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A brief history of Chinese “coins” Noah Gentry-George.

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1 A brief history of Chinese “coins” Noah Gentry-George

2 Historical overview Coinage and currency, like many other aspects of Chinese civilization, boasts a long and rich history. The history of coinage as a means of payment for goods and services in China can generally be explained in five major evolutions.

3 What makes a coin a coin? Three basic criteria: 1.the coin must have the mark of the issuing authority. 2.the coin must contain an intrinsic value bearing some relationship to the circulating value. 3.the coin must be issued to a denomination and weight standard.

4 General goal of research: Due to the problem with making generalized statements about difficult to verify topics, such as ancient societies and objects, the following work should generally be looked at as a broad attempt to gain a better understanding of the evolutionary history of generic money items in ancient China.

5 The five stages of Chinese “coins” FYI: China was not unified until 221 B.C. Before that time, China was made up of loosely aligned groups of sister states. Due to this fact, it is believed that different styles of “coins” were in circulation at the same time in different areas of China.

6 The first Chinese “coin” As far as historical evidence can prove, outside of random objects of barter, the earliest object used in China as a definite and widely accepted means of exchange was the cowry shell.

7 The Cowry Shell Used by the Shang Dynasty ( B.C.) Due to the fact that the cowry was not native to Chinese waters, it made for a serviceable object of exchange because it was impossible to counterfeit.

8 The cowry Shell

9 “Ant and nose coins.” This odd moniker is derived from the unusual shape of the coin and a particular insignia that all of these specimens bore. * Ant and nose coins carry the mark of their issuing authority

10 Ant and nose coins

11 “Spade and Sword coins” After the bronze cowry coins, came a classification of early money commonly known as “spade or sword” coins.

12 Some scholars believe……. that the knife coin and the spade coin are not evolutionary, but rather contemporaneous money items. There seems to be a period in the 5 th Century B.C. where the two types overlap in their minting.

13 Spade and Sword coins

14 The spade “coin” Spade coins were at the zenith of their circulation between 425 B.C. and 344 B.C Many scholars believe that the “spade coin” is the first true Chinese coin. An interesting aspect of the spade coin is that each city-state seems to have minted their own supply.

15 Spade coins Along with the seemingly wide spread use of the spade coin, there also seems to have developed a very sophisticated system of calculating weight and its corresponding value in the coins.

16 The final evolution…. The “round coin” Fully implemented by the Han dynasty Early round coins seem to fall into two categories. Coins with round holes in the middle, and coins with square holes in the middle.

17 “round coins”


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