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Chinese charms

Zithers and Grasshoppers

Zithers and Grasshoppers thumbnail

Zithers and grasshoppers may seem like an unlikely combination but they  are the theme of an old Chinese charm. The zithers in this case refer to the ancient Chinese musical instruments of the qin (琴) and the se (瑟). The qin or guqin (古琴) is a seven-stringed zither which was the instrument played by the [...]


Chinese Buddhist Charm with Sanskrit Characters

Chinese Buddhist Charm with Sanskrit Characters thumbnail

A Chinese charm displaying non-Chinese characters was recently featured on the website of the Beijing Hanhai Auction Company (北京翰海拍卖有限公司). The only information provided, besides its size and weight, is that the charm “has writing from one of the ethnic minority groups of China”.  No translation is offered nor is there any hint as to the [...]

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Liao Dynasty Charm

Liao Dynasty Charm thumbnail

The Liao Dynasty (辽朝 916-1125) was ruled by a nomadic people known as the Qidan (Khitan 契丹) and occupied an area of the northern prairies of China that included Manchuria, a portion of Mongolia, as well as parts of Hebei and Shanxi provinces. Charms from the Liao Dynasty are fairly rare and, because the Qidan [...]


Good Fortune, Salary, Longevity and Happiness

Good Fortune, Salary, Longevity and Happiness thumbnail

One of the major characteristics of Chinese charms is the rebus or “visual pun” where a picture is used to represent a word.  While it can sometimes be challenging, it is always interesting to figure out what, at first glance, the haphazard collection of animals and objects displayed on a Chinese charm are supposed to [...]


Chinese Football Charm

Chinese Football Charm thumbnail

In ancient China, charms were created to promote good luck and fortune in the major events of a person’s life such as marriage, the birth of children and promotion to an important government position. The celebration of sports was not a major theme of either Chinese coins or charms until very modern times with the [...]


Four Happiness Boys

Four Happiness Boys thumbnail

One of the most commonly seen Chinese “good luck” pictures is the “Four Happiness Boys” (si xi wa 四喜娃).  This is the image of two boys which are connected in such a way as to give the illusion there are four boys. This motif dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). A picture of the [...]


“Eight Decalitres of Talent” Charm

“Eight Decalitres of Talent” Charm thumbnail

Cao Cao (曹操, 155-220 AD) was a warlord and a major historical figure of the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China. Cao Cao had two sons.  Both Cao Pi (曹丕) and Cao Zhi (曹植) were very intelligent but the younger Cao Zhi was exceptionally gifted. At the left is a handmade charm dating from the [...]

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Chinese Star Charm

Chinese Star Charm thumbnail

The “da guan tong bao” (大觀通寶) coin shown here was cast during the years 1107-1110 of the reign of Emperor Hui Zong of the Song Dynasty.  The coin is considered one of the most beautiful of all Chinese coins due to its exquisite calligraphy.  The Emperor himself did the calligraphy and his style has become [...]

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“Battle of Jimo” Horse Coin

“Battle of Jimo” Horse Coin thumbnail

Most ancient Chinese horse coins display only a horse with no rider. Horse coins displaying a horse with a rider are much scarcer and those originating from the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) are particularly rare. The specimen at the left is a later version of one of these Song Dynasty horse coins with a rider. [...]


Safe Journey Charm

Safe Journey Charm thumbnail

In ancient times just as today, people were concerned about their safety when they traveled.  So it is not surprising that safe journey or safe travel charms compose a major category of old Chinese charms. A rubbing of one of the more interesting examples of this type of charm is shown here. The inscription, written [...]


Chinese Pavilion Open Work Charm

Chinese Pavilion Open Work Charm thumbnail

“Open work” charms are among the most interesting and oldest of all Chinese charms.  These are bronze charms which have irregular shaped “openings” or “holes” between very exquisite design elements. The themes are purely pictorial so there is rarely any Chinese character or inscription.  Also, owing to the design, both sides of the charm are [...]


Kazakhstan Zodiac Charm

Ancient Kazakhstan Zodiac Charm

I received a fascinating email from a visitor to my website from Kazakhstan in which he described a rare ancient zodiac charm in his possession. The Chinese zodiac is based on a twelve year cycle with an animal having unique qualities representing each year.  The zodiac charm discussed here has the animals displayed on one [...]