During the late Qing (Ch'ing)
Dynasty, parts of China began to rebel against the Manchu rule
country. One of the largest uprisings was the Taiping
AD) which began in
the southern part of the country.
The Taiping government cast its own money and an example of
coinage can be seen at Peace
During this period of time, areas in Jiangsu
also began to
issue tokens. Tokens were not necessarily authorized by
government but were typically issued by local authorities and
merchants, such as the Zheng Lu
Bridge tokens. A "token" was considered to be the
equivalent of a
certain number of Chinese "cash coins". For example, a
the equivalent of 100 cash coins. Some tokens, however,
represented 200, 500 or even 1,000 cash coins.
The stated face value of a token was not always denominated as
certain number of cash coins such as 100 or 1,000.
coins were small in value and many were needed for payments,
centuries it had become a custom to tie one hundred cash coins
on a string. This, in effect, made a string of 100
unit of measure. Therefore, some Jiangsu tokens state
as "one string" (yi chuan
"two strings" (er chuan
"five strings" (wu chuan
伍串). In this case, a "one string" token was worth 100
a "two string" token was worth 200 cash coins, etc.
When one small copper token can be accepted as the equivalent
several hundred copper cash coins it is a sure
indication that the monetary system is in turmoil.
Of course, tokens were only good if local merchants, tax
banks, etc. considered them as worth their stated face
This would only be the case in the rebel controlled areas.
What is most interesting about the tokens issued in Jiangsu
during the late Qing Dynasty period was that, in addition to
the monetary value on the obverse side, they included
symbols or inscriptions on the reverse side. In this
way, they were very similar to the charms and amulets which
historically had resembled coins
had good luck symbols and sayings.
Displayed below are specimens of old Chinese tokens with
values of 100
cash coins and 1000 cash coins. Some have special
such as chop marks, charm features and auspicious sayings.
Chinese Tokens with a Value of 100 Cash Coins
A Chinese Token with Chop Marks
The following are examples
Chinese tokens each worth 100 cash coins. For
convenience, cash coins
typically tied in quantities of 100 with a string or cord
holes. These tokens are therefore the
equivalent of one string of 100 cash coins.
This is a most interesting
example of a 100 cash coin token from the Qing (Ch'ing)
Dynasty of the
middle to late 1800's.
The inscription reads bai
(百合同元) and means it has the same worth as 100 of the
which were cash coins.
However, this is a very unusual token because it
types of chopmarks usually seen only on silver and other
coins made of
precious metals of this historical period.
The first type of chop mark pertains to the edge cuts on
the rim of
both the obverse and reverse sides. Edge
cuts were traditionally used to determine if a silver coin
throughout or only plated on the surface. This form
of chop mark
was rarely used on a copper coin or token.
Moreover, it is important to note that there are six edge
the token six-sided which is a characteristic of some
and amulets. The Chinese consider the number six (6) as
because the pronunciation of the Chinese character for six
is similar to
that for the word "prosperity" (lu
A second kind of chop mark has to do with the two test
marks made with
just inside the rim. These test marks do not
though the token. One small punch mark is at the
position and the other is at the four o'clock
purpose of test
marks like this is to determine if the copper
composition is the same
throughout or only plated on the surface.
third form of chop mark is the Chinese character
stamped into the rim
at the very top of the token.
In the view at the left, the token has been rotated so
chopmark can be read more easily. The Chinese
to be that for "moon" or "month" (yue
unclear, however, if this chop mark refers to a
company or government office.
not common, it is not
unheard of for copper coins to have
chopmarks. For example, there exist cash coins
beginning from at
least the years of the Wan Li reign (1573 - 1619) of Emperor Shen
of the Ming Dynasty with chop marks on the rim.
At the left is an example of such a wan
li tong bao (万历通宝) coin.
While it may not be so obvious on the obverse side
(far left), the
reverse side (near left) of the coin clearly shows a
number of chop
marks on the rim.
The chop marks at the one and two o'clock positions
Unfortunately, the makers of these chop marks remain
This coin has a diameter of 25 mm and a weight of 3.6
is the "reverse" side of the above 100 cash coin
token. As can be
seen, it is the same as the "obverse" side meaning
this is a "double
obverse" token. The only difference is that this
side is flipped
180 degrees from the other side.
The six side cuts are clearly seen on this side as
Also, there are two test punch marks, one each at the
and five o'clock positions. Since this side is
rotated from the
other side, the punch holes do not line up with those
on the other side.
As is the case with the other side, this side has a
character stamped on the rim at about the five o'clock
This chop mark also appears to be the character for
The token has a diameter of 32.5 mm and a weight of
A Chinese Token with
This is the obverse side
Chinese token which resembles, and is about the same size,
traditional round cash coin with a
The inscription is read top to bottom and right to left as
yi bai wen zheng
(一百文正) which means
"one hundred cash coins only". The character wen (文) is
word for cash coins.
This token has a serrated edge
very unusual for a token but which is explained by the
coin with a similar edge displayed below.
Chinese cash coins were cast
round with a square hole in the middle.
The coin at the left is a jia qing
tong bao (嘉庆通宝) coin cast
during the years
1796-1820 AD of the reign of Emperor Ren Zong
of the Qing
This coin was originally round but was later filed by hand
so that it
had a serrated edge.
The reason for modifying the coin in this manner has to do
with the way
cash coins were carried and counted.
As mentioned above, 100
cash coins (yi
chuan 壹串) or 1000
cash coins (yi guan
typically tied together on a string. But, payments
of less than
1000 coins frequently needed to be made. To help
tedious task of having to count a large number of coins,
modified cash coins with a serrated edge were used to mark
beginning and end of quantities of 100 coins or 1,000
The Chinese refer to these coins as "teeth coins" (ya qian 牙钱).
number of "teeth" has no special significance and varies
from coin to
Since this Chinese token has the
equivalent value of 100 cash coins, it was made with a
just like the real cash coin shown above.
Unlike a cash coin, however, the reverse
side of this token has four trigrams which would usually
only on charms. (For
more information concerning trigrams please visit The
Book of Changes and Bagua Charms.)
Beginning at the top of the token and reading clockwise
the trigrams are:
The four trigrams thus represent the four seasons.
The hidden or implied meaning is that the token will "always"
one hundred cash coins.
This token has a diameter of 27 mm and a weight of 6.3 grams.
Chinese Tokens with Auspicious Sayings
This is another old Chinese token with a value of 100 cash
The legend is the same as the token above, namely yi bai wen zheng (一
"one hundred cash coins only".
The auspicious inscription on the reverse side reads xiang qing rong hua
can translate as "happiness and celebration, prosperity and
This token is 25.5 mm in diameter and weighs 6.6 grams.
The legend on the obverse side of this very attractive token
is also yi bai
wen zheng (一百文正)
which means the value is
"one hundred cash coins only".
The inscription on the reverse is chuan bu liu shi (传不流矢) which means
"(this token) circulates without losing value".
The diameter is 30 mm and the weight is 10.1 grams.
The obverse side legend of this token is again yi bai wen zheng (一
which means the worth is
"one hundred cash coins".
One difference is that the character for "hundred" (bai 佰) is written in the
normally used on paper currency or checks to avoid alteration.
This token has clearly seen much use.
Because of the wear on the Chinese characters, I am still
decipher the inscription.
The character to the left of the center hole appears to be mao (茂) which means "rich
The token is 27 mm in diameter and weighs 6.7 grams.
Chinese Tokens with a Value of 1000 Cash Coins
The following are examples of Chinese tokens worth 1000
or equivalent to 1 string of 1000 cash coins.
The legend on this token is yi
wen zheng (壹仟文正) which translates as one thousand
The character for one (yi
written in the formal style used on checks to avoid
is the character for thousand (qian
The inscription on the reverse reads xu ji fa cai (叙记发财) which
talk about getting rich".
The diameter of the token is 31.5 mm and the weight is 8.95
The legend of this token is yi
qian wen zheng (一仟文正) which means (this token) is
equal to one
thousand cash coins.
The inscription is slightly different from that of the token
above. In this case, the "one" (yi
一) is written in the more common style while
"thousand" (qian 仟)
written in the more formal style to avoid alteration.
The inscription on the reverse side is ri yong guang hui (日用光辉)
means "for daily use is glorious".
The token is 29.5 mm in diameter and the weight is 8.3 grams.
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Charms and Coins