Standard cash (traditional Chinese :制錢; simplified Chinese :制钱; pinyin :zhì qián; Manchu: ᡳ
ᠵᡳᡴᠠ; Möllendorff: Durun i jiha), 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.
The term "Zhiqian" was used in order to discern full-valued cash coins produced by the imperial government from older ones from the Song dynasty period, which were known as jiuqian (舊錢), and privately produced forgeries of non-standard weights and alloys that were referred to as siqian (私錢) or sizhuqian (私鑄錢).
Other terms used during the Ming dynasty for various types of cash coins include yangqian (样錢, "Model coin"), also known as Beiqian (北錢, "Northern coin"), which referred to full weight (1 qián) and fine quality cash coins had were delivered to Beijing as seigniorage revenue.Fengqian (俸錢, "Stipend coin") which referred to second rate cash coins that had a weight of 0.9 qián and were distributed through the salaries of government officials and emoluments. and Shangqian (賞錢, "Tip money") which is a term used to refer to cash coins that were small, thin, and very fragile (comparable to Sizhuqian) that were used to pay the wages of employees of the imperial government (including the mint workers themselves) and was one of the most commonly circulating types of cash coins during the Ming dynasty among the general population.
The design of the standard Chinese cash coin was round, while it had a square centre hole that allowed them to be strung together.There inner rim as well as the outer rim of the cash coin was slightly elevated, and on the obverse side of the coin was the era name (or reign motto) of the reigning emperor, during the Ming dynasty the reverse side of their cash coins tended to be blank, while Qing dynasty period cash coins often contained mint marks.
In the year 1361 the Ming dynasty established its first imperial mint Baoyuanju (寶源局) in the capital city of Yingtian, by Zhu Yuanzhang who at the time ruled under the title of "Prince of Wu" and created the mint before the Mongol Yuan dynasty was driven out of China, the first cash coins produced by the Baoyuanju had the inscription Dazhong Tongbao (大中通寶), these new cash coins continued circulating next to older cash coins.Following the Ming conquest of all of China the Ming government started establishing provincial mints, known as Baoquanju (寶泉局), these new cash coins had the inscription Hongwu Tongbao (洪武通寶). The government of the Ming dynasty then made the private production of cash coins illegal. These early Hongwu Tongbao cash coins were issued in multiple denominations, however, after only four years the denominations larger than 1 wén and the Dazhong Tongbao were abolished.
The government of the Ming dynasty attempted to collect all older cash coins and to recast them into 1 wén coins with a weight of 1 qián (which is about 3.7 grams in the metric system).
While standard 1 wén cash coins with the inscriptions Yongle Tongbao (永樂通寶), Xuande Tongbao (宣德通寶), and Hongzhi Tongbao (弘治通寶) were produced,the government of the Ming dynasty had a preference for making and receiving payments in Da-Ming Baochao paper notes and privately issued banknotes.
The composition of the Yongle Tongbao was generally 63-90% copper (Cu), 10-25% lead (Pb), 6-9% tin (Sn), and 0.04-0.18 % zinc (Zn). The Yongle Tongbao cash coins were notably not manufactured for the internal Chinese market where silver coinage and paper money would continue to dominate, but were in fact produced to help stimulate international trade as Chinese cash coins were used as a common form of currency throughout South, Southeast, and East Asia.
In the year 1433, due to the devaluation of the Da-Ming Baochao banknotes, the government of the Ming dynasty resumed the casting of cash coins again.The casting of these new Xuande Tongbao cash coins was divided between the two Ministry of Public Works mints in both capital cities. Furthermore, Xuande Tongbao cash coins were also produced at the branch mints in Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Fujian, and Guangdong. The official production of cash coins ceased once again for seven decades in 1435 and the private production of copper-alloy cash coins would once again become commonplace.
Despite the government preferring paper money over copper-alloy cash coins, the Chinese market had a high demand for them, this demand would stimulate an overproduction of forgeries that inundated the markets of Ming China, often these forged cash coins were cast in such miserable quality that a single real Zhiqian could buy 300 fake ones.Consequently, this caused inflation in many different places.
In the year 1503 under the Hongzhi Emperor the production of cash coins was resumed and the Zhiqian were given a standard weight of 1.2 qián, the government stipulated that for each catty of pure copper two taels of haoyin (好鍚, "superior tin") was to be added to the alloy of these coins.As the government of the Ming dynasty had closed its coin mints for such a long period of time, the government was forced to pardon illegal producers and hire them as mint workers.
Under the reign of the Jiajing Emperor the government of the Ming dynasty would alleviate the situation by producing a large amount of Zhiqian with the inscription Jiajing Tongbao (嘉靖通寶) in the year Jiajing 5 (1527).In the year Jiajing 11 (1553) the government of the Ming dynasty cast 10,000,000 additional Jiajing Tongbao cash coins and allegedly as well as Zhiqian with 9 earlier reign era names, a total amount of 1,000,000 dìng (錠). Because of the possibility that under the Jiajing Emperor cash coins were produced with earlier reign titles the attribution of some earlier cash coins is still disputed among modern scholars. However, Schjöth noted that the proposal to also cast 95,000,000 strings of these 9 earlier reign titles might not have actually been adopted and that these cash coins were local and Japanese forgeries. The standard weight of Jiajing Tongbao was 1.2 qián.
In the year 1570 during the reign of the Longqing Emperor cash coins with a weight of 1.3 qián were once again cast until the death of the emperor in 1572.
In the spring of the year 1572 the government of the Ming dynasty once again resumed the production of standard cash coins at the Beijing and Nanjing mints.It did not take long for the mints to be opened in Yunnan, Shanxi, Shandong, Henan, Shaanxi, Jiangxi, Fujian, and Huguang, these Zhiqian all weighed 1.3 qián. The alloy of the Wanli Tongbao (萬曆通寶) cash coins was set at 93.8% brass and 6.2% tin. The rising price of copper, lack of skilled mint workers, and poor distribution from the government mints all contributed to the failure of the Wanli Tongbao cash coins by the year 1579. The first provincial mint to close was that of Yunnan in the year 1580 which was quickly followed by most provincial mints in 1582. The only successful provincial mints were of Huguang, where three different local mints cast their own cash coins that did not conform to the Zhiqian standards.
In the year 1599 the Wanli administration made another attempt at the restoration of cash coinage, during this attempt the Ministry of Public Works opened up a second mint in the city of Nanjing, this increased the number of furnaces from 60 to 250.Proposals for the Nanjing Ministry of Revenue and River Transport Intendancy to establish new mints in the city were also accepted. The Ever Normal Granary mint was established during this period with 250 furnaces. The city of Nanjing was quickly awash with a glut of coinage, which caused the production of cash coins in the year 1606 to be scaled back to an annual production of 15,000 strings with some government mints being closed.
In the early 17th century an increase in the price of copper caused the government to reduce the amount of copper in the composition of the Zhiqian in favour of lead.Cash coins with the inscriptions Tianqi Tongbao (天啟通寶) and Chongzhen Tongbao (崇禎通寶) were of poorer quality than those producing during preceding periods, these cash coins tended to be both thin and bristle, due to the lowered amount of copper in their compositions. Chinese people at this point started to refrain from using copper-alloy cash coins and the markets preferred the usage of silver ingots instead.
In the year 1622 the Ministry of Revenue established its own mint in Beijing, this was done to help finance the continued rising cost of fighting the Manchu invasions.The Ministry of Revenue also established a number of branch mints in Nanjing, but the rivalry between the Ministry of Revenue and the Ministry of Public Works prevented the Ming dynasty from adopting an effective monetary policy. By the year 1623 there were five different concurrent government mints operating in the city of Nanjing, two of which were run by the Ministry of Public Works, two by the Ministry of Revenue, and one by the Nanjing municipal government.
The melting down of copper artifacts which were of great historical and religious significance upset a number Conservative government officials, which further added to the already ad reputation of the Tianqi Tongbao cash coins.
Some Chongzhen Tongbao cash coins were produced with the denomination 2 wén and Chongzhen Tongbao cash coins produced by the Ministry of Public Work mint had the mint mark "工" (Gong) inscribed to its reverse.
The standard Chongzhen Tongbao cash coins initially weighed 1.3 qián, but by 1630 cash coins produced in the north had a weight of 1 qián and those in the south at most 8 fēn.
Prior to the Manchu conquest of China, the Later Jin dynasty already produced its own cash coins with the inscriptions Abkai fulingga han jiha (ᠠᠪᡴᠠᡳ
ᠵᡳᡴᠠ), Tianming Tongbao (天命通寶), and Sure han ni jiha (ᠰᡠᡵᡝ
During the Qing dynasty period, the Chinese monetary system was a bimetallic system where both copper-alloy cash coins and silver circulated simultaneously.The copper-alloy currency during most of the Qing dynasty period consisted solely of cash coins with a denomination of 1 wén, which could be strung together into strings of 1,000 cash coins for larger payments. While strings officially consisted of 1,000 cash coins, normally it would contain only around 980 copper-alloy cash coins. Because all copper-alloy cash coins of the Qing dynasty had both uniform shapes and weights, the denomination of the cash coins were not written down anywhere on the coins themselves, this was because for most of their history, a cash coin was always valued at 1 wén and payments were processed by counting the number of cash coins. The government of the Qing dynasty monopolised the production of copper-alloy cash coins, which constituted less than 20% of the total money circulating in China at the time, as well as the mining of copper, while the government allowed for the market to determine the price of silver.
Following capture of Beijing by the Manchus from the Shun dynasty in the year 1644, the government of the Qing dynasty established two imperial mints, one under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Revenue and one under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Works. ᠪᠣᠣ
ᠴᡳᠣᠸᠠᠨ" (Boo Ciowan) and those cast at the Ministry of Public Works mint would have the Manchu mint mark "ᠪᠣᠣ
ᠶᡠᠸᠠᠨ" (Boo Yuwan). The Qing government then further stipulated that every province should establish their own provincial mint for the production of copper-alloy cash coins.
Standard copper-alloy cash coins were cast by using models, known as fanzhu (笵鑄), in these state-operated mints, of which there were two in the city of Beijing, and one in almost each provincial capital city.Zhiqian were to be produced in casting rounds, known as mǎo (卯), these casting rounds had a predefined number of cash coins to be produced, copying the imperial standard with their exact standardised dimensions and metallic compositions. The obverse side of the standard cash coin would always contain the current reign era name with "Tongbao" (通寶) inscribed on it.
The initial alloy was fixed at 70% copper, known as hongtong (紅銅) and 30% of zinc, known as baiqian (白鉛).The two imperial mints in Beijing were the only places where official standard cash coins were manufactured during the early years of the Qing dynasty period. The later official alloy was altered to 60% copper and 40% zinc and/or lead, but the actual compositions would de facto be determined by the private market, causing the government of the Qing dynasty to alter the official copper-alloy of the Zhiqian over time.
During the Shunzhi period another type of Zhiqian known as the Yiliqian (一厘錢, "one-cash coin"), referred to as Zheyinqian (折銀錢, "conversion coins") by Chinese numismatists,was cast, this term was used to designate Shunzhi Tongbao cash coins produced from the year 1653 that had the inscription "一厘" on the left to the square centre hole on their reverse sides, this inscription indicates that the nominal value of the cash coin corresponded to 0.001 tael of silver (1 li (釐 or 厘, "cash"), as a weight). This would mean that the official government conversation rate was set as zhé yín yì lí qián (折銀一厘錢), which was proof that silver was of continuing importance as a currency of account. Similar cash coins with this reverse inscription were also being produced by some rulers of the Southern Ming dynasty.
Until the Kangxi Tongbao (康熙通寶) the official composition of the Zhiqian remained at 60% copper and 40% zinc and/or lead, the Yongzheng Tongbao (雍正通寶) cash coins had a composition of 50% copper and 50% zinc and/or lead, and the Qianlong Tongbao (乾隆通寶) had an additional 2% tin added to their official alloy.The Zhiqian that contained tin were referred to as Qingqian (青錢, "green cash").
The actual weight of the standard cash coin would also vary over time, this official weight was usually between 1 qián (c. 3.7g) and 1.4 qián.In the year 1645 the standard weight was altered to 1.2 qián, in 1651 this was further changed to 1.25 qián, and in the year 1657 to 1.4 qián. After the year 1733 it was officially fixed to be at 1.2 qián.
The official exchange rate between Zhiqian and silver in the year 1644 was inherited from the mid-Ming period and stood at 7 standard cash coins per 0.01 tael, or 1 fēn (分), of silver, while old Ming dynasty period cash coins were traded at a rate of 14 cash coins per 1 fēn of silver.In the year 1645 the official exchange rate was fixed at 10 standard cash coins per fēn of silver.
During the reign of the Xianfeng Emperor the government of the Qing dynasty introduced a number of currency reforms that re-introduced multiple denominations, these large denomination cash coins were referred to as Daqian ("big cash").These cash coins were produced until the year 1890 and the standard 1 wén cash coin would become the norm again until the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911. Xianfeng era Zhiqian (or 1 wén cash coins) were cast of copper, iron, and zinc. All Xianfeng era Zhiqian had the obverse inscription Xianfeng Tongbao (咸豐通寶).
During the Tongzhi era the weight of the Zhiqian remained at 1.2 qián, but due to the depletion of copper in Yunnan and the high import costs of Japanese copper provincial mints would often reduce the weights.In the year 1867 the imperial government issued an unsuccessful edit for all central and eastern provincial mints to cast Zhiqian with a weight of 1 qián to be transported to Tianjin to help alleviate copper shortages in Beijing.
The Zhiqian of 1890 was officially given a weight of 1 qián to be cast by both the imperial mints in Beijing and provincial mints.In the year 1899 the weight of the Zhiqian was reduced to only 8 fēn.
Peng Xinwei estimated that during the late Qing dynasty period, the total copper sector (copper coins including standard cash and the new Da-Qing Tongbi minted after the year 1900) constituted only 17% of the total money in circulation in China.
The standard Xuantong Tongbao (宣統通寶) cash coins produced at the Ministry of Revenue mint between the years 1909 and 1910 had a weight of 6 fēn and were both cast and machine-struck.
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. 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.
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 Southern Song dynasty refers to an era of the Song dynasty after Kaifeng was captured by the Jurchen Jin dynasty in 1127. The government of the Song was forced to establish a new capital city at Lin'an which wasn't near any sources of copper so the quality of the cash coins produced under the Southern Song significantly deteriorated compared to the cast copper-alloy cash coins of the Northern Song dynasty. The Southern Song government preferred to invest in their defenses while trying to remain passive towards the Jin dynasty establishing a long peace until the Mongols eventually annexed the Jin before marching down to the Song establishing the Yuan dynasty.
Qing dynasty coinage was based on a bimetallic standard of copper and silver coinage. The Manchu Qing dynasty ruled over China from 1644 until it was overthrown by the Xinhai revolution in 1912. The Qing dynasty saw the transformation of a traditional cash coin based cast coinage monetary system into a modern currency system with machine-struck coins, while the old traditional silver ingots would slowly be replaced by silver coins based on those of the Mexican peso. After the Qing dynasty was abolished its currency was replaced by the Chinese yuan by the Republic of China.
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.
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.
The coinage of the Great Shu Kingdom is the earliest known coinage produced by a peasant revolt in the history of China, the revolt lasted from 993 until 995 and during this period a small number of cash coins were produced by the peasant rebellion using the era names of the rebel leader Li Shun. It was only with the strongest military efforts that the Song dynasty was able to suppress the rebellion and restore their rule over the Shu region. The coinage produced by the Da Shu Kingdom is often rather roughly produced and as the rebellion only lasted a few years not many cash coins were produced leading to them being extremely rare today.
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.
A string of cash coins refers to a historical Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Ryukyuan, and Vietnamese currency unit that was used as a superunit of the Chinese cash, Japanese mon, Korean mun, Ryukyuan mon, and Vietnamese văn currencies. The square hole in the middle of cash coins served to allow for them to be strung together in strings, the term would later also be used on banknotes and served there as a superunit of wén (文).
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.
"Red cash coins" 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, with standard cash coins, 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".
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.
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