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Burial Practices of Korea
Examines the historic funeral and burial practices of Korea.
Location: North Korea South Korea
Burials of Early Korea
Burial traditions have always occupied an especially important role in Korean society. During the Bronze Age, expert pottery makers crafted earthenware coffins for adults and large pots for children. These were buried vertically, sometimes under dolmen stone tombs. Iron-Age Gojoseon people also used earthenware coffins, this time laid out under large burial mounds.
The Three Kingdoms period produced elaborate royal tombs that continued into the Goryeo dynasty. Some featured detailed murals, providing a glimpse into the lives of kings and queens who rested there. Although most of these tombs have been looted, remains of pottery and jewelry help historians understand daily life and technology in early Korea.
The medieval Goryeo dynasty practiced Buddhist worship, first introduced in the 4th century. According to Buddhist customs, the dead were cremated and left with a temple. Relatives burned paper "spirit money" for the dead, meant to ease their way in the afterlife. This changed with the adoption of Confucian beliefs near the end of the Goryeo dynasty. In Confucian belief, ancestors are sacred and still connected to the living, making proper burial and respect after death essential.
Burial Practices in the Joseon Dynasty
The Joseon dynasty spanned hundreds of years and followed Confucian burial customs. Funeral processions carried the dead in wooden biers decorated with paper ribbons and flowers. Their path took them through fields to a secluded grave site, usually on a hill overlooking the person's farm. The location of a grave was very important and depended on geomancy, or pungsu. Banners, musicians, a photograph of the deceased, and mourning family members accompanied the bier. Each village sang its own burial chant during this procession.
Once a body was in its grave, mourners lit a fire from the boards used to carry it. They then burned the paper decorations of the bier. Families crafted wooden tablets, which held the spirit of the deceased for some time after death. Close relatives wore special hemp clothing as a sign of grief for two years. They made regular offerings and prayers to the dead in a ceremony known as jesa. Children acted modestly and avoided drinking in the wake of a parent's death.
Funerals and Mourning in Modern Korea
Ancestor worship is still widely practiced in South Korea, though it has adapted to the demands of modern life. It is now customary to perform ceremonies for fewer generations than in the past. A large Christian community also practices Western burial rites. Cremation is growing more common as cemeteries run out of space. Many families still own ancestral burial plots in their home villages and bury their dead according to traditions of geomancy. In recent decades, politicians have moved the graves of their ancestors to more favorable locations before important elections.
Sunhwa Rha, Pottery: Korean Traditional Handicrafts, trans. Yoon-jung Cho (Seoul: Ewha Womans University Press, 2006), 13-39.
Michael J. Seth, A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011), 36-41.
Brian Cumings, Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History (Updated) (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005), 26-34.
Eunsuk Cho and Miai Sung, The World of Bereavement: Cultural Perspectives on Death in Families, ed. Joanne Cacciatore and John DeFrain (Cham: Springer, 2015), 81-97.
Mary Ellen Snodgrass, Coins and Currency: An Historical Encyclopedia (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2007), 428-429.
Clark E. Llewellyn, "Korean Aesthetics, Modern Direction" in Korea Style, Marcia Iwatate and Unsoo Kim, eds. (Boston, MA: Tuttle, 2007), 8-28.
Donald Neil Clark, Culture and Customs of Korea (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), 100-103.
Choe Sang-Hun, "Quest for Perfect Grave Keeps Korean Feud Alive," The New York Times, July 19, 2006, The New York Times, accessed May 02, 2017.
This group is for articles produced or approved by TOTA staff, covering a wide variety of cultures and topics.
OUTLINE OF THE BRONZE COINS
At the standard in use since the T'ang, the Northern Sung monetary system was based on full weight bronze 1 cash averaging 3.5 grams, 2 cash averaging 7 grams cast sporadically after AD 1093, and on a few occasions, usually during times of war, bronze 3 and 10 cash fiduciary coins cast to the 2 and 3 cash standard. In addition to bronze coins, fiduciary iron coins were also cast through much of this period.
AD 960 to 1041. The only bronze coins were full-weight 1 cash.
AD 1041. Fiduciary 3 cash (S-505) of about 7 grams and 29 mm. This was the earliest North Sung issue higher than a 1 cash. As a fiduciary issue it proved unpopular and subject to counterfeiting and in AD 1059 was devalued to 2 cash, consistent with the weight.
AD 1070. Fiduciary bronze 10 cash (S-538) of 7.2 grams and 30 mm were issued to raise funds for the Western Wars. As with the earlier fiduciary issues, these were unpopular and subject to counterfeiting and were devalued to 2 cash at the war's end. Iron 10 cash were also issued at this time.
AD 1093. Full-weight 2 cash of about 7.0 grams and 29 mm. (S-575) were introduced as a regular part of the currency, but only issued sporadically.
AD 1102. Fiduciary 10 cash (S-621) were cast in an attempt to introduce them as a regular part of the coinage. At about 11 grams and 31 mm these contained 3 cash worth of metal and were devalued to value 3 cash in AD 1111.
AD 1107. A full weight 10 cash was issued (S-630) at about 27 grams and 50 mm, but was withdrawn within a year. These appear to have been hoarded, and used as a cheap source of metal for counterfeiting the fiduciary 10 cash issues still circulating from the issue of AD 1102.
Eiraku-tsuho (bronze coins struck in the Ming dynasty) (永楽通宝)
Eiraku-tsuho is a coin minted during the reign of the 3rd emperor of the Ming dynasty, Yongle.
A huge number of the coins were imported into Japan during the Muromachi period and they were called Eiraku-sen and distributed in Japan up to the early Edo period. The coin was round-shaped which has a square hole at the center, and on the surface were kanji characters '永樂通寳' which are read from top to bottom and right to left. The coins were made of copper and circulated as a value of 1 mon (a unit name and value of small money at the time) however, in Japan one Eiraku-tsuho coin was valued at 4 mons of Bitasen (low quality coins with surfaces worn away) from the Tensho years.
In 1608, a ban on the circulation of Eiraku-sen was issued and Eiraku-tsuho were replaced with domestically minted coins such as Kanei-tsuho. However, the virtual monetary unit called Ei (Ei of Eiraku-tsuho) remained in place i.e., Ikkanmon (weight of the coins and approximately equivalent to 1,000 mon of coins) of Ei equaled 1 ryo (a unit name for a large sum of money) of a gold coin, thus 1 Ei was treated as 1/1000 ryo. This Ei account system actually continued to be used for the collection of nengu (annual tax). Thus Eiraku-tsuho greatly influenced the Japanese monetary system over a long period of time (1 Ei was actually equivalent to around 4 mon).
It is thought that Eiraku-tsuho was not circulated in the territory of the Ming and was mainly used overseas. In the Ming dynasty during the reign of the founder Emperor Kobu (Shu GENSHO), the use of metal coins was prohibited and all the money were switched to paper money (later switched again to Ginjo - silver coins used in China until early in the 20th century).
(Emperor Kobu also issued Daichu-tsuho 'copper coins' in a part of his own territory before he unified China after the unification, he issued Kobu-tsuho 'copper coins.')
In the meantime, the money economy in Japan rapidly developed and the demands for Chinese coins greatly increased. As a result in China, Eiraku-tsuho was minted as an instrument to settle the trade with Japan.
Nobunaga ODA used Eiraku-tsuho as his symbol. The reason why he used it as his symbol was not known, however, it is said that with foresight he paid attention to the monetary economy.
As commerce and physical distribution was activated from the Heian to the Kamakura period in Japan, the need for money became important. However, because the Ritsuryo system had already collapsed at the time and the technology to mint coins as well as the office in charge fell into disuse, Japan had to import copper coins from China to distribute domestically.
Among them, the copper coin Eiraku-tsuho (Eiraku-sen) minted from 1411 in the reign of the Ming dynasty's Emperor Yongle were imported on a massive scale in the middle of the Muromachi period. Most of them were imported through the tally trade (between Japan and the Ming dynasty) to Japan. The term Eiraku-sen is sometimes applied to all copper coins imported at the time of the Ming dynasty. The quality of the copper coins was good, and these coins were used as a key currency until the early Edo period.
While privately minted coins are called Shichusen, many shichusen minted in Jiangnan in China and Japan were also circulated. However, these shichusen were called bitasen for their inferior quality and exchanged at a lower value than government casting Eiraku-sen. As the difference in the value of the copper coins became a problem, the sengoku daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku period often issued ordinances called Erizenirei, which banned differentiating the good coins and bad coins. The Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) began casting their own copper coins (called Keicho-tsuho) in the year 1606 of the Edo period two years later, the bakufu issued an ordinance prohibiting the distribution of Eiraku-sen. It is said that at this stage, the amount of Keicho-tsuho circulated was not sufficient enough, and the ban resulted in prohibiting the circulation of Eiraku-sen at a superior position and promoting the use of Eiraku-sen at the same level as bitasen. After the Genna-Enbu (peace after Genna era) in 1636, the bakufu minted Kanei-tsuho (pronounced as kan-ei-tsuho) in earnest and Eiraku-sen was gradually driven out when the new coins started to circulate in the entire country in and after the Kanbun era (1661- 1672).
The Eiraku-tsuho was mainly circulated in the Ise Province and Owari Province and eastward. Particularly in Kanto, Eiraku-tsuho was regarded as the key currency, and in some cases this is called Eidakasei (currency system based on Eiraku-tsuho). In Western Japan, people preferred using the old coins from the Tang and Northern Sung dynasties such as the Sung currency, and Eiraku-tsuho was not circulated very much until the 16th Century.
Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 207 BC)
In order to standardize the monetary system, he abolished the other forms of money. This meant that the cowrie, spade money, knife money, and round coins of the other states could no longer circulate. Instead, there would be a two tier system with a “higher” form of currency (shang bi 上币) made of gold and a “lower” form of currency (xia bi 下币) made of bronze.
The “lower” form of currency, shown at the left, was established as a round bronze coin having a square hole in the middle and with a value of a half “tael” or half liang (两). A “liang” consisted of 24 zhu (铢) so the coin pictured here was worth half (ban半) a “liang”, or 12 zhu (铢), and is known as a ban liang (banliang 半两) coin.
The Qin Dynasty ban liang was a coin that was named after its weight. It was rimless in that it did not have a rim on either the outside edge of the coin or around the central square hole. It also had a flat reverse side with no inscription.
This is a fairly rare Qin Dynasty ban liang variety which was cast during the period 300-200 BC.
As you can see, the ban (半) character to the right of the square hole is similar to that of other Qin banliangs, such as the specimen illustrated above.
However, the liang (两) character to the left of the hole is upside-down (inverted).
If you rotate or “circumgyrate” the coin clockwise 180 degrees, the liang (两) character will be right-side up on the right side of the coin and the ban (半) character will then be upside-down on the left.
The Chinese refer to this as xuan du (旋读).
It is unknown why a very small number of ban liang coins were cast in this way.
This coin has a diameter of about 31.7 mm and a weight of 6 grams.
This form of currency proved to be very practical. Coins could be easily strung together and conveniently carried. The ban liang, with its round shape and square hole, established the shape of Chinese coins for the centuries to come. This tradition of Chinese coins being round with square holes, known as “Chinese cash”, continued for about 2,100 years until China’s imperial history finally ended at the beginning of the 20 th Century.
Specific varieties of Qin Dynasty ban liangs can also be seen by clicking on the links below:
|Type: ||Inscription:||Pinyin:||Years Cast|
|State of Qin ban liang (“drilled hole” variety) ||半两 ||ban liang||475 BC – 207 BC|
|Qin ban liang||半两||ban liang||221 BC – 207 BC |
|Qin ban liang with dots (stars)||半两||ban liang||221 BC – 207 BC|
|Qin/Han transitional ban liang||半两||ban liang||Late Qin/Early Han |
|Qin/Han transitional ban liang with reversed inscription||两半||liang ban||Late Qin/Early Han|
Originating in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), the "horse coin" was not actual currency. Although Chinese literary figures have made mention of horse coins throughout the centuries, few have made it clear exactly how the coins were used. Collectors today believe horse coins were either pieces used on game boards or counters for gambling.
Images of horses also appear on old Chinese chess pieces and examples can be seen at Ancient Chinese Chess (Xiangqi) Pieces.
Horse coins are usually made of bronze or copper although, in some rare cases, ivory and horn were used. Most common horse coins measure around 3 centimeters in diameter with a square or circular central hole.
The horses depicted on the coins vary in position. Some are lying on the ground sleeping. Others are turning their head and neighing. Or, as in the example shown here, the horse is shown galloping forward with its tail raised high. Unfortunately, the horse's saddle always seems to be at the central hole of the coin which prevents us from learning more about this aspect of ancient Chinese culture.
Among all the horse coins, those made in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) are considered to be the finest. They were made from high-quality metal and with fine detail. The coin shown at left is representative of the Song horse coins although it would be difficult to confirm that this particular piece dates from that period.
Horse coins display many of the most famous horses in Chinese history. For instance, in the early Western Zhou Dynasty (c. 11th century-771 BC), King Mu (穆王) once rode on a chariot with eight outstanding steeds. The names of the eight horses can be found on horse coins although there is some disagreement as to which set of eight names passed down through history is correct. The names of King Mu's horses described their outstanding characteristics and included "Beyond Earth", "Rush by Night", "Windswept Plumes", "Finer than Flashing Light", "Faster than Shadow", "Wing Bearer", "Faster than Light" and "Rising Mist". Other historical texts list King Mu's horses as "Bay Steed", "Smoked Ebony", "Skewbald Chestnut", "Great Yellow" and "Green Ear".
There are also horse coins depicting the victorious, yet ruthless, General Bai Qi of the ancient Kingdom of Qin during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).
When Qin Shi Huang put an end to the Warring States Period and united China into the first empire (221-207 BC), he chose the seven best horses from the thousands of military horses who had fought in the battles.
In order to improve the quality of his stable, Emperor Wudi of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD) searched for the best stallions outside his empire. To get the mysterious hanxue (sweating blood) horse which he believed were the divine "Horses of Heaven" that could be ridden to immortality, he fought a three-year war beginning in 101 BCE against a small kingdom (Ferghana) located in today's Uzbekistan. While the emperor's army captured some 3,000 hanxue horses, only about 1,000 survived the long trip home. Many legends and historical records state that when such horses galloped, their sweat was the color of blood. Some modern scientists now attribute the "blood" sweat to the parasites which infested the tissues beneath the skin of the horses. After strenuous movement, the blood would flow out with the sweat. (Please see "Sweating Blood Horse" Coin for a detailed discussion.)
Another set of famous horses depicted on horse coins is associated with Emperor Taizong (Li Shimin) of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). These horses are also celebrated in a famous relief sculpture outside his tomb and are known as the "Six Chargers of Emperor Taizong".
Finally, a very few horse coins will display a rider on the horse in order to commemorate famous battles from ancient Chinese history. Please see the "Battle of Jimo" Horse Coin as an example.
The Chinese characters on the obverse side of this old horse coin read da song jin qian (大宋金钱) which means "Great Song (dynasty) metal money".
The reverse side shows a galloping horse with the inscription song qi (宋骑) which means "a rider of the Song (dynasty)".
The coin is 37.7mm in diameter and weighs 18.1 grams.
The inscription on this horse coin is qin jiang san qi (秦将散骑).
Qin jiang (秦 将) refers to a general from the ancient state of Qin during the Warring States period (475-221 BC).
The general referred to is General Bai Qi (白起), a ruthless military leader, who won more than 70 battles. Following each victory, he would order his men to slaughter the defeated soldiers. Historical records credit him with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers.
General Bai Qi was forced to commit suicide by the King of Qin in the year 257 BC.
San qi (散 骑) in ancient Chinese has the meaning of shi cong (侍从) which means "followers".
The inscription therefore refers to the attendants or followers of General Bai Qi who would advise or counsel him.
The reverse side of the coin depicts a galloping horse.
The coin has a diameter of 27.5 mm and a weight of 9 grams.
This horse coin depicts Qu Huang (渠黄), meaning "Great Yellow", which was one of the eight great horses mentioned above of King Mu of the Western Zhou Dynasty.
This particular specimen is 35 mm in diameter and weighs 11.9 grams.
This is another horse coin honoring one of King Mu's famous horses.
The obverse side of the coin, at the far left, displays a galloping horse.
The two character inscription, with one Chinese character above and one character below the square hole, reads lu er (绿耳).
The heavy green patina on the coin is appropriate because lu er translates as "Green Ear".
The reverse side of the coin is blank.
The coin has a diameter of 28 mm and weighs 7.4 grams.
The inscription on the obverse side of this horse coin reads piao niao (骠袅) which translates as "fast and slender".
The reverse side is blank.
The coin is 27 mm in diameter and weighs 6 grams.
This "double obverse" horse coin has the inscription wu zhui (乌骓) which means a "black spotted horse".
The diameter of the coin is 30mm and the weight is 9 grams.
The obverse of this coin reads tang jiang qian li (唐将千里) which literally means "Tang General 1,000 li ".
The coin is 27mm in diameter and weighs 5.5 grams.
The inscription on the obverse side of this horse coin is read top to bottom and right to left as zhen guan shi ji (贞观十骥) which means "ten thoroughbreds of Zhen Guan ". Zhen Guan refers to the era during which Emperor Taizong (Li Shimin) of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) ruled.
The Chinese characters on the reverse side are jue bo (诀波) which was the name of one of these horses. Jue Bo would roughly translate as "bursting as a wave".
The coin is 30mm in diameter and weighs 9.7 grams.
This horse coin commemorates Quanmaogua (拳 毛騧 ) which was the famous war horse that Li Shimin (李 世民), who later became Emperor Taizong ( 唐太宗 626-649 AD) of the Tang dynasty, rode in the battle defeating Liu Heita (刘 黑闼) in 622 AD.
Quanmaogua died on the battlefield after being hit by 9 arrows, 6 in the chest and 3 in the back.
The inscription, which is read in a clockwise manner beginning with the character at the top, is quan mao gua ma (拳毛騧马).
The literal translation is "fist hair piebald horse". Actually, the name is believed to be a transliteration of Turkic into Chinese. Turkic is a language from Central Asia where the horse may have originally come.
"Fist hair" ( 拳毛 ) refers to circular hair. "Piebald" ( 騧 ) translates as a yellow horse ( 马 ) with a black mouth.
Scholars now believe that the name Quanmaogua was probably meant to describe a horse that had curly yellow hair.
During the time of the Sui and Tang dynasties, people would have considered a horse with these characteristics to be rather ugly (丑). General Li Shimin, however, had the ability to identify a horse that had the qualities needed to help him succeed in battle even though the animal may have been physically unattractive.
According to the Penn Museum, the name Quanmaogua indicates a "saffron-yellow horse with a wavy coat of hair".
Quanmaogua is one of the six horses immortalized in stone reliefs at the Zhao Mausoleum (昭 陵), Emperor Taizong's mausoleum, located at Xi'an (西 安). These white marble stone reliefs are known as the Six Steeds of the Zhao Mausoleum (唐 昭陵六骏石刻) and are 2.5 meters tall and 3 meters wide.
Four of the six stone reliefs are in China and displayed at the Stele Forest (Beilin Museum 碑 林) in Xi'an. The stone relief of Quanmaogua, as well as the one for Saluzi ("Autumn Dew" 飒 露紫), were stolen in 1914 and sold by C.T. Loo (Ching Tsai Loo 卢 芹斋) in 1918 to the Penn Museum at the University of Pennsylvania (宾夕法尼亚大学) where they are on display.
The coin is 31mm in diameter and weighs 9.5 grams.
The Chinese characters qian li (千里) on this horse coin mean "1,000 li ". The li (里) was a measure of distance in ancient China which varied over history. One li was equal to roughly 300 - 400 meters.
The term qian li or "1,000 li " refers to the ancient accomplishment of Zhaofu who was the carriage driver of King Mu of the Western Zhou Dynasty. Zhaofu was able to cover a distance of 1,000 li in a single day in order to return King Mu from a hunting trip in time to put down a rebellion in the capital.
The coin is 28mm in diameter and weighs 6.4 grams.
This old horse coin shows considerable wear.
The inscription is similar to the above coin and reads qian li zhi ma (千里之马) which translates as "1,000 li horse".
The coin has a diameter of 27mm and a weight of 5.2 grams.
The inscription on the obverse side of this old Chinese horse coin is long ju (龙驹) which translates as "Dragon's Colt".
The reverse side depicts a "dragon colt" horse.
Dragon colt usually refers to a horse that is white and tall.
The term long ju (龙驹) can be traced back to the ancient Chinese text the "Rites of Zhou" ( zhou li 周礼) which dates to the second century BC and is considered one of the classics of Confucianism. This ancient ritual text describes a "dragon colt" as a horse which is "more than eight chi (尺) tall" measured from the front hoof to the shoulder. One chi , during the time of the Zhou, was about 16.5 centimeters.
The coin has a diameter of 23 mm and a weight of 3.4 grams.
Horse coins typically honor only famous horses but a few of these coins display a rider on the horse in order to commemorate famous battles from ancient Chinese history.
The horse coin at the left has the inscription yan jiang yue yi (燕將樂毅) which translates as General Yue Yi of the State of Yan. (Sometimes the name is translated as General Le Yi.)
The reverse side of the coin shows General Yue Yi carrying a weapon while on horseback.
General Yue Yi played a major role in one of the most famous battles of ancient China.
This coin and the "Battle of Jimo" which it commemorates is discussed in detail at "Battle of Jimo" Horse Coin.
This horse coin commemorates one of the most famous generals in Chinese history.
Sun Wu is better known nowadays as Sun Tzu or Sunzi.
Sun Tzu (544-496 BC) is the famous general and military strategist who wrote the book "The Art of War" (孙 子兵法) during the Spring and Autumn period (春 秋时代 770-476/403 BC).
The reverse side of the horse coin portrays Sun Tzu carrying a sword over his shoulder while riding his horse.
This horse coin was sold at China Guardian Auction in 2013.
Rare horse coins from the Song and Yuan dynasties displaying horses in battle armor are discussed at Horse in Armour Horse Coins.
A rare horse coin depicting a blood-sweating "heavenly horse" is discussed at "Sweating Blood Horse" Coin.
Return to Ancient Chinese Charms and Coins
Sex Education Marriage Charms
This charm may be from the Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) or it may be a 20th Century reproduction. In any case, it is typical of the type of Chinese marriage charm that was given to newlyweds to illustrate how they should perform on their wedding night to meet their obligations to family and society to produce children.
The inscription is read top to bottom and right to left as feng hua xue yue (风花雪月) which translates as "wind, flowers, snow, moon".
The broad rim has a very ornate design.
The reverse side depicts four couples making love in different sexual positions.
The Manchus began producing Chinese-style coins just after Nurhaci's proclamation to khan in 1616. Coins with a Chinese legend (Tianming tongbao 天命通寶) were supplemented by such with a Manchu inscription ( ᠠᠪᡴᠠᡳ ᡶᠣᠯᡳᠩᡴᠠ ᡴᠠᠨ ᠵᡳᡴᠠ Abkai fulingga han jiha "money of the Khan [who was bestowed] the Heavenly mandate", in ancient script without diacritical marks). The Chinese-language coins were smaller than the Manchu ones, but worth ten cash (dang shi 當十). In 1627 Manchu-language coins (with the inscription ᠰᠣᡵᠠ ᡴᠠᠨ ᡳ ᠵᡳᡴᠠ Sure han ni jiha "money of the wise Khan") of ten cash of value were produced. Both carried the inscription yi liang 一兩, meaning that they had the nominal weight of one liang (or ten qian 錢, see weights and measures), and were thus an imitation of the contemporary cash coins of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644).
In 1644, when the Manchus began conquering China, they adopted the coin system of the Ming and established two mints in Beijing, namely the baoyuanju 寶源局 of the Ministry of Works (gongbu 工部, with the inscription ᠶᡠᠸᠠᠨ ᠪᠣᡠ yuwan boo) and the baoquanju 寶泉局 of the Ministry of Revenue (hubu 戶部, with the inscription ᠴᡳᡠᠸᠠᠨ ᠪᠣᡠ ciowan boo). The weight of one cash coin, with the nomination of one cash/qian/wen (in Manchurian ᠵᡳᡥᠠ jiha), was accordingly 1 qian (c. 3.7g), but in 1645 the standard weight was altered to 1.2 qian, in 1651 to 1.25 qian, and in 1657 to 1.4 qian. The alloy was fixed at 7 parts of copper (hongtong 紅銅) to 3 parts of zinc (baiqian 白鉛). The two capital mints were the only places where coins were produced in the early years of the Qing period. The official exchange rate in 1644 was inherited from the mid-Ming period and stood at 7 cash per 0.01 liang (1 fen 分) of silver, while old Ming-period coins were traded at a rate of 14 cash per fen of silver. A year later it was fixed at 10 cash per fen of silver.
Coins of the Shunzhi reign had five different shapes. The first followed the traditional shape, with no inscription or symbol on the back side (called guangbei qian 光背錢), or just a dot or a symbol indicating the mint. The second type was inscribed on the back with a single Chinese character (dan hanzi ji ju qian 單漢字記局錢), indicating the mint, namely hu 戶 for the Baoquanju and gong 工 for the Baoyuanju (written either above the central hole, or right to it), and an according abbreviation for the provincial mints (see table below). This type had rarely been used before (for instance, in the coin types Kaiyuan tongbao 開元通寶 and Huichang tongbao 會昌通寶 and from the Tang period 唐, 618-907, and Dazhong tongbao 大中通寶 and Hongwu tongbao 洪武通寶 from the [pre-]Ming period). These two types of coins were used in the early years of the Shunzhi reign.
From 1653 on new types emerged, namely the so-called "one-cash coin" (yiliqian 一厘錢), indicating that the value of the coin corresponded to 0.001 liang (1 li 釐 or 厘 "cash", as a weight) of silver (zhe yin yi li qian 折銀一厘錢). Numismatists therefore call this type of coin zheyinqian 折銀錢 "conversion coins". The word yi li was written on the back, to the left side of the central hole, while the short designation of the mint was inscribed to the right. Similar coins were used by some of the Southern Ming 南明 (1644-1661) princes. The use of them is a proof for the continuing importance of silver as a currency of account. The fourth type of coin carried two Manchurian words on the back, namely the short name of the mint (either ciowan or yuwan), and the word boo (i.e. Chinese bao 寶 Manwen ji ju qian 滿文記局錢). This type was not produced in provincial mints. In the fifth type of Shunzhi coins, the name of the mint was given two times, once in Chinese characters to the right, and once in Manchurian script to the left of the central hole (Man-Hanwen ji ju qian 滿漢文記局錢).
In 1684 a new series of measures in the field of monetary policy was initiated. The standard weight was lowered to exactly 1 qian, and the alloy was adjusted at a copper–zinc rate of 6 : 4. In 1702 the weight was again raised to 1.4 qian, and a small or light coin (xiaoqian 小錢 or qingqian 輕錢) created with a weight of 0.7 qian, circulating along with the normal "heavy" or full-weight coins (zhongqian 重錢). The purchase value of these two coins stood at 0.7 liang of silver for 1,000 light cash (or 14.3 light cash per fen of silver), and 1 liang of silver for 1,000 heavy cash (or 10 heavy heash per fen of silver). The light coins disappeared from circulation in the mid-18th century.
The outer rim on both sides was quite wide, in contrast to that of the square hole (chuan 穿) in the middle of the coin. Apart from the two capital mints, there were mints in most provinces of the empire, in some even two. Not all of them did operate through the whole Qing period. Some of them, like the Anhui mint, only produced coins for several years. During the Kangxi reign, the inscriptions of the coins of the two capital mints was in Manchurian (ciowan boo, yuwan boo), while those of the provincial mints was held in a mixed Chinese-Manchu style, the short name in a Chinese character to the right, with the Manchu transliteration to the left (like 浙 [zhe, for Zhejiang] to the right, and ᠵᡝ je to the left). From the Yongzheng reign 雍正 (1723-1735) on the characters on the back side were replaced by a purely Manchurian inscrition, the names of the mints thus written in Manchu letters (like ᠵᡝ ᠪᠣᡠ je boo for zhe bao 浙寶).
During the Qianlong reign 乾隆 (1736-1796) the Zhili mint in Baoding 保定 was founded, as well as several mints in Eastern Turkestan, mainly in Yili 伊犁, Yerkant يارﻛﻨﺪ, Aksu اﻗﺴﻮ and Uši اﺷﻲ, probably also in Khotan خوتن, Kashgar قاشقر, and Qarashahr. These did not produce Chinese standard cash, but a coin adapted to the local pul ﭘول coins with a high copper content, and therefore called red cash (hongqian 紅錢). They had a mixed Manchu-Turki inscription on the back side (place name in Turki to the right, and boo in Manchurian to the left) and were worth 5 standard cash.
Early Qing period cash had no tin and was called yellow cash (huangqian 黃錢). From 1740 on two per cent of tin (xi 錫) were added to a type of alloy used for so-called "green cash" (qingqian 青錢). In fact there was not difference in the appearance of the two alloys. From 1741 on each casting round (mao 卯) of the Baoquanju Mint yielded 12,490 strings of cash (with 1,000 cash per string). These coins consisted of 50 per cent of copper, 41.5 per cent of zinc (baiqian), 6.5 per cent of lead (heiqian 黑鉛), and 2 per cent of tin.
The reason for this change of the alloy was the wish to reduce the tendency to melt down coins to produce brass objects. The new allow did not allow to reuse the material because it would become brittle and objects would easily break. It can be seen that the material value of the coins was at that time higher than its nominal value (the coins were undervalued), so people preferred using of the metal instead of the money. In fact, the production cost was about 15 per cent of the material value. Yet in practice not all mints followed the directive to change the alloy and continued to produce the cheaper copper-zinc alloy.
In 1799, the alloy was again changed to 53 per cent of copper, 41.5 per cent of zinc, and 6.5 per cent of lead. The Taiping rebellion changed the situation of the mint metal supply critically. The supply of zinc had been a problem since the beginning of the century, but the Taiping occupied the route from Yunnan to eastern and northern China, and so cut off the rich copper-ore mines in the soutwest from eastern and northern China. It was therefore decided to produce coins with larger denominations which allowed to save copper.
For this purpose, the government urged people to sell their copper utensils to the mint. The Xianfeng Emperor 咸豐 (r. 1850-1861) re-opened the mints in Kaifeng 開封, Jizhou 薊州, Jinan 濟南, Taiwan 臺灣 and Gongchang 鞏昌, and founded a new one in Chengde 承德.
The denominations of large cash (daqian) ranged from 4 to 1,000 wen. The 4-wen coin (with the inscription dang si 當四) was only produced in Ili, the 5-wen coin in many places, 8-wen only in Dihua 迪化, Xinjiang, 10-wen everywhere, 20-wen just in Fujian, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, 30-wen just in Zhejiang and Jiangsu, 40-wen only in Zhejiang, 50-wen coins mainly in Shanxi and Dihua, 80-wen coins in Dihua, 100-wen coins mainly in Shanxi, Dihua, Guizhou and Jiangxi, and coins of the denominations 200, 300, and 400 just by the Baoquanju Mint in Beijing, and such with the denominations of 500 and 1,000 wen in many places.
Apart from copper iron and zinc was used for the coins of the denominations 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000. The traditional 1-wen coins of the Xianfeng era were still called Xianfeng tongbao 咸豐通寶, the others Xianfeng zhongbao 咸豐重寶, and coins with the denominations 100 and higher were given the name Xianfeng yuanbao 咸豐元寶. Yet there were local exceptions from this rule. Perhaps the largest of the Xianfeng coins were the so-called zhenku daqian 鎮庫大錢. Yet they were not valid as currency and had therefore no denomination.
The system of Xianfeng coins was quite puzzling and therefore not readily accepted by the markets. 50-wen coins, for instance, were larger than 100-wen coins. The coins produced in the various provincial mints were also not uniform. The mint of Fujian, for instance, added to the denomination an information about the weight of the coin. Some inscriptions were in Chinese, others in Manchurian, and on some Xinjiang coins, both languages were used, and in addition to that also Turki. The alloy used for the various Xianfeng coins were not standard. There were iron coins, zinc (qian) coins, copper coins, and among the latter varying alloys with tin and zinc, so that there were "red copper coins" (hongtong), "purple" ones (zitong 紫銅) or yellow ones (huangtong 黃銅). 1-wen coins (zhiqian 制錢) were cast of copper, iron and zinc, 4-wen coins of red copper, 5-wen coins of copper and iron, 8-wen coins of red copper, 10-wen coins of copper, iron, and zinc, 20-, 30- and 40-wen coins of copper, 50-wen and 100-wen coins of copper, iron, and zinc, 200-, 300- and 400-wen coins of copper, and 500- and 1,000-wen coins of copper, iron, and zinc.
To add to the confusion, the official designations of coins of various denominations changed, the smallest being called tongbao, 4- to 50-wen coins zhongbao, and those above 50 wen were called yuanbao yet even from this rule, there were some exceptions. Numismatists have to battle with a raising number of mints. Already closed ones were opened again (see table), and new ones created, like the Chengde 承德 mint (baodeju 寶德局), the Dihua mint (baodiju 寶迪局) or that in Kuča (baokuju 寶庫局).
The coins issued by the Heavenly Kingdom of the Taiping are quite diverse. It seems that the central government had allowed local power-holders to produce their own coins in their jurisdiction. Yet three types of coins are quite prominently. In the capital Tianjing 天京 (Nanjing) coins with the denominations 1 (known as xiaoping 小平), 5, 10, 50 and 100 were produced, inscribed in regular kaishu script 楷書 with the words Taiping tianguo 太平天囯 on the obverse, and shengbao 聖寶 on the reverse side. The coins have a wide rim and are polished in an excellent way and imitate the coins in the style of the Suzhou mint from the Xianfeng period.
The second type used Song period-style script (songti 宋體 or fangti songzi 方體宋子). These coins are somewhat heavier than the first set, the copper content lower, and the polishing somewhat less accurate. These coins were produced in the region of Hengyang 衡陽, Hunan, and had the denominations 1, 10, 50 and 100.
The characters on the third type, written in kaishu and also circulating in Hunan, were not protruding from the surface as high as that of the other types of coins. There were four denominations, and the second difference to the other types was that the words shengbao were written to the right and left of the central hole.
Apart from the many local coins deviating from these patterns, the main problem of Taiping coins is that the denomination was not written on the coins, but can only be determined by the weight (for the first type, 3g, 5g, 8g, 12g and 31g). This circumstance does not only pose a problem for numismatists, but certainly had also concrete disadvantages in daily use. It might be that in practice one of the coins was traded at 2 wen of value, even if such coins had only existed officially during the Song period, and experiments with 2-wen coins had been made during the late Ming.
After the death of the Xianfeng Emperor, a small number of coins were issued with the reign motto Qixiang 祺祥 (Sep-Nov 1861). The Tongzhi Emperor 同治 (r. 1861-1874) did not issue a large numbers of coins, neither traditional ones nor such with larger denominations. The markets had not readily accepted the latter and behaved quite conservatively in face of the monetary experiments.
Yet the 10-wen coin continued as part of the monetary system under the Guangxu reign 光緒 (1875-1908). The alloy was 60 per cent of copper to 40 per cent of zinc, and its weight was fixed at 2.6 qian in 1883. The first standard coins of 1 wen with the inscription Guangxu tongbao 光緒通寶 were only produced from 1887 on. The government had decided to increase the number of the traditional small cash coins on the markets and had a large number of them cast by all mints throughout the empire. Some new mints were opened, namely two in Tianjin, one in Jilin 吉林, one in Fengtian 奉天 (Shenyang), and the modern Nanjing Mint (Nanjing zhibi chang 江南製幣廠). During these years the mechanical production of coins began, and modern paper money was first issued. The two mints in Beijing were rarely operating under the Guangxu Emperor and were closed during the Xuantong reign 宣統 (1909-1912). The traditional coins were more and more replaced by modern machine-struck coins with the inscription Da-Qing tongbi 大清銅幣 and a weight of 3g.
The first suggestion to use mechanical production was made by Zhong Dakun 鍾大焜 from Fujian in 1867. In Jilin in 1882 the copper prototypes were used based on Western silver coins, but the Ministry of Revenue resisted the Empress Dowager Cixi's 慈禧太后 proposal to buy foreign machines, so finally she ordered the reform-minded statesman Li Hongzhang 李鴻章 to make tests in the Tianjin mint that had been founded by him. In 1885 the governor-general of Min-Zhe, Yang Changjun 楊昌濬, had machine-struck coins produced with a weight of 8.5g, of which sadly none have survived. Only the small 3g-coins from the Fujian mint are found among collections, yet these might be of a later date.
Tests were also carried out by the Zhili mint and the modern Nanjing mint. The first successful implementation of modern coin production was in Guangdong, carried out under the supervision of Zhang Zhidong 張之洞 in 1889. These modern copper coins had a fix exchange rate to silver ingots, namely the traditional rate of 1 : 1,000. The coins had the inscription Kuping yi qian 庫平一錢 "One cash of the state treasury" (see kuping tael 庫平), which was soon changed to guwang boo "[made by] the Guangdong mint". Both circulated and were accepted by the money market in Guangdong.
Coins of higher denominations (5 and 10, the latter with a weight of 8.6g) were tested, but not brought into circulation. The Tianjin mint and that in Zhejiang went over to machine production in 1896, but the other provincial mints followed only hesitatingly, and the dimensions of the coins were not in accordance with the standard ones issued by the central government.
The first coins whose appearance followed Western models were also produced in Guangdong. This was the copper Yuan (tongyuan 銅元, with a content of 95 per cent), first issued in 1900, and with a weight of 2 qian. It had no square hole any more, and was inscribed with the words Guangxu yuanbao 光緒元寶, and the Manchurian words guwang boo. Close to the outer rim, the coin bore the words 廣東省造，每百枚換一圓 "Produced in Guangdong, 100 cash correspond to one Yuan". The reverse side was decorated with a floral pattern and was inscribed with the English words "Kwangtung One Cent", in later models "Kwangtung Ten Cash", which means that one of these modern coins was exchangeable with ten traditional copper coins.
In 1904 the inscription on the obverse side was changed to 每元當制錢十文, meaning the same in Chinese. On the markets, the exchange rate against the traditional cash remained stable, but was flexible against silver money. The new coin instantly won the confidence of the government, and it was imitated by nearly all other provinces. In 1905 the central government issued statutes for the production of modern coins, the Zhengdun huanfa zhangcheng 整頓圜法章程, regulating the alloy (Cu 95%, Zn 5% or Cu 95%, Zn 4% and Sn 1%) and the weight (20-wen coins corresponded to 4 qian of the official kuping weight, 10-wen coins to 2 qian, 5-wen coins to 1 qian, and 2-wen coins to 0.4 qian).
Modern 1-wen coins were only produced locally. The most oftenly produced modern cash coin was the 10-wen coin, also called dantongyuan 單銅元 or dantongban 單銅板 all other denominations were rare. The history of the modern copper coins in the late decades of the Qing empire is quite complex, and only experts among the numismatists have better insight into the details.
Apart from the Guangxu yuanbao, the most important coin was the Da-Qing tongbi 大清銅幣, the "Taiching Ti-Kuo Copper Coin". Among all the many types, shapes and versions, the Szechuan Rupee (Sichuan lubi 四川盧比) was the only coin with the portrait of a person.
To sum up, the attempts at modernizing the immensely diverse coin system of Qing China by just replacing the old cast copper cash by machine-struck coins with new designs just had failed. The monetary system remained as diverse as before.
The Taiping were not the only illegal powerholders who had their own coins produced. As early as during the Kangxi reign, the masters of the Three Feudatories issued own coins: Wu Sangui 吳三桂 the Liyong tongbao 利用通寶 and Zhaowu tongbao 昭武通寶, Wu Shifan 吳世璠 the Honghua tongbao 洪化通寶, and Geng Jingzhong 耿精忠 the Yumin tongbao 裕民通寶. In the mid-19th century, diverse groups of rebels issued coins with the inscriptions Pingjing tongbao 平靖通寶, Yiji tongbao 義記通寶 and Sitong tongbao 嗣統通寶.
Apart from real monetary coins, there was also huaqian 花錢 "adorned coins", which served as amulets, decorative money, commemorative coins, etc., and were in any case non-monetary coins.
The History Of Bronze In Ancient China:
Bronze is an alloy copper and zinc or copper and lead. All over China, ancient bronze structures are preserved in museums. Even in museums in the other parts of the world, these structures are preserved with equal care.
Many of these antiques were developed during the times of the Shang dynasty or the Zhou dynasty. They were derived as inherited antiques which were handed over from generation to generation, while some were recovered from beneath the earth.
Ancient Jewish Coins: The Widow’s Mite
The story of the “Widow’s Mite” tells how, in 30 CE, “Jesus sat over against the (temple) treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites . And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them . that this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance but she did cast in all that she had, even all her living” (Mark 12:41-44). The most likely candidates for the “two mites” are the only small bronze Jewish coins that were available - the common prutahs issued by the Hasmoneans (c.130 - 40 BCE). Even though these were issued about 70 - 160 years before this event, it should be noted that coins often circulated for hundreds of years in ancient times.
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