A farmer working in a field in Shandong Province recently unearthed an ancient knife-shaped form of money from the Warring States period (475 BC – 221 BC), according to a Chinese newspaper article published today.
Mr. Jia Qingguang (贾清广) was sifting sand at his farm in Liaocheng (聊城市) in China’s eastern province of Shandong when he discovered this knife-shaped money known in Chinese as dao bi (刀币).
The image at the left shows Mr. Jia holding the knife money.
The newspaper report provides little information regarding the the knife other than it is believed to have been cast during the Warring States period. The knife is 15 cm in length and has Chinese characters on one side only.
The newspaper article does not specify the type of knife money but “hopes that the relevant departments will help identify it”.
However, if you look carefully at the close-up image of the knife shown here, you can see that it is a “four character” (四字) large knife from the State of Qi (齐国). The inscription is ji mo fa hua (即墨法化) which translates as “Jimo legal money”.
The State of Qi existed from 1046 BC to 221 BC and occupied the area of what is now Shandong Province where the knife was discovered.
It is believed that Qi produced knife money during approximately 400-220 BC. Besides “four character” (四字刀) knives, Qi also issued knife money with three (三字刀), five (五字刀) and six characters (六字刀).
(For more about the Four Character knives (四字刀) and Five Character knives (五字刀), please see Ancient Chinese Coin Exhibit at the Qi Heritage Museum.)
(Six Character knives (六字刀) are discussed in detail at State of Qi Six Character Knife Money.)
Some knives have Chinese characters on the reverse side and some do not, as is the case with this specimen.
Specimens of this type of knife money are typically 15-16 cm in length and weigh 23-45 grams.
The State of Qi was the last state to be conquered by the armies of Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇) who then unified China in 221 BC.
All State of Qi large knives are considered to be rare.