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Chinese charms

Nine-Fold Seal Script Charm

Nine-Fold Seal Script Charm thumbnail

Beginning with the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and extending to the last years of imperial China, government seals were engraved in a very stylized Chinese script known as “nine-fold” seal script. This rounded and convoluted script is both ornate and authoritarian but can be difficult to read by the uninitiated. A few very rare coins cast [...]

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Happiness Is Before Your Eyes

Happiness Is Before Your Eyes thumbnail

The Chinese love visual puns. The old Chinese charm displayed at the left is a good example. The charm shows a bat on top of two coins. Coins with the inscription wu zhu (五铢) were first used during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and then produced during a number of dynasties until [...]

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Coins and Charms of the Shui Nationality

Coins and Charms of the Shui Nationality thumbnail

The Shui people (水族) are one of the ethnic minority groups who live mainly in the Sandu Shui Autonomous County (三都水族自治县) of southwest China’s Guizhou Province (贵州省). The Shui (Sui) are descendants of the ancient Baiyue (百越) who lived in the area of southern China and northern Vietnam beginning in the first millennium BC. “Shui” [...]


“Happiness According to Your Wishes” Charm

“Happiness According to Your Wishes” Charm thumbnail

The Chinese love visual puns. The old charm displayed at the left recently appeared in a Chinese coin forum. Although the quality of the images may not be the best, the symbols on the reverse side of the charm are a good example of a visual pun also known as a rebus. The inscription on [...]


Qing Dynasty Peace Charm

Qing Dynasty Peace Charm thumbnail

Chinese charms very often resemble Chinese coins.  A number of old Chinese charms are modeled after a coin issued during the reign of Emperor Taizong (太宗 939-997 AD) of the Northern Song Dynasty.  The inscription on the coin was taiping tongbao (太平通宝) which translates as “Currency of the Great Peace”. At the left is a [...]


Tiger Hour Charm

Tiger Hour Charm thumbnail

Many old Chinese charms were modeled after a well-known ancient Chinese coin.  This coin’s calligraphy was simple yet elegant and the inscription expressed the primal foundation of the universe according to ancient Chinese philosophy. The coin was the wu xing da bu (“Large Coin of the Five Elements” 五行大布) which was cast during the reign [...]

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Liao Dynasty “Mother of Nine Sons” Charm

Liao Dynasty “Mother of Nine Sons” Charm thumbnail

A nomadic people known as the Khitan (Qidan 契丹) ruled China as the Liao Dynasty (辽朝) during the period 916-1125 AD. Charms from the Liao Dynasty are fairly rare and those with inscriptions can be difficult to decipher because the Qidan script is not well understood. Liao Dynasty charms lacking inscriptions are also a challenge [...]


Chinese Treasure Bowl Charm

Chinese Treasure Bowl Charm thumbnail

Since ancient times, there have been stories of a magical “treasure bowl” (ju bao pen 聚宝盆) that can create unlimited riches, and sometimes great sorrow, for its owner. While the actual treasure bowl remains to be found, its image has became a popular symbol of good fortune. At the left is an old Chinese “hanging” [...]


Laozi and Zhang Daoling Charm

Laozi and Zhang Daoling Charm thumbnail

The Chinese have been producing coin-shaped charms and amulets in a variety of themes for more than 2,000 years.  One of the most visually appealing types of charms involves scenes of people. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to interpret what historic or legendary scene is being presented. The charm at the left is frequently referred [...]


“Cassia and Orchid” Charm

“Cassia and Orchid” Charm thumbnail

An article in “The Oriental Collection” (dongfang shoucang 东方收藏) introduced a rarely seen Chinese charm from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). One side of the charm has the inscription gui zi lan sun (桂子蘭孫). Gui (桂) refers to a plant known as the “cassia” and zi  (子) refers to “seeds”.  Lan (蘭) is the “orchid” and [...]


Chinese Palindrome Charm

Chinese Palindrome Charm thumbnail

A palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same forward or backwards.  For example, “rats live on no evil star” is the same whether you read it left to right or right to left. Creating palindromes is actually much easier in Chinese, which uses “characters”, than in English which uses an alphabet.  If [...]


Chinese “World of Brightness” Coin

Chinese “World of Brightness” Coin thumbnail

The first Chinese machine-made cash coins were minted during the reign (1875-1908) of Emperor De Zong of the Qing Dynasty. As seen at the left, these brass coins had the inscription guang xu tong bao (光緒通寶).  Many of these coins were struck at the mint in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province during the years 1889-1908. Another coin [...]