Xi Xia Dynasty
Like the Liao Dynasty, the
Xi Xia (Western Xia) Dynasty was established by a minority
nationality that existed in northwest China. The
Tangut tribe established the Xi Xia Dynasty in 1032
situated in an area that now encompasses Ningxia Province,
Gansu Province and the western part of Inner Mongolia.
At first, coins with inscriptions written in the Tangut or
Xi Xia script were cast but coins with Chinese
inscriptions were later produced. Inscriptions are
read clockwise as opposed to top to bottom and right to
Although coins were cast over a period of about 170 years,
the quantity was not great and many types are considered
The first coins were cast in the years 1053-1055 with the
inscription fu sheng
bao qian (福圣宝钱), written not in Chinese but in
the Tangut script, during the reign of Emperor Yi Zong
Emperors Hui Zong (1068-1086), Chong Zong (1086-1139), Ren
Zong (1139-1193) and Huan Zong (1194-1206) cast coins with
both Tangut and Chinese inscriptions during their reigns.
The reigns of Emperors Xiang Zong (1206-1211) and Shen
Zong (1211-1223) produced coins with Chinese inscriptions
In general, the coins of the Xi Xia are considered to be
of a higher quality than those of the Liao Dynasty.
Except for the
and iron versions of the tian sheng yuan bao (天盛元宝) cast in the
years 1149-1169 and the iron version of the qian you yuan bao
(乾佑元宝) cast in the period 1170-1193 during the reign of
Emperor Ren Zong,
most other coins of the Xi Xia are considered to be scarce
This coin was cast during the first year (1210) of the
Huang Jian reign of Emperor Xiang Zong (1206-1211) of the
Xi Xia (Western Xia) Dynasty.
The inscription is read clockwise as huang jian yuan bao
The coin has a diameter of 25.5 mm and a weight of 4.9
This coin is from the
reign of Emperor Shen Zong (1211-1223) of the Xi Xia or
Western Xia Dynasty.
The inscription on this
coin is written in Chinese and is read clockwise as guang ding yuan bao
The diameter is 25.5 mm
and the weight is 3.8 grams.
Jin Dynasty (1115-1234)
The Jin Dynasty
(1115-1234) was established by the Jurched (Nuzhen) (女贞)
nationality in northern China during the late Northern
The Jurched defeated the Liao and, at first, used the
coins of the Liao and the Song Dynasties.
In 1154, the Jin began to issue paper money,
known as jiao chao
The Jin did not begin to cast its own coins until 1157
which means the history of Jin coinage spans only about 60
Unlike the Liao, however, the coins of the Jin, such as
the zheng long yuan bao
(正 隆元宝), tend
to be very well made. While there are fewer types of
coins than the Liao, they were cast in larger quantities.
Modeled after the Song Dynasty da guan tong bao
(大观 通宝) coin which displayed the personal
calligraphy style of Emperor Hui
Zong, the da ding tong bao
(大定通 宝) coins of Emperor Shi Zong
exhibit a similar high degree of workmanship and
The tai he zhong bao
(泰和重宝) coin, with its seal script calligraphy
in high relief, and cast during the years 1204-1209 of the
reign of Emperor Zhang Zong (1190-1209), is surely one of
the most beautiful of all Chinese coins.
It is said that the inscription was written by the famous
calligrapher Tang Huai Ying (堂坏英). This style of
seal script is variously known as "jade tendon", "jade
chopstick", and "jade ligament" (yu jin zhuan 玉筋篆).
Coins cast in the later years of the Jin are very rare.
During the rule of King Wei Shao (1209-1213), the chong qing tong bao
(崇庆通宝) and chong qing
yuan bao (崇庆元宝) coins were cast in the years
1212-1213. Only one specimen of chong qing yuan bao
is known to exist.
Also cast during the reign of King Wei Shao was the zhi ning yuan bao
(至宁元宝) of which only one example of the coin is known to
have survived to the present time.
The zhen you tong bao
(贞 佑通宝) and zhen
you yuan bao (贞 佑元宝) coins cast in
the years 1213-1217 of the reign of Emperor Zuan Zong
(1213-1224) are also very rare. Only one specimen of
zhen you yuan bao
is known to exist.
Jin Dynasty coins may be
viewed at the links below.
Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)
The Mongols, through a
series of ruthless military campaigns, successfully
created an enormous empire during the 13th and
14th centuries that spanned from East Asia to
eastern Europe and which became known as the Mongol
Empire, Mongol World Empire, or Empire of the Great
Khan. It was the largest contiguous empire in the
history of the world.
Prior to the formal establishment of the Yuan Dynasty in
1280, it is quite probable that the Mongols, in order to
help restore the economy, allowed coins to be locally
produced on a very small scale in those areas formerly
ruled by the Jin Dynasty.
This is because monetary policies adopted during the late
Jin Dynasty resulted in the paper money of the Jin Dynasty
being seriously depreciated. These locally cast
coins were then allowed to circulate along with older
coins from previous Chinese dynasties.
Some of these newly cast coins were similar to those cast
during the Song Dynasty. One such coin was the da guan tong bao (大
观通 宝) but with the
inscription written in a calligraphy different from the "slender
gold" style of the Song coin.
Coins similar to those of the Jin Dynasty, such as the tai he tong bao
(泰和重 宝) and da ding
tong bao (大 定通 宝), were also
cast. Because these coins have characteristics
slightly different from those officially produced during
those dynasties, they were previously known as "frontier"
or "border" area coins, or "later" cast coins.
The Mongol Empire, also known as the "great dynasty" (da chao 大
朝), cast bronze and silver coins of its own in
China with the appropriate inscription da chao tong bao
(大朝通宝). These coins are said to have been cast by
Ghengis Khan and are very rare.
Following the establishment of Kublai Khan as the Great
Khan in 1260, a very few bronze coins were cast with the
inscriptions zhong tong
The zhong tong yuan bao
(1260-1263), which exists in seal script and
regular script versions, probably began to be cast at
about the same time as the paper money began to be
issued. Very few of these coins exist.
With the founding of the Yuan
Dynasty in 1280, the primary form of money was paper money
and, to a much smaller extent, silver ingots
(sycee 细 丝
or yuanbao 元
During the 1260-1294 reign of Emperor Shi Zu (Kublai Khan
or Khubilai Khan), coins with the inscription zhong tong yuan bao
(中统元宝) were cast in the years 1260-1263.
Zhi yuan tong
bao (至 元通宝)
coins were cast during the years 1285-1294 of Kublai
Khan's reign. The zhi
yuan tong bao coin was cast in two
versions. One version has the inscription in regular
script (kai shu)
while the other version is written in Mongol script, also
known as "Phags-pa" (Phagspa). Matidhvaja Sribhadra
was a Tibetan Lama commissioned by Kublai Khan in 1269 to
create a Mongolian alphabet. The resulting alphabet
closely resembles Tibetan and is known as the Phags-pa
The reign of Emperor Cheng Zong (Temur Oljeitu) during the
years 1294-1307 saw the production of a small quantity of
yuan zhen yuan bao
(元贞元宝), yuan zhen tong
bao (元贞通宝) and da
de tong bao (大德通宝) bronze coins. These
coins were only cast for symbolic reasons during the years
1295-1296, in both Chinese and Phags-pa versions, since
the primary currrency was paper money.
When Emperor Wu Zong (Khaishan) became the ruler in 1308,
he almost emptied the national treasury by appointing his
own relatives to official positions and by bestowing
gifts. In 1309 he tried to rectify the situation by
issuing a new form of paper money called zhi da yin chao
During the period 1310-1311 Emperor Wu Zong also ordered
the casting of bronze coins with the inscription zhi da yuan bao (至
大元宝) and zhi da
tong bao (至大通宝).
The zhi da tong bao
1 cash coins are the most common Yuan Dynasty coins found
today. The 2 cash and 3 cash versions, however, are
Also during the years 1310-1311 Emperor Wu Zong cast da yuan tong bao (大元通
宝) coins in both Chinese and Mongol (Phags-pa)
script versions and in values of 1 cash and 10 cash.
Emperor Ren Zong (Ayurbarwada) took
power in 1312 and proceeded to stop the production of
bronze coins. For about the next 40 years the
government permitted only the circulation of paper
currency although coins did continue to be used privately
by the people. A small quantity of small bronze
coins were cast during this period but these coins are
referred to as "temple coins" and were not intended to be
used as currency.
The Yuan Dynasty is famous for these "temple coins" or
"offering coins" (gong
yang qian 供养钱). Because the Yuan Dynasty
emperors were Buddhist, the Buddhist temples tended to
receive official support. The larger Buddhist
temples cast bronze Buddha statues and other religious
artifacts and it was therefore easy for them to also cast
these coins which could be used by the faithful as
offerings to Buddha. In general, these coins tend to
be small and crudely made. However, because these
coins still had intrinsic value, they sometimes served as
currency particular during difficult economic times when
paper money was not considered to be of value.
Emperor Shun (Toghon Temur) reigned during the period
1333-1368. He continued the use of paper money while
only allowing limited casting of the small bronze "temple
coins". In the tenth year (1350) of his Zhi Zheng
reign, however, Emperor Shun ordered the printing of a new
type of paper money known as zhi zheng jiao chao (至正交钞).
At the same time, Emperor Shun resumed the casting of
bronze coins with the inscription zhi zheng tong bao (至
正通宝) to circulate together with the
new paper currency.
Zhi zheng tong bao
coins can be divided into four basic types. The
first type has the Earthly Stem, indicating the year cast,
written in Mongol script above the square hole on the
reverse side. The years are as follows: 寅
(yin 1350), 卯
(mao 1351), 辰
巳 (si 1353),
and 午 (wu
1354). These coins were
cast in values of 1 cash, 2 cash and 3 cash.
The zhi zheng tong bao
coins with the 寅 (yin 1350) on the
reverse are the most scarce because the order to begin
casting these coins was not made until November which
means the casting period was very short.
The second type of zhi zheng tong bao has, on the
reverse side, the year written as the Earthly Stem in
Mongol above the square hole and also the denomination
written below the hole. To give an example, 戌十 (xu shi) would be
the year 1358 and a denomination of 10 cash.
Denominations were cast as 2 cash, 3 cash, 5 cash and
The third type of zhi
zheng tong bao coin has, on the reverse side,
the year written as the Earthly Stem in Mongol above
the square hole and the weight written below the
hole. For example, 亥 (hai) written above the hole
indicates the year 1359 and 壹两重 (yi liang zhong)
written below the hole means 1 liang in weight.
The fourth type of coin actually has the inscription zhi zheng zhi bao
宝). The calligraphy for the inscription was done
by Zhou Boqi (周伯琦) who was a famous poet and
calligrapher of the time. On the reverse side to
the right of the square hole are the characters quan chao (权钞)
which means equivalent to paper money. On the
reverse side to the left of the hole are Chinese
characters indicating that the coin is worth, for
example, the equivalent of wu qian (伍钱) or 5 qian in paper
Several examples of Yuan Dynasty coins are displayed
This coin is from the reign of Kublai Khan (Emperor Shi
Zu) (1260-1294) of the Yuan Dynasty.
The inscription (je Řen
tung baw) is written in the Mongol script (Phags-pa).
The equivalent Chinese inscription is zhi yuan tong bao
The size of the coin indicates that it has a value of "2
cash" which means it was equal to two regular cash coins.
These coins were cast during the years 1285-1294.
The diameter is 29 mm and the weight is 7.3 grams.
This Yuan Dynasty coin was cast during the reign of
Emperor Wu Zong (Khaishan) (1308-1311).
The inscription is written in Mongolian and reads da yuan tong bao
This large and heavy coin was cast during the years
1310-1311 and was equivalent in value to ten cash coins.
The diameter is 42 mm and the weight is 22.9 grams.
The inscription on this Yuan Dynasty cash coin reads zhi zheng tong bao
The coin was cast during the reign of Emperor Shun (Toghon
Temur) who ruled during the years 1333-1368.
It is a 3 cash coin which means that it had a value
equivalent to 3 regular (1 cash) coins.
The reverse side displays the Mongol word for the Chinese
cyclical character geng yin (庚寅) which means this coin was
cast in the year 1350
The coin has a diameter of 33 mm and a weight of 8.8
Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
The Ming Dynasty placed a greater reliance on coins
than did the Yuan Dynasty. Even before the Mongols
were defeated, Zhu Yuanzhang (朱元璋), who would become the
first emperor of the Ming, established a mint (Board of
Works) in 1361 at Ying
Tian Fu (Nanjing) and began casting coins with
the inscription da zhong tong bao
In 1368 after formally becoming the
of the Ming dynasty and adopting the reign title hong wu, Zhu
Yuanzhang established mints in other cities and
provinces including Nanking (jing 京), Peiping (beiping
北平), Henan (yu
豫), Jinan (ji 济),
Zhejiang (zhe 浙),
Fujian (fu 福),
Hubei (e 鄂),
广), and Guilin (gui
桂). The Chinese characters in parentheses are the
respective mint marks found on the reverse side of the
Bronze coins were cast in five denominations: 1 cash (xiao ping 小平), 2 cash
(zhe er 折二), 3
cash (zhe san
折三), five cash (zhe
and ten cash (dang shi
当十). The coins progressed in size from smaller to
larger according to the denomination.
The 1 cash coins have a single Chinese character on the
reverse side indicating where the coin was cast. The
reverse side of the 2 cash coins also have a Chinese
character indicating the mint. However, some of the
2 cash, 3 cash, 5 cash and 10 cash coins also include on
the reverse side a Chinese number indicating the value.
New rules were promulgated in 1375 which set strict
standards for coins. The previous denominations
would now be, respectively, 1 qian (yi qian 一钱), 2 qian (er
qian 二钱), 3 qian (san qian 三钱),
5 qian (wu qian 五钱)
and one liang (yi liang 一两)
and the weight of each coin would be in accordance with
the stated value. Additionally, it was stipulated
that the coins would be made from 100% copper and that 160
of the "1 qian"
cash coins would be made from one jin (斤) of
copper. Each provincial mint was required to mark
the reverse side of each coin with both its value and
place of casting.
The Ming Dynasty included a
total of seventeen reign titles but coins were not cast
for every reign title. Coins were cast for the
following ten reign titles: hong wu tong bao (洪
武通宝) cast during the reign of
Emperor Tai Zu (1368-1398); yong le tong bao (永
乐通 宝) cast during the reign of Cheng
Zu (1403-1424); xuan de
tong bao (宣德通宝)
cast during the reign of Emperor Xuan Zong (1426-1435); hong zhi tong bao (弘治通宝) cast
during the reign of Emperor Xiao Zong (1488-1505); jia jing tong bao
(嘉靖通宝) cast during the reign of Emperor Shi Zong
(1522-1567); long qing
tong bao (隆庆通宝) cast during the reign of Emperor
Mu Zong (1567-1572); wan li tong bao (万
历通 宝) cast during the reign of
Emperor Shen Zong (1573-1620); tai chang tong bao (泰昌通宝) cast during the reign of
Emperor Guang Zong (1620); tian qi tong bao (天
启通 宝) cast during the reign of
Emperor Xi Zong (1621-1627); and chong zhen tong bao (忠
祯通宝) cast during the reign of
Emperor Si Zong (1628-1644).
The yong le tong bao (雍乐通宝) coin of Emperor Cheng
Zu was produced primarily for use in foreign trade.
The coin is closely associated with the Chinese maritime
explorer Admiral Zheng He (郑和). Please see "Admiral
Zheng He and the Yongle Tongbao Coin" for additional
Emperor Shi Zong has the distinction of having cast the
largest coin in Chinese history. This huge jia
jing tong bao (嘉靖通宝) coin weighs 41.5 kg! For
more information please see "China's
Biggest Ancient Coin".
No coins were cast and put into
circulation with the following seven Ming Dynasty reign
titles: jian wen
(建文), hong xi
(洪熙), zheng tong
(正统), jing tai
(景泰), tian shun
(天顺), cheng hua
(成化), and zheng de
Zheng De was the reign title
(1505-1521 AD) of the Ming Dynasty emperor Wu Zong.
Even though no authentic coins were believed to have been
cast during his reign, one can still find zheng de tong bao
(正德通宝) coins and charms which are
According to Chinese folklore, Emperor Zheng De
was a "swimming"
dragon that came back to life. Beginning at about
the end of the Ming Dynasty and extending through the Qing
(Ch'ing) Dynasty, coins were cast privately with the
de tong bao (正德通宝) because of the
belief that carrying such a coin would act as
a protective charm when
crossing a river or sea.
Southern Ming coins were also cast as follows: da ming tong bao (大明通宝) cast
during the reign of the Prince of Lu (1644-1646); hong guang tong bao (弘光通宝) cast
during the reign of the Prince of Fu (1644-1645); long wu tong bao (隆武通宝) cast
during the reign of the Prince of Tang (1645-1646); and yong li tong bao (永历通宝) cast
during the reign of Prince Yongming (1646-1659).
It is interesting to note that all Ming
Dynasty coins include "tong
bao" (通宝) in the inscription, such as da zhong tong bao
(大中通宝). Unlike previous dynasty coins,
there are no Ming Dynasty coins which have "yuan bao" (元宝) in the
The reason is because the first emperor of the Ming was Zhu
Yuanzhang (朱元璋) who happened to have the character yuan (元)
in his name. Because of the tradition of respect
accorded an emperor, it was prohibited to use the
character "yuan" (元) on coinage of
the Ming dynasty.
Another interesting fact concerning Ming Dynasty coins is
that there are far fewer still in existence compared to,
for example, coins from the even older Song Dynasty
(960-1127). With the exception of da zhong tong bao
wu tong bao (洪武通宝), tian qi tong bao (天
启通宝) and chong
zhen tong bao
(忠 祯通宝), coins cast with other Ming
Dynasty reign titles are fairly scarce.
The reason for the comparative scarcity of Ming Dynasty
coins is that they were devalued by the succeeding Qing
(Ch'ing) Dynasty (1644-1911). Ten cash coins from
the Ming were the equivalent of only five cash coins under
the Qing. As a result, many Ming Dynasty coins were
taken out of circulation and melted down with the bronze
then used to cast Qing Dynasty coins.
At the left is a coin cast under the
authority of Zhu Yuanzhang who was, at the time, the
Prince of Wu.
Zhu Yuanzhang was the leader of the rebellion that
overthrew the Yuan Dynasty, under the rule of the Mongols,
and then proceeded to establish the Ming Dynasty in 1368
with himself enthroned as Emperor Tai Zu (1368-1398).
These coins were cast during the years 1361-1368
and the inscription reads da zhong tong bao
The reverse side has the number 10 (shi 十) above the
square hole indicating that the coin is worth ten cash
Below the square hole is the Chinese character zhe (浙) meaning that
the coin was cast at the Zhejiang (浙江) mint.
This large coin has a diameter of 45.2 mm and a weight of
To learn more about Emperor Tai Zu, please see the charm
describing his life at Buddhist
Ming Emperor Xi Zong ruled the country during the years
Cash coins with the inscription tian qi tong bao (天启通宝), such as the
example at the left, were cast in very large quantities
This coin has a diameter of 22.5 mm and a weight of 4.9
Emperor Si Zong reigned during the years 1628-1644.
A major category of chong
zhen tong bao (忠祯通宝) cash coins display dots
(stars), crescents (moons), circles (suns) and various
lines on the reverse side.
The coin at the left is such an example with a large dot
or star above the square hole on its reverse side.
The diameter of the coin is 26 mm and the weight is 5.6
Another category of chong
zhen tong bao cash coins displays the weight or
value on the reverse side such as the coin to the left.
The reverse side has the Chinese character gong (工) above the
square hole and the character er (二) below.
(二) means "two" which means that this coin had a value
equivalent to two regular cash coins.
(工), meaning "work", indicates that this coin was cast at
the Board of Works mint.
Please also note that the zhen (祯) character
in the inscription, located below the hole on the obverse
side, has its left component (示)
written differently from that on the coin above.
The coin has a diameter of 24.5 mm and a weight of 3.4
variety of chong zhen
tong bao coins have only mint marks on the
The coin at the left, for example, has the Chinese
(忠) meaning loyal or honest above the square hole.
During Emperor Si Zong's reign, there were a total of 156
mint furnaces producing cash coins. It is unclear if
refers to a particular mint or not.
The coin has a diameter of 24.8 mm and a weight of 3
This is an unusual chong
zhen tong bao coin.
The coin is thicker and heavier than normal cash coins.
Also, the reverse side has a very wide rim and the four
corners of the inner rim extend outwards towards the outer
This type of coin originated during the reign of Wang Mang
of the Xin Dynasty (7-23 AD) and is known as a
(bing 饼) or
This coin has a diameter of 24 mm and a weight of 5.9
Unlike the coin above, this is a chong zhen tong bao (忠祯通宝)
coin that is both smaller and lighter than normal.
However, this coin is unusual to even a greater
fascinating about this coin is the reverse side.
There are two Manchu characters typical of a Qing (Ch'ing)
Dynasty (1644-1911) cash coin.
Manchu characters were never used on
Ming Dynasty coins.
The earliest Manchu character mintmarks did not
appear on cash coins until 1657 when shun zhi tong bao
(顺治通宝) coins switched from using
only Chinese characters on the reverse side to using
Manchu characters on some versions.
The Manchu characters (boo
yun) on this coin seem to indicate that it was
cast at the Yunnan mint in south China.
The best explanation for the existence of this coin is
that it was privately cast in southern China during the
transition period from the Ming to the early Qing
(Ch'ing). This was a period when large areas of
southern China were still under the control of forces
loyal to the Ming court.
This coin has a diameter of 21 mm and a weight of 1.6
Other Ming Dynasty coins are discussed at the links
Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty
Prior to the Manchus establishing the Qing (Ch'ing)
Dynasty, Nurhachi (1616-1626), known in Chinese as
Emperor Shi Zu, cast coins with the inscription tian ming tong bao
(天命通宝) written in the Manchu script.
Abahai (1627-1643), also known as Hong Taiji (洪太极) or
Huang Taiji (皇太极, 皇台吉), cast coins with the
cong tong bao (天聪通宝) written in Manchu.
At the beginning of the dynasty, the government set
the standard that one tael (liang 两) of silver would be the
equivalent of one thousand cash coins and that one li (厘) of silver
would be equal to one cash coin.
Emperor Shi Zu (1644-1661)
established mints at the Board of Revenue and the
Board of Works in Peking and began casting bronze
coins with the inscription shun zhi tong bao (顺治通宝).
Coins with this inscription were cast in five varieties or
types as described below.
Beginning in the year 1644, Type 1 and Type 2 coins
Type 1 coins were cast during 1644-1645 and followed
the ancient tradition of having a reverse side with no
Type 2 coins were produced from 1644 to 1661 and were
modeled after the huichang
(会昌) kai yuan tong
bao (开元通宝) coins produced during the period
845-846 AD of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), as well
as the da zhong
tong bao (大中通宝) and hong wu tong bao (洪武通宝) coins of the
Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). These coins have a
single Chinese character on the reverse side
indicating at which mint the coin was cast.
The mints casting Type 2 coins were the Board of
户), the Board of Works (gong 工), Xian in Shaanxi Province (shan 陕), Linqing
garrison in Shandong Province (lin 临), Xuanhua
garrison in Zhili (xuan
宣), Yansui garrison in Shanxi Province (yan 延), Taiyuan
in Shanxi Province (yuan
(原), Shanxi Province (xi 西), Miyun garrison in Zhili (yun 云), Datong
garrison in Shanxi Province (tong 同), Jingzhou garrison in Hubei
荆), Kaifeng in Henan Province (he 河), Wuchang in
Hubei Province (chang
昌), Jiangning or Nanking (ning 宁), Nanchang in Jiangxi
(江), Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province (zhe (浙), Fuzhou
in Fujian Province (fu
福), Yanghe garrison in Shanxi Province (yang 阳), and
Xiangyang in Hubei Province (xiang 襄).
Type 3 coins were cast from 1653-1657 and are
characterised by having the characters 一厘 (yi li), meaning
"one li of
silver", on the reverse side of the coin. A li (厘)
was equal to one-thousandth of a tael (liang 两).
Type 3 coins also have a Chinese character on the
reverse indicating the mint. The mints for Type
3 coins were the same as those
casting the Type 2 coins but excluding the mints at Yansui
garrison in Shanxi Province (yan
and Jingzhou garrison in Hubei Province (jing 荆).
Additionally, a mint at Jinan in Shandong Province (dong 东) was
established to cast Type 3 coins.
Type 4 coins
were cast during the years 1657-1661 and have only
Manchu characters on the reverse side. To the
left of the square hole is the Manchu character for bao (宝) and to
the right is the Manchu character indicating the
mint. These coins were cast in Peking at the
Board of Revenue mint (bao quan 宝泉) and the Board of Works
mint (bao yuan
Type 5 coins were only cast during the years 1660-1661
and have both a Chinese and Manchu character on the
reverse side indicating where the coin was cast.
The Manchu character is located to the left of the
square hole and the Chinese character is to the right.
There were twelve mints casting Type 5 coins: Xian
in Shaanxi Province (shan 陕), Linqing
garrison in Shandong Province (lin 临), Xuanhua
in Zhili (xuan
宣), Jizhou garrison in Zhili (ji 蓟), Taiyuan in Shanxi
原), Datong garrison in Shanxi Province
(tong 同), Kaifeng
in Henan Province (he 河), Wuchang in Hubei
昌), Jiangning or Nanking (ning 宁),
Nanchang in Jiangxi Province (jiang (江), Hangzhou
in Zhejiang Province (zhe 浙), and Jinan
in Shandong Province (dong (东).
During the reign of Emperor
Sheng Zu (1662-1722), coins were cast with the
inscription kang xi tong bao
(康熙通宝) modeled after both the shun zhi tong bao coins
with the Manchu character on the reverse (Type 4) and
the shun zhi tong
bao coins with both the Chinese and Manchu
characters on the reverse (Type 5).
Kang xi tong bao
cash coins were cast at the following mints:
Datong garrison in Shanxi Province (tong 同), Fuzhou
in Fujian Province (fu
福), Linqing garrison in Shandong Province (lin 临), Jinan in
Shandong Province (dong
东), Nanchang in Jiangxi Province (jiang (江),
Xuanhua garrison in Zhili (xuan 宣), Taiyuan in Shanxi Province
Suzhou in Jiangsu Province (su 苏), Jizhou garrison in Zhili (ji 蓟), Wuchang in
Hubei Province (chang
昌), Jiangning or Nanking (ning 宁), Kaifeng in Henan Province (he 河), Changsha
in Hunan Province (nan
南), Guangzhou in Guangdong Province (guang 广), Hangzhou in Zhejiang
浙), Taiwan (tai 台), Guilin in
Guangxi Province (gui
桂), Xian in Shaanxi Province (shan 陕), Yunan Province
Zhangzhou in Fujian Province (zhang 漳), Gongchang in Gansu
巩), and West (xi
The cash coins cast during the
reigns of the next three emperors were basically
modeled after those of Kangxi. These include the
yong zheng tong bao
(雍正通宝) coins of Emperor Shi Zong (1723-1735), the qian long tong bao (乾隆通宝)
coins of Emperor
Gao Zong (1736-1795), and the jia qing tong bao
(嘉庆通宝) coins of Emperor Ren Zong (1796-1820).
During the reign of Emperor
Xuan Zong (1821-1850), large quantities of silver left
the country as a result of the opium trade. This
meant that the price of silver in China increased
drastically and, because coin production was tied to a
silver standard, the cost of casting bronze cash coins
now exceeded their face value.
The coins produced during Emperor Xuan Zong's reign
have the inscription dao guang tong bao
(道光通宝) and, in general, tend to be smaller and of
poorer quality than those of his predecessors.
In addition to the mints that existed under Emperor
Ren Zong, a new mint was established at Kucha (ku 库) to produce
cash coins for the far western province of Xinjiang.
During his Xian Feng reign,
Emperor Wen Zong (1851-1861) faced a
large-scale peasant uprising (1850 -1864 AD) known
as the Taiping Rebellion. The expense of the
war, aggravated by the cutting off of the supply
of copper from mines in the south, had a profound
effect on coin production. In addition to
the small cash coins (xian feng tong bao
咸丰通宝), many coins
of larger denominations were also cast.
The bronze coins cast during Emperor Wen Zong's
reign thus ranged from "One Wen" to "Value One
Thousand". But, the size and weight of
Xian Feng coins were in no way standardized.
For example, a "Value Fifty" coin would be larger
than a "Value One Hundred" coin. A "Value
One Hundred" coin would be heavier than a "Value
One Thousand" coin.
Coins with the inscription xian feng zhong
bao (咸丰重宝) include
the denominations "Value Four", "Value Five",
"Value Ten", and "Value Fifty".
Coins with the inscription xian feng yuan bao
(咸丰元宝) have the denominations "Value One Hundred",
"Value Five Hundred" and "Value One Thousand".
There exists an extremely rare and famous specimen
of a "Value One Hundred" pattern coin cast at the
Fuzhou (福州) mint during the reign of the Xianfeng
Emperor. For a discussion of this coin please see
King of Qing Dynasty Coins".
Emperor Mu Zong (1862-1874)
only lived to the age of nineteen but coins cast
during his short reign include tong zhi tong bao
(同治通宝) and tong
zhi zhong bao (同治重宝).
Emperor De Zong (1875-1908)
had coins cast with the inscription guang xu tong bao
(光绪通宝) and guang
xu zhong bao (光绪重宝).
the late Qing Dynasty during the reign of Emperor De
Zong, a new type of bronze coin which was round but
without a square hole in the center began to make an
appearance. These coins were not cast but were
made by machines. The first machines were
imported and installed in Guangdong Province in the 26th
year (1900) of the Guang Xu reign.
With the introduction of these "struck" coins, China's
2,000 year history of casting bronze coins with a
square hole in the middle was nearing its end.
These coins were generally referred to as tong ban (铜
版) and became so popular that by the 31th
year (1906) of the Guang Xu reign were being produced
at 15 bureaus in 12 provinces.
These machine-made coins were struck with two
different inscriptions. One inscription was guang xu yuan bao
(光绪元宝) which was inscribed in the center of the
obverse side. Near the top of the rim was the
name of the province or place of mintage. Near
the lower rim was indicated the coin's parity against
silver or, in most cases, its valve in relation to the
traditional bronze coins ("cash coins") with square
holes in the middle. Many of the coins had the
name of the mint written in Manchu characters either
in the very center or near the rim on the right and
The reverse side of the guang xu yuan bao coin
usually had an image of a dragon. The dragon
could be portrayed as coiled, flying or
swimming. There were many different dragon
designs which resulted in a great variety of guang xu yuan bao
The second category of inscription used on these
machine-made coins was da qing tong bi (大清铜币) which means
"bronze coin of the great Qing (Dynasty)". These
coins began to be struck during the 31st
year (1906) of the Guang Xu reign at the "General Mint
of the Ministry of the Interior and Finance" which had
changed its name from the "Tianjin Silver Money
General Mint". Soon afterwards, mints in other
provinces began to strike coins with this inscription.
The da qing tong bi
coins were minted in four denominations during the
Guang Xu reign. The largest denomination was "20
meaning it was equivalent in value to 20 of the common
bronze coins with a square hole. The other
denominations were "10 wen", "5 wen" and "2 wen", each being
worth the respective number of traditional "cash
In comparison to the large number of varieties of the
guang xu yuan bao
coins, the da qing
tong bi coins were more uniform.
Similar to the guang
xu yuan bao coins, the inscription da qing tong bi
written in Chinese characters occupied the center
portion of the obverse side. In the very center
of the coin was one or two small Chinese characters
indicating the province where the coin was
produced. Near the top of the rim, the
inscription da qing
tong bi was written again but this time in
Manchu characters. Near the right and left sides
of the rim were two characters representing the
"Ministry of the Interior and Finance" which was later
replaced by the "Ministry of Revenue and Expenditure".
The reverse side of the da qing tong bi coin also had the
design of a dragon but with much fewer variations in
comparison to that of the guang xu yuan bao. Near the
upper rim were the Chinese characters guang xu nian zao
(光绪年造) meaning "minted during the Guang Xu
years". Near the lower rim was written in
English letters "Tai-Ching-Ti-Kuo Copper Coin".
Emperor Puyi (1909-1912) was the last emperor of
the Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty, as well as last emperor
of imperial China. Cash coins cast during
his reign have the inscription xuan tong tong bao
Also, machine-made da qing tong bi coins
continued to be struck during the Xuan Tong
reign. The da qing tong bi coins had xuan tong nian zao
(宣统年造), meaning "minted during the Xuan Tong
years", inscribed near the upper rim on the
reverse side of the coins.
During the second year (1910) of the Xuan Tong
reign, an additional four denominations of the
machine-made bronze coins were struck. These
denominations included the "two fen" (二分),
(五厘) and "one li"
(一厘). However, few of these coins were
actually made because the Qing Dynasty soon
collapsed as a result of the Xinhai Revolution of
Described below are examples of Qing (Ch'ing)
Emperor Gao Zong ruled
under the reign title Qian Long from 1736 to
1795. He abdicated the throne after sixty years
in favor of his son Jia Qing as a
sign of respect to not reign longer that his
well-made coin at the left is typical of the cash
coins cast during the early part of his reign.
A very large quantity of qian long cash coins were cast but
their size and quality, in comparison to that of the
Kang Xi and Yong Zheng era, gradually deteriorated
during his reign.
The inscription on the obverse side reads qian long tong bao
A special characteristic of some qian long coins,
and which can be seen here, is that the bottom
(隆) is sometimes written with a fou (缶) instead
of a sheng
cash coins have the mint name written in Manchu
only. The reverse side of this coin has the
Manchu character boo,
meaning "building" on the left, and the Manchu
meaning Board of Works on the right.
The coin, cast at the Board of Works mint in Peking
(Beijing), has a diameter of 26 mm and a weight of 5.3
Zong reigned during the years 1821-1850 and cash coins
were cast with the reign title Dao Guang (道
The number of mints producing cash coins was almost
the same as that during the reign of Jia Qing.
However, two new mints marks appeared, namely xin (新) for Xinjiang Province
(库车) for Kucha, Xinjiang Province.
In general, however, the overall quality of the dao guang coins
is inferior to that of the predecessors. The
price of silver rose precipitously at the time as a
consequence of the opium trade and, as a result, it
cost more to cast cash coins than they were worth.
The mint in Fujian Province was closed in 1824 and
gradually those in Shanxi, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Hunan,
Hubei, Guizhou and Zhili Provinces were also shutdown.
The inscription of this coin reads dao guang tong bao
The Manchu character on the reverse side to the right
of the square hole is jyi indicating that the coin was
cast during the years 1821-1823 at the mint in
The diameter is 25 mm and the weight is 3.6 grams.
is another dao guang tong bao (道光通宝) cash coin.
The Manchu character at the right of the square hole
on the reverse side is kiyan which refers to the mints in
Guiyang, Guizhou Province.
There is a character above the hole which is either da (大) or liu (六). There
is no consensus on which character this is. Da could stand
for the city of Da Ding (Dading). The character
may be liu,
however, in which case it would be the number "six".
The coin has a diameter of 25 mm and a weight of 4.4
Wen Zong (1851-1861) ruled under the reign title Xian Feng and was
on the throne during a very difficult time when the
country suffered wars, rebellions, famines, etc.
The Taiping rebellion (1850-1864) in the south cut off
the supply of copper from Yunnan Province needed for
coinage. As a result, Emperor Wen Zong's reign
was characterized by large coins of high denominations
as well as iron coins.
The coin at the left is an example of an iron coin
from the 1854-1859 period.
The inscription reads xian feng tong bao (咸丰通宝) and the
Manchu character to the right of the hole on the
reverse side indicates that the coin was cast at the
Board of Revenue mint in Peking (Beijing).
The diameter is 22.5 mm and the weight is 4.7 grams.
is an example of the large denomination token coinage
from the Xian Feng era.
The inscriptions on these coins used yuan bao (元宝) or
(重宝) instead of the tong
bao (通 宝) used on the smaller cash
The inscription on this coin is xian feng zhong bao
(咸丰通宝) and the Manchu character
to the right of the hole on the reverse side indicates
that it was cast at the Board of Revenue mint in
The Chinese characters above and below the square hole
on the reverse are dang
shi (当十) which means the coin is a Value Ten
(10) or a denomination equal to ten cash coins.
The diameter of the coin is 37.5 mm and the weight is
This is another xian feng zhong bao
The reverse side also has the Chinese characters dang shi (当十)
meaning it has Value Ten (10) or a denomination equal
to ten cash coins.
The Manchu character to the right of the hole is jyi which means
the coin was cast at Baoding, Zhili.
The diameter is 34.5 mm and the weight is 12.6 grams.
feng zhong bao (咸丰通宝)
coin is a Value Fifty (50) as evidenced by the Chinese
characters dang wu
shi (当五十) above and
below the hole on the reverse side.
The Manchu character to the right of the hole on the
reverse is su indicating that the coin was cast at the
Suzhou, Jiangsu mint.
This coin was cast during the years 1854-1855.
The diameter of the coin is 49 mm.
The inscription on this large coin is xian feng yuan bao
(咸丰元宝) and it is a Value One
Hundred (100) as indicated by the Chinese characters dang bai (当百)
above and below the square hole on the reverse side.
The Manchu character shan on the reverse shows that the
coin was cast at the mint in Xian, Shaanxi Province.
The coin has a diameter of 52 mm.
Large denomination coins were cast at the Kuche mint
in Xinjiang Province during the years 1853-1856.
Xinjiang coins are characterized by a red appearance
as is the case with this xian feng yuan bao
The denomination stated on the reverse side is Value
One Hundred (100) according to the Chinese characters
The diameter is 40.5 mm and the weight is 21.2 grams.
During the reign of Emperor Mu Zong (1862-1874)
coins were also cast at the Kuche mint in Xinjiang
Emperor Mu Zong used the title Tong Zhi and the
inscription on the coin at the left reads tong zhi tong bao
The Chinese characters dang wu (当五)
on the reverse side states that this coin is a Value
The diameter is 24.2 mm and the weight is 4.2 grams.
This cash coin was cast during the reign of Emperor
De Zong (1875-1908) who adopted the reign title of
The inscription is guang
xu tong bao (光绪通宝) and the Manchu character dung on the
reverse side indicates that the coin was cast at the
Yantai (Chefoo) mint in Shandong Province.
The diameter of the coin is 24 mm and the weight is
This is an
example of a machine-made tong ban (铜 版) coin struck during the reign of
Emperor De Zong.
The obverse side, at the far left, has the Chinese
xu yuan bao (光绪元宝) written
in the center of the coin. At the top of the
coin is written an
hui sheng zao (安徽省造) which translates as
"minted at Anhui Province".
These coins were produced in Anhui during the years
The small Manchu characters near the right and left
side of the rim are bao
an which also indicates that the coin was
struck at Nanking in Anhui.
The Chinese characters near the bottom of the coin are
dang zhi qian shi
wen (当制钱十文) which means the coin is worth ten
(10) "cash coins" which were the traditional cast
bronze coins with a square hole in the center.
The reverse side of the coin, shown at the right, has
"An Hwei" (Anhui) written in English letters near the
top of the rim and has a dragon design in the center
of the coin.
This coin has a diameter of 28 mm and a weight of 7.6
Please visit the following links to view other Qing
The Taiping Rebellion
(tai ping tian guo
太平天国) refers to a large-scale revolt led by Hong
Xiuquan (洪秀全) that occurred during the period
Hong Xiuquan, who believed he was the brother of Jesus
Christ, established the "Taiping Heavenly Kingdom"
("Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace") with its capital
at Nanjing. The new regime was based on Hong
Xiuquan's theology incorporating a mixture of
Protestantism and communist beliefs.
At its peak, the movement involved about 30 million
Chinese and covered a good portion of southern
China. During the military campaigns against the
Qing Dynasty forces an estimated 20 million people
died before the uprising was suppressed. Many of
these were civilian deaths resulting from famine and
The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom cast a number of
different coins and varieties during its short
For example, coins with the inscription tai ping tian guo
(太平天国) with the characters sheng bao (圣宝) on the reverse can be
found in "Song" style (song ti 宋体), regular script (kai shu 楷书), and
yin qi wen
(隐起文). Yin qi
wen refers to coins that, due to the casting
process, have an unevenness in the height of the
character strokes. Some strokes rise higher
above the surface of the coin than other strokes.
Some varieties of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom coins are
There is a very rare variety of tai ping sheng bao
(太平圣宝) in which the bao
(宝) is written as a simplified
Other rare varieties of Taiping Rebellion coins
include a tian guo
tai ping (天国太平) coin written in "Song style"
(宋体) with the sheng bao (圣宝)
characters on the reverse side written vertically (zhi du 直读).
The "Value 2" sized (zhe
er 折二) tian
guo sheng bao (天国圣宝) coin with tai ping (太
平) written vertically on the reverse side
is another rare coin.
There are also very rare varieties with tian guo (天
国) on the obverse and tong bao (通宝) on
The very large coins as well as large "charms" (hua qian 花钱) from
this period are also rare.
Unfortunately, coin collectors must be very diligent
in collecting coins from this era. There exist a
large number of fake Taiping Rebellion coins.
Also, "fantasy" coins (du xuan 杜撰),
which refer to varieties that never actually existed,
are also quite prevalent.
A coin cast during the Taiping Rebellion is displayed
at the following link.
Return to Ancient
Chinese Charms and Coins
The Republic of
China was established in 1912 following the Xinhai
Revolution of 1911.
The last "cash coins" were produced in the same
year bringing to a close China's 2,000 year
tradition of casting round bronze coins with a
square hole in the center.
This is the last Chinese cash coin produced in
China and was cast in Dongchuan, Yunnan.
The inscription on the obverse side (far left)
reads min guo
tong bao (民国通宝) which translates as
"currency of the Republic of China".
The reverse side (near left) has the two Chinese
shi (当十) which means it was worth 10
(ten) of the traditional "cash coins".
The coin has a diameter of 26.5 mm and a weight of