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Coins of China
The earliest Chinese proto-coins, as early as 770 - 476 B.C., were imitations of the cowrie shells used in ceremonial exchanges. The first metal coins, also introduced in this period, were not initially round; instead, they were knife shaped or spade shaped. Round metal coins with a round hole, and then later a square hole, in the center were first introduced around 350 B.C. The beginning of the Qin Dynasty (221 - 206 B.C.), the first dynasty to unify China, standardized coinage for the whole Empire. At first, coinage was limited to use around the capital city district but by the beginning of the Han Dynasty, coins were widely used for paying taxes, salaries, and fines. Ancient Chinese coins are markedly different from coins produced in the west. Chinese coins were cast in molds, unlike western coins which were typically struck (hammered) or, in later times, milled. Chinese coins were usually made from bronze, brass, or iron. Precious metals like gold and silver were uncommonly used. The alloys of the coin metals varied considerably. Most Chinese coins were produced with a square hole in the middle. At the mint coins were threaded on a square rod so that the rough edges could be filed smooth on a lathe, after which they were threaded on strings for ease of handling. Official coin production was sometimes spread over many mint locations throughout the country. Aside from officially produced coins, private coining was common during many stages of Chinese history. At times private coining was tolerated, sometimes it was illegal. Some coins were produced in very large numbers. During the Western Han, an average of 220 million coins a year were produced. Some other types were of limited circulation and are extremely rare today.
|"Round as the heavens, square as the earth," is a Chinese saying used to metaphorically describe the fabric of the coins. On the practical side, it was discovered very early that a square hole fit a square shaft, which enabled a stacked quantity of coins to be turned on a lathe to remove casting irregularities. |
The slender gold script was the personal calligraphy style of the Emperor Hui Zong.
|Huizong, one of the most famous Song Dynasty emperors, spent most of his life surrounded by luxury, sophistication, and art, but ended in tragedy. An artist, Huizong neglected the army, and Song China became increasingly weak. On Jan 18, 1126, after the forces of the Jin had crossed the Yellow River and came in sight of the Song capital, Kaifeng, Huizong abdicated in favor of his son Emperor Qinzong. The Jin entered Kaifeng on Jan 9, 1127, and many days of looting, rapes, and massacre followed. Huizong and Qinzong were captured and demoted to commoner. Huizong was deported to northern Manchuria, where he spent the last eight years of his life as a captive.|
|The history of Yan began in the Western Zhou in the early first millennium B.C. After the authority of the Zhou king declined in the 8th century B.C., Yan survived and became one of the strongest states in China. Its capital was Ji (now Beijing). During the Warring States period, the court was also moved to another capital at Xiadu at times. Despite the wars, Yan survived through the Warring States period. In 227 B.C., with Qin troops on the border after the collapse of Zhao, Crown Prince Dan sent an assassin to kill the king of Qin, hoping to end the threat. The mission failed. Surprised and enraged by such a bold act, the king of Qin determined to destroy Yan. The Yan army was crushed at the frozen Yi River, Ji fell the following year and King Xi fled to the Liaodong Peninsula. In 222 B.C., Liaodong fell and Yan was totally conquered by Qin. Yan was the third to last state to fall, and with its destruction the fates of the remaining two kingdoms were sealed. In 221 B.C., Qin conquered all of China, ending the Warring States period and founding the Qin dynasty. Yan experienced a brief period of independence after the collapse of the Qin dynasty in 207 B.C., but was eventually absorbed by the victorious Han.|
|Coins of this type were found in the tomb of Hou Yi of the Western Wei. The Western Wei followed the disintegration of the Northern Wei, and ruled northern China from 535 to 557. As with the Northern Wei state that preceded it, the ruling family were members of the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei. After the Xianbei general Yuwen Tai killed the Northern Wei emperor Yuan Xiu, he installed Yuan Baoju as emperor of Western Wei, but Yuwen Tai was the true ruler. Although smaller than the Eastern Wei in territory and population, Western Wei was able to withstand the attacks from the eastern empire. Due to its stronger economic condition, Western Wei was even able to conquer the whole western part of the Liang empire in the south and occupied the territory of modern Sichuan. In 557 Yuwen Tai's nephew Yuwen Hu deposed Emperor Gong and placed Yuwen Tai's son Yuwen Jue on the throne, ending Western Wei and establishing Northern Zhou.|