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History of Chinese coins, currency and paper money

History of Chinese Money

Cowrie shells used as dice for games of chance in Tamil culture சோழி/சோவி. This throw indicates a roll of 3.
Image by Sodabottle ➚ available under a Creative Commons license ➚

Chinese currency

China has a identical long tradition of using coins. The like design of neologism lasted 2,000 years and it was the first nation to introduce paper money. early forms of currency have been used including a ‘ bolt of silk ’ in foreign trade had a standard monetary prize and government officials used to be paid in sacks of rice ( chinese measure dàn 担 ). For many centuries remote communities bartered crops at markets preferably than using money. The quality and value of neologism reflected the fortunes of the regnant dynasty, a decay in fortunes led to devalued and adulterate currency.



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Cowrie shells

Cowrie shells were used as currentness bet on in the Shang dynasty. The cowrie can still seen in characters for precious things ; Bèi 贝 [ Old shape 貝 ] means shells or valuables. The character is used as a group in the taiwanese words for jiàn 贱 ( brassy ; despicable ) 贵 guì ( cute ; expensive ; estimable ) ; 买 mǎi ( buy ) [ Old form 買 ] ; 卖 mài ( sell ) ; sì 赐 ( lend ) and cái 财 ( riches ; valuables ). The shells credibly came from either the South China Sea or the amerind Ocean. As they are rare, can not be forged and do not occur in China the come of money was tightly controlled. Cowrie shells continued to be used in outside confederacy western areas up to the Ming dynasty .

Cash coins

Bu coins (spade money) of the Zhou Dynasty, China.
Image by Zhou Yi, Dser available under a Creative Commons license ➚
As far back as the western Zhou dynasty [ c. 1000BCE ], China used metallic coins. Advanced taiwanese bronze craft provided the engineering for the accurate cast of coins. adenine many as 80 coins were cast at a prison term using a cast made of clay, stone, boldness or sand. The individual coin molds were interconnected in the kind of a ‘coin tree ‘. Initially bronze replica of cowrie shells were produced before going on to produce castings of modest spades ( 布币 bù bì ) and knives ( 刀币 dāo bì ). Another form used in the Warring States period was cycle money : 圆钱 yuán qián with a round hole, probably modeled on hack 璧 bì rings .
Ancient Chinese coins. Image by mc559 ➚ available under a Creative Commons license ➚
The establish Qin dynasty Emperor Shihuangdi standardized money, along with everything else, when he introduced the 半两 bàn liǎng ‘ half tael ’ ( equivalent to 12 铢 zhū ) mint. It had a criterion burden in the shape of a polish disk with a square hole. This shape of coin remained in use up to the twentieth hundred. He besides divided all currency between gold/silver : 上币 shàng bì and bronze : 下币 xià bì. The square central hole allows the coins to be handily and safely strung together ( the earlier knife and spade currency much had a hole for the same reason ). The supreme headquarters allied powers europe symbolizes the union of heaven ( round ) and earth ( squarely ). The copper coins were cast in a bronze model and had two or four characters inscribed on them. A thousand coins strung together divided into ten groups of 100 were the next unit of currency as ‘ a string of cash ’ 吊 diào. The string would be braided quite than a unmarried analogue string. however care was needed in counting as unscrupulous traders would make strings with a few as 83 coins alternatively of 100 .

wuzhi coin, money, coinwuzhi coin, money, coin
Ancient Chinese coins. Image provided by David Hartill ➚

盈 È guàn mǎn yíng If evil was placed like disk on a string it would be always be full. Evil is all around. traditionally coins had holes in them and they were strung together. As with many other Qin reforms the following Han dynasty revised rather than replaced the currentness. A much lighter coin, the 五铢 wǔ zhū was introduced in 118BCE, retaining the lapp human body with a standard weight [ a Zhu is a standard of weight ]. The value was fixed so that 1 jin of gold coins was equal to 10,000 bronze wu zhu coins .
however, during the Han dynasty the weight of the ban liang coins diminished to in some cases 1/30th of the weight they should have been and a assortment of forms were produced. Emperor Liu Heng ( Wendi ) in 175BCE relieved a deficit of coins by licensing private mints, bringing great wealth to owners of copper mines, who then flooded the market which inescapably led to devaluation of the currentness. The following Emperor Wudi ( 187-180BCE ) reintroduced the state monopoly and licenses for minting coins, but much illegal neologism was still produced. As a desperate measurement Wudi introduced money made from pieces of rare white spy ’ second pelt thus he had the monopoly of its supply. This novelty soon failed sol he then introduced silver alloyed with tin as ‘ white coins ’. The circulation of illegitimate coins was finally solved by restoring parity bit of rate for their weight in copper and so there was no benefit in forging coins any longer .
wuzhi coin, money, coinwuzhi coin, money, coin
Ancient Chinese coins. Image provided by David Hartill ➚
Wang Mang ( 9-23CE ) introduced standard exchange rates between cowrie shells, bolts of fabric and other currencies. He insisted all amber was exchanged for bull. He amassed more aureate than was at that time in the whole of Europe and this was one reason that Emperor Tiberius ➚ forbade the purchase of silk with gold. however his close control over money provision restrict economic activity. He introduced many new types and values of coins including some fine, high value neologism in the shape of knives inlaid with gold. When the Eastern Han dynasty ousted Wang Mang the stove of neologism was simplified and the wuzhu was re-established as the main neologism .
The character for money is

qián it is composed of two elements: the radical on the left side is for gold; metal:

and the right part is for spear:

gē; together they give the impression of metal being split up which is very appropriate for metal coins.

In the watch period of Disunity small kingdoms and unretentive lived dynasties created their own neologism. At the prison term of the Sui moment union of China, Emperor Wendi reintroduced a standard Wuzhu mint – the隋五铢 suí wǔ zhū. then Emperor Wudi minted the kai yuan tong bao 开元通宝 which was no longer of standard burden, they were besides known as 开元通宝 kāi yuán tōng bǎo, 重宝 zhòng bǎo or 元宝 yuán bǎo. so, the 700 years of Wuzhu coins came to an end, where the prize of the mint was just value of the metallic element it was made from. The raw coins were in use for 200 years and used in Japan, Korea and Vietnam. By 850CE ( Tang dynasty ) eight copper mines provided all the copper for coinage. A hundred mints busily produced 327,000 strings of 1,000 cash coins each year. Each bowed stringed instrument weighed 6.4 pounds and was approximately equivalent in measure to a liang ( an snow leopard ) of silver or a thunderbolt of silk or a bushel of grain. Coinage gradually replaced the ‘bolt of silk ‘ as a unit of currency .


fēn Yī qián, yī fēn huò With entirely a penny you ca n’t buy much You cant buy something for nothing. roughly equivalent to : You get what you pay for .

是 shì is; yes; correct

Made up of [ 日 rì sun; day radical 72, 正 zhèng correct; straight; upright]


Combines the character for ‘correct ‘ and the sunday at noon. It implies that things visible under the light of the sunlight are in order rather than visions and phantoms of the night .

Full information for 是
After more chaos in the Five Dynasties period, the Song dynasty introduced a great many variations of the tong bao neologism. By the year 997CE 800 million coins were produced each year : 2.5 times that made during the Tang. By 1085CE this had grown dramatically to 8 billion coins. The surveil Mongol dynasty used chiefly newspaper currency and some flatware ; but ordinary people continued to use tong bao coins ; some of which were in brass rather than bronze. When the Ming dynasty took over in 1368, the rulers increased the reliance on neologism and established master mints producing bronze coins in five denominations ( 1 ; 2 ; 3 ; 5 and 10 ). In 1375CE the weight and constitution ( 100 % copper ) were stipulated. For larger denominations the Ming used flatware rather than newspaper currency. Reforms during the early Qing dynasty standardized 1,000 cash coins to be worth the same as one tael ( 两 liǎng ) of silver .
The currentness system broke down towards the end of the Qing, one important reason was that the Taiping Rebellion blocked off the add of copper from american english mines that was imported into southern China. The Taipings minted their own neologism during the Rebellion. At the like meter the advanced european mint machines replaced traditional cast in coin industry. The Republic of China last ceased producing the standard round design with a square hole in favor of a plain phonograph record .
wuzhi coin, money, coinwuzhi coin, money, coin
A wide selection of different types of Chinese coins. Image provided by David Hartill ➚

Silver money

The Chinese silver ingot was in the shape of a boat or shoe and known overseas as ‘ sycee ➚ ’ or in northern China as 元宝 yuánbǎo. very few were produced compared to coins and they were cast by hand. silver and gold were long considered of alike value in China. The alchemist ‘s dream was to transmute base metal into flatware not gold. Gold and flatware were normally traded by weight and not minted as coinage, they were reserved for making jewelry and ornaments. Use of silver increased during the Song dynasty ; by 1120CE a sum tax of 18 million ounces of silver was collected. In the Ming dynasty an increased provision of silver reached China from Mexico and south America through craft with the Spaniards, and the spanish Peso ➚ was accepted as currentness in ports engaged in foreign trade. Later on the emancipation of silver medal miners in South America led to shortage of supply of silver in the late Qing dynasty, this was one reason why opium became a trade commodity .


磨 Yǒu qián néng shǐ guǐ tuī mò If you have money you can make the devil push a grind stone money can buy you anything .

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Chinese Paper money

A note for 1000 cash issued between 1368 and 1399. 34×22.5 cms. Printed in black on paper with red seal impressions for extra security. “By the time this note was issued, seal impressions and printing, once identical, had become as clearly distinguished as our postmark and postage stamp are today.” (Carter)
Image by Chris55 ➚ available under a Creative Commons license ➚
Paper money came into use in the Tang dynasty as a larger denomination of currency to replace the bulky ‘ gobble of silk ’ and heavy ‘ strings of cash ’. in the first place composition money was actually fair an official print acknowledge and it was called ‘ Flying money ’ 飞钱 fēi qián. It was army for the liberation of rwanda more commodious and safe to transport compared to the alternatives for big transactions. The money was printed in color on limited newspaper ( up to six colors by 1107CE ) and was given a limited life : it had to be replaced or exchanged within three years. It was initially mistrusted when it was brought in by Wang Anshi. By the end of the Song dynasty wallpaper money equivalent to 70 million strings of cash were being printed and became preferred to coins ; the rulers imposed tight master over the provide of wallpaper money so it could be trusted by the people. The yuan dynasty tried to maintain the paper currency but ostentation proved catastrophic. Marco Polo was so impress that a wholly chapter of his capital book ‘The Travels of Marco Polo ‘ was devoted to describing the paper money system and this led to the habit of wallpaper money in Europe. In the belated Qing period there were many independent banks that all printed their own notes .
modern newspaper currentness is the 人民币 rén mín bì ‘ People ’ mho Currency ’ and is denominated in yuan ( CN¥ ) 元 yuán which is subdivided into 10 角 jiǎo besides known as ( 毛 máo ). Each jiao is subdivided into 10 分 fēn. Most money is in the phase of paper notes but coins are used for denominations of 1 yuan and less – although present the Chinese have wide embraced electronic cashless systems .

Myths and Legends

“Money Tree”, an ancient Han Dynasty Chinese sculpture. Photographed by Conrad Shultz at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco on 7th Oct 2007
Image by Shultzc ➚ available under a Creative Commons license ➚

Coins were worn as amulets around the neck to ward off demons. This practice started in the Han dynasty and limited coins were minted as charms and for casting the Yi Jing/I Ching. Reproductions of the Han dynasty wuzhu in gold, silver, tire and bronze are very park amulets. The ancient nigger and knife money are besides reproduced as charms. The ancient jade green round coin with a round hole the 璧 bì is frequently used as an emblem to bring fortune to shops. Money has featured heavily in chinese symbolism, 钱 qián ( money ) has the same voice as 前 qián ( before ) thus symbol of ‘ before ’ are used to refer to money. similarly ‘ eye ’ ( 眼 yǎn ) is the identify given or the square hole in the coin, so a character to an eye may refer to money. Coins are specially minted for use in Yi Jing consultations .
Legends about money trees go back to at least the Three Kingdoms period, it is reputed that shaking the tree would bring a exhibitor of copper coins. cosmetic objects were made into the human body of a money tree and occur in burying goods. ‘ Shaking the Money Tree ’ is a democratic opera frequently performed by children. The diagram of the opera has a celestial dame in waiting coming gloomy to earth to enjoy worldly life but the sovereign lord has her dragged back up to heaven .
particularly printed symbolic money is used in ancestral rites and festivals. There is a ‘ Bank of the Underworld ➚ ’ that is featured on the notes. money is much presented in a lucky red envelope. Some of this symbolic money is produced just so it can be ceremonially burn ( peculiarly at funerals ). At weddings the bride was showered with special coins with suitable best wishes for the marriage embossed .

hell money, Spring Festivalhell money, Spring Festival
Special ‘Hell money’ used for burning at Chinese New Year

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