Coins are one of the most easily recognized symbols of prosperity and good fortune and China, being one of the first countries in the world to use coins, has a monetary history going back more than 2,500 years.
For this reason, ancient Chinese coin symbols have historically been popular for such non-currency purposes as fortune-telling, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the even the design of store signs and buildings.
It is not surprising then that Chinese banks also like to use ancient Chinese coin symbols in the design of their logos.
The People’s Bank of China (PBC 中国人民银行) is China’s central bank responsible for monetary policy and the regulation of financial institutions.
The bank logo, shown above, displays a simple geometric form on the left side.
This red triangular design is actually based on a very ancient Chinese form of currency known as spade money (bubi 布币).
An example of spade money used by the ancient State of Liang (400 BC – 300 BC) during the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty is shown at the left.
As can be seen, the logo design is actually composed of three of these “spade” coins arranged feet-to-feet.
What is also interesting about the design is that it is in the shape of a “人”. The interior “hole” of the logo has this same “人” shape.
The “人” resembles the Chinese character ren (人) which means “man” or “person”. Since there are two of these “人” the meaning is “people”. “People” (renmin 人民) is the key word in the bank’s name (The People’s Bank of China) and thus the logo, in an auspicious red color, is a very clever design combining China’s ancient money heritage with the name of the bank.
When most people think of old Chinese coins they think of the traditional round bronze coin with a square hole in the middle popularly referred to as a “cash coin“. Chinese cash coins were used for more than 2,000 years.
This cultural icon is incorporated in the logo design of a number of major banks.
The Bank of China (BOC 中国银行) is one of the big four state-owned commercial banks of China.
The bank’s logo includes the archetypal cash coin.
Instead of a simple square hole in the middle, however, the design uses a stylized version of the Chinese character zhong (中). Zhong means “middle”, as in “middle kingdom”, and here represents the first character in the Chinese word for “China” (zhongguo 中国). This simple modification to the universally recognized cash coin symbol thus becomes the logo for the “Bank of China”.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC 中国工商银行) uses a similar theme.
But in this case, the central hole of the cash coin is in the shape of the Chinese character “工”.
The character gong (工) translates as “commercial” which is part of the bank’s name. The character also resembles a capitalized “i” in English and thus represents the word “industrial”. The “center hole” therefore expresses the essence of the bank’s name, the “Industrial and Commercial Bank of China”.
The logo for the China Construction Bank (CCB 中国建设银行) uses not one but two Chinese cash coins. The two coins are placed side-by-side with a slight overlap to give a three-dimensional effect.
Also, a small piece has been removed from the circular design so that the coins look like two of the English letter “C”. The two “C’s” stand for “China Construction”. The two attached coins in the design can be seen as a “construction” which reinforces the name, “China Construction Bank”.
The logo of the Hua Xia Bank (HXB 华夏银行) is another interesting variation of the Chinese cash coin theme.
As seen here, the “coin” is actually the white space enclosed by an auspicious red border. A gray square in the middle helps define the white space as the cash coin.
The distinctive shape of this red border actually represents an ancient cultural artifact that was unearthed in 1971 at a site in Inner Mongolia.
The dragon symbolizes the Chinese people and culture.
This jade carving has the distinction of being the oldest representation of a dragon ever discovered. As such, it is considered a national treasure and is now in the collection of the National Museum of China (中国国家博物馆).
The logo of the Hua Xia Bank perhaps best represents the ancient Chinese money theme popular among Chinese banks. Not only does it include the Chinese “cash coin” in its design but it also displays an easily recognized artifact representing China’s 5,000-year-long history.