Charm symbols first began to appear on some Chinese coins
the Han Dynasty (please see Emergence
Chinese Charms). Most coins of that period were
round with a
square hole in
the center. As
charms began to develop
independently of legally circulated coins, most continued to
familiar coin shape.
However, some Chinese charms gradually began to appear in
coin shape. For example, there are charms shaped like locks, fish,
One of these most distinctive forms is
based on the shovel (spade) or bubi
(布币) money of ancient times.
An understanding of the history of this ancient money form is
in explaining the eventual appearance of the spade shaped charms.
Shovel (Spade) or bubi
imitated a very ancient form of money. During the Zhou Dynasty
(11th Century BC - 221 BC), some of the first forms of money
from an ancient farming tool that were shaped like small
spades. These forms of money were called bubi (布币).
This is one of the very oldest examples
from my collection of shovel or
spade money from the Zhou
Dynasty. There are no Chinese characters on it and the
hollow as would be the case with a real shovel where you would
This type of pointed shoulder spade money was cast during the
This piece is approximately 142 mm in length and 66 mm at its
The actual weight is hard to determine because the hollow top
is still packed with earth from having been buried.
During the later Zhou Dynasty, spade money gradually
evolved into a form having less pointed legs while still
hollow top. Very primitive Chinese characters also
appear and the overall size decreased.
This is an example of such a later Zhou Dynasty shovel piece
the Chinese characters lu
This piece was cast by the Kingdom of Zhou during the period
approximately 88 mm in length and 48 mm at its maximum width.
Its true weight is difficult to determine because the hollow
still packed with earth.
During the Warring States period (475 BC - 221 BC) at the
the Zhou Dynasty, various states produced spade money which
size. The money was also flat so there was no hollow
The legs became much less pronounced.
This is an example of spade money from the Warring States
the Chinese character gong
This square foot spade was cast sometime during the period
This specimen of spade money is 48 mm in
length and about 28 mm in maximum width.
Qin Shi Huang Eliminates
(Spade) Money and Establishes Ban
When Emperor Qin
conquered the warring states and
unified China for the first time in 221 BC, he eliminated the
forms of existing money and established a round coin with a
hole, known as the ban
(半两), as the monetary standard.
to Chinese charms for more
The early Han
that followed continued to use ban
liang coins for a period of
and then adopted the use of wu