.00
VF  $8.00
XF $10.00

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1147. Reverse: CHE at top (Chekiang mint),
with a crescent at lower right.

  F  $5.00
VF  $8.00
XF $10.00

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1148. Reverse: FU at bottom (Fukien mint).

  F  $5.00
VF  $8.00
XF $10.00

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1149. Reverse: FU at right (Fukien mint).

  F  $5.00
VF  $8.00
XF $10.00

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1150. Reverse: KUEI at right
(Kuei-lin mint in Kuangsi mint).

VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1151. Reverse: CHIH?? (reading uncertain).

VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

NOT YET
AVAILABLE

S-1152-3. Reverse: A symbol possibly representing a priest hat (Hung-wu had been a Buddhist priest prior to becoming Emperor).

VALUE NOT YET DETERMINED

 

S-1154 variety. Bronze 2 cash. Obverse: “HUNG-WU T’UNG-PAO”.
Reverse: “ERH CH’IEN”. 31 mm.

F   $25.00     VF   $40.00

 


FULL IMAGE

S-1158. Bronze 10 cash (or 1 tael). Obverse: “HUNG-WU T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: “SHIH” (10) at the top and “YI-LIANG” (1 tael) to the right. Average (2 specimens) 48 mm, 34.8 grams.

F   $60.00     VF   $85.00

 


 

Emperor CH’ENG TSU
AD 1403-1424

reign title: YUNG-LO, AD 1403-1424

 

S-1166. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “YUNG-LO T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (33 specimens) 25 mm, 3.75 grams.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.50

 


 

Emperor HSUAN TSUNG
AD 1426-1435

reign title: HSUAN-TE, AD 1426-1435

S-1170. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HSUAN-TE T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (based on 2 specimens) 25 mm, 3.75 grams.

F   $10.00     VF   $16.50

 


 

Emperor HSIAO TSUNG
AD 1488-1505

reign title: HUNG-CHIH, AD 1488-1505

S-1176. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HUNG-CHIH T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (2 specimens) 24.0 mm, 3.85 grams (range 3.25 to 4.45 grams).

VG   $3.50     F   $6.00     VF   $9.50

 


 

Emperor SHIH TSUNG
AD 1522-1566

reign title: CHIA CHING, AD 1522-1566

 

S-1181. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CHIA-CHING T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (2 specimens) 24.2 mm, 3.74 grams.

VG   $4.00     F   $7.50     VF   $12.00

 

This type is reported to have been cast in very large numbers in AD 1527 (6th year of Chia Ching). Schjoth (page 48) notes that in AD AD 1553 (32nd year of Chia Ching) there was another large issue of coins, but using the 9 earlier Ming reign titles following Hung-wu. It is very possible some of those reign titles were only cast at this time.


 

Emperor MU TSUNG
AD 1567-1572

reign title: LUNG-CH’ING, AD 1567-1672

 

S-1183. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “LUNG-CH’ING T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (2 specimens) 25 mm, 3.31 grams (range 2.88 to 3.75 grams).

F   $60.00     VF   $90.00

 

Schjoth (page 48) reports that this type was cast in the year AD 1570.


 

Emperor SHEN TSUNG
AD 1573-1619

reign title: WAN-LI, AD 1573-1619

 

S-1185. Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “WAN-LI T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank, probably indicating this is an early issue of either Board of Revenue or Board of Works mint.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00     XF   $7.00

 

An interesting feature sometimes seen on the coins of Wan-Li are chop marks (small merchants counter marks) applied on the rims of the coins. These do increase the value of the coins, but the exact amount of the increase depends on the number, and clarity of the marks. We have provided this link to an image of a typical specimen illustrating these chop marks.


 

Emperor KUANG TSUNG
AD 1620

reign title: T’AI-CH’ANG, AD 1620

 

S-1199, Bronze 1 cash. “T’AI-CH’ANG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (3 specimens) 25.2 mm, 3.50 grams. The weights on these vary considerably. Of the three specimens I have weights on, the range is from 2.88 to 4.20 grams.

F   $15.00     VF   $25.00     XF   $35.00

 

S-1200, Bronze 1 cash. “T’AI-CH’ANG T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: Dot above centre hole.

F   $15.00     VF   $25.00     XF   $35.00

 

Kuang Tsung ruled for only one month and very few coins would have been issued during that time. Most specimens of this type were issued by his successor Hsi Tsung in 1621 in his memory. We are not yet sure if the two types, with and without the dot above the hole on the reverse, indicate the two mints of Board of Works and Board of Revenue mints (is so, we do know know which is which), or if they might differentiate between the life-time and non-lifetime issues.


 

Emperor HSI TSUNG
AD 1621-1627

reign title: T’IEN-CH’I, AD 1621-1627

 

image not yet available

S-1223
T’ai-Ch’ang T”ung-Pao

S-1201
T’ai-Ch’ang T’ien-Ch’i

 

S-1201, Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’AI-CH’ANG T’IEN-CH’I”. Reverse: Dot above center hole. This type is very rare, and we have never actually seen one, so cannot estimate a value. This is an interesting type, issued to honor the previous ruler who died after only one month on the throne, and may be the only Chinese cash coin to bare two reign titles on the same coin.

 

NO MINT MARK

S-1202, bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-CH’I T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. There are a number of variations on this type with dots in various positions on the reverse. The meaning of these dots is not known.

F   $3.50     VF   $7.50     XF   $12.00

 

YUNNAN MINT

S-1214, bronze 1 cash. “T’IEN-CH’I T’UNG-PAO, Reverse: “YUN”.

F   $12.00     VF   $18.00

 

HIGH DENOMINATION TYPES

  S-1221, Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-CH’I T’UNG-PAO”, Reverse: “SHIH” (10) at the top (without dot at bottom). Average (1 specimens) 45.0 mm, 24.55 grams.

F   $25.00     VF   $40.00     XF   $55.00

 

  S-1222, Bronze 10 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-CH’I T’UNG-PAO”, Reverse: “SHIH” (10) at the top, DOT at bottom next to the rim. Average (2 specimens) 47.0 mm, 22.60 grams.

F   $25.00     VF   $40.00     XF   $55.00

 

  S-1223. Bronze 10 Cash or 1 Liang. Obverse: T’IEN-CH’I T’UNG-PAO. Reverse: “SHIH” (10) at the top, and “YI-LIANG” (1 Liang) to the right. These seem to come on two sizes, with the smaller average (3 specimens) 40.7 mm, 31.85 grams, and the larger with wider rims average (3 specimen) 47.2 mm, 34.53 grams.

small – F   $25.00     VF   $40.00

large – F   $35.00     VF   $55.00

 

  S-1224. Bronze 10 Cash or 1 Liang. Obverse: T’IEN-CH’I T’UNG-PAO. Reverse: “FU” for Hsuan-ch’eng ming in An-hui. Average (1 specimens) 47.0 mm, 26.33 grams.

small – F   $75.00     VF   $115.00

 


 

Emperor CHUANG LIEH
AD 1628-1644

reign title: CH’UNG CHEN, 1628-1644

NO MINT MARK

 

S-1226-1229, bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “CH’UNG-CHEN T’UNG-PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (1 specimen) 24.9 mm, 3.30 grams.

F   $3.00     VF   $5.50     XF   $9.00

 

There are many variations of this type, with different dot placements, or different characters on the reverse. We will make not of them as we have a chance. For the variations, the weights and sizes are the same as the main type unless otherwise noted.

 

S-1231-1232. Reverse dot at top. Average (2 specimen) 25.7 mm, 3.97 grams.

F   $5.00     VF   $9.50     XF   $15.00

 

MING REBELS

In AD 1644 the Chinese were once again conquered by foreigners as the Manchurians took control of much of China to establish the Ch’ing Dynasty, but reaching that point was a long drawn out process, starting about 70 years earlier and they did not gain full control for another 40 years. This was a period of turmoil during which a series of pretenders and rebels controlling small (some sometimes not so small) regions fought a series wars and rebellions at first against the Ming, later against the Ch’ing, and sometimes between each other. These people are referred to as the Ming Rebels and it is a fairly complex period in Chinese history.

The order in which Schjoth lists these rules does not give a sense of this history, and I am working on sorting out presentation that hopefully will do so, but I am not there yet. This is a section I am just now beginning to again work on, so hopefully there will be a better presentation here soon.


 

LI TZU-CH’ENG, AD 1644

Reign title: LI-YUNG, AD 1674-1677

 

Li Tzu-ch’eng was the son of a village leader in Shansi. After a period of famine and high taxation, Li and his followers revolted. The end of the Ming dynasty came in 1644 when Li succeeded in taking Peking. He assumed the reign title Yung-Ch’ang and declared himself emperor, upon which Chuang Lieh, the last Ming emperor, committed suicide.

 

S-1325, Bronze 5 cash. Obverse: “YUNG CH’ANG T’UNG PAO”. Reverse: blank. Average (2 specimens) 37.8 mm, and (range 13.73 to 15.30 grams. In high grades, these coins will show heavy original parallel files marks.

VF   $55.00

 


 

CHU YU-SUNG, PRINCE OF FU
AD 1644-1646

Reign title: Hung-Kuang, AD 1644-1446

 

Chu Yu-Sung, as Prince of Fu, was the grand son of Shen Tsung (the Ming Emperor Wan Li). In the third month of 1644 he became Prince of Nanking, declared himself Emperor and issued coins under the Reign title of Hung-Kuang.

 

S-1287, Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HUNG-KUANG T’UNG PAO”. Reverse: Blank. Average (1 specimens) 24.1 mm, 3.44 grams.

F   $12.50     VF   $18.00

 

S-1288, Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “HUNG-KUANG T’UNG PAO”. Reverse: Dot at top. Average (2 specimens) 24.1 mm, 3.6 grams (range 3.02 to 4.17 grams).

F   $10.00     VF   $15.00

 


 

PRINCE YUNG-MING
AD 1646-1659

Reign title: Yung-Li, AD 1646-1459

IMAGE NOT AVAILABLE YET

IMAGE NOT AVAILABLE YET

 

S-1315
Seal Script

S-1316
Grass Script

S-1296
Orthodox Script

Chu Yu-lang, Prince Yung Ming, was a grandson of Shen Tsung (the Ming Emperor Wan Li). In the 11th month of 1646 he was declared Emperor and set up his capital in Chao-ch’ing Fu in Kuangtung, and issued coins under the Reign title of Yung-li. In 1659 he was defeated by the Manchu (Ching Dynasty) army and when to Burma. Later he return of Yunnan province where he died in 1662. Both he and his mother became Christians.

 

S-1296, Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: “YUNG-LI T’UNG PAO” in orthodox. Reverse: Blank. Average (3 specimens) 24.5 mm, 3.02 grams.

VG   $3.00     F   $5.00     VF   $7.50

 

  S-1307. Iron 1 cash.

 

 

THE CH’ING DYNASTY

 

 

This is a reference guide only for Chinese coins issued by the Ch’ing Dynasty, not an offering of coins for sale. A listing of the ancient and medieval Chinese coins we currently have available can be viewed on Driwancybermuseum. At this time, this page is far from complete with many even common mint marks missing, but it will help you identify all of the rules and many of the mint marks.

 

Images on this page represent types only, and bear no relationship to actual sizes. When two or more reign titles used the same mint mark, we normally use the same image of of the mint mark for all of them, which speeds up download times, but means that some of the mint marks on the actual coins will have stylistic differences from the images used.

During the mid 1500’s the Manchurians rebelled against the Ming Dynasty, and in AD 1559 Nurhachu (also know as T’ai Tsu) established a small Manchu dynasty. By 1625 Nurhachu has gained enough territory to need a capital, which he established at Mukden, but he died only a year later which brought his son Abahay (also known as T’ai Tsung) to the throne. Abahay changed the Dynastic name to Ch’ing in 1638 and on his death in 1644 his nine year old son Shih Tsu (know as Shun Chih) came to the throne. By then the Ch’ing controlled large parts of China, although they did not control the entire country until they defeated the last “Ming Rebels” about 1681. Most references date the start of the Ch’ing dynasty to AD 1644, but that is a very artificial concept, and you would replace the start any time between 1559 and 1681.

The Ch’ing Dynasty was a period of enlightenment, with the arts and literature reaching a high point under the Emperorss K’ang Hsi and Ch’ien Lung. This was also a period of increased interaction with the Western powers who, while gaining significant influence in China, failed in their efforts to colonize China.

The coinage of Ch’ing is fairly straightforward, and with one exception the Ch’ing Emperors used only one reign title each on their coins, which is why they are better known by their reign titles than their real names.

The The obverses of the coins conform to a fairly standard types with an obverse listing the reign title along with the words “T’UNG PAO” (money) in Chinese characters. The reverses vary over time. Under Shun Chih (1644 to 1662) the mint marks on the reverse are normally a single character in Manchu script, although at the end of his reign we some coins issued with “BOO” (meaning mint) and mint name, both in Manchu script. Under K’ang Hsi most reverse types have the mint mark twice, on the left in Manchu script and on the right in Chinese characters, although for the two principle mints in Bejing continued the “BOO” and mint name in Manchu. Most coins after K’ang Hsi, use the “BOO” and mint name in Manchu reverse type, with some later issues having extra characters in Chinese to denote additional information (denominations or dating).

To aid people trying using this page to identify an unknown coin, the following table shows all of the major obverse types, which you can click on to go directly to the section discussing that reign title.

 

     
     
     
       

 

Note that for the Hsien Feng issue (row 3, column 2) there are other characters that can occur on the right side.

Emperor NURHACHU (T’AI TSU)
1559-1626

Reign title: T’ien Ming, AD 1616-1626

S-1356. Bronze 1 cash.
Obverse: “T’IEN-MING T’UNG-PAO” in Chinese orthodox script. Reverse: blank.

VG   $95.00

 

S-1355. Bronze 2 (?) cash. Obverse: “ABKAI FULINGGA HAN JIHA” in what was at that tiime a nealy invented version of Manchurian script (Manchurian for “Imperial coin of the Heavenly Mandate”. Reverse: blank. Average (2 specimens) 29 mm, 7.5 grams. These vary in weight quite a bit and are fairly crudely cast with poorly finished or unfinished rims and course unfinished surfaces.

F   $45.00     VF   $60.00     gVF   $75.00

 

This issue was first cast in about 1616 under Nurhachu, but continued to be cast throughout the reign of Abahay. The large size and heavy weight suggest this was intended to be of value 2 cash.

Emperor SHIH TSU
AD 1644-1661

reign title: SHUN CHIH, AD 1644-1661

 

FIRST SERIES (probably ca AD 1644). The reverse is blank.

S-1359, Reverse: blank.     F   $3.50     VF   $6.00

 

SECOND SERIES (AD 1644-1652). The reverse has only the mint in Chinese only. The character can occur either at the top or on the right side.

 

S-1363, “HO” (Honan mint) at the top.     F   $15.00     VF   $25.00

 

  S-1370, “YUAN” at right (T’ai Yuan Fu in Shansi).

F   $14.50     VF   $20.00

 

S-1377, “NING” (Ningpo mint).     F   $18.50     VF   $37.50

 

S-1378, “CHE” (Chekiang mint) at the right.     F   $15.00     VF   $22.50

 

S-1379, “CHE” (Chekiang mint) at the top.     F   $15.00     VF   $25.00

 

  S-1382, “FU” at top (Fukien mint).

F   $17.50     VF   $35.00

 

THIRD SERIES (AD 1653-?). The reverse has the mint name on the right, with “YI LI” (meaning 1 thousandth part of an ounce (tael) of silver) on the left.

 

S-1392, “CHIANG” (Chiang-ning mint).     F   $15.00     VF   $25.00

 

S-1395, “TUNG” (Shantung mint).     F   $12.50     VF   $17.50

 

S-1399, “CHI” (Chi-chou in Chihli).     F   $25.00     VF   $49.50

 

S-1401, “CH’ANG” (Wuch’ang mint).     F   $14.50     VF   $29.50

 

S-1403, “NING” (Ningpo mint).     F   $18.50     VF   $39.50

  S-1404, “Yun” at right (Mi-Yun in Chihli), “Yi Li” at left.

F   $8.50     VF   $12.50

 

FOURTH SERIES (AD ?-1661): Mint name on the reverse, in Manchurian on the left and in Chinese on the right. The coins of the board of Revenue and board of Works mints, with “BOO” on the left and the mint name in Manchurian on the right, should also be included in this series, rather than as an issue of AD 1644 as suggested by Schjoth. This allows for a smooth transition with the coinage of K’ang-hsi and, not to put them here would require both of the principal mints to have been shut down during the last years of this reign.

  S-1405, “BOO CIOWAN” (Board of Revenue mint). The manchurian mint name translates to Pao-Ch’uan, or “The Fountain head of the Currency”.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.50

 

  S-1406, “BOO YUWAN” (Board of Works mint). The Manchurian mint name translates to Pao-yuan or “The Source of all Currency”.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.50

 

  S-1407, “CHIANG” (Chiang-ning which is the city of Nanking). The Manchurian mint name translates as Giyang.

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

 

  S-1408, “CHE” (Chekiang mint).

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

 

  S-1409, “TUNG” (Shantung mint).

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

 

  S-1410, “LIN” (Lin-ching circuit in Shantung).

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

 

  S-1411, “YUNG” (T’ai yuan Fu in Shansi).

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

 

  S-1412, “HSUAN” (Hsuan-Fu in Chihli).

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

 

  S-1413, “CHI” (Chi-chou district in Chihli).

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

 

  S-1414, “HO” (Honan mint).

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

 

  S-1415, “CHANG” (Wu-ch’ang in Hupei).

I have not yet established a price for this type.

 

  S-1416, “SHEN” (Shensi mint).

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

 

  S-1417, “NING” (Ningpo mint).

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

 

  S-1418, “T’UNG” (Ta-t’ung in Shansi).

F   $3.00     VF   $4.50

Emperor SHENG TSU
AD 1662-1722

reign title: K’ANG-HSI, AD 1662-1722

 

The coinage of K’ang-Hsi is a direct continuation of the last issue of Shun-chih.

 

PRIMARY SERIES (AD 1662-1722): The two principal mints in Peking have have “BOO” on the left, and the mint name on the right, both in Manchu script. All other mints have the mint name twice, in Manchu on the left and Chinese on the right. The size of these coins vary significantly from coin to coin. Please note that we are currently up grading this section, and for those coins for which we indicated “value not yet determined”, they are not necessarily scarce and we will be adding the values in the not too distant future (a few of them are rare).

 

  S-1419, “BOO CIOWAN” (Board of Revenue mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Ch’uan, or “The Fountain head of the Currency”.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1422, “BOO YUWAN” (Board of Works mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-yuan or “The Source of all Currency”.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1423, “T’UNG” (Ta-T’ung mint in Shansi).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1424, “FU” (Fukien mint). “FU” Means “LUCK” which makes this a very popular type.

F   $3.00     VF   $5.00

 

  S-1425, “LIN LIN” (Lin-ching circuit in Shantung).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1426, “TUNG” (Shantung mint).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1427, “CHIANG” (Chiang-ning mint at Nanking)

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1428, “HSUAN” (Hsuan-fu in Chihli)

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1429, “YUAN” (T’ai-yuan Fu in Shansi).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1430, “SU” (Soochow in Kiangsu).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1431, “CHI” (Chi-Chow in Chihli).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1432, “CH’ANG” (Wu-ch’ang in Hupei).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1433, “NING” (Ningpo in Chekiang).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1434, “HO” (Honan mint).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1435, “NAN” (Hunan mint).

    RARE, Value not yet determined.

 

  S-1436, “KUANG” (Kuangtung mint).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1437, “CHE” (Chekiang mint).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1438, “T’AI” (Taiwan mint).

F   $100.00     VF   $200.00

 

  S-1439, “KUEI” (Kueilin in Kuangsu).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1440, “SHEN” (Shensi mint).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1441, “YUN” (Yunnan mint).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1442, “CHANG” (Chang-chou in Fukien).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

SECONDARY SERIES OF AD 1713: These coins, which are commonly called “Lohan Coins” differ in the way the bottom characher “K’ang” is drawn without the upright at the left. A myth about this variety claims they were cast from gilt bronze statues of Lohan’s (attendants to Buddha), so each coin contains a trace of gold. No testing has found even a trace of gold in these, and there is nothing to support belief in this myth, which appears to originate in the mid-19th century. Burger, in his study of Ch’ing Dynasty cash, made a case for these coins being a special issue of AD 1713, to celebrate K’ang Hsi’s 60th birthday.

Hartill lists these coins as having a rarity rating of 14, which means very common and somewhere in the $5.00 range. In my experience they are significantly scarcer than he suggests, and should in the $15 to $20 range. Schjoth lists these from three mints : Board of Revenue (see S-1419), Honan mint (see S-1434) and Hunan mint (see S-1435), although in the case of Honan and Hunan the mint marks are drawn slightly differently. When they become available we will add images of them.

Emperor SHIH TSUNG
AD 1723-1735

reign title: YUNG-CHENG, AD 1723-1735

 

From the reign of Yung-cheng, to the end of the Ch’ing dynasty, almost all of the coins conform to the standard types, with “BOO” in the reverse to the left, and the mint name in Manchurian script to the right. Mint names no longer appear in Chinese script.

  S-1453, “BOO CIOWAN” (Board of Revenue mint). The manchurian mint name translates to Pao-Ch’uan, or “The Fountain head of the Currency”.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

  S-1454, “BOO YUWAN” (Board of Works mint). The manchurian mint name translates to Pao-yuan or “The Source of all Currency”.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

  S-1455, “BOO JE” (Chekiang mint). The manchurian mint name translates to Pao-Che.

F   $2.50     VF   $4.00

 

  S-1456, “BOO YON” (Yunnan mint). The Manchurian mint name translates to Pao-yun.

F   $4.00     VF   $6.00

 

  S-1457, “BOO SU” (Kiangsu Provincial mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Su.

F   $4.00     VF   $6.00

 

  S-1458, “BOO AN” (Anhui mint). The manchurian mint name translates to Pao-An.

F   $6.00     VF   $8.00

 

FD-2280, “BOO-U” (Hubeh mint).     VF   $29.50

 

FD-2282, “BOO-HO (Hunan mint).     gF   $25.00

 

FD-2291, “BOO-JI (Shantung mint).     VF   $25.00

 

FD-2292, “BOO-JIN (Shansi mint), heavy original file marks (as made).     VF   $28.00

Emperor KAO TSUNG
AD 1736-1795

reign title: CH’IEN-LUNG, AD 1736-1795

 

   

CH’IEN-LUNG

SHAN-LUNG

 

Ch’ien-lung is thought of as one of the most brilliant rulers in Chinese history. He was a patron of the arts, which reached a very high level during his reign. His is also one of the few Chinese emperors to abdicate the throne, which he did to honor K’ang Hsi (his father) by ending his reign just before it would have exceeded the length of K’ang Hsi’s reign.

There are two basic series to the coins of Ch’ien-lung. The primary series has the regular Ch’ien-lung inscription, produced at many mints throughout his reign. The second type is referred to as the Shan-lung commemorative issue, with two upright strokes added to the bottom of the character “Lung”, and is thought to have been issued during the period from his abdication in 1795 to his death in 1799. (Can anyone confirm this for me?)

 

PRIMARY SERIES

  S-1464, “BOO CIOWAN” (Board of Revenue mint in Bejing). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Ch’uan, or “The Fountain head of the Currency”.

F   $2.00     VF   $2.50

 

  S-1466, “BOO YUWAN” (Board of Works mint in Bejing). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-yuan or “The Source of all Currency”.

F   $2.00     VF   $2.50

 

  S-1467, “BOO CHI” (Chi-chou in Chihli). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-chi.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

S-1469, “BOO FU” (Fukien mint).     F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

  S-1470, “BOO JE” (Chekiang mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Che.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1471, “BOO SU” (Kiangsu Provincial mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Su.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

S-1477, “BOO GUANG” (Kuangtung mint).     F   $2.50     VF   $3.50

 

  S-1478, “BOO CHIE” (Fukien Province)

F   $2.50     VF   $3.50

 

  S-1480, “BOO YON” (Yunnan mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-yun.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

SHAN LUNG SERIES

 

Note the two small upright lines at the bottom of the bottom character. These Shan Lung coins were mostly issued after his abdication in 1796, but Hartill records it was used as early as 1770 at some mints in Sinkiang Province.

 

  S-1463, Obverse: Shan-Lung. Reverse: “BOO CIOWAN” (Board of Revenue mint). The manchurian mint name translates to Pao-Ch’uan, or “The Fountain head of the Currency”.

F   $3.50     VF   $6.00

 

  Hartill-22.433. Obverse: Shan-Lung. Reverse: “USHI USHI” (Ushi mint in Sinkiang). The name is written in Manchurian on the left, and Arabic on the right. Average (5 specimens) 24.9 mm, 4.17 grams.

F   $10.00     VF   $15.00

Emperor JEN TSUNG
AD 1796-1820

Reign title: CHAI-CH’ING, AD 1796-1820

 

  S-1489 (but no star), “BOO CIOWAN” (Board of Revenue mint). The manchurian mint name translates to Pao-Ch’uan, or “The Fountain head of the Currency”.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1490, “BOO YUWAN” (Board of Works mint). The manchurian mint name translates to Pao-yuan or “The Source of all Currency”.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1492, “BOO SU” (Kiangsu Provincial mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Su.

F   $2.00     VF   $4.00

 

  S-1495, “BOO YON” (Yunnan mint). The Manchurian mint name translates to Pao-yun.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1500, “BOO FU” (Fukien mint). The manchurian mint name translates to Fu as well.

F   $2.00     VF   $2.75

 

  S-1501, “BOO CHI” (Chi-chou in Chihli). The Manchurian mint name translates to Pao-chi.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1503, “BOO JE” (Chekiang mint). The manchurian mint name translates to Pao-Che.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

Emperor HSUAN TSUNG
AD 1821-1850

Reign title: TAO-KUANG, AD 1821-1850

 

  S-1512, “BOO CIOWAN” (Board of Revenue mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Ch’uan, or “The Fountain head of the Currency”.

F   $2.00     VF   $2.50

 

  S-1513, “BOO YUWAN” (Board of Works mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-yuan or “The Source of all Currency”.

F   $2.00     VF   $2.50

 

  S-1514, “BOO CHI” (Chi-chou in Chihli). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-chi.

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

  S-1515, “BOO SU” (Kiangsu Provincial mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Su.

F   $2.50     VF   $5.00

 

S-1517, “BOO CH’ANG” (Nan-chang mint in Kiangsi).     VF   $2.75

 

  S-1522,”BOO Kuang” (Kuangtung mint).

F   $2.00     VF   $3.00

 

S-1525, “BOO T’UNG” (Probably Tung Ch’uan in Yunnan, not Ta-tung in Shansi as Schjoth lists).     F   $2.00

 

C-26-3, “BOO YON” (Yunnan mint).     F   $2.00

 

C-30-8, 10 Cash (same size as a 1 cash) of Aksu mint in Sinkiang province. The year mark 8 refers to 1828, when a revolt was suppressed in Sinkiang. Krause notes that there are modern counterfeits of this item.

VG   $2.75

Emperor WEN TSUNG
AD 1851-1861

The Hsien Feng period was one of great strife in China. The Tai-ping rebellion, which lasted from 1853 to 1864 and was at least partly responsible for inflation resulting in paper money being issued for larger denomination (1000 and higher), and a variety of cast coin denominations from 1 to 1000 cash. The one cash coins have the standard two character mint marks on the reverses, while higher denominations have four characters with the extra two to show the denomination. There was also a system of obverse variations as shown below :

 

Reign title: HSIEN FENG, AD 1851-1861

     

OBVERSE MOSTLY ON
1 TO 5 CASH

OBVERSE MOSTLY ON
8 TO 100 CASH

OBVERSE MOSTLY ON
100 AND 1000 CASH

 

VALUE 1 CASH

  S-1534, “BOO CIOWAN” (Board of Revenue mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Ch’uan, or “The Fountain head of the Currency”.

WE HAVE NOT YET ESTABLISHED A VALUE

 

  S-1535, “BOO YUWAN” (Board of Works mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-yuan or “The Source of all Currency”.

WE HAVE NOT YET ESTABLISHED A VALUE

 

  S-1536, “BOO SU” (Kiangsu Provincial mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Su.

F   $4.50     VF   $7.50

 

  S-1538, “BOO JE” (Chekiang mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Che.

WE HAVE NOT YET ESTABLISHED A VALUE

 

  S-1544, “BOO YON” (Yunnan mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-yun.

WE HAVE NOT YET ESTABLISHED A VALUE

 

Y-28.4. Ili mint in Sinkiang province……..RARE.     poorly cast, G   $25.00

 

MULTIPLE CASH DENOMINATIONS

 

       

2 CASH

4 CASH

5 CASH

8 CASH

 

       

10 CASH

20 CASH

30 CASH

40 CASH

 

       

50 CASH

80 CASH

100 CASH

200 CASH

 

 
     

300 CASH

500 CASH

1000 CASH

 

There are to many combinations of mint marks, demonminations, sizes, etc, to even begin to include them all on this site, so we have only provided the selection above to show how the denominations are indicated via the top and bottom character on the reverse. THIS SECTION IS JUST BEING BUILT SO NOT ALL OF THE DENOMINATIONS ARE YET SHOWN. Extensive listings of this series can be round in the Krause Standard Catalogue of World Coins (19th century Volume) or CAST CHINESE COINS by David Hartill.

 

Local imitations of Hsien-Feng

Throughout the Chinese series there are found local imitations of Chinese coins. In some cases these coins are simply counterfeits meant to be spent alongside the official government issues. In other cases these are local coinages from other parts of southeast Asia (i.e. Sumatra) which copy Chinese issues, but were not meant to fool anyone. Unfortunately it is often difficult to tell which type one is dealing with. We suspect that the following two coins fall into the local coinage category as they are far too crude to fool anyone used to the official issues.

 

LOCAL IMITATION 1 CASH.     G   $2.00       VG   $3.00

 

PAPER MONEY

During the time of Hsien Feng, between 1853 and 1859, there was a large issue of Government paper money with denominations relating to the Cash coins (either in Cash or Taels). These notes are somewhat scarce, but do turn up from time to time and are the only Chinese banknotes of this period that are not very rare.

Note that most genuine examples of these notes will have a small hole at the top. This is the result of having been originally issued in bundles that were tied together by a cord passed through the holes, and the hole does not affect the value in any way.

 

  2000 cash of 1859 (Year-9). Reference Pick-A4g. The reverse is blank on these, although there can sometimes be merchant chops on them). An intact note with a light stain in the top left corner and a few brown rust stains from paper clips (more noticeable on the back). There are three major folds horizontally across the note. At the top on the note, in the middle, is a small hole as which should be present on most genuine examples of these notes 231 x 133 mm.

gVF   $165.00

Emperor MU TSUNG
AD 1861-1874

Mu Tsung is unusual amongst Ch’ing dynasty emperors in that he had two reign titles, although one of them was only in use for a very short period of time (probably a few weeks).

 

Reign title: CH’I-HSIANG, AD 1861

 

Coins of this reign title are very rare and most if not all examples are either seed or mother cash. Hartill (page 393) says he does not believe any circulation examples were cast, and only lists examples from Board of Works and Board of Revenue mint. Schjoth did not list any examples.

  Obverse: “CH’I-HSIANG TUNG PAO”. Reverse : “T’UNG-CHIH TUNG PAO”. This is an odd coin, with Mu Tsung’s two reign titles on opposite sides. We first we thought it might be an amulet, found it listed in the Shanghi Enyclopedia as a known coin. 27.2 m, 7.53 grams.

Very rare, and we can only guess at a value in the $2500.00 range.

 

Reign title: T’UNG CHIH, AD 1862-1874

 

  S-1554. C-4-17, “BOO JE” (Chekiang mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Che.

WE HAVE NOT YET ESTABLISHED A VALUE

 

  S-1556, “BOO SU” (Kiangsu Provincial mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Su.

F   $8.50     VF   $11.50

 

  S-1557, “BOO FU” (Fukien mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Fu as well.

WE HAVE NOT YET ESTABLISHED A VALUE

 

C-15-7, “BOO GUNG” (Kiangsi mint).     F   $4.00       VF   $5.50       XF   $11.00

 

C-24-8, “BOO CUWAN” (Szechuan mint).     VG   $9.50       F   $15.00

 

  C-26-7, “BOO YON” (Yunnan mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-yun.

VG   $3.50       F   $5.00

 

T’ung Chih also issued some larger denomination coins in both brass and copper, in 4, 5 and 10 cash denominations. The 4 and 5 cash are rare and seldom seen, but the 10 cash turn up fairly often.

 

  S-1600. 10 cash from the Board of Works mint. These come in a variety of sizes. The specimen illustrated is 7.15 grams, 28.6 mm.

F   $7.50       VF   $11.50

Emperor TE TSUNG
AD 1875-1908

Reign title: KUANG-HSU, 1875-1908

   

OBVERSE ON
1 CASH

OBVERSE ON
10 CASH

 

  As c-1-16 but 19 mm. “BOO CIOWAN” (Board of Revenue mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Ch’uan, or “The Fountain head of the Currency”.

gVF   $5.00     AS CAST   $8.50

 

  C-2-15, “BOO YUWAN” (Board of Works mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-yuan or “The Source of all Currency”.

F   $4.50     VF   $7.50

 

  Hartill 22.1352, “BOO HO” (Honan mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Ho. This particular example has a small circle at the bottom of the reverse, and there are other types with other symbols at the top or bottom of the reverse. This mint operated between 1898 and 1905.

F   $6.50     VF   $8.50

 

  Hartill 22.1419, “BOO CHI” (Chi-chou, which is the Peiyang arsenal mint in Chihli). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-chi. Coins of this type will often be poorly cast and poorly finished and even when nearly as cast will look to be Fine or VF. This mint was opened in 1898.

F   $4.00     VF   $6.50

 

  Hartill 22.1426 to 22.1428. “BOO GU” (Dagu, which is the Dagu Imperial Navy Yard in Chihli). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-Gu. Coins of this type will often be poorly cast and poorly finished and even when nearly as cast will look to be Fine or VF. This mint was opened in 1898.

F   $6.00     VF   $8.50

 

C-10-25, “BOO FU” (Fukien mint).     F   $4.00       VF   $7.00

 

  C-26-7, “BOO YON” (Yunnan mint). The Manchu mint name translates to Pao-yun.

F   $7.50       VF   $12.50

In 1898 and 1899, a series of 1 cash coins were cast at the Board of Revenue and Board of Works mints with and extra character at the top to indicating the quarter of the year in which they were cast. Hartill lists seven different in the following order : YU, ZHOU, RI, LEI, LAI, WANG and one with just a DOT, but does not indicate if this is in the sequence in which they were used. These are small coins, generally around 19 mm. All are of the same value at :       F   $10.00       VF   $15.00

     

image not yet available

YU

ZHOU

RI

LEI

   

image not yet available

 

LAI

WANG

dot

 

MACHINE STRUCK CASH

During the Kuang-hsu period the first machine made cash coins of China were struck. They were struck in a very yellow brass, and tend to be very well made, but do not appear to have been too popular as they are normally seen with very little wear on them, showing they did not circulate widely. Most were made in the Kwangtung province, and were probably first struck in 1889.

 

  Y-189, “Kuang T’ung” (Kwangtung mint money) at the sides. The character at the bottom means 1 cash, but I have not yet determined the meaning of the two characters at the top. This type is reported to have been struck only in 1889.

VF   $1.50       XF   $2.50

 

  Y-190, “BOO Kuang” (Kwangtung mint) at the sides. This type was struck from 1890 to 1908.

VF   $1.00       XF   $2.00

Emperor PUYE
AD 1908-1912

Puye was the last emperor of China. He was only three years old when he come to the throne, then was forced to abdicate to the forces of the Republic 1912, but continued to live in the Imperial palace until 1924. In 1932 when the Japanese made him president of Manchukuo, and then changed his title to Emperor of Manchukuo in 1934, with reign title: K’ANG-TE.

 

Reign title: HSUAN-T’UNG, 1908 – 1912

 

  C-1-19.1 (small) and C-1-19.2 (large) 1 cash. Obverse: Hsuan-T’ung type. Reverse: “BOO” on the left and “CIOWAN” (Board of Revenue mint) on the right. Normally seen nearly “as cast” but are normally roughly finished.

small about 19.1 mm     gVF   $9.50     XF   $12.50

larger about 24 mm     gVF   $30.00     XF   $45.00

 

The use of cast cash coinage all but came to an an end shortly after 1912, so these Hsuan-T’ung coins saw little use and are normally seen in a grade of XF to near mint state condition with clear original file marks. Coins appearing to grading F or VF are usually just poor castings rather than worn coins.

TAI PING REBELS

Tai Ping Rebel fought a civil war with the Ching Dynasty from 1853-1864, making both coins and paper money. The paper money is rare and genuine examples seldom offered, but the coins turn up from time to time. When attributing a coin to this period, is is important to note that while there are many differnt types not listed here, all have characters on the reverse and any that are blank on the reverse, date to the reign of the North Sung Emperor T’ai Tsung, AD 976 to 997.

  S-1606. 1 cash. Obverse: “T’AI-P’ING T’IEN-KUO” (T’ai P’ing Celestial State or T’ai P’ing Heavenly Kingdom). Reverse: “SHENG-PAO” (Sacred Currency). This issue is often rough or poorly cast. Average (1 specimen) 22.3 mm, 3.54 grams.

F   $30.00     VF   $50.00

 

  S-1607. 1 cash. Obverse: “T’AI-P’ING T’IEN-KUO” (T’ai P’ing Celestial State or T’ai P’ing Heavenly Kingdom). Reverse: “SHENG-PAO” (Sacred Currency).

F   $30.00     VF   $50.00

 

  Hartill-23.19. 1 cash. Obverse: “T’IEN-KUO T’AI-P’ING” (The Celestial State of T’ai P’ing). Reverse: “SHENG-PAO” (Sacred Currency). Average (1 specimen) 25.0 mm, 4.87 grams.

F   $30.00     VF   $50.00

PALACE CASH

Palace cash should may or may not be considered a type of amulet. According to the Krause catalogue of world coins, these were made as New Years gifts to people in the Imperial Palace, usually eunuchs and guards, who hung them below lamps. Hartill, in “Qing Cash” (Royal Numismatic Society, 2003) agrees they were handed out as gifts in the Palace, but only on the establishment of each new Reign title, and were wrapped in red cloth. I am inclined to accept David Hartill’s explanation which only involves them being cast once at the beginning of each reign title, rather than annually at New Years, as this is consistent with their relatively rarity. Usually between 30 and 40 mm, with the first issue being under Ch’ien-lung in 1736, and continuing for each succeeding Emperor to the end of the Ching Dynasty.

  Obverse: “HSIEN FENG TUNG PAO”. Reverse : “T’EIN-HSIA TAI’PING” meaning “peace under heaven”.

WE HAVE NOT YET ESTABLISHED A VALUE

 

“By this time machine-struck coppers and silver dollars had taken over the role of the square-holed cash, and the few that were minted by the Board of Revenue played only a symbolic role, minted in consideration for the livelihood of the mint workers who would otherwise be left without a job …” (Jen, page 171)

1906 Szechuan 10 Cash Y#10t

1908 Szechuan 1 dollar 1914 Y 73 – cast warlord issue

1937 Rep. 1 Fen Y#347


Chinese Charms

IMAGE

DESCRIPTION

REFERENCE

  K’ang-hsi coin charm, 1622-1722
Dragon & Phoenix rev, 55 mm, 58.09 gms.
The dragon represents royalty, rain, and spring. The dragon admonishes greed and avarice. The phoenix is the fabled bird that is burned and renewed from the ashes. In china, the phoenix is known as “Feng-Huang”. “Feng” is the male phoenix and “Huang” is the female phoenix. The phoenix represents the Empress, beauty, warmth, prosperity and peace. The ancient Chinese believed that the dragon presided over the Eastern Quadrant of China and the phoenix ruled the Southern Quadrant.
Schj. p.99 #30
  Cheng-te coin charm
Dragon & Phoenix rev, 54 mm, 42.73 gms.
Schj. p.98 #28
  Openwork dragon & phoenix amulet
58 mm 29.62 gms.
?
  Obverse of Schjoth 630 – 33 mm 17.02 gms.
Rev: Constellation, crescent, & pellet
?
  Spade shaped Amulet – Obverse: Dragons around Chinese characters Schjoth 630 – 54 x 103 mm
Rev: Huo-Pu as Schjoth 148
?

 

 

 

 

Paper is Invented by the Chinese

 

The invention of paper is traceable to 105AD, the year in which Ts’ai Lun, a

scholar attached to the imperial court, conceived the idea of forming a sheet of paper

from the macerated bark of trees, old rags, fish nets, and hemp waste. The invention of

the camel’s hair brush around 250AD was a huge step forward in facilitating the writing

of Chinese characters. This led to a need for an inexpensive and abundant writing

material. The spread of calligraphy throughout China greatly speeded the development

of paper manufacture. By substituting cheaper materials in lieu of silk, paper was soon

within reach of everyone. Paper quality increased dramatically when sizing, a method

by which glue was added to the paper to fill the pores, was discovered. This made the

paper less absorbent preventing the ink from running. That early Chinese paper was of

excellent quality there is no doubt. Surviving examples of paper made in the third

century have been found in the arid deserts of Chinese Turkestan. All sorts of paper

products made their appearance at this time and soon found wide acceptance. These

included writing paper, paper napkins, wrapping paper and, yes, even toilet paper! The

world owes a huge debt to Ts’ai Lun, yet his name is hardly known. Quite possibly,

without the invention of paper, printing would not have come into general use. For the

next 500 years the art of papermaking was endemic to the Chinese.

The process by which the early Chinese made paper involved stripping the bark

from mulberry or bamboo trees, separating the cellulose fibers and soaking them after

which they were boiled over a hot fire. Next the fibers were combined with hemp and

straw pulp similarly prepared. The resulting mixture was placed into basins and then

screened onto wooden molds. The wet sheets were then pressed to remove any

remaining excess moisture. The resulting paper was then carried outside and pasted to

the mud walls of the compound to dry in the sun. After drying, the sheets were taken

down and packed into bundles ready for market.

By the time paper came into general use, the camel’s hair brush, ink and

calligraphy were sufficiently developed to virtually create an information explosion.

From this new technology grew the creation of the world’s first paper money.

Deer Skin and “Flying Money”

 

Various forms of money, other than copper cash, preceded the use of paper,

however. Early in the Han dynasty emperor Wu authorized the use of “deer skin

money” to be used in ceremonial presentations at the Han court. These skins measured

Paper was a Chinese invention. To make it, bamboo stalks or the inner bark of the mulberry tree were

cut, pounded into pulp, split and cooked over a hot fire to separate the cellulose fibers. Later the

mixture was screened into molds, then pressed to remove moisture and dried in the sun.

a Chinese square foot. They were elegantly decorated with fine painting and

embroidery and used to wrap gifts for the emperor. As such, they took on a certain value

of their own. Royal princes and pretenders were annually required to present valuable

presents to the emperor at court, thus confirming their allegiance to him. These presents

often took the form of jade or gold, which protocol dictated be wrapped in the skin of a

white deer prior to presentation. The emperor thus enjoyed a monopoly, since the only

deer hide permitted for this use came from the emperor’s forbidden royal garden.

 

 A

value of forty thousand cash was assigned each hide. The feudal princes therefore had to

purchase their skins from the emperor prior to making their presentation when in

audience before the emperor. This was a scheme employed by the Western Han

government to collect “immortal money”. Today we would call it extortion! “Deer

skin” money, confined to imperial use, was never meant for general circulation. These

skins, however, did circulate freely among court officials and eunuchs within the royal

palaces and grounds. It is universally agreed among scholars that deer skins were not

“money” at all, and certainly not paper; nevertheless most references include them, as

they represent an important step in Chinese monetary development.

Another form of money not meant for general circulation appeared about 800AD

during the Tang dynasty. These notes, known as “flying money”, were similar to

modern day bank drafts. The vouchers were strictly limited for use in mercantile

transactions between distant places. Merchants deposited cash at the point of origin in

return for paper (flying money) guaranteeing reimbursement in distant provinces. Thus

a double transfer of cash was made without any physical transfer between points.

 

 

 

The

picturesque term “flying money” evolved from this practice, as though the cash had

“flown” from point of origin to destination. Government representatives, army officers

and rich merchants could deposit money at the point of origin (usually the capital),

receive a kind of bill-of-exchange for it, and when reaching their destination cash the

note, receiving copper coin for it on demand. Flying money therefore could not be used

in trade or circulated by the general public. This practice relieved the traveler of the

burden of transporting large amounts of weighty cash, which often as not fell victim to

bandits and highwaymen. The government, realizing the value of such a scheme,

quickly took over from the private merchants. Henceforth local taxes and revenues were

forwarded to the capital in this way. Inasmuch as these drafts were transferable and

could be exchanged among merchants they took on the appearance of currency.

The notes themselves were printed on yellow paper using black ink. When the

official red seals had been applied they took on a pleasing three- color effect. Mr.

Andrew McFarland Davis, of whom we will learn more later, claims to have had in his

possession at one time two different examples of flying money in denominations of 1

and 9 kwan. These were subsequently given to a Boston museum. The notes measured

approximately 9 x 6 inches, their borders containing various clouds and dragon designs.

 

An early example of Tang dynasty “flying money”, from the one time collection of Andrew McFarland

Davis. This one kwan note was issued during the reign of emperor Wu Tsung (841-846 AD). The

picture at the center of the note represents a one-ounce silver sycee ingot. Note the two official seals

placed on the note to authenticate it. Flying money, not meant to be a medium of exchange, was only

negotiable between two distant points, and therefore cannot be considered true paper money.

 

 

The First Paper Money Used as a Medium of Exchange

Real paper currency, as we know it today, first made its appearance in China’s

Szechuan province early in the Sung dynasty. These bills took the form of promissory

notes known as “chiao-tzu”. During the reign of emperor Chen Tsung (998-1022AD)

the government granted a monopoly to sixteen prosperous merchants in the Cheng-tu

area of Szechuan and permitted them to issue paper money. Printed in black and red

from copper plates the notes contained various scenes of village life. Denominations

were applied to the notes using a brush and black ink, ordinarily for one string (1000) of

cash. When some of the merchants were slow to redeem the notes they soon became

inflated. As a result the private issue of paper money was forbidden and in their place,

in the year 1023, a government monopoly known as the Bureau of Exchange was set up

to replace them.

Most scholars are in agreement that these notes were the true starting point for

paper money not only in China, but also throughout the world. Later the idea of a

medium of exchange to serve commerce and trade became institutionalized as a

government policy. This new policy was immediately successful because the notes were

not only backed by cash but were completely transferable. From this point on citizens

could buy commodities with paper because the paper notes were conceived to be as

good as copper cash.

Early Chinese Works on Numismatics

 

Paper money issues of the Sung, Chou, Liao, Hsia and Chin dynasties are only

fragmentally documented. Much more is known of the Yuan and Ming issues. This is

because many of the older types of ancient paper money have disappeared completely

and are known only through ancient Chinese works on numismatics, if at all.

The foremost work on Chinese numismatics to appear to date was published in

1832. Entitled Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih it contains descriptions of ancient paper money

including illustrations of the notes themselves. In the introduction to Ch’uan Pu T’ung

Chih, the author states that the work was begun in 1816, was printed in 1832 and the

following year the binding was completed. He goes on to apologize for the inadequacy

of the work by stating: “as there are many hundreds of varieties of paper money, they

could not be enumerated even on a hundred pages”. In Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih the

author lists, either through his own personal knowledge or by reference to other

numismatic works, some 259 banknotes which had been issued over a period of twentysix

“nien haos” (the reign years of various emperors) spanning ten dynasties.

 

This note is perhaps the earliest paper money ever discovered. Called “hue-tsu”, it is a Sung

government issue dating from 1023 AD. The note was meant to circulate throughout the kingdom,

with the exception of Szechuan province. Although these early notes no longer exist, it is still possible

to research them due to a recent archaeological discovery. During excavation, several brass plates used

in the preparation of this early Chinese paper money were unearthed. The Facsimile image shown here

was produced by making a print from the original plate.

The design of eighty-one of these notes, issued from the Tang through Ming

dynasties are presented, covering the period 650AD to 1425AD. The existence of a

number of surviving notes and plates used in their manufacture permit comparison with

these line drawings thereby verifying the accuracy of the illustrator. This is not to say

that all such illustrations were derived from existing notes, but it is highly probable that

they were. Copies of the official seals affixed to the face and backs of these notes are

included together with artwork found on the reverse of some issues. The author of this

work, whose name has been lost to posterity, apparently was a collector of these notes as

well. He lists in the introduction to Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih the sources from which he

acquired the notes, for example: “In the autumn of 1832 from Mr. Tao’s collection,

notes of the Sung, Yuan and Ming dynasties, thirty-three in all. In the summer of the

following year, from Mr. Chu notes of the Sung, Western Hsia, Chin and Liao dynasties,

thirty-one in all”, etc.

Several other old Chinese numismatic books were illustrated in the same way.

One such reference is a volume published in 1826 by Chang Tsung-i. Entitled Ch’ien

Chih Hsin Pien, it covers currency from the Sung through Ming dynasties.

Another difficulty impeding the study of these notes lies in the dearth of material

to be found in the English language. Wang Yu-Ch’uan in his Early Chinese Coinage

decried the lack of historical and archeological records available to him when

conducting his research. Chinese references, which have been preserved over the years,

generally are not available to Western scholars. Happily, several good books have been

published in China and the west in recent years, which bear upon the subject. Most of

these are written in Chinese; however some contain English introductions. Since the

opening of the former Chinese communist closed society, many of these works have

become more accessible in the West.

Early References Published in English

 

Perhaps the first American to seriously research ancient Chinese paper money,

was a gentleman from Boston by the name of Andrew McFarland Davis. Mr. Davis was

a numismatist with no prior knowledge of the subject. In 1910 he acquired from a

London book dealer a Ming dynasty one kwan note which had been issued circa

1375AD. This immediately sparked his interest in the subject. Having an insatiable

curiosity, he entered into an extensive correspondence and investigation concerning

ancient Chinese paper money. These inquiries included correspondence with the British

Museum in London. His determination paid off when, in the fall if 1914, he was

offered a group of fourteen of these old notes, which he quickly secured. This group

included two Tang dynasty notes (flying money) dating back to 850AD together with

examples of paper money from the Sung, Yuan and Ming periods. This acquisition

thoroughly stimulated his curiosity; whereupon he set out to learn all he could about

them. His findings were recorded in a paper entitled Certain Old Chinese Notes, which

was presented before the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston in 1915.

This work was subsequently published in book form under the same title. The book sets

forth his research into the matter and includes many illustrations of notes in his

collection, some in full color.

Andrew McFarland Davis in a paper entitled Ancient Chinese Paper Money as

Described in a Chinese Work on Numismatics, which was given before the American

Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1918, describes the notes illustrated in Ch’uan Pu

T’ung Chih in detail. Davis goes on to cite other sources, which tend to authenticate

these early notes. He states that the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston was in possession

of twenty photographs of Tang dynasty flying money which had been taken from the

originals, subsequently lost. Other sources cited, which bear on the subject, are a

Japanese book by Luo Zhengyu, published in 1920, entitled Illustrated Record of the

Paper Money of the Four Dynasties, in which are recorded all the ancient paper money

issues known to him together with descriptions of notes which had been published in the

Journal of the Peking Oriental Society. In addition to these works, archeological digs in

the arid deserts of western China have unearthed some remarkably preserved paper

money specimens as well as the printing plates from which they were made. The

discovery of these printing plates has allowed us to positively identify certain issues for

which specimens no longer exist.

Sung Dynasty Paper Money

 

To replace the private issues of chiao-tsu which had been forbidden by the

government,

the Bureau of Exchange issued their own notes known as “hui-tsu”. These

notes had a cash reserve. Denominations of 200, 300, 500 cash and 1, 2 and 3 strings

were issued. The notes issued in one period were in theory to be redeemed by the

subsequent issue. Due to lax government controls, this did not always happen and

gradually the notes became inflated. When this happened, the government was quick to

take advantage of the situation, using the inflated money on military expenditures.

Gradually, circulation of these notes expanded from the large cities to every corner of

the kingdom.

It is estimated that by the end of the Northern Sung period, seventy

million strings of paper cash were in circulation.

 

Hue-tsu notes held their value initially.

The official exchange rate called for one

string of hue-tsu to be equal to 770 cash.

 This is because it was Sung government

practice to reckon 77 cash as 100. During the later years of the Sung dynasty the

quantity of hue-tsu issued was ever increased to the point where the country became

inundated with paper notes. Over several decades the value of hue-tsu fell and at the

end of the dynasty they had become almost worthless.

It is uncertain if any Sung dynasty notes have survived to this day. Lien-sheng Yang in his book Money and Credit in China claims that none have been preserved, and the book A Compilation of Pictures of Chinese Ancient Paper Money in its Sung dynasty section shows only two notes, both images taken from recently recovered brass plates.

This is surprising since Andrew McFarland Davis’s book Certain Old Chinese Notes contains photographs of two Sung dynasty specimens, which were in his collection at that time. Both notes are from the emperor Hiao Tsung period (1165-1174), one in the amount of 70 and the other 100 kwan. These notes together with others, all the subject of Davis’s Certain Old Chinese Notes, were subsequently turned over to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Davis goes on to state that the notes were shown to the members present at the time his paper was presented before the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in February 1915.

Despite there being no apparent surviving specimens, we can nonetheless still appreciate their beauty.

 

 This is because several plates used in printing the notes have

survived. By making ink impressions from these plates we can see the original appearance of the notes, even though only copies. One such brass plate from the Sung period (1127-1279AD) was recently found in Hangchou.

 A representation of ten coins is found in its upper frame. The section below contains twenty-nine Chinese characters,

which read: “With the exception of Szechuan, this (note) may be circulated in the

various provinces and districts to make public and private payments representing 770

cash per string”. The bottom section contains a drawing of a granary courtyard with

three men carrying bags of grain.

In his book Ancient Chinese Paper Money as Described in a Chinese Work on Numismatics Davis describes in great detail some eighteen Sung dynasty notes, both

Northern and Southern, together with line drawings of the notes which the unknown

author of the Chinese numismatic work had supposedly seen in 1816 when compiling

his thesis. None of these notes has surfaced to date, leaving us in doubt as to their true

authenticity.

 

Numerous other government issues appeared throughout the dynasty. Many ofthese were for military expenditures or for commodities such as salt, rice and tea.

We might take a moment at this point to describe the format of ancient Chinese paper money

as all dynasties followed the same general pattern when producing them. These were

large vertical notes, usually gray in color, sometimes measuring up to 8 x 12 inches. At

the top of the note in seal script on a single horizontal line, the name of the issuer and

the type of money represented would appear; such as “Great Sung Current Use Treasure

Note” or “Great Ming General Circulation Treasure Note”, etcetera.

 Below, enclosed in an ornamental frame would be found the value of the note together with a pictorial

drawing of strings of cash or silver sycee ingots matching the denomination.

At the bottom, columns of text were displayed usually alluding to the governmental

 

 

This “Great Sung Public Convenience Note” of 50 kwan carries a pictorial representation of ten five

ounce sycee ingots. The text states that the Board of Rites has printed this note for the convenience of

the people, and that it is to be used side by side with copper cash. The reward for informing on a

counterfeiter of this note is stated to be 1000 taels of silver.

 

Illustrations were sometimes placed upon the reverses of Sung dynasty notes in addition to the seals sometimes found there.

The inscription on the rolled up scroll reads: “To open the scroll is to

benefit”. A number of animal forms may be found on the notes of Southern Sung emperor Kao Tsung

(1127-1162 AD). These include: a tiger on the 10 kwan note, a ssŭ (Chinese mythical dog) on the 20

kwan, an elephant on the 30 kwan, a hare on the 40 kwan and a lion on the 50 kwan note. The last

example is of a rider-less horse with a four character inscription which reads: “Peace be unto men and

horses”. This later specimen is from the Liao dynasty.

department issuing the note, the manner in which it could be used in trade or for the

payment of taxes, reference to the counterfeiting laws and an announcement of the

reward to be given informers of such nefarious scoundrels. To the left of this box one

will find the dynastic nien hao, or reign title, and the characters for day, month and year

of issue. From Chin dynasty times onward all banknotes carried the nien hao and date.

Reign titles characteristically consisted of two characters, arranged vertically,

designating a period of rule within a dynasty; for example, the “Hung-wu period in the

reign of Ming emperor T’ai Tsu. Some emperors, at their whim, changed reign titles as

many as nine or ten times during their tenure. Dates were filled in by brush at time of

issue. The official government vermilion seals of the dynasty would then be applied to

the face of the note to authenticate it. These notes were printed from hand-carved

wooden blocks or copper plates. Few changes were made to the basic format of these

notes until the beginning of the 20th century, some thousand years later.

Reverses of ancient Chinese notes were usually blank, although there are

exceptions. As early as the Sung dynasty, seals appeared on the back as well as the front

of the note. Sometimes, ornamental designs representative of the denomination or

figures of animals were also included on the reverse. One such depiction on the back of

Sung dynasty Ching-k’ang notes issued in 1126AD illustrates a scroll with four

characters superimposed, which read: “To open the scroll is to benefit”. Other examples

appear on the reverses of Sung emperor Chien-yen paper money (1127-1130AD). A

tiger is shown on the 10 kwan note, and a Chinese dog (called a sšu) on the 20. The 30

kwan depicts an elephant, the 40 a hare and on the highest denomination in this series,

(the 50 kwan note) a lion. It is not now known why these artistic designs graced the

back of these notes.

From the Sung period forward a variety of different banknotes were issued. Some

had a limited life and were meant to be retired upon a specific date. Others had

indeterminable life spans. With others, circulation was confined to a certain local area.

The text usually explained these restrictions.

Chin Dynasty Paper Money

Paper money of the Chin dynasty was known as “chiao-ch’ao”, or exchange

notes. These bills were first issued in 1153, shortly after the capital was moved to

Peking. Chin money followed the same format as its Sung predecessors.

Denominations of 100, 200, 300, 500, 700 cash and 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 kwan are reported

in old Chinese literature. These notes were made of thicker paper and were gray in color.

In this series the borders of the notes are decorated with clouds and bats. The vermilion

seals applied to the notes read “Seal of the T’ien-hui Reign” (1123-1137AD) above, and

“Treasure Note of the Great Chin Dynasty” below. The Chin government defined a

“string” as containing but 800 cash. The salaries of military officers and their soldiers

were fully paid in these notes. No rules were levied restricting their period of

circulation, a step forward in the evolution of paper currency, as it freed the note from

time restrictions. After a few decades the chiao-ch’ao began to depreciate. Many steps

were taken to stabilize the currency. At each step the old bills were allowed to continue

in circulation, often at absurdly devalued rates. The rate of depreciation accelerated

rapidly despite an attempt to tie their value to silver ingots. These measures did not stop

the downward spiral until, in the year 1223, at the end of the dynasty, Chin paper money

had dropped to 1/150th of its original value. Chin paper money was the first to use the

reign title in dating the notes, a practice which was to continue down to the end of

imperial China. The Chinese numismatic book Ch-uan Pu T’ung Chih contains

 

 

illustrations of two of these notes, the first a “Great Chin Army Note” of 5 kwan, the

second the 10 kwan of emperor T’ai Tsung listed above. Incredibly several fragments of

actual Chin notes have been found in archeological digs together with brass plates used

to prepare them.

The Inner Mongolian Numismatic Research Institute book A

Compilation of Pictures of Ancient Chinese Paper Money contains impressions taken from a number of these printing blocks.

 

 

Paper money fragment dating from he Chin dynasty with a border design of lotus flowers and leaves.

Liao and Western Hsia Dynasty Paper Money

 

The Liao are grouped into what some historians call the Tartar dynasties. These

included the Chin, Liao and Western Hsia kingdoms, all from the northern Chinese

border areas. They held sway for various periods from 907 to 1260AD.

When researching his work, the author of Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih apparently had

access to a quantity of Liao notes and several of the Western Hsia, the property of the

Chu family. The Liao notes of Yeh-lu (1125-1135AD) were issued by the Board of War

to be used as payment for army supplies. Denominations consisted of one through ten

kwan, each note depicting the appropriate number of strings of cash: three strings on the

3 kwan note, six strings on the 6 kwan, etcetera. It has been rumored that several

specimens of Liao notes have survived; however, neither Lien-sheng Yang or the Inner

Mongolian Numismatics Research Institute mention them.

Paper Money of the Yuan Dynasty

 

During the Yuan dynasty China became part of the Mongol empire. In the year

1202 Temujin, after unifying the Mongolian tribesmen, was elected Genghis Khan

(Universal Ruler). Genghis Khan was a military genius. He organized the Mongols into

a military force, which consisted of the best-trained horsemen the world had yet to see.

These men fought on horseback with such precision they could hit targets while

cantering at a full gallop. These armies marched south into China and west across Asia

and into Europe sweeping everyone in their path. When Genghis Khan died, his armies

were poised to conquer Hungary after having invaded present day Poland and Lithuania.

Extending west to Poland and Moscow, south to the Arabian Peninsula and east to

Siberia and China, the Mongol Empire was the largest in history in terms of

geographical expanse. Genghis Khan was principally interested in acquiring China

because of its great wealth. Thirty-three years after his death his grandson, Kublai

Khan, became the Great Khan.

In the year 1271 the Mongols founded the Yuan dynasty (1271-1367AD)

thereby

making themselves the masters of China. Kublai Khan, having moved his capital from

Mongolia to Peking, adopted the Chinese dynastic name of Yuan. As a foreign ruler

over China, he built a strong central government in order to cement his authority. In

Peking he built the magnificent palace compound known as the Forbidden City. The

Chinese nobility having been barred from the every day running of government turned

their attention to the arts and literature. Because of this the arts and culture flourished

under the Yuan. The Mongols and Chinese spoke different languages and had different

customs. This cultural gap resulted in a more tolerant government than in previous

dynasties. Foreign religions were condoned and trade encouraged. Foreign merchants

became a privileged class. They were exempt from taxation and could travel freely

 

Western Liao 10 kwan note of the emperor Hsien Ch’ing (1136-1141 AD) entitled “Great Liao

Treasure Note”. The note depicts five silver sycee ingots of the “saddle” variety in the pictorial

rectangle. The text states: The counterfeiter shall summarily be decapitated and the captor of the said

counterfeiter be rewarded with 800 taels of silver.”

 

 

Kublai Khan, founder of the Yuan dynasty, became Great Khan in 1260. His reign lasted until

1294, when he was succeeded by a number of less able emperors.

 

throughout China. It was into this climate that Europe was formally introduced to China with the arrival of Marco Polo, the Venetian adventurer.

The Great Khan was so

impressed with the Italian that he made him an official in his court in 1275. During his

seventeen year stay in the court of Kublai Khan, Polo wrote his famous book The Book

of Marco Polo, Citizen of Venice, Wherein is Recounted the Wonders of the World,

which when published upon his return from Europe in the year 1296, gave incredulous

Europeans the first glimpse of the mysterious land known as Cathay.

Marco Polo set out to explore Central Asia and China in 1271, at the age of

seventeen, accompanied by his father and uncle, successful Venetian merchants. Their

travels took them first by sea to Asia Minor, then overland by camel caravan through

Persia, Afghanistan and on to the ancient Silk Road, which would lead them to the

Mongol capital. After crossing the Gobi desert, they entered China after a journey of

three years. There the Venetians presented themselves to the Great Khan at his summer

palace at Shang-fu, where they delivered letters of introduction from Pope Gregory X.

Marco immediately became a favorite of the Great Khan, who upon seeing

 

Marco Polo as he may have appeared during his seventeen year service in the Mongol court of Kublai

Khan. Polo was a great favorite with the exalted Khan who liked him and found him to be extremely

useful. Despite this, he was willing to let him go. Sensing difficult times ahead after the aging Khan’s

death, as these was no dynastic continuity under Mongol law, Polo seized upon a chance to return in

1292, proposing to escort the bride-to-be of a Persian prince as far as Tabriz. To this plan Kublai Khan

consented, using the opportunity to send friendly messages to the Pope and potentates of Europe.

Since the overland route Marco had used when traveling to China was menaced by war, the Venetians

chose to return to Italy by sea in a Chinese junk.

his mastery of the Mongol language entrusted him with various missions to the far

corners of his realm. Marco took careful notes of his travels noting down the geography

and customs of the Chinese people in detail. These facts became the basis of his

remarkable book which, when published, stunned a skeptical Europe. Most of the facts

contained in his narrative have been confirmed in the light of modern research. The

Polos returned to Venice by sea arriving there in 1295 after an absence of twenty-four

years.

Marco Polo was so impressed with the novelty of paper money that he devoted an

entire chapter to the subject in his book. He described in great detail the manner in

which it was made, authenticated and used in everyday commerce. It is worth our while

to quote several applicable paragraphs here:

Map of the Mongol Empire showing Marco Polo’s journeys throughout China.

“In this city of Kanbaluc (the Mongol capital, now Beijing) is the mint of the

Grand Khan. He may truly be said to possess the secret of the alchemists, as he

has the art of producing money by the following process. He causes the bark to

be stripped from mulberry trees, the leaves of which are used for feeding

silkworms, and takes from it that thin inner rind which lies between the coarser

bark and the wood of the tree. This being steeped, and afterwards being pounded

into a mortar, until reduced to a pulp, is made into paper . . . When ready for use,

he has it cut into pieces of money of different sizes, nearly square, but somewhat

longer than they are wide . . . . The coinage of this paper money is authenticated

with as much form and ceremony as if it were actually pure gold or silver. To

each note a number of officers, specially appointed, not only subscribe their

names, but affix their seals also. When all is duly prepared the chief official

smears the seal entrusted to him with vermilion, and impresses it upon the paper .

. . . When thus coined in large quantities, this paper currency is circulated in every

part of the Great Khan’s dominions; no person, at peril of his life, dares to refuse

to accept it in payment. All his subjects receive it without hesitation, because,

wherever their business may call them, they can dispose of it again in the

purchase of merchandise such as pearls, jewels, gold or silver. With it, in short,

every article may be procured.”

The Yuan was the shortest lived of all ancient Chinese dynasties. Despite this, it

was the one which relied most heavily upon paper money to sustain commerce. When

control over the government once again fell into Chinese hands in 1368, a mere one

hundred years had past.

Due to better record keeping and more surviving specimens, we know much more

about Yuan paper money than that of all preceding dynasties. Upon establishing their

dynasty, the Yuan followed the example of the Sung, Chin and others when issuing their

own paper money.

 

Frontispiece of the 1503 edition of Marco Polo’s book describing his travels throughout Asia (1275-

1292 AD).

Early references state that the first known Mongol paper money was issued by

Ghenghis Khan in 1227, prior to the establishment of the Yuan dynasty. These were

military notes referred to as “silk money”. The notes were of paper but the backing used

for them, instead of the traditional silver, consisted of bales of silk yarn, a commodity,

which served as a convenient reserve. By the later eleventh century silk notes had

spread as far as Persia where two surviving specimens were found by archaeologists in

1965.

Another early Mongol note was found in 1909 in a cave in the Tu-lu- pan

mountains in Sinkiang province. It is in the amount of 200 cash. The first line reads

“Great Yuan Circulating Treasure Note”. The note is dated in the T’sung-t’ung period,

which lasted but five years from 1260 to 1264. The original note was extensively

damaged when found, especially its margins, which were incomplete. This note was

first published by Wang Shunan in a book entitled Catalog of Antiquities of Sinkiang.

The author reproduced the note by his own hand as best he could. He noted that the note

measured 1 chi, 4 cun 5 fen long by 1 chi 1 fen wide, a very large size making it

comparable to other Yuan and Ming dynasty paper money. The pictorial presentation is

of two crossed strings of 100 cash. The note’s text states that it is to circulate

throughout the kingdom without time limitation. The counterfeiting warning is different

in that this note, instead of levying capital punishment upon the criminal, states that the

falsifier will be fined and forced to pay five ding. Wang Shunan’s line drawing is also

illustrated in A Compilation of Pictures of Chinese Ancient Paper Money together with

what appears to be the brass plate from which the original note was printed.

The first true Yuan notes appeared in 1287, the twenty-fourth year of the Chihyuan

era. Known as “Chih-yuan t’ung-hsing pao-ch’ao”, or Great Yuan General

Circulation Treasure Notes, they eventually became the universal currency for the entire

empire, circulating not only throughout China but also in Burma, Siam and Annam. The

1 kwan note of this series was considered to be the equivalent of 5 kwan in old notes

then in circulation. These notes came in two sizes – the lesser and the greater. Lesser

notes included denominations of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 copper cash; the greater 100, 200,

300,400, 500 cash, 1 and 2 kwan. These were almost certainly the paper money referred

to by Marco Polo in his writings. The March 1988 issue of the Bank Note Reporter

announced the discovery of a 2 kwan note of this series in the Hermitage Museum in

Leningrad, at that time still part of the old Soviet Union.

Brass plates used in the printing of Yuan dynasty Chih-yuan notes have also

surfaced. It is known that eight such plates, including ones for 200 cash and 2000 cash

(2 kwan), were discovered at an old mint site in north China during the Japanese

occupation of 1937-1945.

 The 2 kwan printing block measures 11 inches high by 8

inches wide and is 3/8th inch thick.

A description of the 2 kwan note follows: On the top line, “Great Yuan General

Circulation Treasure Note”. Below this is found the denomination “two kwan” together

with an illustration of two strings of 1000 cash. To the left of the illustration, in seal

writing, are found the words “to circulate under the heavens” (the known world).

(Remember, the Chinese considered themselves to be at the center of the universe!).

The lower panel is translated as follows: “The Board of Revenue and Rites, having

petitioned and received the imperial sanction, print for the convenient use of the people

the Great Yuan Treasure Note, to be current and used for copper cash. The counterfeiter

shall be summarily decapitated and the informer will receive 200 taels of silver. If

district officials conceal such guilt, their punishment shall be the same”. The

appropriate governmental seals were then applied to the face of the note. The notes

were gray in color with red seals affixed.

Another form of currency circulated side by side with Chih-yuan ch’ao notes.

These were military notes known as “Great Yuan Military Supplies Notes”. They were

used when purchasing supplies for the various banner divisions of the army.

Paper money comprised the major form of currency under the Yuan. Relatively

few coins were cast during this dynasty due to trading restrictions imposed upon copper

and precious metals. In 1350 Emperor Shun Ti’s finance minister tried to correct the

situation, however the coins produced were insufficient to satisfy demand. People

reverted to barter throughout China leaving the notes, which had accumulated in private

and government coffers, to become worthless.

Rebellions soon spread over the entire empire. To meet increasing military

expenditures, new notes were issued without reserves of any sort. A malignant inflation

resulted in which these notes also lost all value. When that happened, people were

forced to fall back and rely entirely upon their “square holes” (as copper coins were

commonly called) and barter. This condition prevailed until the end of the dynasty in

1368, hastening its demise. At the end, the enormous sums, which had been swindled

from the Chinese by the Mongol emperors, helped to hasten their defeat at the hands of

the Ming.

In Part II we shall conclude by discussing the ancient Chinese paper money of the

Ming dynasty.

 

Bronze plate recently discovered in Shansi province. This block was used in making “Chên-yu paoch’üan”

(Chen-yu treasure notes). These were the product of emperor Chang Tsung (1190- 1208 AD)

of the Chin dynasty. The Chin were Nuchen Tartars who preceded the Yuan dynasty.

 

Facsimile of a 200 cash note of the Yuan dynasty, and the brass plate from which it was made. One of

these notes was found in a cave in Sinkiang province in 1909. The note is over seven hundred years

old.

 

Yuan dynasty Chih-yuan ch’ao 2 kwan note. Notes of this series became the universal currency for all

of China, circulating throughout Burma, Siam and Annam as well. A 2 kwan note identical to this was

found in the vaults of the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad in 1987. This is almost certainly the type

of currency Marco Polo reported extensively on in his book of travels. The facsimile of this note is

lacking the two government seals used to authenticate it

 

ANCIENT CHINESE CASH NOTES – THE WORLD’S

FIRST PAPER MONEY

PART II

John E. Sandrock

Ming Dynasty Paper Money

In contrast to Yuan heavy reliance upon paper notes, the follow-on Ming and

Ch’ing dynasty economies were based principally upon copper cash coins and silver.

Paper money was occasionally issued by the Ming government; however little effort was

made to control and maintain its value. The first Ming paper money appeared in 1374,

the product of the Precious Note Control Bureau (the name was later changed to the

Board of Revenue) specifically set up for this purpose. The notes themselves were

called “Ta Ming T’ung Hsing Pao Ch’ao”, Great Ming Precious Notes. Emperor T’aitsu’s

reign title was Hung-wu. This nien-hao appeared on these notes and on successive

Ming issues, regardless of the fact that all Ming emperors had their own reign titles.

This was an honor given to the founder of the dynasty. Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih refers to

sixty different notes issued between 1368-1426. In all probability there were many

more.

 

From the beginning these notes were inconvertible and could not be exchanged

for coin. Notes of the Hung-wu reign (1368-1398AD) were issued in denominations of

100, 200, 300, 400, 500 and 1000 cash. One string of paper (1000 cash) was the

equivalent of 1000 copper coins or one ounce of pure silver. In 1389 smaller value

notes of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 cash were printed to facilitate trade. It is

reported that the mulberry bark paper used to make the T’ai-tsu notes was recycled from

the waste of government ministries and Civil Service examination papers. There were

three distinct issues of Ming notes as follows: all bearing the reign title “Hung-wu”.

 

These notes circulated throughout the entire kingdom.

1. Those of the emperor T’ai-tsu, issued in 1375AD

2. Those of emperor Ch’eng-tsu (1403-1424AD)

3. Those of emperor Jen-tsung, son of Ch’eng-tsu, issued in 1425AD

 

Reflecting the inflation then being experienced, Ch’eng-tsu paper money consisted of

notes denominated 1 through 20 kwan, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 kwan all bearing

pictorial presentations of the equivalent amount of cash coins, each coin representing

five cash. Various cloud and dragon designs adorned their borders. Their color was

gray.

 

 

Ming dynasty 200 cash note of the emperor T’ai Tsu, who took the reign title Hung Wu in 1368. The

pictorial presentation is of two strings consisting of ten 10 cash coins which were in circulation at that

time.

 

 

Ming dynasty 50 kwan note of Ch’eng Tsu (1403-1424 AD). The pictograph in the top rectangle

depicts ten five cash coins, representing currently circulating coins of the preceding Hung-wu era.

(Schjőth catalog numbers S-1156 and S-1157.)

 

The unfortunate Jen-tsung died shortly after ascending the throne. In the short

eight months of his reign, twenty denominations were emitted. Beginning with 10 cash,

they proceeded by tens to 100 cash and then by hundreds to 1000 cash. They were

known as Great Ming Military Administration Treasury Notes. Pictorial presentations

on this series consisted of the equivalent in strings of cash.

 

The value of all these notes rapidly declined, eventually to the point where the

people would not accept them. By the end of the century it took 35 strings to buy an

ounce of silver. Twenty years later it took 80 strings to buy an ounce. Erosion in the

value of paper escalated until by the mid 1400s an ounce of silver commanded 1000

strings in paper! Silver was rapidly supplanting paper as a medium of exchange. The

Great Ming Precious Notes gradually disappeared from commerce. After 1455 works

on Chinese history make no mention of them. In the last year of the Ming dynasty

(1643AD) a memorial was sent to the emperor proposing the revival of a paper

currency. Set forth in the memorial, were a list of ten arguments for a new paper

currency.

 

These advantages were cited as:

1. Paper money can be manufactured at a low cost

2. It can circulate widely

3. Being lightweight, it can be carried with ease

4. It can be readily concealed

5. Paper money is not divisible, like silver, into various grades

6. Paper money did not have to be weighed when used, as did silver

7. Dishonest money changers could not “clip” if for their own profit

8. It would not be exposed to the preying eyes of thieves

9. Should paper replace copper coins, the copper saved could be used for making

armaments

10.Should paper replace silver, the silver saved could be stored up by the

government

 

The proposal, however, was not adopted, as by that late date the government was too

weak to benefit from such a scheme. Chinese commerce was to exist without paper

money for the next four hundred years.

 

Without question, the Ming note most widely known, and perhaps the only

specimen available to collectors today, is the 1 kwan of emperor T’ai-tsu. Enough of

these notes have survived to be found in many museums and private collections. The

story of how they came to be preserved is an interesting one. As far as I can ascertain

most Ming 1 kwan notes available today came from two sources. The first of these

stemmed from an incident, which occurred during the Boxer Rebellion. In 1908 H. B.

 

Yuan dynasty 90 cash note of emperor Shun Ti (1333-1367 AD) at left, together with a Ming dynasty

1000 cash note of emperor Jen Tsung (1425 AD), right. Jen Tsung’s reign lasted but one year. Both

notes measure approximately 3 . by 8 . inches and depict strings of copper cash. Note the increase in

inflation during the 100 year interval between the release of these two specimens. From the Chinese

work entitled Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih.

 

Morse published a book entitled Trade and Administration of the Chinese Empire

containing a lithographic facsimile of the Ming 1 kwan note. In the book he gives a

complete description of the note together with translations of the Chinese characters

found on it. Morse also tells of the manner in which the note was acquired, which goes

as follows:

 

“This five hundred year old instrument of credit has a curious history furnishing

an absolute guarantee of its authenticity. During the foreign occupation of Peking

in 1900, some European soldiers had overthrown a sacred image of Buddha, in the

grounds of the Summer Palace. Deposited in the pedestal (as in the corner-stones

of our public buildings) were found gems and jewelry and ingots of gold and

silver and a bundle of these notes. Contented with the loot’s intrinsic value, the

soldiers readily surrendered the bundle of notes to a bystander, U.S. Army

Surgeon Major Lewis Seaman, who was unofficially present. He gave to the

Museum of St. John’s College in Shanghai the specimen which is here

reproduced”.

 

The second report concerning the discovery of Ming 1 kwan notes concerns the

Reverend Mr. Ballou, a long time missionary, who was born in China and resided there

until after World War II. Reverend Ballou states that he received his Ming note from his

friend L. Carrington Goodrich who had been associated with Yenching University in

Peking during the 1930s. Mr. Goodrich related that he acquired the note under the

following circumstances:

 

“Sometime in 1936 one of the walls surrounding Peking was torn down. When

the laborers got to the huge gate in the wall, they found to their surprise, a large

bale of 1 kwan Ming dynasty banknotes buried in the wall itself. After removing

the soiled and damaged notes, the workers sold the notes to those persons

standing around. Mr. Goodrich came upon his note at that time. He told

Reverend Ballou that he purchased two of them for a few coppers, which

amounted to just a few pennies.”

 

Inasmuch as the 1 kwan note is the only one likely to be found in collections

today and without a doubt the oldest piece of world paper money one can aspire to own,

it is perhaps worthy of detailed discussion. Translation of the principal inscriptions

found on the note are as shown in the accompanying panel diagram:

 

1. “Great Ming General Circulation Treasure Note”

2. “One kwan”

3. A pictorial presentation of ten strings of 100 cash (= 1000 cash =

1 kwan)

4. “Great Ming Treasure Note” in seal style characters

5. “To circulate for ever and ever under the heavens” in seal script

6. The lower panel text reads: “The Board of Revenue, having

petitioned and received the imperial sanction, prints the Great Ming Precious

Note, to be current and to be used as standard copper cash. The counterfeiter

shall be decapitated. The informant shall be rewarded with 250 taels of

silver, and in addition shall be given the entire property of the criminal.”

 

The last column of characters at the left of the bottom panel, show the date as: “Hungwu

era, …year, …month, …day”. The note was manufactured from recycled gray

mulberry bark paper. Two vermilion seals were impressed into the note by government

officials to authenticate it. The upper of these seals reads: “Seal of the Treasure Note of

the Great Ming Dynasty”; the lower of the two bears the inscription: “Seal of the Office

of the Superintendent of the Treasury”.

 

Ming dynasty 1 kwan note of the Hung-wu era (1368-1398). This large note, printed in gray mulberry

bark paper, measures 8 x 11 . inches. The two vermilion seals shown in the next illustration do not

appear on this prototype. This is the only ancient Chinese paper money likely to be found in private

collections today.

 

Two official government seals appear on the face of the Ming 1 kwan note. They were pressed into the

finished note with wooden blocks using vermilion ink, thereby authenticating it. These seals can still

be plainly seen on most 1 kwan specimens in collections today. The seal at upper left reads: “Seal of

the Great Ming Treasure Note”; the seal at right “Seal of the Office of the Superintendent of Treasure”.

At the bottom is a black seal which was placed on the reverse of the note to indicate its value. The ten

strings represent 1000 copper cash, which equaled 1 kwan.

 

Some Numismatic Observations

 

The first observation I would like to make concerns the definition of the term

“ancient Chinese paper money”. What exactly, is meant by “ancient”? For me the term,

when applied to our subject, encompasses those notes which relate to the earliest and

remotest periods in Chinese history. Since the ancient style notes continued to be

printed into the nineteenth century, this causes a problem. Paper money ceased to exist

in China after being repudiated by the masses during Ming dynasty times and was not to

be seen again for four hundred years. During the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1865),

emperor Hsien-feng again resorted to financing his wars with paper money resembling

its forbearers. Are these notes to be included? I think not, as the period encompassing

the nineteenth century can hardly be considered “ancient”. I bring this up as most

authors lump the Hsien-feng notes into the overall category of ancient notes. I have not.

The notes of the T’ai-ping Rebellion deserve discussion in their own right. Therefore, I

have chosen not to include them here.

 

My next observation concerns the failure on the part of modern day catalogers to

include these anciient notes in their works. The Standard Catalog of World Paper

Money makes reference to only two Ming notes. Why is this, when so much

information regarding their authenticity is available? Today we know that notes of the

Sung, Chin, Liao, Yuan and Ming dynasties have survived. Of the Tang dynasty flying

money or Posterior Chou and Western Hsia dynasty paper money I have no information

as to surviving specimens. Many un-cataloged notes may be found in museums and

private collections. Of those that no longer exist a great deal is known thanks to

surviving Chinese numismatic works and to archeological discoveries. Why then are

they not included? Is it because notes that are unique or no longer exist cannot be

collected and therefore do not deserve a place in our numismatic catalogs? Since

numismatists generally have a profound curiosity about the material they collect and a

deep appreciation for the history which these items represent, the hobby would greatly

benefit from their inclusion.

 

Some may be curious as to the value of these ancient notes. The answer is

simplicity itself – they are, with the sole exception of T’ai-tsu’s one kwan Ming note,

priceless. Many specimens known today are unique, others known to exist in only two

or three collections or museums. The only ancient note one could reasonably hope to

obtain today is the Ming 1 kwan note, due to the fortunate discoveries in 1900 and 1936

mentioned above. The price of a reasonable example, intact, completely legible and

with seals affixed that are still clearly discernable would command between $ 1,000 and

$1,500 on today’s market.

 

A discussion of ancient paper money would not be complete were one to ignore

the extensive counterfeiting of these notes, which was at all times an immense problem

for administrative officials. From the earliest known issues cash notes always carried a

clause in the text, which called for capital punishment – usually decapitation. Those who

covered up or condoned such crimes were to suffer the same fate. It was also stated in

the text that a reward would be paid to the informer of such acts. These rewards were to

be paid in silver taels, of varying amounts, depending upon the denomination of the note

counterfeited. It also appears that such rewards fluctuated with the severity of the

problem at any one point in time. In reality, punishment meted out to those who ran the

risk of falsifying banknotes varied widely during different periods.

 

 

When emperor Shin Tsung of the Posterior Chou ascended the throne in 915AD,

he was in great need of funds. He seized over 3350 monasteries and then gave orders to

melt all Buddhist bronze images found there so that they could be turned into cash. The

emperor declared that Buddha himself would raise no objection, having in his lifetime

given up so much for mankind. The shortage of money also caused the emperor to send

a fleet of junks to Korea to trade silk for copper with which to mint cash coins. Given

these drastic measures, it is not surprising that the Chou also resorted to paper. The

Chou counterfeiting clause reflected the mood of the times when it stated: “The

counterfeiter of this denomination – principal or conspirator irrespectively – shall be

immediately executed by the authorities of the district concerned and be exposed to

public view”.

 

During the Sung dynasty the punishment seems to have been limited to

banishment, although a case is on record reporting the public decapitation of one greedy

fellow who was caught with 250 counterfeit notes in his possession! During the

following Chin and Yuan periods the problem must have become more severe, as the

punishment reverted to decapitation. By Ming times paper money became so

depreciated and was so disliked by the peasants that local officials treated these

criminals more leniently, often letting the miscreant off with only a fine. One emission

of notes stated a desire to single out only the true offenders, offering amnesty to

accomplices who confessed their wrongdoing.

 

Several types of counterfeiting were prevalent. Of course, the most frequently

encountered were notes printed from counterfeit blocks or plates. Another form of

counterfeiting, known as “pasting”, consisted of notes that were pasted together from

bits of other notes so that one kwan became ten and so on. For this type of

counterfeiting the punishment was less severe than for printing.

 

A most original solution to the counterfeiting problem occurred in Sung times

after a large shipment of counterfeit money had been seized. During the discussion as to

what should be done with the counterfeiters, one court official stated that the current

policy of beheading the criminals and destroying their money was a mistake. He

proposed instead the following:

 

“If you put the official imperial stamp on the counterfeited paper, it will be just as good

as genuine paper. If you punish these men only by tattooing them, and circulate these

notes, it is exactly as if you saved each day 300,000 copper cash together with fifty

lives.” It is said that the proposition was adopted.

 

Lastly I would like to call to the reader’s attention to an anomaly I noted some

years ago when inspecting a specimen of the Ming 1 kwan note. It concerns the

depiction of strings of cash shown on the face and reverse of the note. As early as Sung

times representations of coins found their way onto their paper money counterparts. In

ancient times, when the majority of the population consisted of an illiterate peasantry, it

was necessary to identify the value of the paper money note by placing ideograms or

pictographs upon it which everyone could recognize. This practice was continued by

succeeding dynasties, up to and including the Ming.

 

Individual coins were sometimes depicted but more often, because the intrinsic

value of a single coin was so low, they were shown grouped together as strings, or

groups of strings. A standard string was theoretically composed of one thousand cash,

which were strung together to facilitate handing. Each string of one thousand cash coins

had the equivalent value of one ounce of pure silver.

 

When one examines the 1 kwan note of Hung-wu closely he finds a depiction of

what appears to be at first glance ten strings of ten coins each which must be considered

to be of 10 cash denomination. Thus ten strings x ten coins per string x 10 cash per coin

= 1,000 cash, or 1 kwan. In reality what is depicted are ten strings of 10 cash coins;

however on close examination we will find that there are only nine coins to a string.

Aha! This is interesting. Could it be a mistake on the engravers part? This cannot be

the answer as a check of other cash notes in this series reveals the same anomaly, i.e.,

only nine 10 cash coins per string, or 900 cash.

 

I have concluded, therefore, that the representation of only nine coins, or 90 cash

per string was deliberate. But how can 900 cash be the same as 1000 cash? The

explanation, I believe, lies in the fact that during the Hung-wu reign 900 cash passed for

1000; just as 770 cash represented a string in Sung dynasty times and 800 during the

Chin dynasty. In other words the government’s financial arm, the Board of Revenue,

must have set the relation of cash coin to the value of a string by decree. Thus the

official value of cash in the marketplace would vary from time to time.

 

 

As we have seen, the pictorial representations of cash seen on ancient Chinese

banknotes are highly picturesque, tending more to reality than surrealism. One may

therefore conclude that the imagery of the coins contained in each string actually

 

This blow-up of the strings of cash depicted on the Ming 200 cash note of Hung-wu reveals but nine 10

cash coins per string, not the ten one would expect. Ten strings of ten coins each representing 10 cash

would equal 1000 cash, or one ounce of silver, otherwise known as 1 kwan. This was the official ratio

of cash to an ounce of silver. A depiction of nine 10 cash coins per string is found on all Ming dynasty

notes of 100 cash and above. So why are there only nine coins per string? There is an explanation!

On lower Ming denominations face value was depicted, not to represent the “official” ratio, but rather

what the note could be exchanged for in the marketplace.

 

 

 

depicted the real thing. If this is so, one must ask: “What exact coin was being

represented”? It would have to be a 10 cash piece, which circulated side-by-side with

paper money. Ming coinage production consisted overwhelmingly of one cash “square

holes” augmented occasionally by value “two’s”, “three’s” and “fives”. But, what of the

value “ten” cash pieces? A close examination reveals that the Ming Board of Revenue

minted ten cash pieces on only three occasions. The first of these was during the Tachung

era (1364-1367AD), and the second during the Hung-wu era (1368-1398AD).

The final Ming 10 cash coin issue appeared late in the dynasty (1621-1627AD) under

the reign period of T’ien-ch’i.

Ming 10 cash coin of the Hung-wu reign (1368-1398 AD) together with six reverses depicting the

value as “ten cash of a tael” (upper left) and five other coins with mint marks representing Nanking,

Honan, Peking, Chekiang and Fukien. This coin was most certainly the one represented on Ming

dynasty notes.

 

 

Since the 1 kwan Ming note states that it was sanctioned by emperor T’ai Tsu for

release under the Hung-wu reign title, the earliest date during which Hung-wu 1 kwan

paper money circulated would have been the year 1368. From this extrapolation we can

eliminate the 10 cash pieces of the T’ien-ch’i era, since they did not enter circulation

until almost three hundred years later. That leaves us with the ten cash pieces of the Tachung

and Hung-wu eras, either of which could have been the coins represented by the

pictograms. More than likely the contemporary coins of Hung-wu were those shown in

these illustrations, those whose legend reads “Hung-wu t’ung-pao” (current money of

Hung-wu). If this be so, we have narrowed our identification down to a series of six 10

cash pieces minted from 1368-1398AD. All bear the character “shih” (ten) on their

reverse. One specimen has in addition the characters “yi-liang” (one tael). When read

together the inscription reads “10 cash of a teal”, much as we would say “10 cents of a

dollar”. The remaining five specimens vary only by the position of the “shih” and the

location of the mint mark – “ching” for Nanking, “yu” for Honan, “Pei-ping” for the Peip’ing

Fu mint in Chihli, “che” for Chekiang and “fu” for the Fukien mint. These coins

are identified in Schjoth’s catalog The Currency of the Far East as

S1158-S1163. I believe these 10 cash pieces to be those appearing in the pictorial

representations found on Ming dynasty paper money.

 

 

In the field of paper money research there is probably more yet to be discovered

among ancient Chinese cash notes than in any other area. There is no doubt that

additional discoveries will be forthcoming from yet to be exploited archaeological sites.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bank Note Reporter: “Kublai Khan Currency – World’s Oldest –

Discovered in Russian, Chinese Museums”,

Bank Note Reporter, Iola, Wisconsin,

Krause Publications, Vol. 16, March 1988

Bodde, Derk: China’s Gifts to the West, Washington, D.C., 1942,

American Council on Education

Davis, Andrew McFarland: Certain Old Chinese Notes, Boston, 1915,

George Emery Littlefield Company

Davis, Andrew McFarland: Ancient Chinese Paper Money as Described in a

Chinese Work on Numismatics, Boston,

1918, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Glathe, Harry: “The Origin and Development of Chinese Money”, The

China Journal, Shanghai,

Vol. XXX, March-April 1939

Inner Mongolian Numismatic A Compilation of Pictures of Chinese

Research Institute: Ancient Paper Money, Beijing, 1987,

The China Finance Publishing House

Kann, Eduard: “Copper Banknotes in China”, Far Eastern

Economic Review, Hong Kong, Vol. XXVII, January

1958

Kann, Eduard: “The History of Chinese Paper Money”,

Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong,

Vol. XXII, March, 1957

Lu, Shibai: “Forged Notes of the Tang Dynasty”, Chinese Banknote

Collectors Society Bulletin, Kenelworth, Illinois, Vol.3

Nr. 1, March, 1984

Morse, H. B.: “Currency in China”, Journal of the North China Branch

of the Royal Asiatic Society, Number 38, 1907

Sandrock, John E.: Copper Cash and Silver Taels, Baltimore

Maryland, 1995, Gateway Press, Inc.

Smith, Ward D. and Chinese Banknotes, Menlo Park

Matravers, Brian: California, 1970, Shirjieh Publishers

Sten, George J.: Banknotes of the World, Menlo Park, California, 1967,

Shirjieh Publishers

Ting, S. P.: A Brief Illustrated History of Chinese Military Notes

and Bonds, 1982, Taipei,

Chung Hsiao Printing Company

Yang, Lien-sheng: Money and Credit in China, a Short History,

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1952, Harvard

Yenching Institute

Yu-Ch’uan, Wang: Early Chinese Coinage, New York, 1951,

The American Numismatic Society

Williams, S. Wells: “Paper Money Among the Chinese”, T’ung Pao,

Society of Oriental Numismatics, Iowa City, Iowa, Vol.

1, Nr.2, 1975

THE END @COPYRIGHT 2012

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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 co