China and the Orient

400 B.C. to 1795 A.D.

The first known dynasty in China, the Shang, ruled between 1600 BC to 1030 BC. They were replaced by the Chou until 771 BC when the system disintegrated into a hundred separate and warring political units. Coinage was introduced by 600 BC, if not before. It consisted of Knife money, spade money and round coins with square holes - perhaps representing the top bit of knife money, which had a hole for suspension. In all cases the coinage was cast, unlike most of the rest of the world which had struck coinage. The round coins retained a similar design right down to the 19th century (AD). Confucius taught between 551 and 479 BC.

Under the Ch'in dynasty (255 - 206 BC), a centralised state was achieved. The Great Wall of China was started in this period. It was intended to keep out Hun invaders. Invasion from the north was to be a theme throughout the history of China.

After the Ch'in, China was mainly divided again, with many different dynasties in the ascendency at any given time. The Sui dynasty (581 - 617 AD) managed to reunify China. The T'ang dynasty (618 - 917 AD) continued their work reorganising the administration of the empire. This was the golden age of China. Barbarians to the north, in the form of Turks and Uighurs, continued to hammer on the gates and in 751 the Chinese were beaten by an Arab army.

Following the T'ang, China once again split apart. The Sung dynasty (960 - 1279) managed to re-unite it again. Printing was invented in this period. In 1126, the Tatar Chin dynasty conquered northern China but between 1211 and 1234, they had been overrun by the Mongols. Under Kublai Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, the rest of China was swallowed up (Yuan dynasty 1271 - 1368). In 1368, the Mongols were ousted and the Ming dynasty began.

China Bibliography

Click on image for more details and history
Chou (Zhou) dynasty
c. 400 BC
Fish 'money'
Yen, Chou & Chi
c. 400 BC to 255 BC
Ming Knife
Chou (Zhou) dynasty
300-220 BC
"one-knife" Cash
Western Han Dynasty
c. 200 BC - 140 BC
1/2 Liang
Wang Mang
14 AD - 23 AD
Spade (1000 zhu)
Wang Mang
14 AD - 23 AD
Bronze 5 zhu
Eastern Han dynasty
Ling Ti 168 AD - 188 AD
Bronze Wu(5) Zhu
Northern Qi: Wen Hsuan Ti
(Kao Yang) 550 AD - 557 AD
Bronze constant equity 5-Shu
Western Wei
550 AD - 559 AD
Wu Zhu (5 Zhu)
Tang Dynasty: Kao Tsu (Li Yuan)
618 AD - 626 AD
Bronze Kai Yuan
Southern Tang: Yuan Zu (Li Jing) 954-961 AD
Bronze 1 Cash
South Han: Emperor Lie Zu (Liu Yan)
917 - 942 AD
Lead 1 Cash
Northern Song: Emperor Shen Zong
1078 - 1085 AD
Bronze 1 Cash
Northern Song: Emperor Shen Zong
1078 - 1085 AD
Iron 2 Cash
Southern Song: Emperor Gao Zong
1127 - 1162 AD
Bronze 2 Cash
Western Xia: Ren Zong
1139-1193 AD
Iron 1 Cash
Jin:Emperor Wan Yan Liang
1156-1151 AD
Bronze 1 Cash
Yuan Mongols: Zu Zong (Khaishan)
1308 - 1311 AD
Bronze 10 Cash
Ming Dynasty: Tai Zu
1368 - 1398 AD
Bronze 1 Cash
Ming Dynasty: Xi Zong (Hui Tsung)
1368 - 1398 AD
Bronze 10 Cash
Ming rebel: Wu Sangui
c. 1674 - 1678 AD
Bronze 1 Cash
Qing Dynasty: Gao Zong
1736 - 1795
Bronze 1 Cash
Vietnam: Le Thanh Ton
1460 - 1497
Bronze 1 Cash