Replicas of various ancient to 19th century cast cash coins in various metals found in China, Korea and Japan.
|Literal meaning||square-holed money|
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Literal meaning||copper money|
|Second alternative Chinese name|
|Literal meaning||copper currency|
Cash was a type of coin of China and East Asia, used from the 4th century BC until the 20th century AD, characterised by their round outer shape and a square center hole (方穿, fāng chuān). Originally cast during the Warring States period, these coins continued to be used for the entirety of Imperial China as well as under Mongol and Manchu rule. The last Chinese cash coins were cast in the first year of the Republic of China. Generally most cash coins were made from copper or bronze alloys, with iron, lead, and zinc coins occasionally used less often throughout Chinese history. Rare silver and gold cash coins were also produced. During most of their production, cash coins were cast, but during the late Qing dynasty, machine-struck cash coins began to be made. As the cash coins produced over Chinese history were similar, thousand year old cash coins produced during the Northern Song dynasty continued to circulate as valid currency well into the early twentieth century.
In the modern era, these coins are considered to be Chinese “good luck coins”; they are hung on strings and round the necks of children, or over the beds of sick people. They hold a place in various traditional Chinese techniques, such as Yijing divination, as well as Traditional Chinese medicine, and Feng shui. Currencies based on the Chinese cash coins include the Japanese mon, Korean mun, Ryukyuan mon, and Vietnamese văn.
The English term cash, referring to the coin, comes from the Portuguese caixa which was derived from the Tamil kāsu, a South Indian monetary unit derived from the Sanskrit silver and gold weight unit karsa. The English name was used for small copper coins issued in British India, and also came to be used for the similarly small value copper coins of China.
The English word cash meaning "tangible currency" is an older, unrelated word, derived from the Middle French caisse.
There are a variety of Chinese terms for cash coins, usually descriptive and most commonly including the character qián (Chinese :錢; pinyin :qián) meaning "money". Chinese qián is also a weight-derived currency denomination in China; it is called mace in English.
Traditionally, Chinese cash coins were cast in copper, brass or iron. In the mid-19th century, the coins were made of 3 parts copper and 2 parts lead. [ where? ][ page needed ] Cast silver coins were periodically produced but considerably more rare. Cast gold coins are also known to exist but are extremely rare.
During the Zhou dynasty period, the method for casting coins consisted of first carving the individual characters of a coin together with its general outline into a mould made of either soapstone or clay. As this was done without using a prior model, early Chinese coinage tends to look very diverse, even from the same series of coins as these all were cast from different (and unrelated) moulds bearing the same inscriptions.
During the Han dynasty, in order to gain consistency in the circulating coinage, master bronze moulds were manufactured to be used as the basis for other cash moulds.
From the 6th century AD and later, new "mother coins" (mǔ qián 母 錢) were cast as the basis for coin production. These were engraved in generally easily manipulated metals such as tin. Coins were cast in sand moulds. Fine wet sand was placed in rectangles made from pear wood, and small amounts of coal and charcoal dust were added to refine the process, acting as a flux. The mother coins were placed on the sand, and another pear wood frame would be placed upon the mother coin. The molten metal was poured in through a separate entrance formed by placing a rod in the mould. This process would be repeated 15 times and then molten metal would be poured in. After the metal had cooled down, the "coin tree" (qián shù 錢 樹) was extracted from the mould (which would be destroyed due to the process). The coins would be taken off the tree and placed on long square rods to have their edges rounded off, often for hundreds of coins simultaneously. After this process, the coins were strung together and brought into circulation.
In Korea cash coins are known as yeopjeon (葉錢, "leaf coins") because of the way that they resemble leaves on a branch when they were being cast in the mould.
From 1730 during the Qing dynasty, the mother coins were no longer carved separately but derived from "ancestor coins" (zǔ qián 祖 錢). Eventually this resulted in greater uniformity among cast Chinese coinage from that period onwards. A single ancestor coin would be used to produce tens of thousands of mother coins; each of these in turn was used to manufacture tens of thousands of cash coins.
During the late Qing dynasty under the reign of the Guangxu Emperor in the mid 19th century the first machine-struck cash coins were produced, from 1889 a machine operated mint in Guangzhou, Guangdong province opened where the majority of the machine-struck cash would be produced. Machine-made cash coins tend to be made from brass rather than from more pure copper as cast coins often were, and later the copper content of the alloy decreased while cheaper metals like lead and tin were used in larger quantities giving the coins a yellowish tint. Another effect of the contemporary copper shortages was that the Qing government started importing Korean 5 fun coins and overstruck them with "10 cash".
The production of machine-struck cash coins in Qing China ran contemporary with the production of machine-struck French Indochinese Nguyễn cash coins, but unlike in China milled cash coinage would eventually become popular in French Indochina with the Khải Định Thông Bảo (啓定通寶) .
Chinese cash coins originated from the barter of farming tools and agricultural surpluses.Around 1200 BC, smaller token spades, hoes, and knives began to be used to conduct smaller exchanges with the tokens later melted down to produce real farm implements. These tokens came to be used as media of exchange themselves and were known as spade money and knife money.
As standard circular coins were developed following the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang, the most common formation was the round-shaped copper coin with a square or circular hole in the center, the prototypical cash. The early Ban Liangcash coins were said to have been made in the shape of wheels like how other Ancient Chinese forms of coinage were based on agricultural tools. It is commonly believed that the early round coins of the Warring States period resembled the ancient jade circles (璧環) which symbolised the supposed round shape of the sky, while the centre hole in this analogy is said to represent the planet earth (天圓地方). The body of these early round coins was called their "flesh" (肉) and the central hole was known as "the good" (好).
The hole enabled the coins to be strung together to create higher denominations, as was frequently done due to the coin's low value. The number of coins in a string of cash (simplified Chinese :一贯钱; traditional Chinese :一貫錢; pinyin :yīguànqián) varied over time and place but was nominally 1000. A string of 1000 cash was supposed to be equal in value to one tael of pure silver. A string of cash was divided into ten sections of 100 cash each. Local custom allowed the person who put the string together to take a cash or a few from each hundred for his effort (one, two, three or even four in some places). Thus an ounce of silver could exchange for 970 in one city and 990 in the next. In some places in the North of China short of currency the custom counted one cash as two and fewer than 500 cash would be exchanged for an ounce of silver. A string of cash weighed over ten pounds and was generally carried over the shoulder. (See Hosea Morse's "Trade and Administration of the Chinese Empire" p. 130 ff.) Paper money equivalents known as flying cash sometimes showed pictures of the appropriate number of cash coins strung together.
Following the Ban Liang cash coins the Han dynasty introduced the San Zhu cash coins which in the year 118 BC were replaced by the Wu Zhu cash coins.The production of Wu Zhu cash coins was briefly suspended by Wang Mang during the Xin dynasty but after the reestablishment of the Han dynasty, the production of Wu Zhu cash coins resumed, and continued to be manufactured long after the fall of the Eastern Han dynasty for another 500 years. Minting was definitively ended in 618 with the establishment of the Tang dynasty. Wu Zhu cash coins were cast from 118 BC to 618 AD having a span of 736 years, which is the longest for any coin in the history of the world. The Tang dynasty introduced the Kaiyuan Tongbao, which would influence the inscriptions of cash coins, both inside and outside of China, minted from this period onwards.
The Koreans,Japanese, Ryukyuans, and Vietnamese all cast their own copper cash in the latter part of the second millennium similar to those used by China.
Chinese cash coins were usually made from copper-alloys throughout most of Chinese history, before 1505 they were typically made from bronze and from 1505 onwards they were mostly made from brass.
Chinese historian Peng Xinwei stated that in the year 1900 traditional cast copper-alloy cash coins only made up 17.78% of the total Chinese currency stock, privately-produced banknotes made up only 3%, and foreign trade dollars circulating in China (which mostly included the silver Mexican peso) made up 25% of the total Chinese currency stock by the 1900s.The context of traditional Chinese cash coins in the Chinese economy during the 1900s and its late stage in the monetary history of China is comparable to that of Western Europe’s tiered currency systems used prior to the steam-powered mints, struck coinage, and territorial nation-state currencies between the 13th and 18th century. Helen Dunstan argues that the late-Imperial Chinese polity was much more preoccupied with maintaining national grain reserves and making the price of grain affordable to the Chinese people and the attention of the government of the Qing dynasty to the exchange rate of copper and silver would have to be viewed in this light.
The last Chinese cash coins were struck, not cast, during the reigns of the Qing Guangxu and Xuantong Emperors shortly before the fall of the Empire in 1911, though even after the fall of the Qing dynasty production briefly continued under the Republic of China.
After the fall of the Qing empire, local production of cash coins continued, including the "Min Guo Tong Bao" (民國通寶) coins in 1912, but were phased out in favour of the new Yuan-based coins. During Yuan Shikai's brief attempt at monarchy as the Empire of China, cash coins were minted as part of the "Hong Xiang Tong Bao" (洪憲通寶) series in 1916 but not circulated.The coin continued to be used unofficially in China until the mid-20th century. Vietnamese cash continued to be cast up until the early 1940s.
The last Chinese cash coins in Indonesia circulated in Bali until 1970 and are still used for most Hindu rituals today.
These coins are:
| Traditional Chinese |
| Simplified Chinese |
|Fujian Tong Bao, |
|Fujian Tong Bao, |
|Min Guo Tong Bao, |
|Min Guo Tong Bao, |
Trial coins with Fujian Sheng Zao (Chinese :福建省造), Min Sheng Tong Yong (traditional Chinese :閩省通用; simplified Chinese :闽省通用), and a Fujian Tong Bao with a reverse inscribed with Er Wen Sheng Zao (Chinese :二文省造) were also cast, but never circulated.
The earliest standard denominations of cash coins were theoretically based on the weight of the coin and were as follows:
The most common denominations were the ½ tael (Chinese:半兩; pinyin:bànliǎng) and the 5 zhū (Chinese:五銖; pinyin:wǔ zhū) coins, the latter being the most common coin denomination in Chinese history.
From the Zhou to the Tang dynasty the word quán (泉) was commonly used to refer to cash coins however this wasn't a real monetary unit but did appear in the inscriptions of several cash coins, in the State of Yan their cash coins were denominated in either huà (化) or huò (貨) with the Chinese character "化" being a simplified form of "貨" minus the "貝". This character was often mistaken for dāo (刀) due to the fact that this early version of the character resembles it and Knife money was used in Yan, however the origin of the term huò as a currency unit is because it means "to exchange" and could be interpreted as exchanging money for goods and services.From the Jin until the Tang dynasty the term wén (文), however the term wén which is often translated into English as "cash" kept being used as an accounting unit for banknotes and later on larger copper coins to measure how many cash coins it was worth.
In AD 666, a new system of weights came into effect with the zhū being replaced by the mace (qián) with 10 mace equal to one tael. The mace denominations were so ubiquitous that the Chinese word qián came to be used as the generic word for money.Other traditional Chinese units of measurement, smaller subdivisions of the tael, were also used as currency denominations for cash coins.
A great majority of cash coins had no denomination specifically designated but instead carried the issuing emperor's era name and a phrases such as tongbao (Chinese:通寶; pinyin:tōngbǎo; lit. 'general currency') or zhongbao (Chinese:重寶; pinyin:zhòngbǎo; lit. 'heavy currency').
Coins of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) generally carried the era name of the emperor and tongbao on the obverse and the mint location where the coins were cast in Manchu and Chinese on the reverse.
In Imperial China cash coins were used for fortune-telling, this would be done by first lighting incense to the effigy of a Chinese deity, and then placing 3 cash coins into a tortoise shell. The process involved the fortune teller counting how many coins lay on their obverse or reverse sides, and how these coins scratched the shell, this process was repeated 3 times. After this a very intricate system based on the position of the coins with Bagua, and the Five elements would be used for divination, the Tang dynasty Kai Yuan Tong Bao (開元通寶) coin was the most preferred coin for this usage. Contemporary Chinese intelligentsia found the usage of cash coins for fortune-telling to be superior than any other methods.Other than fortune-telling cash coins were also believed to hold “curing powers” in Traditional Chinese medicine, one method of using cash coins for “medicine” was boiling them in water and let the patient consume that water. Other than that they were also used as “medical tools” particularly in the guāshā (刮痧) method, which was used against diseases like Cholera; this required the healer to scrape the patient's skin with cash coins as they believed that the pathogen remained stagnant underneath the patient's skin in a process called “coining”. Though in general any cash coin could be used in traditional Chinese medicine but the Kai Yuan Tong Bao was most preferred, and preferences were given for some specific coins for certain ailments E.g. the Zhou Yuan Tong Bao (周元通寶) was used against miscarriages.
In modern times though no longer issued by any government, cash coins are believed to be symbols of good fortune and are considered “Good luck charms”, for this reason some businesses hang Chinese cash coins as store signs for “good luck” and to allegedly avoid misfortune similar to how images of Caishen (the Chinese God of Wealth) are used.Cash coins also hold a central place in Feng shui where they are associated an abundance of resources, personal wealth, money, and prosperity. Cash coins are featured on the logos of the Bank of China, and the China Construction Bank.
A superstition involving Chinese cash coins specific based on their inscriptions are "the five emperor coins" (traditional Chinese:五帝錢; simplified Chinese:五帝钱; pinyin:wǔ dì qián), this refers to a set of Chinese cash coins issued by the first five emperors of the Qing dynasty (following their conquest of China in 1644). These cash coins are believed to have the power to ensure prosperity and to give protection from evil spirits because during the reign of these five emperors China was powerful and prosperous. Furthermore, the term "Five Emperors" (五帝) also alludes to the "Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors". A full set of "five emperor coins" consists of Chinese cash coins with the inscriptions Shunzhi Tongbao (順治通寶), Kangxi Tongbao (康熙通寶), Yongzheng Tongbao (雍正通寶), Qianlong Tongbao (乾隆通寶), and Jiaqing Tongbao (嘉慶通寶). These inscriptions are further seen as auspicious because "Shunzhi" (順治) translates into English "to rule smoothly", "Kangxi" (康熙) translates into English as "Healthy and prosperous", "Yongzheng" (雍正) translates into "harmony and upright", the first Chinese character "qián" (乾) from "Qianlong" (乾隆) is a Mandarin Chinese homophonic pun with "qián" (錢) meaning "money", and "Jiaqing" (嘉慶) translates into English as "good and celebrate". Because of an archeological hoard of where Song dynasty cash coins were found in a Ming dynasty period tomb, it has been speculated by some archeologists that people during the Ming dynasty might have held similar beliefs with Song dynasty cash coins.
Another type of superstition involving cash coins is to have them buried with a corpse for good luck as well as to provide protection to the grave or tomb from evil spirits, although this tradition doesn't exclusively involve cash coins as early 20th century silver coins bearing the face of Yuan Shikai, known outside of China as "Fatman" dollars (袁大頭, yuán dà tóu), have also been used for this purpose.
In Bali it is believed that dolls made from cash coins (or Uang kèpèng) strung together by cotton threads would guarantee that all the organs and body parts of the deceased will be in the right place during their reincarnation.The Tlingit people of the United States of America and Canada used Chinese cash coins for their body armour which they believed would protect them from knife attacks and bullets. One contemporary Russian account from a battle with the Tlingits in 1792 states "bullets were useless against the Tlingit armour", however this would've more likely be attributed to the inaccuracy of contemporary Russian smoothbore muskets than the body armour and the Chinese cash coins sewn into the Tlingit armour. Other than for military purposes the Tlingit used Chinese cash coins on ceremonial robes.
The square hole in the middle of cash coins served to allow for them to be strung together in strings of 1000 cash coins and valued at 1 tael of silver (but variants of regional standards as low as 500 cash coins per string also existed),1000 coins strung together were referred to as a chuàn (串) or diào (吊) and were accepted by traders and merchants per string because counting the individual coins would cost too much time. Because the strings were often accepted without being checked for damaged coins and coins of inferior quality and copper-alloys these strings would eventually be accepted based on their nominal value rather than their weight, this system is comparable to that of a fiat currency. Because the counting and stringing together of cash coins was such a time consuming task people known as qiánpù (錢鋪) would string cash coins together in strings of 100 coins of which ten would form a single chuàn. The qiánpù would receive payment for their services in the form of taking a few cash coins from every string they composed, because of this a chuàn was more likely to consist of 990 coins rather than 1000 coins and because the profession of qiánpù had become a universally accepted practice these chuàns were often still nominally valued at 1000 cash coins. The number of coins in a single string was locally determined as in one district a string could consist of 980 cash coins, while in another district this could only be 965 cash coins, these numbers were based on the local salaries of the qiánpù. During the Qing dynasty the qiánpù would often search for older and rarer coins to sell these to coin collectors at a higher price.
Prior to the Song dynasty strings of cash coins were called guàn (貫), suǒ (索), or mín (緡), while during the Ming and Qing dynasties they were called chuàn (串) or diào (吊).
Chinese cash coins with flower (rosette) holes (traditional Chinese :花穿錢; simplified Chinese :花穿钱; pinyin :huā chuān qián) are a type of Chinese cash coin with an octagonal hole as opposed to a square one, they have a very long history possibly dating back to the first Ban Liang cash coins cast under the State of Qin or the Han dynasty.
Although Chinese cash coins kept their round shape with a square hole from the Warring States period until the early years of the Republic of China, under the various regimes that ruled during the long history of China the square hole in the middle experienced only minor modifications such as being slightly bigger, smaller, more elongated, shaped incorrectly, or sometimes being filled with a bit of excess metal left over from the casting process.However, for over 2000 years Chinese cash coins mostly kept their distinctive shape. During this period a relatively small number of Chinese cash coins were minted with what are termed "flower holes", "chestnut holes" or "rosette holes", these holes were octagonal but resembled the shape of flowers. If the shape of these holes were only hexagonal then they were referred to as "turtle shell holes", in some occidental sources they may be called "star holes" because they resemble stars. The exact origin and purpose of these variant holes is currently unknown but several hypotheses have been proposed by Chinese scholars. The traditional explanation for why these "flower holes" started appearing was accidental shifts of two halves of a prototype cash coin in clay, bronze, and stone moulds, these shifts would then produce the shape of the square hole to resemble multiple square holes placed on top of each other when the metal was poured in. A common criticism of this hypothesis is that if this were to happen then the inscription on the coin would also have to appear distorted, as well as any other marks that appeared on these cash coins, however this was not the case and the "flower holes" are equally distinctive as the square ones.
Under Wang Mang's Xin dynasty other than cash coins with "flower holes" also spade money with "flower holes" were cast.Under the reign of the Tang dynasty the number of Chinese cash coins with "flower holes" started to increase and circulated throughout the entire empire, concurrently the casting of Chinese cash coins was switched from using clay moulds to using bronze ones, however the earliest Kaiyuan Tongbao cash coins were still cast with clay moulds so the mould type alone cannot explain why these "flower holes" became increasingly common. As mother coins (母錢) were used to cast these coins which were always exact it indicates that these "flower holes" were added post-casting, the largest amount of known cash coins with "flower holes" have very prominent octagonal holes in the middle on both sides of the coin, comparatively their legends are usually as defined as they appear on "normal cash coins", for this reason the hypothesis that they were accidentally added is disproven. All sides of these coins (either octagonal with "flower holes" or hexagonal with "turtle shell holes") are clearly contained inside of the cash coin's central rim. After the casting of cash coins had shifted to using bronze moulds these coins would appear as if they were branches of a "coin tree" (錢樹) where they had to be broken off, all excess copper-alloy had to be manually chiseled or filed off from the central holes. It is suspected that the "flower holes" and "turtle shell holes" were produced during chiseling process, presumably while the employee of the manufacturing mint was doing the final details of the cash coins. As manually filing and chiseling cash coins was both an additional expense as well as time-consuming it is likely that the creation of "flower holes" and "turtle shell holes" was ordered by the manufacturer. However, as the quality of Tang and Song dynasty coinages was quite high it's unlikely that the supervisors would have allowed for a large number of these variant coins to be produced, pass quality control or be allowed to enter circulation. Cash coins with "flower holes" were produced in significant numbers by the Northern Song dynasty, Southern Song dynasty, and Khitan Liao dynasty. Until 1180 the Northern Song dynasty produced "matched cash coins" (對錢, duì qián) which were cash coins with identical inscriptions written in different styles of Chinese calligraphy, after these coins were superseded by cash coins that included the year of production on their reverse sides the practice of casting cash coins with "flower holes" also seems to have drastically decreased. Due to this one hypothesis states that "flower holes" were added to Chinese cash coins to signify a year or period of the year or possibly a location where a cash coin was produced.
It is also possible that these "flower holes" and "turtle shell holes" functioned as Chinese numismatic charms, this is because the number 8 (八, bā) is a homophonic pun in Mandarin Chinese with "to prosper" or "wealth" (發財, fā cái), while the number 6 (六, liù) is a Mandarin Chinese homophonic pun with "prosperity" (祿, lù).Concurrently the Mandarin Chinese word for as "chestnut" (栗子, lì zi) as in the term "chestnut holes" could be a homophonic pun in Mandarin Chinese with the phrase "establishing sons" (立子, lì zi), which expresses a desire to produce male offspring.
The practice of creating cash coins with "flower holes" and "turtle shell holes" was also adopted by Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, however cash coins with these features are extremely rare in these countries despite using the same production techniques which further indicates that their addition was wholly intentional.
"Red cash coins" (Traditional Chinese: 紅錢) are the cash coins produced in Xinjiang under Qing rule following the conquest of the Dzungar Khanate by the Manchus in 1757. While in Northern Xinjiang the monetary system of China proper was adopted in Southern Xinjiang where the pūl (ﭘول) coins of Dzungaria circulated earlier the pūl-system was continued but some of the old Dzungar pūl coins were melted down to make Qianlong Tongbao (乾隆通寶) cash coins, as pūl coins were usually around 98% copper they tended to be very red in colour which gave the cash coins based on the pūl coins the nickname "red cash coins". In July 1759 General Zhao Hui petitioned to the Qianlong Emperor to reclaim the old pūl coins and using them as scrap for the production of new cash coins, these "red cash coins" had an official exchange rate with the pūl coins that remained in circulation of 1 "red cash" for 2 pūl coins. As Zhao Hui wanted the new can coins to have the same weight as pūl coins they weighed 2 qián and had both a higher width and thickness than regular cash coins. Red cash coins are also generally marked by their rather crude craftsmanship when compared to the cash coins of China proper. The edges of these coins are often not filed completely and the casting technique is often inaccurate or the inscriptions on them seemed deformed.
At the introduction of red cash system in Southern Xinjiang in 1760, the exchange rate of standard cash (or "yellow cash") and "red cash" was set at 10 standard cash coins were worth 1 "red cash coin". During two or three subsequent years this exchange rate was decreased to 5:1. When used in the Northern or Eastern circuits of Xinjiang, the "red cash coins" were considered equal in value as the standard cash coins that circulated there. The areas where the Dzungar pūls had most circulated such as Yarkant, Hotan, and Kashgar were the sites of mints operated by the Qing government, as the official mint of the Dzungar Khanate was in the city of Yarkent the Qing used this mint to cast the new "red cash coins" and new mints were established in Aksu and Ili. As the Jiaqing Emperor ordered that 10% of all cash coins cast in Xinjiang should bear the inscription "Qianlong Tongbao" the majority of "red cash coins" with this inscription were actually produced after the Qianlong era as their production lasted until the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 making many of them hard to attribute.
During most of their history the cast cash coins of China were predominantly made from bronze or other copper-alloys such as brass.However, other materials had at different times in Chinese history also been used for the manufacture of cash coins such as iron (see Tieqian), lead, silver, and gold. While silver and gold were also used for other currencies in Chinese history, as it has in most other cultures around the world, but also cowry shells, clay, bone, jade, iron, lead, tin, and bamboo (see Bamboo tally) were also materials that have been used for money at various points in Chinese history. Iron cash coins and lead cash coins were often used in cases when there was an insufficient supply of copper. 2 iron cash coins were usually worth only a single bronze cash coin. Because of oxidation, iron cash coins are rarely in very good condition today, especially if they were excavated.
In some cases the usage of certain types of materials to produce cash coins are only more recently discovered due to the lack of historical records mentioning them.For example, it has only been since more recent times that the fact that the Song dynasty had attempted to produce lead cash coins been discovered. Because of this almost no Chinese coin catalogues list their existence while they have mentioned in works such as the Meng Guohua: Guilin Faxian Qian Xi Hejin Qian. Zhongguo Qianbi No. 3. 1994 (Vol. 46.) which deal with the topic. Lead cash coins have only been produced at a few times in the monetary history of china, mainly during the Five dynasties and Ten kingdoms period. Because of how soft lead is, most lead cash coins that are found today tend to be very worn.
This table includes is what is generally known to have been the case today, but as future archaeological research might probably reveal that other periods of Chinese history might used alternative materials to produce cash coins, at least in locally in some areas.
|Non-copper-alloy cash coins by time period|
|Material used||Period(s)||Example image|
|Iron cash coins||Han dynasty, Three Kingdoms period, Northern and Southern dynasties period, Five dynasties and Ten kingdoms period, Song dynasty, Jin dynasty (1115–1234), Western Xia dynasty, Ming dynasty, and Qing dynasty.|
|Lead cash coins||Five dynasties and Ten kingdoms period, Northern Song dynasty, and Qing dynasty.|
|Clay cash coins||Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period|
|Silver cash coins||Ming dynasty|
|Gold cash coins||Qin dynasty, Han dynasty, and Southern Song dynasty.|
Southern Tang, later known as Jiangnan (江南), was an empire in Southern China and one of the so-called Ten Kingdoms between the fall of the Tang in 907 and the start of the Song dynasty in 960. Southern Tang replaced the Wu empire when Li Bian deposed the emperor Yang Pu.
Yansheng Coins, commonly known as Chinese numismatic charms, refer to a collection of special decorative coins that are mainly used for rituals such as fortune telling, Chinese superstitions, and Feng shui. They originated during the Western Han dynasty as a variant of the contemporary Ban Liang and Wu Zhu cash coins. Over the centuries they evolved into their own commodity, with many different shapes and sizes. Their use was revitalized during the Republic of China era. Normally, these coins are privately funded and cast by a rich family for their own ceremonies, although a few types of coins have been cast by various governments or religious orders over the centuries. Chinese numismatic charms typically contain hidden symbolism and visual puns. Unlike cash coins which usually only contain two or four Hanzi characters on one side, Chinese numismatic charms often contain more characters and sometimes pictures on the same side.
Chinese coinage in the Ming dynasty saw the production of many types of coins. During the Ming dynasty of China, the national economy was developed and its techniques of producing coinage were advanced. One early period example is the Bronze 1 cash. Obverse: "HUNG-WU T'UNG-P'AO" (洪武通寶). Reverse: blank. Average 23.8 mm, 3.50 grams.
The Yuan dynasty was a Mongol khanate that ruled over China from 1271 to 1368, after the Mongols conquered the Western Xia, Western Liao, and Jin dynasties they allowed for the continuation of locally minted copper currency, as well as allowing for the continued use of previously created and older forms of currency, while they immediately abolished the Jin dynasty’s paper money as it suffered heavily from inflation due to the wars with the Mongols. After the conquest of the Song dynasty was completed the Mongols started issuing their own copper coins largely based on older Jin dynasty models, though eventually the preferred Mongol currency became the Jiaochao and silver sycees, as coins would eventually fall largely into disuse. Although the Mongols at first preferred to have every banknote backed up by gold and silver, high government expenditures forced the Yuan to create fiat money in order to sustain government spending.
The Western Xia Empire ruled over what are now the northwestern Chinese provinces of Ningxia, Gansu, eastern Qinghai, northern Shaanxi, northeastern Xinjiang, southwest Inner Mongolia, and southernmost Outer Mongolia from 1032 until 1227 when they were destroyed by the Mongols. The country was established by the Tangut people; likewise its earliest coins were escribed with Tangut characters, while later they would be written in Chinese. Opposed to Song dynasty coins that often read top-bottom-right-left, Western Xia coins exclusively read clockwise. Despite the fact that coins had been cast for over a century and a half, very little were actually produced and coins from Western Xia are a rarity today. Although the Western Xia cast their own coins barter remained widely used.
The Kaiyuan Tongbao, sometimes romanised as Kai Yuan Tong Bao or using the archaic Wade-Giles spelling K'ai Yuan T'ung Pao, was a Tang dynasty cash coin that was produced from 621 under the reign of Emperor Gaozu and remained in production for most of the Tang dynasty until 907. The Kaiyuan Tongbao was notably the first cash coin to use the inscription tōng bǎo (通寶) and an era title as opposed to have an inscription based on the weight of the coin as was the case with Ban Liang, Wu Zhu and many other earlier types of Chinese cash coins. The Kaiyuan Tongbao's calligraphy and inscription inspired subsequent Central Asian, Japanese, Korean, Ryūkyūan, and Vietnamese cash coins and became the standard until the last cash coin to use the inscription "通寶" was cast until the early 1940s in French Indochina.
Mother coins, alternatively known as seed coins or matrix coins, were coins used during the early stages of the casting process to produce Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Ryukyuan, and Vietnamese cash coins. As cash coins were produced using sand casting mother coins were first produced to form the basis for all subsequent cash coins to be released into circulation. Under the Han dynasty in China mints started producing cash coins using bronze master moulds to solve inconsistencies in circulating coins, this only worked partially and by the sixth century mother coins were introduced to solve these inconsistencies almost completely. The Japanese adopted the usage of mother coins in the 600s and they were used to manufacture cast Japanese coins until the Meiji period. The mother coin was initially prepared by engraving a pattern with the legend of the cash coin which had to be manufactured. In the manufacturing process mother coins were used to impress the design in moulds which were made from easily worked metals such as tin and these moulds were then placed in a rectangular frame made from pear wood filled with fine wet sand, possibly mixed with clay, and enhanced with either charcoal or coal dust to allow for the molten metal to smoothly flow through, this frame would act as a layer that separates the two parts of the coin moulds. The mother coin was recovered by the people who cast the coins and was placed on top of the second frame and the aforementioned process was repeated until fifteen layers of moulds had formed based on this single mother coin. After cooling down a "coin tree" (錢樹) or long metallic stick with the freshly minted cash coins attached in the shape of "branches" would be extracted from the mould and these coins could be broken off and if necessary had their square holes chiseled clean, after this the coins were placed on a long metal rod to simultaneously remove the rough edges for hundreds of coins and then these cash coins could be strung together and enter circulation.
The Zhengde Tongbao is a fantasy cash coin, Chinese, and Vietnamese numismatic charm bearing an inscription based on the reign title of the Zhengde Emperor of the Ming dynasty. The Zhengde Emperor reigned from the year 1505 until 1521, however during this period no circulating cash coins were minted. There were a large amount "cash coins" bearing the Zhengde era name are minted from the late Ming to early Qing dynasty periods as superstitious "lucky coins" with auspicious depictions and instructions, as this inscription remained popular for charms modern reproductions of the Zhengde Tongbao are also very common.
The Hongwu Tongbao was the first cash coin to bear the reign name of a reigning Ming dynasty Emperor bearing the reign title of the Hongwu Emperor. Hongwu Tongbao cash coins officially replaced the earlier Dazhong Tongbao coins, however the production of the latter did not cease after the Hongwu Tongbao was introduced. The government of the Ming dynasty placed a greater reliance on copper cash coins than the Yuan dynasty ever did, but despite this reliance a nationwide copper shortage caused the production of Hongwu Tongbao cash coins to cease several times eventually leading to their discontinuation in 1393 when they were completely phased out in favour of paper money. In the year 1393 there were a total of 325 furnaces in operation in all provincial mints of China which had an annual output of 189,000 strings of cash coins which was merely 3% of the average annual production during the Northern Song dynasty.
Vault Protector coins were a type of Chinese numismatic charm coins created by Chinese mints. These coins were significantly larger, heavier and thicker than regular cash coins and were well-made as they were designed to occupy a special place within the treasury of the mint. The treasury had a spirit hall for offerings to the gods of the Chinese pantheon, and Vault Protector coins would be hung with red silk and tassels for the Chinese God of Wealth. These coins were believed to have charm-like magical powers that would protect the vault while bringing wealth and fortune to the treasury.
The currency of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom consisted of Chinese cash coins and paper money, although the rarity of surviving Taiping paper money suggests that not much was produced. The first cash coins of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom were issued in the year 1853 in the capital of Tianjing. The cash coins of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom should not be confused with the Taiping Tongbao (太平通寳) which was issued during the Northern Song dynasty between the years 976 and 997, or with any other contemporary rebel coinage that also bear this inscription.
The coinage of the Southern Tang kingdom consisted mostly of bronze cash coins while the coinages of previous dynasties still circulated in the Southern Tang kingdom most of the cash coins issued during this period were cast in relation to these being valued as a multiple of them.
Kangxi Tongbao refers to an inscription used on Manchu Qing dynasty era cash coins produced under the reign of the Kangxi Emperor. Under the Kangxi Emperor the weights and standards of the brass cash coins changed several times and the bimetallic system of Qing dynasty coinage was established. Today Kangxi Tongbao cash coins are commonly used as charms and amulets where different forms of superstition have developed arounds its mint marks and calligraphy.
Qianlong Tongbao is an inscription used on cash coins produced under the reign of the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty. Initially the Qianlong Tongbao cash coins were equal to its predecessors in their weight and quality but as expensive military expenditures such as the Ten Great Campaigns began to take their financial toll on the government of the Qing dynasty the quality of these cash coins started to steadily decrease. The weight of the Qianlong Tongbao was changed several times and tin was added to their alloy to both reduce costs and to prevent people from melting down the coins to make utensils. As the intrinsic value of these coins was higher than their nominal value many provincial mints started reporting annual losses and were forced to close down, meanwhile the copper content of the coinage continued to be lowered while the copper mines of China were depleting. The Qianlong era also saw the conquest of Xinjiang and the introduction of cash coins to this new region of the Qing Empire.
Daqian are large denomination cash coins that were produced in the Qing dynasty starting from 1853 until 1890. Large denomination cash coins were previously used in earlier Chinese dynasties and had faced similar issues as the 19th century Daqian. The term referred to cash coins with a denomination of 4 wén or higher.
Bingqian, or Bingxingqian, is a term, which translates into English as "biscuit coins", "pie coins", or "cake coins", used by Chinese and Taiwanese coin collectors to refer to cash coins with an extremely broad rim as, these cash coins can also be very thick. While the earliest versions of the Bingqian did not extraordinarily broad rims.
Buddhist coin charms are a category of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese numismatic charms that depict Buddhist religious imagery or inscriptions. These coin charms often imitate the design of Chinese cash coins, but can exist in many different shapes and sizes. In these countries similar numismatic charms existed for Confucianism and Taoism, and at times Buddhist coin charms would also incorporate symbolism from these other religions.
Standard cash, or regulation cash coins, is a term used during the Ming and Qing dynasties of China to refer to standard issue copper-alloy cash coins produced in imperial Chinese mints according to weight and composition standards that were fixed by the imperial government. The term was first used for Hongwu Tongbao cash coins following the abolition of large denomination versions of this cash coin series.
Iron cash coins are a type of Chinese cash coin that were produced at various times during the monetary history of imperial China. Iron cash coins were often produced in regions where the supply of copper was insufficient, or as a method of paying for high military expenditures at times of war, as well as for exports at times of trade deficits.