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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Other Types of Ancient Coins (Moderators: Bacchus, crawforde)  |  Topic: Coinage of China 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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ROMA
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« on: December 07, 2007, 02:03:59 pm »

One aspect of ancient coinage that remains a bit of a mystery to me is the coinage of ancient China. On the Mediterranean and in western and central regions of Asia, many kinds of round gold and silver coins were produced, however, in ancient China, the vast majority of coins were made of bronze and often in various unique shapes. Infact, I've read that gold coins were produced, but ive never actually seen one. If they did produce coins from precious medals they must have been in very small numbers. How did they(or did they not at all) conduct trade with the west with this currency? With it being so different from the west and central asia's, and the use of bronze for coins I'd think this would create some problems. btw does anybody here own any silver/gold currency from China from ancient times, id really like to see it if someone does!
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« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2007, 03:38:52 pm »

Trade obviously did occur, and the odd Roman coin has turned up in China. I've never heard of Chinese coins turning up in a Roman context though; does anyone know whether they circuated outside China? i suppose it's possible that external trade was paid for in bullion rather than coin.
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« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2007, 07:33:23 pm »

I believe the usurper Wang Mang was the first to "use gold in coinage" around 8 AD, with gold inlay on his "5000 value" knife money. Here's an example. None of his attempts to reorganize the currency were popular or successful, and none survived him.

I believe the Tang dynasty  were first to issue "silver coins" in the normal sense of the word, in the 600's AD. There are a couple listed over on zeno.ru, like this one. They look just like the regular copper Kai Yuan Tong Bao cash coins of the period and were made the same way, by casting. They were probably made as ceremonial gifts, ratehr than an attempt to provide silver currency. Apparently, gold ones were made as well, but these are listed in the catalogues as "very rare".

Precious metal coinage never really caught on, though other base metals (such as iron) were used in copper-poor regions. For the most part, the Chinese left precious metals in the hands of the merchants until the late 19th century.

As for coins crossing between Rome and China, don't forget there was basically no direct trade or contact between the two empires; goods travelled via intermediate nations in south and central Asia. For the most part, these intermediaries would have sent Roman coins back west, and Chinese coins back east. Any Roman silver coins arriving in China would have been treated as bullion; any Chinese copper cash would have been treated as souvenirs and curiosities, or scrap metal.
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« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2007, 12:47:48 pm »

We can't think in terms of the modern concept of exchange rates between different currency areas. As Sap said, any Roman silver or gold coins reaching China or anywhere else outside the Roman empire, would have been treated as bullion.

In any case, long distance trade would involve the selling of a cargo at a foreign port and the immediate purchase of a cargo to carry home, so that little money would move between the two trading partners.
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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2007, 06:46:14 pm »

Obviously a Roman coin would be treated as buillion in China. Anyways, keep in mind there were much closer nation states to China that did use gold and silver coinage to conduct trade. By the way the "gold" example you gave was not gold but rather brass. If you look at the desription it even says "AE" The other example from the Tang dynasty, as far as i know they have only been found in tombs and served an ornamental purpose and did not circulate as coins. One observer even questions whether that example is infact silver or just plated. So what exactly did the Chinese government use to trade with their closer Western neighbors, like in the meso region?
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Howard Cole
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« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2007, 04:12:29 am »

Silk, bronze objects (pots, drums, etc.), and excellent porcelain.  Silver and gold were also traded but as a commodity.    It was more of a barter system, than using money to buy things.  Usually the Chinese traded for silver which was accepted for large transactions in China and by the government.  It was usually made into scyee igots, which had makers marks, purity marks, and other marks (but not always).  The value of a scyee igot was determined by weight and purity, but was not issued or controlled by the government.

Silver was also important because of its symbolic value.  It color was related to the moon, but I really do not remember all of the symbolic value of silver in Chinese culture.  The Chinese were also interested in jade, which again had important symbolic values in China.  They traded with many kingdoms in Southeast Asia (Burma and Thailand) for jade.

As for gold, it was mainly used for decoration in China as far as I know.  The gold inlay in Wang Mang period was on bronze coins, both key and knife coins.  It was an inlay and more for an indication of value (i.e. decoration).

The Chinese also traded with their neighbors for horses!  They really valued good horses too.
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« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2007, 06:25:17 am »

Thanks Howard! I figured silk and bronze had to be in the equation. I do remember reading something about a western european government in the middle ages that was conducting trade with china and had to send all pure silver because there was nothing else they would take.
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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2007, 08:11:45 pm »

Bronze coins, like Wu Zhu and Kai Yuan, were discovered outside China along Silkroad and also in south-east asia. I guess one reason that these coins were not widely accepted in Roman is because Chinese coins were made of base metal and a high portion of cost goes to labor, people from other countries were not willing to pay for the laboring fee. Also they are too heavy to carry for a long distance.
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leseullunique
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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2008, 09:23:59 am »

Dear all

Chinese people did use gold on money before1711 BC during  shang dynasty.

some example are know (10 where find in same place and an article where write about it in march 2008 by Yang Boda in Arts of Asia magazine)



many bronze gold plated substitutes cowries are also know.

I have personnaly in my own collection 3 different silver substitutes cowries but they are verry expensives, you can see similar on

here
here
here
 
During Zhou dynasty,


During Spring and Automn period (770-475 BC) silver where used to make some hollow head spade, the are extremely rare, I never saw it, I only have writing of a french expert but no pictures...

During warring states kingdom period (475-221 BC) gold where used by CHU kingdom to make gold block money

During Western HAN dynasty (206 BC-7 AD) wher minted some BAN LIANG with gold or gold plated but I don't have any picture

During Wang Mang reign (7-23 AD) gold where forbidden in 7 AD and authorized again in 10 AD but after that gold in only used for burial money, palace coin and decoration because most of old chinese dynasty did used a single system: 1 coin is 1 coin, weight and diameter wasn't important.

some writing of QIN dynasty (221-206 BC) explain clearly that.

the only important thing a that time was the writing so we can find

-spade like AnYi Yi Jin (1 jin of AnYi) AnYi Er Jin (2 jin of AnYi) (Zhou dynasty)
-round coin san Zhu (3 Zhu) Si Zhu (4 Zhu) Wu Zhu (5 zhu) (Han Dynasty)

some gold coins are for sale on ebay by ONLY LINDA.


Note than during 3 reform of Wang Mang reign, gold where changed as 1 cattie (120grams) = 10.000 Wu Zhu so gold was a real money not a single writing on a knife coin Wink


 



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Howard Cole
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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2008, 03:37:03 pm »

What the question is, Is did the Chinese use gold coinage?  This is different from using it as moneyMoney is use as a store or wealth and exchange.  Coins are pieces of metal that have a mark on them that make them official over a given area for exchange, and they can be used for a store of wealth.  It really is hard to define a coin.  For example, does a coin need intrinsic value, i.e. made of a certain amount of gold and silver?  Some people say yes and others say no.  Some people believe that if the coin does not have a value that is separate from the state value on it, the coin is a token (I disagree with this view).  The other major question is what constitutes an official mark?  Usually it is a mark put on the item that can be recognized by others as belonging to some government or governing body.  Finally a coin needs some system of value.  In ancient Greek and Roman coinage, this was done by the weight of the coin and the material it was made of.  Later, marks were placed on coins giving their value, especially in the Byzantine period.

A lot of what you propose for gold, in your message, does meet the definition of money but not being a coin.

Dear all

Chinese people did use gold on money before1711 BC during  shang dynasty.

some example are know (10 where find in same place and an article where write about it in march 2008 by Yang Boda in Arts of Asia magazine)



many bronze gold plated substitutes cowries are also know.

I have personnaly in my own collection 3 different silver substitutes cowries but they are verry expensives, you can see similar on

here
here
here


These are not coins because they have no official mark them.  Also what is there unit of value?  We really don't know.  Also, couldn't this be considered a form of decoration since we don't know how they were used?  They might have been sewn on clothing or worn as jewelry.
 

Quote
During Zhou dynasty,


During Spring and Automn period (770-475 BC) silver where used to make some hollow head spade, the are extremely rare, I never saw it, I only have writing of a french expert but no pictures...
This could be a form of money depending on the marks on the hollow head spades.  Of course some people do not consider this coins but rather as proto-coins, or other forms of primitive money.

Quote

During warring states kingdom period (475-221 BC) gold where used by CHU kingdom to make gold block money


These might be considered gold coins since they do have official marking on them.  But do they follow a standard weight system?  If not, they are not coins, but official gold bullion.  If they do, I would consider them gold coins.  This is the same problem that occurs with some Islamic silver "coins", were a weight standard is not followed.  Many experts do not consider this silver "coins" as coins but bullion with a guarantee of finest by the official marks on them.

Quote
During Western HAN dynasty (206 BC-7 AD) wher minted some BAN LIANG with gold or gold plated but I don't have any picture
If gold plated, these are not gold coins.

Quote
During Wang Mang reign (7-23 AD) gold where forbidden in 7 AD and authorized again in 10 AD but after that gold in only used for burial money, palace coin and decoration because most of old chinese dynasty did used a single system: 1 coin is 1 coin, weight and diameter wasn't important.

some writing of QIN dynasty (221-206 BC) explain clearly that.
Didn't some coins have different values?  Depending on their size and marks on them?  I don't have my references right now, so I can't check on this, but I am certain that there were coins with different values that depended on size and their inscription.

Quote
the only important thing a that time was the writing so we can find

-spade like AnYi Yi Jin (1 jin of AnYi) AnYi Er Jin (2 jin of AnYi) (Zhou dynasty)
-round coin san Zhu (3 Zhu) Si Zhu (4 Zhu) Wu Zhu (5 zhu) (Han Dynasty)
Not sure what you mean by the above.  The Zhou dynasty exchange rate does seem to refer to gold, but these could have been bronze coins with that value written on them.  With out a description or picture of the item, it really is hard to tell.

Quote
some gold coins are for sale on ebay by ONLY LINDA.
I couldn't find any.  I will have to contact her and see if she has.  I know she is a regular poster on Zeno and has many unusual items.

Quote
Note than during 3 reform of Wang Mang reign, gold where changed as 1 cattie (120grams) = 10.000 Wu Zhu so gold was a real money not a single writing on a knife coin Wink

Of course gold was used as money by the Chinese.  No one is saying it was not.  What we are discussing is "Did the Chinese make gold coins?"  Which is different from rather gold was used as a unit of exchange.  For example, I have some gold that has official marks on it and is in coin shape, but it is not a coin.  I would be stupid to exchange a U.S. gold eagle, with a value mark of $50 on it, for its marked value and not for its value of one ounce of gold.  This gold item falls into a gray area. Is it a coin or is it bullion?  Because its value is much less than its ntrinsic value, I would consider it bullion, with a guarantee of content by a government, a certain weight and finest of gold.
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leseullunique
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« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2008, 11:09:38 pm »

Dear Friend,

I agree, substitutes cowries can be anything els than coin but don't forget than it was used in China until Tang dynasty so it was a money and we know that...

[the hollow head spade are coins, the writing are evidences some have value and others city name ...

The Chu gold block money have basis weight, the chinese people did cast a big gold ingot and used a awl to make the writing (it's the only coins in antique chine how was striked ) after that they did cut it to pay.

some Ban Liang are gold, not gold plated...

Quote
Quote
During Wang Mang reign (7-23 AD) gold where forbidden in 7 AD and authorized again in 10 AD but after that gold in only used for burial money, palace coin and decoration because most of old chinese dynasty did used a single system: 1 coin is 1 coin, weight and diameter wasn't important.

some writing of QIN dynasty (221-206 BC) explain clearly that.
Didn't some coins have different values?  Depending on their size and marks on them?  I don't have my references right now, so I can't check on this, but I am certain that there were coins with different values that depended on size and their inscription.

Quote
the only important thing a that time was the writing so we can find

-spade like AnYi Yi Jin (1 jin of AnYi) AnYi Er Jin (2 jin of AnYi) (Zhou dynasty)
-round coin san Zhu (3 Zhu) Si Zhu (4 Zhu) Wu Zhu (5 zhu) (Han Dynasty)
Not sure what you mean by the above.  The Zhou dynasty exchange rate does seem to refer to gold, but these could have been bronze coins with that value written on them.  With out a description or picture of the item, it really is hard to tell.

please read all the text before cut, I did say dimension and weight, wasn't important I didn't say writing is not important!

here is a chinese burial gold coin sold by onlylinda, he is a great chinese coin expert! [Broken link removed by Admin]

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Howard Cole
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« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2008, 12:25:47 am »

Leseullunique, I am not disagreeing with you about the cowries being used as money, but being used as money does not make them a coin.

Again, there is some dispute about the hollow head spade being coins by the many people.  In most collections they are considered "unusual and curious money", more a form of primitive money, and are not listed as coins.  This is mainly a discussion about terms, since hollow head spades are considered to be money.

The Ban Liang, if made of gold may have been a coin.  Again, all of my references are packed so I can not check on this.  Again, these may have been presentation pieces, as some Roman gold medals were, and are not considered coins.  I really don't know about these or the Chu gold block money.  They may have been coins.  I really don't know and would would need an expert or two to comment on this.

The Only Linda coin looks like it was struck in the Qing Dynasty between 1662-1722.  This does not seem to have been for general circulation.  Only Linda states, "This is the gold coin which the noble included in the mouth after dying in Qing Dynasty."  This might not meet the definition of a coin since they have to circulate in the general population.

I am not arguing that the Chinese did not use gold or silver as money.  Of course they did.  Again the question is did they have gold and silver coins in ancient times.  The Qing coin I would not consider ancient.
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leseullunique
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« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2008, 10:31:06 am »

Dear Howard,

I did speak about it with Francois Thierry and informations I post here are many from him. He did also help me about some coins and item. The best advice I can give you is to read his books and articles if you can understand french of course Wink he does speak about the hollow head silver spade in Monnaies de Chine I. L'antiquité préimpériale.

Gold was just used in early China (from Warring state period to Wang Mang) after that, Gold is just for decoration, burial coin and palace coins (see my first post, I did explain it).

I have about 1200 chinese coins and some mould and mother moulds in my collection ( I did began this collection 15 years ago) I also have about 45 books like references and most of them listed hollow head spades, the only books how don't speak about it are schotj, rammsden, special coinage books (about Ban Liang, Wu Zhu or Kai Yuan Tong Bao), books about mould (Qin Han Qian Fan) and books about recent chinese coins (from Tang to Qing)

The best book actually is Cast Chinese coins by David Hartill, most old and ancient chinese coins are listed but beware, prices aren't right (for example Qi knifes with 3 character listed in Hartill's book $150 is now at least $2000 on chinese market!)

If you become membre of zeno, you will have possibility to speak of it with many experts (ONLYLINDA, nijigaoka, SS, vladimir suchy,...)

an other site is a new forum opened in january www.ona319.com many expert (like onlylinda, nijigaoka and david hartill) are member

just for your information, I'm mbriac on zeno Wink
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leseullunique
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« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2008, 10:57:35 am »

I just discovered 1 selling site with many ancient gold coins

here is link: http://www.sixbid.com/nav.php?p=viewsale&sid=29&cid=287&s=b

and I did forget than gold was also used from Song to Qing with wycee ingots Wink
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Howard Cole
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« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2008, 02:31:41 pm »

Sycee ingots are not coins.  Yes, the gold Ban-Liang and Huo Quan are most likely coins, but it depends on how they were used.  You are still getting the definition of a coin mixed up with money.  A coin is a form of money, but not its only form. 

I an not disagreeing with you about the Chinese using gold.   Of course they did.  The question was about did the ancient Chinese use gold in the form of coins.  From the examples you have provided, they may have.  Of course the other examples of gold on the page you linked to are for burial and are not coins, but tokens.

As I said before, it is hard to define exactly what is a coin.  Yes, it must be made of metal.  Yes, it must have some official government stamp on it.  Yes, it must be seen as having some value by those that use it. Finally, it must circulate freely among the people.  I think the last thing that a coin must do is the main problem with Chinese gold coins.  I don't think they circulated, but I could be wrong on this.  It is the same for modern "gold coins."  They really are not coins any more because they do not circulate among the public, not like the gold coins before the early 20th century.
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« Reply #15 on: April 03, 2008, 10:12:27 pm »

You are right, the gold coins in china didn't circulate.

The only gold coins which circulate a little is the chu gold block but they are extremely rare and most of them where find in  noble homes and castle
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« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2008, 10:09:13 am »

Whoever is offering 3 character Qi knives for $2000??? Are you sure its US$. Even the rarer Qi knives don't make ytthat sort of money!

As a general point, one should not be drawing conclusions about the use of gold by the Zhou Chinese from one-off items of dubious authenticity.

Regards,

Davide 
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leseullunique
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« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2008, 12:26:15 pm »

Dear Sir,

It's a real honor to speak with somebody who have so many knowledge than you, I'm a real fan of you book "chinese cast coins" and I use it as basis for classification of my collection.

My informations are from ONLY LINDA, he did post it some weeks ago in topic "Qi Fa Hua rev Ji" on ona319.com.

Quote
This is one of the coin that the price rises quickestly at present in China. In 2000-2003, Cost RMB1000-1500Yuan can buy one good 3 characters knife, The price is RMB15000 yuan(about $2150) in China now .I wonder very much a lot of ebay buyers buy the 3 characters knife of $10-100 in ebay.

He did also say (still on ona319 in same topic)

Quote
The 6 characters knife of knock-down price had already exceeded $20,000 dollars 3 years ago. The 4 characters knives have some different varieties, the price is different too. about $5000-10000.
Because the demand for the Qi large knives of China is larger, some dealers buy from foreign countries. For example: Japan auction. Qi large knives were all bought by Chinese.

I did order him in january some rare and expensives coins (needle type knive, round foot spade, slopping shoulders hollow head spade, small square shoulders hollow head spade, chu spade, chu gold block, qi knive, zhongshan knife) so I will pay $2000 for Qi knife Wink

If you go to see on this site (ona319), you will see some item I will buy him like the Jin roud foot spade, the needle type knife and 2 4zhu ban liang stone mould.

Can you say me what are the items of dubious authenticity?

Best regards

Michaux Briac (leseullunique on ebay and here, mbriac on zeno.ru and briac on ona319.com)
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