The rare old China Banknote Collection Informat PART ONE IMPERIAL BEFORE 20TH CENTURY

 

 

MUSEUM DUNIA MAYA DR IWAN S.

Dr IWAN ‘S CYBERMUSEUM

 THE FIRST INDONESIAN CYBERMUSEUM

MUSEUM DUNIA MAYA PERTAMA DI INDONESIA

   DALAM PROSES UNTUK MENDAPATKAN SERTIFIKAT MURI

     PENDIRI DAN PENEMU IDE

      THE FOUNDER

    Dr IWAN SUWANDY, MHA

                     

     WELCOME TO THE MAIN HALL OF FREEDOM               

  SELAMAT DATANG DI GEDUNG UTAMA “MERDEKA

The Driwan’s  Cybermuseum

                    

(Museum Duniamaya Dr Iwan)

 

A Brief History of the Bank of China

ANCIENT CHINESE CASH NOTES – THE WORLD’S

FIRST PAPER MONEY

PART I

China has had a long and diversified numismatic history. From the dawn of

antiquity onward, early Chinese traders used money in one form or another. Ancient

Chinese paper money has always held a fascination for me partly because, without

question, it is the world’s oldest. Not only is the ornamental format of these ancient

notes aesthetically pleasing, more importantly they represent an esoteric subject area

into which few collectors have ventured. We know of them not only through rare

surviving specimens, but also through ancient Chinese works on numismatics. These

books occasionally illustrated the specimens under discussion, and in this way their

history has been preserved down through the ages to the benefit of modern scholars. In

recent years Chinese archeologists have had great success in documenting archeological

sites in which ancient relics including coins and paper money have been found.

The history of ancient Chinese paper money is, unfortunately, not a happy one.

Initially the notes were accepted as a great convenience, partially because they were

backed by cash reserves. Over time the authorities greatly abused and misused the right

of note issue, sometimes for personal gain, until the notes became so inflated the people

would not accept them. Paper notes were viewed by the peasantry as a form of

supplemental taxation, as the government ultimately refused to acknowledge

responsibility for cashing them. By the mid-15

th

century a popular uprising was in the

making. To avoid rebellion, the Ming emperor Jen Tsung forbid further circulation of

 

paper, thereby reverting to a specie economy. China did not have a paper currency

 

again until 1853, when the Ch’ing emperor Hsien-feng re-authorized the issue of paper

 

money to meet the escalating cost of suppressing the T’ai-ping Rebellion.

 

The Evolution of Copper Cash

 

Cowrie shells were the first items to be used in Chinese commerce.

 

Archeological excavation of ancient tombs has revealed their wide use as early as the

 

16

 

 

th

century B.C. These items, due to their small size and portability, proved more

popular than animal hides, jade and silk, bartered. These shells, originating in far off

 

seas, were not native to China; hence they acquired a certain value of their own. The

 

cowries used in trade eventually evolved into bone and bronze replicas. It wasn’t until

 

the end of the Chou dynasty (1000-400BC) that the first metal currency was developed.

 

During the Warring States Period (400-200 BC) the Chinese began coining

 

miniature implements in copper. These “coins” resembled actual tools in everyday use,

 

such as spades, hoes and knives. The prominent role agriculture played in the lives of

 

the ancient Chinese is reflected in the choice of the spade to represent civilization’s first

 

metallic currency. Bronze spades evolved from hollow-handled ones, which were

 

miniature replicas of the real thing, followed by the smaller bronze “pu” consisting of

 

round-shouldered and square foot spades. Everyone, whether or not they could read or

 

write, instantly recognized the inherent value of a spade. Reducing the spade to a

 

miniature pu representing the actual tool, not only made them convenient to carry, but

 

greatly facilitated trade. It was now possible to place a value on commodities: for

 

example, ‘ten spades or two hoes for a sheep’ using coins to purchase necessities.

 

In time, pu spades were supplanted by knife money. (Although some would argue

 

that the knife came first.) This form of coin was introduced by the kingdom of Ch’i, a

 

practically independent state under Chou. The earliest Ch’i knives were approximately

 

seven inches long. The knife blade often carried inscriptions indicating its origin and

 

trade value. Later on, smaller knives, known as Ming knives made their appearance.

 

The term “Ming” when used in association with knife money is not to be confused with

 

the Ming dynasty (1368-1644AD); rather these knives received their name from the

 

town where they were made.

 

Eventually knife money evolved into round coins with center holes known as

 

“pan-liangs” which were to become the prototype of all coins to follow. Ancient

 

Chinese round coins were made to weight standards based on the “shu”, there being 24

 

shu to the ounce (liang) of pure silver. It is said that round coins with center holes –

 

which were to become the coin standard of China for the next two thousand years –

 

evolved from the circular end of Ch’i knives, put there for the purpose of attaching the

 

knives to their owner’s belt. Spades and knives were replaced by round pan-liangs

 

about the time of the unification of China under the Han dynasty, which supplanted the

 

Chou (200BC). They proved very popular with the masses and remained China’s sole

 

currency for the next 300 years. The round coin, dating from the late Chou period, was

 

a radical departure from earlier spade and knife types. With its appearance China

 

entered into a period of monetary unification. From these coins evolved the “wu-shu’”

 

of the Warring States Period. Since the wu-shu’s intrinsic value was the same as its face

 

value they became tremendously popular with all classes of society. Commencing with

 

the Tang dynasty (618-907AD) the “cash” coins of copper and bronze with a square

 

center hole, known as “K’ai-yuans”, made their appearance. These were the first to

 

contain four characters in the legend on their obverse – a practice followed when casting

 

all subsequent Chinese coins. These coins were the first to carry the characters “yuanpao”

 

(principal treasure) and “t’ung pao” (circulating treasure) which continued to

 

Table 1.

 

THE CHRONOLOGY OF CHINESE DYNASTIES AS THEY RELATE TO

 

MONETARY DEVELOPMENT

 

SHANG 1600 – 1100 B.C. Cowrie shells in use.

 

CHOU 1100 – 256 B.C. Knives and spades in use.

 

CHIN 221 – 206 B.C. Round “pan-liangs” introduced in late

 

Chin dynasty. The world’s first round

 

coin. Very popular.

 

HAN 206 – 220 A.D. Emperor Wu’s deer skin money.

 

THREE KINGDOMS

 

(WEI, SHU, and WU)

 

WESTERN JIN

 

EASTERN JIN

 

NORTH AND SOUTH

 

SUI

 

220 – 280 A.D. “Wu-shu’s” in use. Undoubtedly the most

 

popular coin which ever existed in China.

 

Weighing 5 shu, their face value, they

 

contained no reign title, hence could be

 

used indefinitely. After 400 years wushus

 

were replaced by Tang dynasty

 

“k’ai-yuan” coins

 

TANG 618 – 907 A.D. “Flying money” introduced. Copper

 

coinage standardized for the next two

 

thousand years.

 

LIAO 916 – 1125 A.D. Paper money issued by the army.

 

NORTHERN SUNG 960 – 1127 A.D. Private credit notes issued.

 

SOUTHERN SUNG 1127 – 1279 A.D. Government credit notes issued.

 

WESTERN HSIA 1038 – 1227 A.D. Issued paper money.

 

CHIN 1115 – 1234 A.D. Issued paper money.

 

YUAN 1271 – 1368 A.D. Profuse issuers of paper money.

 

MING 1368 – 1644 A.D. Excessive issues led to discontinuance of

 

paper money for the next 400 years.

 

CH’ ING 1644 – 1911 A.D. Use of paper money revived to meet the

 

needs of the T’ai P’ing Rebellion.

 

 

The evolution of Chinese cash: [1] cowrie shell (Shang dynasty, 1600-1100 BC). [2] hollow-handled

spade. [3] square foot spade or “pu”. [4] Ch’i knife. [5] Ming knife (Chou dynasty period 100-256

BC). [6] pan liang (256-118 BC), the first round coin. [7] wu-shu (118 BC-618 AD). [8] great “pu”

value thousand (7-22 AD). [9] Tang dynasty “k’ai yuan” (618 AD), the coin type which was to remain

unchanged for the next 1300 years.

be used on copper cash until the fall of the Ch’ing dynasty in 1911. Cast copper cash

remained China’s sole metallic money until supplanted by western style machine

“struck” coins, which were first introduced to China in the 1890s.

Paper is Invented by the Chinese

The invention of paper is traceable to 105AD, the year in which Ts’ai Lun, a

scholar attached to the imperial court, conceived the idea of forming a sheet of paper

from the macerated bark of trees, old rags, fish nets, and hemp waste. The invention of

the camel’s hair brush around 250AD was a huge step forward in facilitating the writing

of Chinese characters. This led to a need for an inexpensive and abundant writing

material. The spread of calligraphy throughout China greatly speeded the development

of paper manufacture. By substituting cheaper materials in lieu of silk, paper was soon

within reach of everyone. Paper quality increased dramatically when sizing, a method

by which glue was added to the paper to fill the pores, was discovered. This made the

paper less absorbent preventing the ink from running. That early Chinese paper was of

excellent quality there is no doubt. Surviving examples of paper made in the third

century have been found in the arid deserts of Chinese Turkestan. All sorts of paper

products made their appearance at this time and soon found wide acceptance. These

included writing paper, paper napkins, wrapping paper and, yes, even toilet paper! The

world owes a huge debt to Ts’ai Lun, yet his name is hardly known. Quite possibly,

without the invention of paper, printing would not have come into general use. For the

next 500 years the art of papermaking was endemic to the Chinese.

The process by which the early Chinese made paper involved stripping the bark

from mulberry or bamboo trees, separating the cellulose fibers and soaking them after

which they were boiled over a hot fire. Next the fibers were combined with hemp and

straw pulp similarly prepared. The resulting mixture was placed into basins and then

screened onto wooden molds. The wet sheets were then pressed to remove any

remaining excess moisture. The resulting paper was then carried outside and pasted to

the mud walls of the compound to dry in the sun. After drying, the sheets were taken

down and packed into bundles ready for market.

By the time paper came into general use, the camel’s hair brush, ink and

calligraphy were sufficiently developed to virtually create an information explosion.

From this new technology grew the creation of the world’s first paper money.

Deer Skin and “Flying Money”

Various forms of money, other than copper cash, preceded the use of paper,

however. Early in the Han dynasty emperor Wu authorized the use of “deer skin

money” to be used in ceremonial presentations at the Han court. These skins measured

Paper was a Chinese invention. To make it, bamboo stalks or the inner bark of the mulberry tree were

cut, pounded into pulp, split and cooked over a hot fire to separate the cellulose fibers. Later the

mixture was screened into molds, then pressed to remove moisture and dried in the sun.

a Chinese square foot. They were elegantly decorated with fine painting and

embroidery and used to wrap gifts for the emperor. As such, they took on a certain value

of their own. Royal princes and pretenders were annually required to present valuable

presents to the emperor at court, thus confirming their allegiance to him. These presents

often took the form of jade or gold, which protocol dictated be wrapped in the skin of a

white deer prior to presentation. The emperor thus enjoyed a monopoly, since the only

deer hide permitted for this use came from the emperor’s forbidden royal garden. A

value of forty thousand cash was assigned each hide. The feudal princes therefore had to

purchase their skins from the emperor prior to making their presentation when in

audience before the emperor. This was a scheme employed by the Western Han

government to collect “immortal money”. Today we would call it extortion! “Deer

skin” money, confined to imperial use, was never meant for general circulation. These

skins, however, did circulate freely among court officials and eunuchs within the royal

palaces and grounds. It is universally agreed among scholars that deer skins were not

“money” at all, and certainly not paper; nevertheless most references include them, as

they represent an important step in Chinese monetary development.

Another form of money not meant for general circulation appeared about 800AD

during the Tang dynasty. These notes, known as “flying money”, were similar to

modern day bank drafts. The vouchers were strictly limited for use in mercantile

transactions between distant places. Merchants deposited cash at the point of origin in

return for paper (flying money) guaranteeing reimbursement in distant provinces. Thus

a double transfer of cash was made without any physical transfer between points. The

picturesque term “flying money” evolved from this practice, as though the cash had

“flown” from point of origin to destination. Government representatives, army officers

and rich merchants could deposit money at the point of origin (usually the capital),

receive a kind of bill-of-exchange for it, and when reaching their destination cash the

note, receiving copper coin for it on demand. Flying money therefore could not be used

in trade or circulated by the general public. This practice relieved the traveler of the

burden of transporting large amounts of weighty cash, which often as not fell victim to

bandits and highwaymen. The government, realizing the value of such a scheme,

quickly took over from the private merchants. Henceforth local taxes and revenues were

forwarded to the capital in this way. Inasmuch as these drafts were transferable and

could be exchanged among merchants they took on the appearance of currency.

The notes themselves were printed on yellow paper using black ink. When the

official red seals had been applied they took on a pleasing three- color effect. Mr.

Andrew McFarland Davis, of whom we will learn more later, claims to have had in his

possession at one time two different examples of flying money in denominations of 1

and 9 kwan. These were subsequently given to a Boston museum. The notes measured

approximately 9 x 6 inches, their borders containing various clouds and dragon designs.

An early example of Tang dynasty “flying money”, from the one time collection of Andrew McFarland

Davis. This one kwan note was issued during the reign of emperor Wu Tsung (841-846 AD). The

picture at the center of the note represents a one-ounce silver sycee ingot. Note the two official seals

placed on the note to authenticate it. Flying money, not meant to be a medium of exchange, was only

negotiable between two distant points, and therefore cannot be considered true paper money.

The First Paper Money Used as a Medium of Exchange

Real paper currency, as we know it today, first made its appearance in China’s

Szechuan province early in the Sung dynasty. These bills took the form of promissory

notes known as “chiao-tzu”. During the reign of emperor Chen Tsung (998-1022AD)

the government granted a monopoly to sixteen prosperous merchants in the Cheng-tu

area of Szechuan and permitted them to issue paper money. Printed in black and red

from copper plates the notes contained various scenes of village life. Denominations

were applied to the notes using a brush and black ink, ordinarily for one string (1000) of

cash. When some of the merchants were slow to redeem the notes they soon became

inflated. As a result the private issue of paper money was forbidden and in their place,

in the year 1023, a government monopoly known as the Bureau of Exchange was set up

to replace them.

Most scholars are in agreement that these notes were the true starting point for

paper money not only in China, but also throughout the world. Later the idea of a

medium of exchange to serve commerce and trade became institutionalized as a

government policy. This new policy was immediately successful because the notes were

not only backed by cash but were completely transferable. From this point on citizens

could buy commodities with paper because the paper notes were conceived to be as

good as copper cash.

Early Chinese Works on Numismatics

Paper money issues of the Sung, Chou, Liao, Hsia and Chin dynasties are only

fragmentally documented. Much more is known of the Yuan and Ming issues. This is

because many of the older types of ancient paper money have disappeared completely

and are known only through ancient Chinese works on numismatics, if at all.

The foremost work on Chinese numismatics to appear to date was published in

1832. Entitled

Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih

it contains descriptions of ancient paper money

including illustrations of the notes themselves. In the introduction to

 

 

 

Ch’uan Pu T’ung

Chih

 

 

 

, the author states that the work was begun in 1816, was printed in 1832 and the

following year the binding was completed. He goes on to apologize for the inadequacy

 

of the work by stating: “as there are many hundreds of varieties of paper money, they

 

could not be enumerated even on a hundred pages”. In

 

 

Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih

the

author lists, either through his own personal knowledge or by reference to other

 

numismatic works, some 259 banknotes which had been issued over a period of twentysix

 

“nien haos” (the reign years of various emperors) spanning ten dynasties.

 

 

This note is perhaps the earliest paper money ever discovered. Called “hue-tsu”, it is a Sung

government issue dating from 1023 AD. The note was meant to circulate throughout the kingdom,

with the exception of Szechuan province. Although these early notes no longer exist, it is still possible

to research them due to a recent archaeological discovery. During excavation, several brass plates used

in the preparation of this early Chinese paper money were unearthed. The Facsimile image shown here

was produced by making a print from the original plate.

The design of eighty-one of these notes, issued from the Tang through Ming

dynasties are presented, covering the period 650AD to 1425AD. The existence of a

number of surviving notes and plates used in their manufacture permit comparison with

these line drawings thereby verifying the accuracy of the illustrator. This is not to say

that all such illustrations were derived from existing notes, but it is highly probable that

they were. Copies of the official seals affixed to the face and backs of these notes are

included together with artwork found on the reverse of some issues. The author of this

work, whose name has been lost to posterity, apparently was a collector of these notes as

well. He lists in the introduction to

Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih

the sources from which he

acquired the notes, for example: “In the autumn of 1832 from Mr. Tao’s collection,

 

notes of the Sung, Yuan and Ming dynasties, thirty-three in all. In the summer of the

 

following year, from Mr. Chu notes of the Sung, Western Hsia, Chin and Liao dynasties,

 

thirty-one in all”, etc.

 

Several other old Chinese numismatic books were illustrated in the same way.

 

One such reference is a volume published in 1826 by Chang Tsung-i. Entitled

 

 

 

Ch’ien

Chih Hsin Pien

 

 

 

, it covers currency from the Sung through Ming dynasties.

Another difficulty impeding the study of these notes lies in the dearth of material

 

to be found in the English language. Wang Yu-Ch’uan in his

 

 

 

Early Chinese Coinage

 

decried the lack of historical and archeological records available to him when

conducting his research. Chinese references, which have been preserved over the years,

generally are not available to Western scholars. Happily, several good books have been

published in China and the west in recent years, which bear upon the subject. Most of

these are written in Chinese; however some contain English introductions. Since the

opening of the former Chinese communist closed society, many of these works have

become more accessible in the West.

Early References Published in English

Perhaps the first American to seriously research ancient Chinese paper money,

was a gentleman from Boston by the name of Andrew McFarland Davis. Mr. Davis was

a numismatist with no prior knowledge of the subject. In 1910 he acquired from a

London book dealer a Ming dynasty one kwan note which had been issued circa

1375AD. This immediately sparked his interest in the subject. Having an insatiable

curiosity, he entered into an extensive correspondence and investigation concerning

ancient Chinese paper money. These inquiries included correspondence with the British

Museum in London. His determination paid off when, in the fall if 1914, he was

offered a group of fourteen of these old notes, which he quickly secured. This group

included two Tang dynasty notes (flying money) dating back to 850AD together with

examples of paper money from the Sung, Yuan and Ming periods. This acquisition

thoroughly stimulated his curiosity; whereupon he set out to learn all he could about

them. His findings were recorded in a paper entitled

Certain Old Chinese Notes,

which

was presented before the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston in 1915.

 

This work was subsequently published in book form under the same title. The book sets

 

forth his research into the matter and includes many illustrations of notes in his

 

collection, some in full color.

 

Andrew McFarland Davis in a paper entitled

 

 

 

Ancient Chinese Paper Money as

Described in a Chinese Work on Numismatics

 

 

 

, which was given before the American

Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1918, describes the notes illustrated in

 

 

 

Ch’uan Pu

T’ung Chih

 

 

 

in detail. Davis goes on to cite other sources, which tend to authenticate

these early notes. He states that the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston was in possession

 

of twenty photographs of Tang dynasty flying money which had been taken from the

 

originals, subsequently lost. Other sources cited, which bear on the subject, are a

 

Japanese book by Luo Zhengyu, published in 1920, entitled

 

 

 

Illustrated Record of the

Paper Money of the Four Dynasties,

 

 

 

in which are recorded all the ancient paper money

issues known to him together with descriptions of notes which had been published in the

 

 

Journal of the Peking Oriental Society.

 

In addition to these works, archeological digs in

the arid deserts of western China have unearthed some remarkably preserved paper

 

money specimens as well as the printing plates from which they were made. The

 

discovery of these printing plates has allowed us to positively identify certain issues for

 

which specimens no longer exist.

 

Sung Dynasty Paper Money

 

To replace the private issues of chiao-tsu which had been forbidden by the

 

government, the Bureau of Exchange issued their own notes known as “hui-tsu”. These

 

notes had a cash reserve. Denominations of 200, 300, 500 cash and 1, 2 and 3 strings

 

were issued. The notes issued in one period were in theory to be redeemed by the

 

subsequent issue. Due to lax government controls, this did not always happen and

 

gradually the notes became inflated. When this happened, the government was quick to

 

take advantage of the situation, using the inflated money on military expenditures.

 

Gradually, circulation of these notes expanded from the large cities to every corner of

 

the kingdom. It is estimated that by the end of the Northern Sung period, seventy

 

million strings of paper cash were in circulation.

 

Hue-tsu notes held their value initially. The official exchange rate called for one

 

string of hue-tsu to be equal to 770 cash. This is because it was Sung government

 

practice to reckon 77 cash as 100. During the later years of the Sung dynasty the

 

quantity of hue-tsu issued was ever increased to the point where the country became

 

inundated with paper notes. Over several decades the value of hue-tsu fell and at the

 

end of the dynasty they had become almost worthless.

 

It is uncertain if any Sung dynasty notes have survived to this day. Lien-sheng

 

Yang in his book

 

Money and Credit in China

claims that none have been preserved, and

the book

 

 

A Compilation of Pictures of Chinese Ancient Paper Money

in its Sung dynasty

section shows only two notes, both images taken from recently recovered brass plates.

 

This is surprising since Andrew McFarland Davis’s book

 

 

 

Certain Old Chinese Notes

 

contains photographs of two Sung dynasty specimens, which were in his collection at

that time. Both notes are from the emperor Hiao Tsung period (1165-1174), one in the

amount of 70 and the other 100 kwan. These notes together with others, all the subject

of Davis’s

Certain Old Chinese Notes,

were subsequently turned over to the Museum of

Fine Arts, Boston. Davis goes on to state that the notes were shown to the members

 

present at the time his paper was presented before the American Academy of Arts and

 

Sciences in February 1915.

 

Despite there being no apparent surviving specimens, we can nonetheless still

 

appreciate their beauty. This is because several plates used in printing the notes have

 

survived. By making ink impressions from these plates we can see the original

 

appearance of the notes, even though only copies. One such brass plate from the Sung

 

period (1127-1279AD) was recently found in Hangchou. A representation of ten coins

 

is found in its upper frame. The section below contains twenty-nine Chinese characters,

 

which read: “With the exception of Szechuan, this (note) may be circulated in the

 

various provinces and districts to make public and private payments representing 770

 

cash per string”. The bottom section contains a drawing of a granary courtyard with

 

three men carrying bags of grain.

 

In his book

 

 

 

Ancient Chinese Paper Money as Described in a Chinese Work on

Numismatics

 

 

 

Davis describes in great detail some eighteen Sung dynasty notes, both

Northern and Southern, together with line drawings of the notes which the unknown

 

author of the Chinese numismatic work had supposedly seen in 1816 when compiling

 

his thesis. None of these notes has surfaced to date, leaving us in doubt as to their true

 

authenticity.

 

Numerous other government issues appeared throughout the dynasty. Many of

 

these were for military expenditures or for commodities such as salt, rice and tea. We

 

might take a moment at this point to describe the format of ancient Chinese paper money

 

as all dynasties followed the same general pattern when producing them. These were

 

large vertical notes, usually gray in color, sometimes measuring up to 8 x 12 inches. At

 

the top of the note in seal script on a single horizontal line, the name of the issuer and

 

the type of money represented would appear; such as “Great Sung Current Use Treasure

 

Note” or “Great Ming General Circulation Treasure Note”, etcetera. Below, enclosed in

 

an ornamental frame would be found the value of the note together with a pictorial

 

drawing of strings of cash or silver sycee ingots matching the denomination. At the

 

bottom, columns of text were displayed usually alluding to the governmental

 

 

This “Great Sung Public Convenience Note” of 50 kwan carries a pictorial representation of ten five

ounce sycee ingots. The text states that the Board of Rites has printed this note for the convenience of

the people, and that it is to be used side by side with copper cash. The reward for informing on a

counterfeiter of this note is stated to be 1000 taels of silver.

Illustrations were sometimes placed upon the reverses of Sung dynasty notes in addition to the seals

sometimes found there. The inscription on the rolled up scroll reads: “To open the scroll is to

benefit”. A number of animal forms may be found on the notes of Southern Sung emperor Kao Tsung

(1127-1162 AD). These include: a tiger on the 10 kwan note, a ssŭ(Chinese mythical dog) on the 20

kwan, an elephant on the 30 kwan, a hare on the 40 kwan and a lion on the 50 kwan note. The last

example is of a rider-less horse with a four character inscription which reads: “Peace be unto men and

horses”. This later specimen is from the Liao dynasty.

department issuing the note, the manner in which it could be used in trade or for the

payment of taxes, reference to the counterfeiting laws and an announcement of the

reward to be given informers of such nefarious scoundrels. To the left of this box one

will find the dynastic nien hao, or reign title, and the characters for day, month and year

of issue. From Chin dynasty times onward all banknotes carried the nien hao and date.

Reign titles characteristically consisted of two characters, arranged vertically,

designating a period of rule within a dynasty; for example, the “Hung-wu period in the

reign of Ming emperor T’ai Tsu. Some emperors, at their whim, changed reign titles as

many as nine or ten times during their tenure. Dates were filled in by brush at time of

issue. The official government vermilion seals of the dynasty would then be applied to

the face of the note to authenticate it. These notes were printed from hand-carved

wooden blocks or copper plates. Few changes were made to the basic format of these

notes until the beginning of the 20

th

century, some thousand years later.

Reverses of ancient Chinese notes were usually blank, although there are

 

exceptions. As early as the Sung dynasty, seals appeared on the back as well as the front

 

of the note. Sometimes, ornamental designs representative of the denomination or

 

figures of animals were also included on the reverse. One such depiction on the back of

 

Sung dynasty Ching-k’ang notes issued in 1126AD illustrates a scroll with four

 

characters superimposed, which read: “To open the scroll is to benefit”. Other examples

 

appear on the reverses of Sung emperor Chien-yen paper money (1127-1130AD). A

 

tiger is shown on the 10 kwan note, and a Chinese dog (called a s

 

 

š

u) on the 20. The 30

kwan depicts an elephant, the 40 a hare and on the highest denomination in this series,

 

(the 50 kwan note) a lion. It is not now known why these artistic designs graced the

 

back of these notes.

 

From the Sung period forward a variety of different banknotes were issued. Some

 

had a limited life and were meant to be retired upon a specific date. Others had

 

indeterminable life spans. With others, circulation was confined to a certain local area.

 

The text usually explained these restrictions.

 

Chin Dynasty Paper Money

 

Paper money of the Chin dynasty was known as

 

 

chiao-ch’ao”, or exchange

notes. These bills were first issued in 1153, shortly after the capital was moved to

 

Peking. Chin money followed the same format as its Sung predecessors.

 

Denominations of 100, 200, 300, 500, 700 cash and 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 kwan are reported

 

in old Chinese literature. These notes were made of thicker paper and were gray in color.

 

In this series the borders of the notes are decorated with clouds and bats. The vermilion

 

seals applied to the notes read “Seal of the T’ien-hui Reign” (1123-1137AD) above, and

 

“Treasure Note of the Great Chin Dynasty” below. The Chin government defined a

 

“string” as containing but 800 cash. The salaries of military officers and their soldiers

 

were fully paid in these notes. No rules were levied restricting their period of

 

circulation, a step forward in the evolution of paper currency, as it freed the note from

 

time restrictions. After a few decades the chiao-ch’ao began to depreciate. Many steps

 

were taken to stabilize the currency. At each step the old bills were allowed to continue

 

in circulation, often at absurdly devalued rates. The rate of depreciation accelerated

 

rapidly despite an attempt to tie their value to silver ingots. These measures did not stop

 

the downward spiral until, in the year 1223, at the end of the dynasty, Chin paper money

 

had dropped to 1/150

 

 

th

of its original value. Chin paper money was the first to use the

reign title in dating the notes, a practice which was to continue down to the end of

 

imperial China. The Chinese numismatic book

 

 

Ch-uan Pu T’ung Chih

contains

illustrations of two of these notes, the first a “Great Chin Army Note” of 5 kwan, the

 

second the 10 kwan of emperor T’ai Tsung listed above. Incredibly several fragments of

 

actual Chin notes have been found in archeological digs together with brass plates used

 

to prepare them. The Inner Mongolian Numismatic Research Institute book

 

 

 

A

Compilation of Pictures of Ancient Chinese Paper Money

 

 

 

contains impressions taken

from a number of these printing blocks.

 

 

Paper money fragment dating from he Chin dynasty with a border design of lotus flowers and leaves.

Liao and Western Hsia Dynasty Paper Money

The Liao are grouped into what some historians call the Tartar dynasties. These

included the Chin, Liao and Western Hsia kingdoms, all from the northern Chinese

border areas. They held sway for various periods from 907 to 1260AD.

When researching his work, the author of

Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih

apparently had

access to a quantity of Liao notes and several of the Western Hsia, the property of the

 

Chu family. The Liao notes of Yeh-lu (1125-1135AD) were issued by the Board of War

 

to be used as payment for army supplies. Denominations consisted of one through ten

 

kwan, each note depicting the appropriate number of strings of cash: three strings on the

 

3 kwan note, six strings on the 6 kwan, etcetera. It has been rumored that several

 

specimens of Liao notes have survived; however, neither Lien-sheng Yang or the Inner

 

Mongolian Numismatics Research Institute mention them.

 

Paper Money of the Yuan Dynasty

 

During the Yuan dynasty China became part of the Mongol empire. In the year

 

1202 Temujin, after unifying the Mongolian tribesmen, was elected Genghis Khan

 

(Universal Ruler). Genghis Khan was a military genius. He organized the Mongols into

 

a military force, which consisted of the best-trained horsemen the world had yet to see.

 

These men fought on horseback with such precision they could hit targets while

 

cantering at a full gallop. These armies marched south into China and west across Asia

 

and into Europe sweeping everyone in their path. When Genghis Khan died, his armies

 

were poised to conquer Hungary after having invaded present day Poland and Lithuania.

 

Extending west to Poland and Moscow, south to the Arabian Peninsula and east to

 

Siberia and China, the Mongol Empire was the largest in history in terms of

 

geographical expanse. Genghis Khan was principally interested in acquiring China

 

because of its great wealth. Thirty-three years after his death his grandson, Kublai

 

Khan, became the Great Khan.

 

In the year 1271 the Mongols founded the Yuan dynasty (1271-1367AD) thereby

 

making themselves the masters of China. Kublai Khan, having moved his capital from

 

Mongolia to Peking, adopted the Chinese dynastic name of Yuan. As a foreign ruler

 

over China, he built a strong central government in order to cement his authority. In

 

Peking he built the magnificent palace compound known as the Forbidden City. The

 

Chinese nobility having been barred from the every day running of government turned

 

their attention to the arts and literature. Because of this the arts and culture flourished

 

under the Yuan. The Mongols and Chinese spoke different languages and had different

 

customs. This cultural gap resulted in a more tolerant government than in previous

 

dynasties. Foreign religions were condoned and trade encouraged. Foreign merchants

 

became a privileged class. They were exempt from taxation and could travel freely

 

 

Western Liao 10 kwan note of the emperor Hsien Ch’ing (1136-1141 AD) entitled “Great Liao

Treasure Note”. The note depicts five silver sycee ingots of the “saddle” variety in the pictorial

rectangle. The text states: The counterfeiter shall summarily be decapitated and the captor of the said

counterfeiter be rewarded with 800 taels of silver.”

Kublai Khan, founder of the Yuan dynasty, became Great Khan in 1260. His reign lasted until

1294, when he was succeeded by a number of less able emperors.

throughout China. It was into this climate that Europe was formally introduced to China

with the arrival of Marco Polo, the Venetian adventurer. The Great Khan was so

impressed with the Italian that he made him an official in his court in 1275. During his

seventeen year stay in the court of Kublai Khan, Polo wrote his famous book

 

The Book

of Marco Polo, Citizen of Venice, Wherein is Recounted the Wonders of the World

 

 

 

,

which when published upon his return from Europe in the year 1296, gave incredulous

 

Europeans the first glimpse of the mysterious land known as Cathay.

 

Marco Polo set out to explore Central Asia and China in 1271, at the age of

 

seventeen, accompanied by his father and uncle, successful Venetian merchants. Their

 

travels took them first by sea to Asia Minor, then overland by camel caravan through

 

Persia, Afghanistan and on to the ancient Silk Road, which would lead them to the

 

Mongol capital. After crossing the Gobi desert, they entered China after a journey of

 

three years. There the Venetians presented themselves to the Great Khan at his summer

 

palace at Shang-fu, where they delivered letters of introduction from Pope Gregory X.

 

Marco immediately became a favorite of the Great Khan, who upon seeing

 

 

Marco Polo as he may have appeared during his seventeen year service in the Mongol court of Kublai

Khan. Polo was a great favorite with the exalted Khan who liked him and found him to be extremely

useful. Despite this, he was willing to let him go. Sensing difficult times ahead after the aging Khan’s

death, as these was no dynastic continuity under Mongol law, Polo seized upon a chance to return in

1292, proposing to escort the bride-to-be of a Persian prince as far as Tabriz. To this plan Kublai Khan

consented, using the opportunity to send friendly messages to the Pope and potentates of Europe.

Since the overland route Marco had used when traveling to China was menaced by war, the Venetians

chose to return to Italy by sea in a Chinese junk.

his mastery of the Mongol language entrusted him with various missions to the far

corners of his realm. Marco took careful notes of his travels noting down the geography

and customs of the Chinese people in detail. These facts became the basis of his

remarkable book which, when published, stunned a skeptical Europe. Most of the facts

contained in his narrative have been confirmed in the light of modern research. The

Polos returned to Venice by sea arriving there in 1295 after an absence of twenty-four

years.

Marco Polo was so impressed with the novelty of paper money that he devoted an

entire chapter to the subject in his book. He described in great detail the manner in

which it was made, authenticated and used in everyday commerce. It is worth our while

to quote several applicable paragraphs here:

Map of the Mongol Empire showing Marco Polo’s journeys throughout China.

“In this city of Kanbaluc (the Mongol capital, now Beijing) is the mint of the

Grand Khan. He may truly be said to possess the secret of the alchemists, as he

has the art of producing money by the following process. He causes the bark to

be stripped from mulberry trees, the leaves of which are used for feeding

silkworms, and takes from it that thin inner rind which lies between the coarser

bark and the wood of the tree. This being steeped, and afterwards being pounded

into a mortar, until reduced to a pulp, is made into paper . . . When ready for use,

he has it cut into pieces of money of different sizes, nearly square, but somewhat

longer than they are wide . . . . The coinage of this paper money is authenticated

with as much form and ceremony as if it were actually pure gold or silver. To

each note a number of officers, specially appointed, not only subscribe their

names, but affix their seals also. When all is duly prepared the chief official

smears the seal entrusted to him with vermilion, and impresses it upon the paper .

. . . When thus coined in large quantities, this paper currency is circulated in every

part of the Great Khan’s dominions; no person, at peril of his life, dares to refuse

to accept it in payment. All his subjects receive it without hesitation, because,

wherever their business may call them, they can dispose of it again in the

purchase of merchandise such as pearls, jewels, gold or silver. With it, in short,

every article may be procured.”

The Yuan was the shortest lived of all ancient Chinese dynasties. Despite this, it

was the one which relied most heavily upon paper money to sustain commerce. When

control over the government once again fell into Chinese hands in 1368, a mere one

hundred years had past.

Due to better record keeping and more surviving specimens, we know much more

about Yuan paper money than that of all preceding dynasties. Upon establishing their

dynasty, the Yuan followed the example of the Sung, Chin and others when issuing their

own paper money.

Frontispiece of the 1503 edition of Marco Polo’s book describing his travels throughout Asia (1275-

1292 AD).

Early references state that the first known Mongol paper money was issued by

Ghenghis Khan in 1227, prior to the establishment of the Yuan dynasty. These were

military notes referred to as “silk money”. The notes were of paper but the backing used

for them, instead of the traditional silver, consisted of bales of silk yarn, a commodity,

which served as a convenient reserve. By the later eleventh century silk notes had

spread as far as Persia where two surviving specimens were found by archaeologists in

1965.

Another early Mongol note was found in 1909 in a cave in the Tu-lu- pan

mountains in Sinkiang province. It is in the amount of 200 cash. The first line reads

“Great Yuan Circulating Treasure Note”. The note is dated in the T’sung-t’ung period,

which lasted but five years from 1260 to 1264. The original note was extensively

damaged when found, especially its margins, which were incomplete. This note was

first published by Wang Shunan in a book entitled

Catalog of Antiquities of Sinkiang

.

The author reproduced the note by his own hand as best he could. He noted that the note

 

measured 1 chi, 4 cun 5 fen long by 1 chi 1 fen wide, a very large size making it

 

comparable to other Yuan and Ming dynasty paper money. The pictorial presentation is

 

of two crossed strings of 100 cash. The note’s text states that it is to circulate

 

throughout the kingdom without time limitation. The counterfeiting warning is different

 

in that this note, instead of levying capital punishment upon the criminal, states that the

 

falsifier will be fined and forced to pay five ding. Wang Shunan’s line drawing is also

 

illustrated in

 

 

A Compilation of Pictures of Chinese Ancient Paper Money

together with

what appears to be the brass plate from which the original note was printed.

 

The first true Yuan notes appeared in 1287, the twenty-fourth year of the Chihyuan

 

era. Known as “Chih-yuan t’ung-hsing pao-ch’ao”, or Great Yuan General

 

Circulation Treasure Notes, they eventually became the universal currency for the entire

 

empire, circulating not only throughout China but also in Burma, Siam and Annam. The

 

1 kwan note of this series was considered to be the equivalent of 5 kwan in old notes

 

then in circulation. These notes came in two sizes – the lesser and the greater. Lesser

 

notes included denominations of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 copper cash; the greater 100, 200,

 

300,400, 500 cash, 1 and 2 kwan. These were almost certainly the paper money referred

 

to by Marco Polo in his writings. The March 1988 issue of the

 

 

 

Bank Note Reporter

 

announced the discovery of a 2 kwan note of this series in the Hermitage Museum in

Leningrad, at that time still part of the old Soviet Union.

Brass plates used in the printing of Yuan dynasty Chih-yuan notes have also

surfaced. It is known that eight such plates, including ones for 200 cash and 2000 cash

(2 kwan), were discovered at an old mint site in north China during the Japanese

occupation of 1937-1945. The 2 kwan printing block measures 11 inches high by 8

inches wide and is 3/8

th

inch thick.

A description of the 2 kwan note follows: On the top line, “Great Yuan General

 

Circulation Treasure Note”. Below this is found the denomination “two kwan” together

 

with an illustration of two strings of 1000 cash. To the left of the illustration, in seal

 

writing, are found the words “to circulate under the heavens” (the known world).

 

(Remember, the Chinese considered themselves to be at the center of the universe!).

 

The lower panel is translated as follows: “The Board of Revenue and Rites, having

 

petitioned and received the imperial sanction, print for the convenient use of the people

 

the Great Yuan Treasure Note, to be current and used for copper cash. The counterfeiter

 

shall be summarily decapitated and the informer will receive 200 taels of silver. If

 

district officials conceal such guilt, their punishment shall be the same”. The

 

appropriate governmental seals were then applied to the face of the note. The notes

 

were gray in color with red seals affixed.

 

Another form of currency circulated side by side with Chih-yuan ch’ao notes.

 

These were military notes known as “Great Yuan Military Supplies Notes”. They were

 

used when purchasing supplies for the various banner divisions of the army.

 

Paper money comprised the major form of currency under the Yuan. Relatively

 

few coins were cast during this dynasty due to trading restrictions imposed upon copper

 

and precious metals. In 1350 Emperor Shun Ti’s finance minister tried to correct the

 

situation, however the coins produced were insufficient to satisfy demand. People

 

reverted to barter throughout China leaving the notes, which had accumulated in private

 

and government coffers, to become worthless.

 

Rebellions soon spread over the entire empire. To meet increasing military

 

expenditures, new notes were issued without reserves of any sort. A malignant inflation

 

resulted in which these notes also lost all value. When that happened, people were

 

forced to fall back and rely entirely upon their “square holes” (as copper coins were

 

commonly called) and barter. This condition prevailed until the end of the dynasty in

 

1368, hastening its demise. At the end, the enormous sums, which had been swindled

 

from the Chinese by the Mongol emperors, helped to hasten their defeat at the hands of

 

the Ming.

 

In Part II we shall conclude by discussing the ancient Chinese paper money of the

 

Ming dynasty.

 

 

Bronze plate recently discovered in Shansi province. This block was used in making “

Chên-yu paoch’üan”

(Chen-yu treasure notes). These were the product of emperor Chang Tsung (1190- 1208 AD)

of the Chin dynasty. The Chin were Nuchen Tartars who preceded the Yuan dynasty.

Facsimile of a 200 cash note of the Yuan dynasty, and the brass plate from which it was made. One of

these notes was found in a cave in Sinkiang province in 1909. The note is over seven hundred years

old.

Yuan dynasty Chih-yuan ch’ao 2 kwan note. Notes of this series became the universal currency for all

of China, circulating throughout Burma, Siam and Annam as well. A 2 kwan note identical to this was

found in the vaults of the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad in 1987. This is almost certainly the type

of currency Marco Polo reported extensively on in his book of travels. The facsimile of this note is

lacking the two government seals used to authenticate it.

ANCIENT CHINESE CASH NOTES – THE WORLD’S

FIRST PAPER M

 

Ming Dynasty Paper Money

In contrast to Yuan heavy reliance upon paper notes, the follow-on Ming and

Ch’ing dynasty economies were based principally upon copper cash coins and silver.

Paper money was occasionally issued by the Ming government; however little effort was

made to control and maintain its value. The first Ming paper money appeared in 1374,

the product of the Precious Note Control Bureau (the name was later changed to the

Board of Revenue) specifically set up for this purpose. The notes themselves were

called “Ta Ming T’ung Hsing Pao Ch’ao”, Great Ming Precious Notes. Emperor T’aitsu’s

reign title was Hung-wu. This nien-hao appeared on these notes and on successive

Ming issues, regardless of the fact that all Ming emperors had their own reign titles.

This was an honor given to the founder of the dynasty.

Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih

refers to

sixty different notes issued between 1368-1426. In all probability there were many

 

more.

 

From the beginning these notes were inconvertible and could not be exchanged

 

for coin. Notes of the Hung-wu reign (1368-1398AD) were issued in denominations of

 

100, 200, 300, 400, 500 and 1000 cash. One string of paper (1000 cash) was the

 

equivalent of 1000 copper coins or one ounce of pure silver. In 1389 smaller value

 

notes of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 cash were printed to facilitate trade. It is

 

reported that the mulberry bark paper used to make the T’ai-tsu notes was recycled from

 

the waste of government ministries and Civil Service examination papers. There were

 

three distinct issues of Ming notes as follows: all bearing the reign title “Hung-wu”.

 

These notes circulated throughout the entire kingdom.

 

1. Those of the emperor T’ai-tsu, issued in 1375AD

 

2. Those of emperor Ch’eng-tsu (1403-1424AD)

 

3. Those of emperor Jen-tsung, son of Ch’eng-tsu, issued in 1425AD

 

Reflecting the inflation then being experienced, Ch’eng-tsu paper money consisted of

 

notes denominated 1 through 20 kwan, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 kwan all bearing

 

pictorial presentations of the equivalent amount of cash coins, each coin representing

 

five cash. Various cloud and dragon designs adorned their borders. Their color was

 

gray.

 

 

Ming dynasty 200 cash note of the emperor T’ai Tsu, who took the reign title Hung Wu in 1368. The

pictorial presentation is of two strings consisting of ten 10 cash coins which were in circulation at that

time.

Ming dynasty 50 kwan note of Ch’eng Tsu (1403-1424 AD). The pictograph in the top rectangle

depicts ten five cash coins, representing currently circulating coins of the preceding Hung-wu era.

(Schjőth catalog numbers S-1156 and S-1157.)

The unfortunate Jen-tsung died shortly after ascending the throne. In the short

eight months of his reign, twenty denominations were emitted. Beginning with 10 cash,

they proceeded by tens to 100 cash and then by hundreds to 1000 cash. They were

known as Great Ming Military Administration Treasury Notes. Pictorial presentations

on this series consisted of the equivalent in strings of cash.

The value of all these notes rapidly declined, eventually to the point where the

people would not accept them. By the end of the century it took 35 strings to buy an

ounce of silver. Twenty years later it took 80 strings to buy an ounce. Erosion in the

value of paper escalated until by the mid 1400s an ounce of silver commanded 1000

strings in paper! Silver was rapidly supplanting paper as a medium of exchange. The

Great Ming Precious Notes gradually disappeared from commerce. After 1455 works

on Chinese history make no mention of them. In the last year of the Ming dynasty

(1643AD) a memorial was sent to the emperor proposing the revival of a paper

currency. Set forth in the memorial, were a list of ten arguments for a new paper

currency. These advantages were cited as:

1. Paper money can be manufactured at a low cost

2. It can circulate widely

3. Being lightweight, it can be carried with ease

4. It can be readily concealed

5. Paper money is not divisible, like silver, into various grades

6. Paper money did not have to be weighed when used, as did silver

7. Dishonest money changers could not “clip” if for their own profit

8. It would not be exposed to the preying eyes of thieves

9. Should paper replace copper coins, the copper saved could be used for making

armaments

10.Should paper replace silver, the silver saved could be stored up by the

government

The proposal, however, was not adopted, as by that late date the government was too

weak to benefit from such a scheme. Chinese commerce was to exist without paper

money for the next four hundred years.

Without question, the Ming note most widely known, and perhaps the only

specimen available to collectors today, is the 1 kwan of emperor T’ai-tsu. Enough of

these notes have survived to be found in many museums and private collections. The

story of how they came to be preserved is an interesting one. As far as I can ascertain

most Ming 1 kwan notes available today came from two sources. The first of these

stemmed from an incident, which occurred during the Boxer Rebellion. In 1908 H. B.

Yuan dynasty 90 cash note of emperor Shun Ti (1333-1367 AD) at left, together with a Ming dynasty

1000 cash note of emperor Jen Tsung (1425 AD), right. Jen Tsung’s reign lasted but one year. Both

notes measure approximately 3 . by 8 . inches and depict strings of copper cash. Note the increase in

inflation during the 100 year interval between the release of these two specimens. From the Chinese

work entitled

Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih.

Morse published a book entitled

 

Trade and Administration of the Chinese Empire

 

containing a lithographic facsimile of the Ming 1 kwan note. In the book he gives a

complete description of the note together with translations of the Chinese characters

found on it. Morse also tells of the manner in which the note was acquired, which goes

as follows:

“This five hundred year old instrument of credit has a curious history furnishing

an absolute guarantee of its authenticity. During the foreign occupation of Peking

in 1900, some European soldiers had overthrown a sacred image of Buddha, in the

grounds of the Summer Palace. Deposited in the pedestal (as in the corner-stones

of our public buildings) were found gems and jewelry and ingots of gold and

silver and a bundle of these notes. Contented with the loot’s intrinsic value, the

soldiers readily surrendered the bundle of notes to a bystander, U.S. Army

Surgeon Major Lewis Seaman, who was unofficially present. He gave to the

Museum of St. John’s College in Shanghai the specimen which is here

reproduced”.

The second report concerning the discovery of Ming 1 kwan notes concerns the

Reverend Mr. Ballou, a long time missionary, who was born in China and resided there

until after World War II. Reverend Ballou states that he received his Ming note from his

friend L. Carrington Goodrich who had been associated with Yenching University in

Peking during the 1930s. Mr. Goodrich related that he acquired the note under the

following circumstances:

“Sometime in 1936 one of the walls surrounding Peking was torn down. When

the laborers got to the huge gate in the wall, they found to their surprise, a large

bale of 1 kwan Ming dynasty banknotes buried in the wall itself. After removing

the soiled and damaged notes, the workers sold the notes to those persons

standing around. Mr. Goodrich came upon his note at that time. He told

Reverend Ballou that he purchased two of them for a few coppers, which

amounted to just a few pennies.”

Inasmuch as the 1 kwan note is the only one likely to be found in collections

today and without a doubt the oldest piece of world paper money one can aspire to own,

it is perhaps worthy of detailed discussion. Translation of the principal inscriptions

found on the note are as shown in the accompanying panel diagram:

1. “Great Ming General Circulation Treasure Note”

2. “One kwan”

3. A pictorial presentation of ten strings of 100 cash (= 1000 cash =

1 kwan)

4. “Great Ming Treasure Note” in seal style characters

5. “To circulate for ever and ever under the heavens” in seal script

6. The lower panel text reads: “The Board of Revenue, having

petitioned and received the imperial sanction, prints the Great Ming Precious

Note, to be current and to be used as standard copper cash. The counterfeiter

shall be decapitated. The informant shall be rewarded with 250 taels of

silver, and in addition shall be given the entire property of the criminal.”

The last column of characters at the left of the bottom panel, show the date as: “Hungwu

era, …year, …month, …day”. The note was manufactured from recycled gray

mulberry bark paper. Two vermilion seals were impressed into the note by government

officials to authenticate it. The upper of these seals reads: “Seal of the Treasure Note of

the Great Ming Dynasty”; the lower of the two bears the inscription: “Seal of the Office

of the Superintendent of the Treasury”.

Ming dynasty 1 kwan note of the Hung-wu era (1368-1398). This large note, printed in gray mulberry

bark paper, measures 8 x 11 . inches. The two vermilion seals shown in the next illustration do not

appear on this prototype. This is the only ancient Chinese paper money likely to be found in private

collections today.

Two official government seals appear on the face of the Ming 1 kwan note. They were pressed into the

finished note with wooden blocks using vermilion ink, thereby authenticating it. These seals can still

be plainly seen on most 1 kwan specimens in collections today. The seal at upper left reads: “Seal of

the Great Ming Treasure Note”; the seal at right “Seal of the Office of the Superintendent of Treasure”.

At the bottom is a black seal which was placed on the reverse of the note to indicate its value. The ten

strings represent 1000 copper cash, which equaled 1 kwan.

Some Numismatic Observations

The first observation I would like to make concerns the definition of the term

“ancient Chinese paper money”. What exactly, is meant by “ancient”? For me the term,

when applied to our subject, encompasses those notes which relate to the earliest and

remotest periods in Chinese history. Since the ancient style notes continued to be

printed into the nineteenth century, this causes a problem. Paper money ceased to exist

in China after being repudiated by the masses during Ming dynasty times and was not to

be seen again for four hundred years. During the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1865),

emperor Hsien-feng again resorted to financing his wars with paper money resembling

its forbearers. Are these notes to be included? I think not, as the period encompassing

the nineteenth century can hardly be considered “ancient”. I bring this up as most

authors lump the Hsien-feng notes into the overall category of ancient notes. I have not.

The notes of the T’ai-ping Rebellion deserve discussion in their own right. Therefore, I

have chosen not to include them here.

My next observation concerns the failure on the part of modern day catalogers to

include these anciient notes in their works. The

 

Standard Catalog of World Paper

Money

 

 

 

makes reference to only two Ming notes. Why is this, when so much

information regarding their authenticity is available? Today we know that notes of the

 

Sung, Chin, Liao, Yuan and Ming dynasties have survived. Of the Tang dynasty flying

 

money or Posterior Chou and Western Hsia dynasty paper money I have no information

 

as to surviving specimens. Many un-cataloged notes may be found in museums and

 

private collections. Of those that no longer exist a great deal is known thanks to

 

surviving Chinese numismatic works and to archeological discoveries. Why then are

 

they not included? Is it because notes that are unique or no longer exist cannot be

 

collected and therefore do not deserve a place in our numismatic catalogs? Since

 

numismatists generally have a profound curiosity about the material they collect and a

 

deep appreciation for the history which these items represent, the hobby would greatly

 

benefit from their inclusion.

 

Some may be curious as to the value of these ancient notes. The answer is

 

simplicity itself – they are, with the sole exception of T’ai-tsu’s one kwan Ming note,

 

priceless. Many specimens known today are unique, others known to exist in only two

 

or three collections or museums. The only ancient note one could reasonably hope to

 

obtain today is the Ming 1 kwan note, due to the fortunate discoveries in 1900 and 1936

 

mentioned above. The price of a reasonable example, intact, completely legible and

 

with seals affixed that are still clearly discernable would command between $ 1,000 and

 

$1,500 on today’s market.

 

A discussion of ancient paper money would not be complete were one to ignore

 

the extensive counterfeiting of these notes, which was at all times an immense problem

 

for administrative officials. From the earliest known issues cash notes always carried a

 

clause in the text, which called for capital punishment – usually decapitation. Those who

 

covered up or condoned such crimes were to suffer the same fate. It was also stated in

 

the text that a reward would be paid to the informer of such acts. These rewards were to

 

be paid in silver taels, of varying amounts, depending upon the denomination of the note

 

counterfeited. It also appears that such rewards fluctuated with the severity of the

 

problem at any one point in time. In reality, punishment meted out to those who ran the

 

risk of falsifying banknotes varied widely during different periods.

 

When emperor Shin Tsung of the Posterior Chou ascended the throne in 915AD,

 

he was in great need of funds. He seized over 3350 monasteries and then gave orders to

 

melt all Buddhist bronze images found there so that they could be turned into cash. The

 

emperor declared that Buddha himself would raise no objection, having in his lifetime

 

given up so much for mankind. The shortage of money also caused the emperor to send

 

a fleet of junks to Korea to trade silk for copper with which to mint cash coins. Given

 

these drastic measures, it is not surprising that the Chou also resorted to paper. The

 

Chou counterfeiting clause reflected the mood of the times when it stated: “The

 

counterfeiter of this denomination – principal or conspirator irrespectively – shall be

 

immediately executed by the authorities of the district concerned and be exposed to

 

public view”.

 

During the Sung dynasty the punishment seems to have been limited to

 

banishment, although a case is on record reporting the public decapitation of one greedy

 

fellow who was caught with 250 counterfeit notes in his possession! During the

 

following Chin and Yuan periods the problem must have become more severe, as the

 

punishment reverted to decapitation. By Ming times paper money became so

 

depreciated and was so disliked by the peasants that local officials treated these

 

criminals more leniently, often letting the miscreant off with only a fine. One emission

 

of notes stated a desire to single out only the true offenders, offering amnesty to

 

accomplices who confessed their wrongdoing.

 

Several types of counterfeiting were prevalent. Of course, the most frequently

 

encountered were notes printed from counterfeit blocks or plates. Another form of

 

counterfeiting, known as “pasting”, consisted of notes that were pasted together from

 

bits of other notes so that one kwan became ten and so on. For this type of

 

counterfeiting the punishment was less severe than for printing.

 

A most original solution to the counterfeiting problem occurred in Sung times

 

after a large shipment of counterfeit money had been seized. During the discussion as to

 

what should be done with the counterfeiters, one court official stated that the current

 

policy of beheading the criminals and destroying their money was a mistake. He

 

proposed instead the following:

 

“If you put the official imperial stamp on the counterfeited paper, it will be just as good

 

as genuine paper. If you punish these men only by tattooing them, and circulate these

 

notes, it is exactly as if you saved each day 300,000 copper cash together with fifty

 

lives.” It is said that the proposition was adopted.

 

Lastly I would like to call to the reader’s attention to an anomaly I noted some

 

years ago when inspecting a specimen of the Ming 1 kwan note. It concerns the

 

depiction of strings of cash shown on the face and reverse of the note. As early as Sung

 

times representations of coins found their way onto their paper money counterparts. In

 

ancient times, when the majority of the population consisted of an illiterate peasantry, it

 

was necessary to identify the value of the paper money note by placing ideograms or

 

pictographs upon it which everyone could recognize. This practice was continued by

 

succeeding dynasties, up to and including the Ming.

 

Individual coins were sometimes depicted but more often, because the intrinsic

 

value of a single coin was so low, they were shown grouped together as strings, or

 

groups of strings. A standard string was theoretically composed of one thousand cash,

 

which were strung together to facilitate handing. Each string of one thousand cash coins

 

had the equivalent value of one ounce of pure silver.

 

When one examines the 1 kwan note of Hung-wu closely he finds a depiction of

 

what appears to be at first glance ten strings of ten coins each which must be considered

 

to be of 10 cash denomination. Thus ten strings x ten coins per string x 10 cash per coin

 

= 1,000 cash, or 1 kwan. In reality what is depicted are ten strings of 10 cash coins;

 

however on close examination we will find that there are only nine coins to a string.

 

Aha! This is interesting. Could it be a mistake on the engravers part? This cannot be

 

the answer as a check of other cash notes in this series reveals the same anomaly, i.e.,

 

only nine 10 cash coins per string, or 900 cash.

 

I have concluded, therefore, that the representation of only nine coins, or 90 cash

 

per string was deliberate. But how can 900 cash be the same as 1000 cash? The

 

explanation, I believe, lies in the fact that during the Hung-wu reign 900 cash passed for

 

1000; just as 770 cash represented a string in Sung dynasty times and 800 during the

 

Chin dynasty. In other words the government’s financial arm, the Board of Revenue,

 

must have set the relation of cash coin to the value of a string by decree. Thus the

 

official value of cash in the marketplace would vary from time to time.

 

As we have seen, the pictorial representations of cash seen on ancient Chinese

 

banknotes are highly picturesque, tending more to reality than surrealism. One may

 

therefore conclude that the imagery of the coins contained in each string actually

 

 

This blow-up of the strings of cash depicted on the Ming 200 cash note of Hung-wu reveals but nine 10

cash coins per string, not the ten one would expect. Ten strings of ten coins each representing 10 cash

would equal 1000 cash, or one ounce of silver, otherwise known as 1 kwan. This was the official ratio

of cash to an ounce of silver. A depiction of nine 10 cash coins per string is found on all Ming dynasty

notes of 100 cash and above. So why are there only nine coins per string? There is an explanation!

On lower Ming denominations face value was depicted, not to represent the “official” ratio, but rather

what the note could be exchanged for in the marketplace.

depicted the real thing. If this is so, one must ask: “What exact coin was being

represented”? It would have to be a 10 cash piece, which circulated side-by-side with

paper money. Ming coinage production consisted overwhelmingly of one cash “square

holes” augmented occasionally by value “two’s”, “three’s” and “fives”. But, what of the

value “ten” cash pieces? A close examination reveals that the Ming Board of Revenue

minted ten cash pieces on only three occasions. The first of these was during the Tachung

era (1364-1367AD), and the second during the Hung-wu era (1368-1398AD).

The final Ming 10 cash coin issue appeared late in the dynasty (1621-1627AD) under

the reign period of T’ien-ch’i.

Ming 10 cash coin of the Hung-wu reign (1368-1398 AD) together with six reverses depicting the

value as “ten cash of a tael” (upper left) and five other coins with mint marks representing Nanking,

Honan, Peking, Chekiang and Fukien. This coin was most certainly the one represented on Ming

dynasty notes.

Since the 1 kwan Ming note states that it was sanctioned by emperor T’ai Tsu for

release under the Hung-wu reign title, the earliest date during which Hung-wu 1 kwan

paper money circulated would have been the year 1368. From this extrapolation we can

eliminate the 10 cash pieces of the T’ien-ch’i era, since they did not enter circulation

until almost three hundred years later. That leaves us with the ten cash pieces of the Tachung

and Hung-wu eras, either of which could have been the coins represented by the

pictograms. More than likely the contemporary coins of Hung-wu were those shown in

these illustrations, those whose legend reads “Hung-wu t’ung-pao” (current money of

Hung-wu). If this be so, we have narrowed our identification down to a series of six 10

cash pieces minted from 1368-1398AD. All bear the character “shih” (ten) on their

reverse. One specimen has in addition the characters “yi-liang” (one tael). When read

together the inscription reads “10 cash of a teal”, much as we would say “10 cents of a

dollar”. The remaining five specimens vary only by the position of the “shih” and the

location of the mint mark – “ching” for Nanking, “yu” for Honan, “Pei-ping” for the Peip’ing

Fu mint in Chihli, “che” for Chekiang and “fu” for the Fukien mint. These coins

are identified in Schjoth’s catalog

The Currency of the Far East

as

S1158-S1163. I believe these 10 cash pieces to be those appearing in the pictorial

 

representations found on Ming dynasty paper money.

 

In the field of paper money research there is probably more yet to be discovered

 

among ancient Chinese cash notes than in any other area. There is no doubt that

 

additional discoveries will be forthcoming from yet to be exploited archaeological sites.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Bank Note Reporter: “Kublai Khan Currency – World’s Oldest –

 

Discovered in Russian, Chinese Museums”,

 

Bank Note Reporter, Iola, Wisconsin,

 

Krause Publications, Vol. 16, March 1988

 

Bodde, Derk: China’s Gifts to the West, Washington, D.C., 1942,

 

American Council on Education

 

Davis, Andrew McFarland: Certain Old Chinese Notes, Boston, 1915,

 

George Emery Littlefield Company

 

Davis, Andrew McFarland: Ancient Chinese Paper Money as Described in a

 

Chinese Work on Numismatics, Boston,

 

1918, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

 

Glathe, Harry: “The Origin and Development of Chinese Money”, The

 

China Journal, Shanghai,

 

Vol. XXX, March-April 1939

 

Inner Mongolian Numismatic A Compilation of Pictures of Chinese

 

Research Institute: Ancient Paper Money, Beijing, 1987,

 

The China Finance Publishing House

 

Kann, Eduard: “Copper Banknotes in China”, Far Eastern

 

Economic Review, Hong Kong, Vol. XXVII, January

 

1958

 

Kann, Eduard: “The History of Chinese Paper Money”,

 

Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong,

 

Vol. XXII, March, 1957

 

Lu, Shibai: “Forged Notes of the Tang Dynasty”, Chinese Banknote

 

Collectors Society Bulletin, Kenelworth, Illinois, Vol.3

 

Nr. 1, March, 1984

 

Morse, H. B.: “Currency in China”, Journal of the North China Branch

 

of the Royal Asiatic Society, Number 38, 1907

 

Sandrock, John E.: Copper Cash and Silver Taels, Baltimore

 

Maryland, 1995, Gateway Press, Inc.

 

Smith, Ward D. and Chinese Banknotes, Menlo Park

 

Matravers, Brian: California, 1970, Shirjieh Publishers

 

Sten, George J.: Banknotes of the World, Menlo Park, California, 1967,

 

Shirjieh Publishers

 

Ting, S. P.: A Brief

Banknotes

 

The first paper banknotes were issued in China as early as the 7th Century AD but it was during a metal shortage for coins around AD960 that the Song Dynasty issued circulating notes.

 

Initially these notes were limited in their area of circulation and their duration but during the Yuan Dynasty, banknotes became widely printed and circulated.

 Chinese paper moneyChinese paper money
Chinese paper money

MONEY OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVENLY PEACE

John E. Sandrock

Few people, if asked today, could identify the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace,

tell you where it was located, or how or why it came into existence. The Kingdom

of Heavenly Peace, sometimes referred to as the Heavenly Kingdom of Great

Peace, started as a noble experiment with great promise, which soon turned into

outright rebellion against Manchu rule in China. The movement went terribly

wrong, ultimately claiming the lives of 25 million Chinese before government

troops aided by Western forces restored order.

The Kingdom of Heavenly Peace was born out of an 1850 uprising known as

the Taiping Rebellion, perhaps the most devastating period in China’s long history.

The rebellion took the Ch’ing dynasty to the brink of extinction. Lasting fifteen

years, during which time China was torn by the world’s bloodiest civil war, the

Kingdom of Heavenly Peace boasted a full-grown independent government

complete with an administrative bureaucracy, an enormous army and its own

communal treasury. The horrific loss of life was primarily due to Taiping tactics.

Since most engagements consisted of siege warfare against walled fortifications,

the tactics employed called for surrounding the enemy in his walled city and letting

starvation and disease take their course. If the fortification didn’t surrender, it was

so weakened that it could be easily vanquished.

The factors leading up to the rebellion centered upon social unrest. From

time immemorial the Chinese peasant class had struggled to eke out a bare

subsistence living, were suppressed by corrupt officials considering themselves the

scholarly elite, and had no prospect of improving their lot in life. A number of

factors came together in the mid 1840s that would soon change their lives

dramatically.

At that time southern China, where the Taiping movement originated, had

experienced repeated crop failures and flooding, making the lot of the peasant

farmers even more arduous. Widespread homelessness was the result. As if this

were not bad enough, the despised foreign “barbarians” were gaining a foothold

along the coast in what had been, before the Opium War, an area closed to

Westerners. And to make matters still worse, these “long hairs” had discovered the

immense profits that were to be made through the opium trade, caring little about

addicting the peasant population in the process. Hung Hsiu-ch’uan, the founder of

Manchu Empire at the height of the Taiping insurgency (1855). Shaded area shows the maximum

extent of Taiping conquest.

the Taiping movement, came from a humble peasant background and was only too

aware of these conditions. Resentment among the peasants against the ruling

Manchu class had been building up for some time. In 1850, seeing the government

weakened by the Opium War, the peasants seized upon the opportunity and amidst

increasing economic distress launched their revolution. This rebellion differed

from previous uprisings in that, in addition to the overthrow of the ruling power, it

contained elements of social revolution as well. In their desire to overthrow the

Manchus and reestablish Chinese rule over their land, they were later to practice a

form of ethnic cleansing when defeating the enemy.

Hung Hsiu-ch’uan, the disturbed self-appointed leader of the Taiping uprising. Believing himself

to be the “Second Son of God”, Hung ravaged China in the name of Christianity for fifteen

disastrous years.

Hung Hsiu Ch’uan, the self appointed leader of the insurrection, was an exschool

teacher and sometime fortune teller who held a grudge against the

government for his four time failure to pass the coveted civil service examinations.

Successfully passing these examinations was the only way a Chinese peasant could

escape poverty. Those who succeeded then became part of the Manchu

bureaucracy, serving in the capacity of civil servants. Those who failed the final

tests were barred from advancement forever. Hung was so dismayed by his failure

that he fell ill, becoming delirious during which time he had visions of an old man

who ordered him to kill demons on earth. Converted to Christianity by Canton

missionaries some years earlier, Hung turned to religion. The missionaries, in their

wildest dreams, could not have realized how strong their influence would be.

Turning to the reading of Christian pamphlets and missionary tracts during

convalescence, Hung became convinced that he was destined to save the Chinese

people. About this time he began referring to himself as the “Second Son of God”,

the younger brother of Jesus. He believed that God had given him the mission to

destroy the demons mentioned in his vision. “Demons” in Hung’s mind equated to

“Manchus”. His goal was to replace the miserable life the peasants endured with a

“Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace”. The result would bring universal happiness.

“Great Peace” in Chinese is translated as “Tai-ping”, thus the movement got its

name.

Gathering a following of other disaffected types, Hung set forth on his God

given mission to overthrow the Manchus, while replacing the Confucian and

bureaucratic systems in the process. China’s ancient Buddhist and Tao religions

were to be abandoned in favor of Hung’s version of Christianity. Hung proposed

many radical reforms, the most important of which aimed at better balancing the

agricultural population with available farmland. By this means he was sure to win

over the support of the depressed peasantry to his cause. Hung’s form of Chinese

Christianity spread like wildfire among the dispossessed peasantry. Loyalty to the

Taiping cause intensified, their numbers multiplied, and they began to enlarge their

domain. Panic spread before them, as villagers feared impressment into Taiping

work and military units and scholars recoiled from the thought of an ideology

dictated by foreign gods, totalitarian rule, and able-bodied women. These Taiping

armies were to sweep through province after province, defeating all the Manchu

forces that emperor Hsien Feng could send to oppose them.

The Taiping movement called out for many other reforms aimed at correcting

social injustices. Among these were the elimination of the eunuchs who

surrounded the Manchu court, women’s rights, elimination of opium trafficking,

overhaul of the tax system, outlawing of slavery and the cessation of the practice of

foot-binding. The last of these evils (that of foot-binding) was a practice whereby

the feet of young girls were bound together into a wedge – a beauty symbol of the

times known as “lily feet” – which left women crippled for life. This cruel practice

caused women to hobble when they walked. Confucianism stressed the inequality

of the sexes and taught that women should not have a will of their own.

Consequently, almost all women in China endured the practice. Hung was a

member of the minority Hakka tribe of Kwangsi, which was considered inferior and

looked down upon by most Chinese. This was in part because Hakka women did

not practice the custom of foot binding and consequently were considered ugly by

Chinese men. This seemingly insignificant fact – women able to fight as equals

alongside men – was to play a large part in the Taiping’s initial success.

Foot binding was one of the evils the Taipings wished to eliminate. Infant Chinese girls had their

feet bound so that their toes would grow together to form wedges known as “lily feet”, considered

a beauty mark by Chinese men.

These proposals proved too bizarre and irrational for China’s ruling class.

Trouble started when Hung’s supporters began to smash idols in village temples.

The Manchu troops sent to quell these disturbances met with resistance and open

rebellion followed. Before it was over, Hung came very close to toppling the

Ch’ing dynasty.

Huge numbers of the impoverished consisting principally of ignorant

unenlightened peasants from the interior, seeing no chance to improve their lives as

long as the Manchus retained power, flocked to the ranks of the rebel army.

Hung’s rise to become the rebel king of half of China has been likened by

contemporary historians to that of Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler and Josef

Stalin. Many of the same elements were present: the mysteries of chance, a

background of social unrest, his charisma with the masses, and a cadre of dedicated

fanatical leaders among whom Hung was merely first among equals. Their

movement was highly motivated and strictly organized along communal lines.

Their communistic concept of state controlled common property was embodied in

the Taiping catch phrase and slogan “Share Property in Common”. Total

dedication and organizational skill bound the diverse elements of their society into

an army of a million peasants.

Hung’s Taiping followers lived by a strict code of ten commandments which

had been set to poetry. A primitive communistic society evolved, which was not

unlike those to follow in later years. These devout adherents were known as

Brothers and Sisters and were commanded to live in total self-restraint and

abstinence. There was an absolute ban on alcohol, tobacco, gambling, prostitution

and dancing. Serious violators were beheaded. Soaring through central China, the

movement quickly assumed crusading proportions taking on a combined

militaristic, evangelical and patriotic character. Hung ruled this mass through four

subordinates on whom he bestowed the titles: King of the North, King of the East,

King of the South and King of the West. These associates displayed remarkable

military competence, a dichotomy considering their prewar trades were that of

charcoal maker, scholar, farmer and handyman. What they lacked in military

training they made up in fierce determination on the battlefield.

Adhering zealously to their cause, his followers became exemplary soldiers –

well disciplined, loyal and fierce in battle, certain that if they fell they would go

strait to heaven. Total equality was afforded each of the sexes. Men and women

were segregated even to the point of organizing an all-woman’s corps of one

hundred thousand troops with their own regiments and separate barracks.

Unhindered by bound feet, these soldiers were a welcome addition to Hung’s army.

In July 1850 Hung ordered all God worshipers throughout Kwangsi to

assemble at Chin-tien. Sweeping north from Kwangsi province the Taipings

overran city after city in their quest to overthrow the Manchu dynasty. Before it

was all over fifteen years later, the rebels had operated in sixteen of China’s

eighteen provinces and had ravaged six hundred of its walled cities. No mercy or

quarter was given. One good example of Taiping brutality concerns the ill-fated

city of Hangchow once visited by Marco Polo and described by him thus:

“Hangchow is the finest and most splendid city in the world, with palaces

gardens and mausoleums of art loving emperors; a city of lagoons, with

twelve thousand bridges, three thousand public baths fed by warm springs,

with streets brimming with turbulent life, as smooth as the floor of a

ballroom and so wide that they could take nine coaches side by side.”

The cruel tide of Taiping conquest destroyed the greatness of Hangchow

forever. In the spring of 1852 hoards of invading Taiping soldiers overwhelmed the

place, reducing its walls, monuments and libraries to ashes. After burning the city

to the ground the Taipings systematically murdered six hundred thousand people

including all the Buddhists, Taoists, civil servants and bureaucrats they could lay

their hands on – in effect everyone in their frenzied path. When the carnage was

over, the remainder of the population perished from starvation and disease. Those

who still survived drowned themselves in the city’s canals and West Lake to avoid

their inevitable fate.

By 1853 Hung’s ever expanding army had fought from Kwangsi in southern

China north to Nanking, defeating the Manchu troops as they went. The Taipings

selected Nanking as their seat of government, renaming it the “Heavenly Capital”.

Hung established his headquarters there and declared himself emperor of the new

Taiping dynasty. From Nanking, Hung’s armies spread out across the fertile

Yangtze valley, holding onto this territory throughout the rebellion. Gathering the

support of other restive elements including bandits, private armies, members of

secret societies and other dissidents, his legions swelled to over three million

fanatical supporters. When Nanking fell, the rebels seized huge stores of gold and

silver belonging to the Manchu government, thereby enabling them to finance their

revolution. It was said that the Taipings boasted a treasury six times that of the

imperial government.

At first foreigners were impressed with the Taiping movement, and who

wouldn’t be considering that the rebels stood against all that sin and corruption!

Britain, France and the United States adopted an official policy of watch and wait.

Missionaries embraced the Taiping war on all things evil. When visiting Nanking

they were taken by its order and cleanliness. An American Baptist missionary, the

Reverend Isaachar Roberts, who Hung had known earlier through his proselytizing,

was invited to come and live in Nanking. After repeated Taiping victories on the

Taiping forces routing the Imperial garrison from their fort at Tientsin.

battlefield, some governments entered into provisional diplomatic relations with the

rebels. It was at this point that things began to fall apart.

The principal irritant was the Taiping stand on opium. In the past this

lucrative traffic had been encouraged by Westerners as a way to reverse the

negative balance of payments for the silks, porcelains, and tea eagerly sought by the

West. Since opium trafficking had resulted in the addiction of millions of Chinese,

Western missionaries were solidly behind Taiping efforts to eradicate it. Of course,

all this flew in the face of the British merchant class who saw their lucrative profits

endangered. On the opium issue the Taipings would not budge. The British began

to have second thoughts – after all, it was easier and vastly more profitable to deal

with a weak imperial government unwilling or unable to control the traffic.

Other troubles began to surface from within. While demanding a celibate

existence from his followers, Hung lived a very contrasting life of debauchery. He

surrounded himself with harems and luxury. Even the missionaries commented

upon the homosexuality practiced by the Taiping rulers. This more than anything

else eroded the discipline of the army.

To make his dreams a reality, Hung had to first crush the Ch’ing dynasty into

submission. The Taiping army was better organized and better disciplined than the

government troops. At the height of their military success the Taipings marched to

within eighty miles of the Manchu capital at Peking, forcing emperor Hsien Feng to

flee in panic to his Summer Palace outside the city. Hastily rallied imperial forces

and an especially severe northern winter saved the day. Realizing that they had

everything to lose, the wealthy landowners and governmental officials firmly

backed Manchu authority. Since the interests of the Taipings ran counter to those

of the foreigners, the Manchus picked up strange bedfellows. Britain, France and

the United States had too much invested in the status quo to lose. Newly won

treaty concessions stemming from the Second Opium War gave them a big stake in

continuing to support Manchu rule. Re-equipped with modern arms, the imperial

soldiers were now able to reverse the tide of battle. Loyal Chinese armies soon

forced the Taipings to fall back upon their Heavenly Capital in Nanking.

When the 1856 expedition to capture Peking failed, Hung recalled his

principal lieutenants to Nanking. In the arguments which followed, Wei Chang-hui

(the King of the North) assassinated the East King who had usurped Hung’s role as

“God’s Second Son” in his absence. Over the next few days Wei slaughtered

twenty thousand followers of the King of the East. Infuriated, Hung turned on Wei

and murdered the King of the North together with his generals. These actions were

later to be mirrored in the purges of Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein. Foreigners

now turned away from Hung and his movement. The Reverend Roberts, after

living several years in Nanking, finally left in disgust. Roberts proclaimed Hung to

be crazy and his teachings “abominable in the eyes of God”.

To finance their revolution the Taipings set up their treasury with loot

plundered from captured Ch’ing resources. Their financial system was based upon

the same copper cash, which had been used in China since time immemorial. After

overrunning the copper mines in Yunnan province, they commenced the

manufacture of their own coins utilizing the production facilities of former imperial

mints. Minting of copper cash continued throughout the next eleven years of the

Heavenly Kingdom’s existence.

Cast bronze “money tree”, showing eleven yet to be finished coins.

The treasury initially was a shoestring operation run by village pawnbrokers,

as was the custom in rural China at that time. It wasn’t until the capture of Nanking

and the setting up of the Taiping “Heavenly Capital” there in 1853 that adequate

resources were obtained to finance the expanding revolution. This huge hoard of

gold and silver, plundered from the Ch’ing treasure vaults in Nanking, was

regularly augmented by assets captured from provincial treasuries as the Taiping

armies swept northward. In excess of 18 million additional silver taels were

acquired along the route-of-march, enough to seemingly assure prosperity for the

movement. Monies acquired in this way were held in a “common treasury” set

aside for all believers. Theoretically, this money was to be equally shared – in

conformance to the state’s communistic concept of common property. In other

words, the state was to provide all items of subsistence in return for a man’s labor.

In practice, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Up until 1861 the only central government coins manufactured were one cash

pieces, one thousand of which constituted a “string”, the string being the equivalent

of one “liang”, or ounce of pure silver. These coins were cast, rather than struck,

utilizing clay molds. All Taiping coins have the characteristic square center hole.

The typical brass cash coin consisted of fifty percent copper, forty percent zinc and

the balance a combination of tin and lead. The clay molds contained a central

channel, down which the molten metal flowed into branches, each one of which

terminated in an unfinished coin. Once the metal had cooled, the two halves of the

mold were broken apart revealing a “money tree” with a cast coin at the end of each

branch. The coins were then broken off the tree for final processing. Since the

resulting coins contained rough metal projections from the mold attachment, they

were irregular in shape necessitating filing. To do this the coins were inserted onto

a square chuck and placed into a primitive lathe. In this manner an entire string of a

thousand coins could be rounded at the same time. While the lathe was being

rotated the excess metal was removed using a hand file.

Since the intrinsic value of a single cash coin was so small, tying cash into

strings was necessary to facilitate commerce. The typical string found throughout

China contained 1,000 coins, while Manchurian practice called for 500. Only when

a transaction was for less than a full string were the cash taken apart. The

theoretical string containing 1,000 coins in reality contained as few as 990, the

difference being the surcharge levied by the money-changers as compensation for

the material (twine) and labor to produce it.

The first official coins of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace were issued in

1853 after Hung’s conquering army had taken Nanking, making it their “Heavenly

Capital”. These coins bore no marks indicating face value, and no dates. The

coin’s obverse usually contained the four characters “T’ai P’ing Tien Kuo”

(Kingdom of Heavenly Peace). They were popularly called Sheng Pao (variously

translated as “holy money” or “sacred coinage”).

Two single cash coins shown beside a string of copper cash, called “ch’ien” in China and “tiao” in

Manchuria. Pictured here is a Manchurian string containing 500 cash.

Since the central government did not issue standard patterns down to the

local level, the coins in this series came in many varieties and sizes. Instead of

using an official “mother coin” to guide them, the various mint masters took

matters into their own hands, casting coins which followed their own inclinations.

All one cash coins were made of copper, brass or bronze with the exception of one

iron specimen which is known to exist.

I will attempt to list below the various types of one cash coins.

Government Issues

T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo, (Kingdom of Heavenly Peace), (read top-bottom-right-left)

with “Sheng Pao” (Sacred Coinage) on the reverse (read right-left), 25, 35 or

45mm. The 25mm coin is the Taiping coin found in most collections. Note that the

character “Kuo” (Kingdom) found on Taiping coins differs from that usually

encountered, due to religious interpretation.

The most commonly encountered Taiping coin is the “T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo” (Kingdom of

Heavenly Peace) one cash with “Sheng Pao” (holy coin) on the reverse. This type is found in a

variety of sizes ranging from 25mm to 56mm. Some coins are found with narrow rims and others

with wide ones. On some coins the “Sheng Pao” characters on the reverse are read top to bottom,

while on others they are read right to left. These variants were due to a lack of central

government control over the minting process, leaving each mint-master to his own inclinations.

Top coin: Narrow rims, “Sheng Pao” read roght to left

Middle coin: Wide rims, “Sheng Pao” read top to bottom

Bottom coin: Large 55mm coin with uneven casting

Shown here are other Taiping coin types:

1. “Tai P’ing Sheng Pao” with “T’ien Kuo” reverse

2. “T’ien Kuo T’ai P’ing” with “Sheng Pao” reverse

3. “T’ien Kuo” obverse, “Sheng Pao” reverse

4. “T’ai P’ing” obverse, “Sheng Pao” reverse

Same coin with “T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo” read right-left-top-bottom, 25mm. Reported

by Lockwood.

Same coin with “Sheng Pao” on the reverse read from top to bottom. This copper

coin was made in a variety of sizes ranging from 25mm to 35mm. The 35mm coin

has wide rims. The same coin was minted in bronze in larger size format ranging

from 38mm to a whopping 56mm. (cast with uneven relief ). Both wide and

narrow rims exist.

Same coin as 35mm T’ai P’ing Sheng Kuo with wide rims listed above, only iron.

T’ai P’ing Sheng Pao, (Sacred Coin of Great Peace), (read top-bottom-right-left)

with “T’ien Kuo” (Heavenly Kingdom) on reverse (read right-left), 26mm.

T’ien Kuo T’ai P’ing, (Great Peace of the Heavenly Kingdom), (top-botton-rightleft)

with “Sheng Pao” reverse, 25mm.

T’ien Kuo Sheng Pao, (Sacred Coinage of the Heavenly Kingdom), (top-bottomright-

left) with “T’ai P’ing” (Great Peace) reverse, 21-23mm.

T’ien Kuo, (Heavenly Kingdom) (top-bottom) with “Sheng Pao” reverse, 25mm.

Cresswell states that this heavy coin circulated as ten cash, but I can find no

corroboration elsewhere.

Same coin, 36-38mm, with large and small characters

T’ai P’ing, (Great Peace) (read right-left) with Sheng Pao reverse, 24mm.

T’ai P’ing Cheng Pao, (True Coin of Great Peace), plain reverse. Perhaps the

scarcest of the Taiping coins, the word “Cheng” for “true” as used here suggests

that counterfeiting was a sufficient problem to warrant a new issue.

Coins Issued by Taiping Supporters and Military Units

A. Coins of the SMALL SWORD SOCIETY: (Shanghai religious group)

T’ai P’ing T’ung Pao, (Currency of the Taiping) with reverse containing a

crescent above the center hole and character “Ming” below, 22mm.

T’ai P’ing cash coins: T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo with “Sheng Pao” right to left, 42mm, narrow rims

(above). T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo with “Sheng Pao” top to bottom, 35mm, wide rims (center), and

T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo as above, 33mm, narrow rims (below).

Same coin with dot above hole, and crescent below on reverse.

Same coin with character “Wen” above on reverse.

Same coin as above, with “Wen” to the right of hole.

Some groups, sympathetic to the rebel cause, issued their own coins. Examples of these are coins

of the Shanghai based Small Sword Society (left) and the Heaven and Earth Society of Chekiang

(right).

B. Coins of the HEAVEN AND EARTH SOCIETY: (Chekiang)

Huang Ti T’ung Pao, (Currency of the Emperor) with character “Che” and

“Pao” (right-left) for Chekiang mint on reverse, 23mm. These is a

dichotomy here in that the character “Pao” is written in Manchu, the very

language that the Heavenly Kingdom everywhere suppressed.

Same coin, 23mm, with character “Sheng” to right of hole, but written

sideways.

K’ai Yuan T’ung Pao, reverse “Wu” above center hole, 24mm.

T’ien Ch’ao T’ung Pao, reverse “Yung” above center hole, 24mm.

C. Coins of Tai’ping MILITARY UNITS: (mintage date of coins cast for

military coins believed to be 1857). All military coins bear four characters

on the obverse as shown below:

These are read top-bottom-right-left. The characters “P’ing Ching Sheng Pao”

translate to “Heavenly Peace Victory Money”. The reverses of this interesting

series pertain to the various units within the army. One can speculate that all

reverse expressions relate to the same army location. It is reasonable to assume that

this place is the Heavenly Capital at Nanking. When taken together they give us a

good description of Tai’ping military organization.

Many Tai’ping military units cast their own coins. The “P’ing Ching Sheng Pao” series appears to

have been issued for an entire army, with various coins designated for specific units; such as the

imperial bodyguard, the left flank, right flank, reserves, etc. Shown here are coins indicated for

use by (1) the “Yu Lin Chun” (Imperial Bodyguard), (2) the “Ching Ying” (Center Battalion), (3)

the “Hou Ying” (Reserve Unit) and (4) the “Yu Ying (Right Flank).

P’ing Ching Sheng Pao, obverse, 26mm, with “Yu Lin Chun” reverse. These

reverse characters translate to “imperial bodyguard”.

Same coin, with “Ch’ang Sheng Chun” reverse, (read top-right-left),

translation:

“long victorious army”, or “invincible army”.

Same coin, with “C’hien Ying” reverse, ( read right-left); which when

translated reads: “battalion in front”. Note: “Ying” may be variously translated

as “camp”, “barracks”, “battalion”, etc.

Same coin, with “Chung Ying” reverse, (read right-left); translation:

“middle” or

“Center” battalion.

Same coin, with “Hou Ying” reverse, translation: “behind” or “after” –

therefore

“battalion reserves”.

Same coin, with “Tso Ying” reverse; translation: “left” or “at the left side” –

therefore “battalion on the left”.

Same coin, with “Yu Ying” reverse; translation: “right” or “at the right side”

– therefore “battalion on the right”.

P’ing Ch’ing T’ung Pao, (read top-bottom-right-left), reverse “Chung” in seal

writing at right, 23mm.

Note: Other Tai’ping military coins may exist.

Uncertain Issue

Nan Wang T’ung Pao, (Coinage of the Southern Prince), plain reverse.

Because

“Nan Wang”, the Southern Prince was a title which Hung Hsui Ch’uan had

bestowed upon himself, it is felt that this coin properly belongs to this series.

In the spring of 1860 Hung called a council of war to determine the future

course the war would take on the battlefield. At that time the Ch’ing army

surrounded Nanking. The plan was to strike out from Nanking with two great

pincers, one on either side of the Yangtze River. In this way the Tai’pings would

control the river while at the same time relieving the pressure on Nanking and

ultimately scattering the Ch’ing army, driving Manchu forces from central China.

To make this plan work it was necessary to take the port of Shanghai. There they

would secure needed supplies – including twenty armed river steamboats for use on

the Yangtze – and establish friendly trading relations with the Westerners in the

port, whom the Tai’pings saw as brother Christians.

As it turned out Hung went too far with his attack on Shanghai. He had

badly misread the Westerners. Upon hearing of Hung’s approach, panic broke out

in the International Settlement. A mercenary force of a few rag-tag Europeans and

soldiers of fortune, together with six thousand Chinese was hastily

thrown together under command of an American daredevil named Frederick Ward.

Desperate to defend Shanghai from the rapidly approaching Taipings, the local

Chinese authorities looked to the Westerners to help defend the city. This idea was

supported by the American ambassador, Anson Burlingame, the first United States

minister to reside in Peking. Inasmuch as the United States was involved in its own

civil war at the time, and as the other powers were unwilling to get bogged down in

a lengthy struggle with the Taiping, the plan succeeded.

Up to this point the Western powers had been sympathetic to the Taiping

movement. The concessions gained from the Manchus as a result of the Second

Opium War, however, changed all this. Since a Taiping victory would threaten

their newly won treaty gains, it was decided to back the Manchus to prevent the

seizure of Shanghai. From the moment the West went to the aid of the Ch’ing

dynasty, supplying them with modern weapons, ammunition, advisers and

mercenaries, the Taiping cause was doomed.

Ward’s command was known as the “Ever Victorious Army”, a title

bestowed upon it by Emperor Hsien Feng. Far from victorious in all their

campaigns, the army did stop the Taipings from capturing Shanghai. When Ward

was killed defending the city an English adventurer took command of the army.

This was none other than the future English General Charles Gordon of Sudan

fame. In later years “Chinese Gordon”, as he had become known, found himself

besieged at Khartoum and was butchered together with his entire garrison by

another religious fanatic. (See my article in the January 2003 issue of

 

NI Bulletin

 

entitled “Siege Notes – Windows to the Past”).

The Taiping belatedly tried to “Westernize” their rule, however, old

traditions were too ingrained to permit radical change. The man behind this move

was Hung Wen-kan, a younger relative of Hung Hsiu-ch’uan. In the early years of

the revolution he had lived and worked in Hong Kong. There he became familiar

with British colonial government administrative practices. Returning to Nanking

he was enthusiastically received by the Heavenly King. Upon being appointed to

the post of prime minister in 1859, Hung Wen-kan submitted a lengthy document

entitled “A New Treatise on Aids to Administration”. In this document he called

for a sweeping overhaul of the Taiping administrative system, which he presented

to the Heavenly King. His visionary program called for the creation of a new legal

and banking system, the creation of a postal service, newspapers, and the

construction of highways and railroads in Taiping domains. Hung accepted these

proposals as “proper and correct” with the exception of newspapers. He apparently

felt newspapers were too radical an idea, instructing that they be delayed until after

the demons were annihilated. Few steps were taken to implement these reforms

with the exception of the overhaul of the banking system.

The Taiping government decided its new currency would be based upon the

silver tael, paralleling the system then in use by the Manchus. It must be

remembered that in China, the tael at that time was not considered a “coin”, rather a

unit of weight representing one ounce of pure silver. Up to this point large

transactions were accommodated through the use of silver ingots called “sycee”

which ranged in size from one up to fifty ounces. To replace this cumbersome

system the Tiapings ordered their Nanking mint-masters to develop coins in tael

denominations. Molds were made for ¼ and ½ taels to be cast in silver and a 5 tael

coin in gold. The coins characteristically had a square hole at the center with “T’ai

P’ing” (top-bottom) on the obverse and “Sheng Pao” (top-bottom) reverse. Trial

pieces for these coins were made, a few of which may be found in various

collections, but it is doubtful that any real production found its way into general

circulation.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Taiping finances was the introduction

in 1861 of a paper currency denominated in taels. The Ch’ing emperor Hsien Feng

had found it expedient to take this drastic step in 1850 when he re-introduced paper

money to China as a means of financing the war. From the beginning of the war

the Manchu “Ta Ch’ing Precious Notes” had to be forced upon the population as

the Chinese of that time were completely distrustful of paper bank notes due to the

uncontrolled inflation which had grown out of excessive issues of paper during

Ming dynasty times. Consequently, China had not had a paper currency for nearly

seven hundred years.

In 1860 the Taiping government belatedly tried to “Westernize” their administration, including

the introduction of a standardized coinage. The new currency was to be based upon the silver

tael. Trial pieces such as this silver ¼ tael “T’ien Kuo” were made, but in all probably didn’t find

their way into circulation.

Following the Manchu example, Hung ordered the printing of tael

government banknotes. Since Nanking’s print shops were staffed and equipped to

produce tens of thousands of bibles espousing Hung’s new form of Chinese

Christianity, they were in all probability given this task as well. The revised

Taiping bibles, by the way, were made in such quantities that there were enough for

every leader down to the level of army sergeant, for use in indoctrinating troops.

Of the paper money, very little is known. Eduard Kann, an acknowledged

Western authority on Chinese currency who lived in China and worked in the

banking industry there, reported in his voluminous 1950s work

 

The History of

Chinese Paper Money

 

 

 

, that he had seen a Taiping bank note while living and

working there. This was a one tael note of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace dated

 

the eleventh year in the reign of Hung Hsiu-chuan (1861). The note was of

 

contemporary design, i.e., similar in format to the Ta Ch’ing Precious Notes then in

 

circulation outside the Taiping domain. They all conformed to the ancient Chinese

 

method of producing banknotes from hand carved wooden blocks in a vertical

 

format.

 

Kann describes the note he saw as follows:

 

“The frame of the note displays the usual two dragons striving for a fire ball.

 

The note states in its upper part that it was issued by the order of the

 

Heavenly King; in its lower space it reminds the populace of this fact and

 

assures his subjects that the note was usable for purchases of commodities, as

 

well as for the payment of taxes. It warns that forgers will be punished with

 

severity in accordance with the law.”

 

Kann goes on to state that soldiers and officials were paid liberally with these

 

notes, and that, due to their forced circulation, they were at all times depreciated

 

and became valueless at the rebellion’s inglorious end in 1864.

 

Until very recently no surviving examples of these notes were known to

 

exist. In 1993, by an extreme stroke of good fortune, a one tael specimen of the

 

same note described by Kann surfaced in a Singapore auction. From it a detained

 

description may be obtained. This unique note bears out the sketchy description of

 

the one seen by Kann. The note measures an enormous 180 x 310mm overall. As

 

with the Ch’ing Dynasty cash and Board of Revenue tael notes, it is uniface with a

 

conspicuous lack of endorsements on its back. Manchu notes of the period

 

circulated from hand to hand and were endorsed on the reverse with the seal of the

 

pawnshop or money-lender to attest to the note’s authenticity when presented for

 

payment – much in the same way that coins were counter-stamped. Considered

 

“communal” rather than “private” property by the Taiping, their notes lacked such

 

endorsements.

 

The paper from which the note was made is heavy, soft and two-ply, and is

 

probably bamboo. The color is tan. Upon this stock is printed the design,

 

measuring 145 x 259mm, in black ink. The central rectangle is divided into three

 

portions of text, the principal of which contains nine vertical columns of characters,

 

the extreme left one containing the date.

 

As Eduard Kann reported, the 24mm wide border contains two dragons, a

 

fire ball and a coral mountain rising from the sea. The coral mountain is a Chinese

 

mystical symbol, which represents the universe. Not mentioned by Kann are two

 

phoenixes, birds of immortality, which appear in the top border. Ancient legend

 

holds that the phoenix’s life span was five hundred years, after which it burned

 

itself, rising again from the ashes to soar for another five centuries! On the extreme

 

right edge of the note is found a counterfoil consisting of a vertical column of

 

characters, a portion of which remained with the stub from which the banknote was

 

cut. This practice served as a crude anti-counterfeiting device. When offered for

 

redemption, the serially numbered note was compared to the stub, which, if

 

matched proved the note to be genuine. If a particular note did not match up with

 

the characters on the retained stub, it was counterfeit.

 

 

The one tael note of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace, dated the eleventh year of the republic

(1861).

Superimposed upon the whole is an oversize brown seal, measuring 108 x

108mm, containing the two large characters “chun” and “chih”, which is itself

surrounded by a border of fire breathing dragons. When placed upon the note, the

seal attested to its having been authorized for issue by imperial decree.

When translated, the central text reads: “Money of the Heavenly King” and

“One ounce of silver”. A liberal translation of the nine columns of text reads:

“The Heavenly King, together with his people, subjects of Jesus Christ,

authorizes this note for market transactions so that the people may enjoy their

welfare and benefit from this. This note may be used for the purchase of

commodities or in the payment of taxes. Anyone counterfeiting this note will

be severely punished.”

Inasmuch as the text on the one tael note is written in formal Chinese, such as

that employed in legal texts of the time, it may be helpful to include the formal

version as well:

“The Heavenly King decrees: I order that all princes, holy generals and

military leaders, all civil servants inside and outside the court take note that

the emperor gives – in the name of Jesus, the Savior of the World – the

knowledge that he (the emperor) orders the issue of one liang (tael) notes,

also called “Bao-yin”. (These notes) shall circulate in commerce, (they)

cannot be surpassed and shall bring good luck. (They) shall circulate

anywhere under the heavens. Counterfeiters will be punished according to

the holy royal law.”

As with Kann’s sighting, this note is dated the first month of the eleventh year

( January 1861) of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace. The note’s well circulated

appearance bears testimony to its use.

So, we now know with certainty that the Taiping rebels resorted to the use of

paper money, as well as coins, to finance their genocidal war against the Manchu

“devils”. Since a one tael note does exist, so must have other denominations, but

until one of these notes comes to light the matter will remain one of speculation.

As we have seen, a few Taiping army military units issued their own coins.

Apparently some military units may also have issued their own banknotes. One

unusual fifteen cash note, believed to be a military issue, measures 4 x 4 3/8 inches,

has no printing on it but, instead, contains fifteen overlapping impressions of the

“T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo” coin in dry seals. Their square centers have been punched

out of white, watermarked rice paper with imbedded threads. The watermark

consists of parallel dark lines laid 7/16

th

of an inch apart. The note when

discovered was accompanied by a yellowed memorandum written by Dr. Choy Lee

 

Ling of Tinghai, Chekiang. His note reads: “This (banknote) was used during the

 

Taiping rebellion at Yanchow, Sinkiang province”. I must state, however, that my

 

hypothesis is based solely upon Dr. Choy’s say-so. It is also possible the note is a

 

piece of joss (hell note) as has been suggested by several experts. It has long been

 

the practice among the Chinese to burn joss at the funeral of family members as a

 

mark of respect and filial piety and to ensure the departed’s financial independence

 

in the afterworld. More research in the area of Taiping military notes is required.

 

In addition, there exists an article in Chinese by one Wang Ning entitled

 

“Investigating the Cloth Money Issued by Zong Ling Tang of Ge Lao Hu”. I have

 

not seen the article, but this suggests that additional issues were put into circulation

 

by local commanders to circulate at the local level.

 

After their defeat at Shanghai, the Taiping rebellion dragged on in the

 

Yangtze valley for another four years. Victory came slowly for the imperial forces

 

as their armies had to cope with other rebellions in the empire as well. Nanking

 

finally fell in July 1864. After fifteen years of struggle, trapped between enemies

 

both East and West, the peasant uprising collapsed. Hung met an ignoble end at

 

his own hands, by committing suicide. When the imperial troops entered Nanking

 

only a handful of the 100,000 rebel “true believers” surrendered, the remainder

 

committed genocide. The heads of the rebel leaders were chopped off, spiked onto

 

poles, paraded about the country, finally to be sent in triumph to Peking.

 

The rebellion had left most of the country ravaged. The Ch’ing victory did nothing

 

to ease the grinding poverty which plagued the peasants; rather, taxes became more

 

onerous than before. Under a succession of weak and ineffective Manchu

 

Emperors social reforms were postponed indefinitely. It was not until after the turn

 

of the century, in 1911, that Sun Yat Sen’s republican revolution finally brought a

 

measure of relief to the long suffering Chinese people.

 

I would like to thank Erwin Beyer of Grafschaft-Vettelhoven, Germany for

 

assistance rendered in translating both Chinese coins and bank notes while I was

 

preparing this article.

 

 

A fifteen cash note of a Taiping military unit. This note depicts fifteen impressions of overlapping

“T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo” coins in dry seal relief (shown here in facisimile). The center holes of the

“coins” were punched out of the paper upon which the impressions had been made. A most

unusual bank note!

Year 5 (1855) “Ta Ch’ing Pao Ch’ao” 500 cash note of the Chinese Empire. This note was issued

by Ch’ing dynasty emperor Hsien Feng as a means of financing the war and to pay troops fighting

the Tai’ping Rebels.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carr, Caleb The Devil Soldier, New York, 1992, Random

House

Cresswell, O.D. Chinese Cash, London, 1979, Spink & Sons

Crossley, Pamela, K. The Manchus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1997,

Blackwell Publishers Inc.

Fisher, George A. Fisher’s Ding, Littleton, Colorado, 1990, privately

published

Hucker, Charles O. China’s Imperial Past, Stanford, California,

1975, Stanford University Press

Jen, David Chinese Cash Identification and Price Guide Iola,

Wisconsin, 2000, Krause Publications

Jiaju, Qian A History of Chinese Currency, Hong Kong, 1983,

New China Publishing House

Jiang, Arnold X. The United States and China, Chicago, 1988, The

University of Chicago Press

Kann, Eduard “The History of Chinese Paper Money”, Section I:

Ancient Chinese Paper Money – Part IV, Far

Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong, Vol.XXII,

April 1957.

Krause, Chester L. Standard Catalog of World Coins,

Mishler, Clifford Nineteenth Century, Second Edition, Iola,

Wisconsin, 1999, Krause Publications

Lockwood, James Stewart The Stewart Lockhart Collection of Chinese

Copper Coins, Shanghai, 1915, Kelley and Walsh,

Ltd.

Paludan, Ann Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors, London, 1998,

Thames and Hudson, Ltd

Peyrefitte, Alain The Immobile Empire, New York, 1992, Alfred A.

Knopf

Polo, Marco The Book of Marco Polo, Citizen of Venice,

Wherein is Recounted the Wonders of the World,

early fourteenth century, Venice

Roberts, J.A.G. China Through Western Eyes, London, 1991, Alan

Sutton

Sandrock, John E. Copper Cash and Silver Taels, Baltimore,

Maryland, 1994, Gateway Press, Inc.

Seagrave, Sterling Dragon Lady, New York, 1992, Alfred A. Knopf

Spence, Johnathan D. God’s Chinese Son, the Taiping Heavenly

Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan, New York, 1996,

W.W. Norton & Company

Spence, Johnathan D. The Search for Modern China, New York, 1990,

W.W.Norton & Company

 

 
ese Banknote from 1378AD

Ancient Chinese Cash Notes – the World’s First Paper Money – Part I China has had a long and diversified numismatic history. From the dawn of antiquity onward, early Chinese traders used money in one form or another. It was not long after the Chinese invention of paper that the first paper money came into existence, making it the oldest paper money to be found in the world.

Part I discusses the evolution of the copper cash coin – the mainstay of the Chinese people for two thousand years – the invention of paper, the discovery of the use of paper money in China by Marco Polo and the various cash notes issued by the Tang, Liao, Sung, Hsia, Chin and Yuan dynasties.   Read more…


 Ancient Chinese Cash Notes – the World’s First Paper Money – Part II  Part II describes Ming dynasty paper money issues and identifies the coins depicted on the 1 Kwan banknote of Emperor Hung Wu (1378 A.D.)

In contrast to Yuan heavy reliance upon paper notes, the follow-on Ming and Ch’ing dynasty economies were based principally upon copper cash coins and silver. Paper money was occasionally issued by the Ming government; however little effort was made to control and maintain its value. The first Ming paper money appeared in 1374, the product of the Precious Note Control Bureau (the name was later changed to the Board of Revenue) specifically set up for this purpose. The notes themselves were called “Ta Ming T’ung Hsing Pao Ch’ao”, Great Ming Precious Notes. Emperor T’aitsu’s reign title was Hung-wu. This nien-hao appeared on these notes and on successive Ming issues, regardless of the fact that all Ming emperors had their own reign titles. This was an honor given to the founder of the dynasty. Ch’uan Pu T’ung Chih refers to sixty different notes issued between 1368-1426. In all probability there were many more.  Read more…


Money of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace  Few people, if asked today, could identify theKingdom of Heavenly Peace, tell you where it was located, or how or why it came into existence. The Kingdom of Heavenly Peace, founded in 1850, started as a noble experiment with great promise, which soon turned into outright rebellion against the Chinese Empire. The movement went terribly wrong, ultimately claiming the lives of 25 million Chinese before government troops, aided by Western forces, restored order.

During their fifteen year civil war the T’ai P’ing rebels, as they were called, formed a government which included an army, a civilian civil service bureaucracy, treasury and even a postal system of their own. This article studies the money of the T’ai P’ing rebels including both coins and bank notes. Few specimens of either survive today. The coin issues are varied and interesting. The bank notes, although referenced in various old numismatic books, are completely unknown to Westerners, have never been cataloged, and to my knowledge appear here for the first time.  Read more…


 Shanghai’s Wartime Emergency Money  This is the story of a little known aspect of China‘s history and an oft neglected area of numismatics. The setting of this article is the Chinese city of Shanghai and the year is 1939. Dire things are about to happen which will drastically change the way the city goes about its business.

To set the stage the author takes you through the years leading up to 1937, when the Japanese invaded China prior to World War II. After abandoning the silver standard in 1935, the Chinese government set about to unify and stabilize both coins and bank notes. After working for awhile, inflation set in due to the war ultimately driving Shanghai’s merchants to the use of emergency money to keep commerce flowing.  Read more…


Some Russian Bank Note Issues Associated with the Chinese Eastern Railway Collectors occasionally encounter a set of Russian language bank notes dating from the Bolshevik Revolution, which have been overprinted with a Chinese hand-stamp. Are these notes Russian, or are they Chinese? Who issued them and where? … and for whatpurpose? This article reveals the research undergone to reveal the answers.

As these notes are associated with some very interesting history, it is worth identifying them correctly and thereby setting things right. This set of 1, 3 and 5 ruble notes were issued by the Han Dao Hedzy Mutual Credit Society (Han’Daohedzskoe Obshchestvo Vzaimnago Kredita, in Russian). The notes go on to state that they were issued at the railroad station “Han Dao Hedzy”. Ahah! But where is that, and on what railroad, you might reasonably ask. Since the notes themselves do not give us the name of the railroad, merely the words “railroad station”, this presents a bit of a mystery.  Read more…


 The Money of Communist China – Part I   Prior to 1949 the People’s Republic of China did not exist as such. In its place, commencing in 1927, was a Communist party which controlled scattered areas throughout China known as “soviets”. These bases underwent many changes; first at the hands of victorious Nationalist armies, and after 1937, the Japanese invaders. These early Communists were self sufficient in every way. This included the manufacture and circulation of their own currency – including both coins and paper money. Driven out of their southern soviets by Chang Kai-shek’s Nationalist army in 1934, the Communists fled north on their Long March to escape annihilation and to save their cause. There they stayed to fight the Japanese, and after World War II, to engage in all out civil war against the Nationalists for control of all of China.

Part I describes the coins and paper money used by the early soviets from 1927 to 1934, which period ended in the Long March north to Shensi province. 


Money of Communist China – Part II  Part II describes the money of the Communist Base Areas during the War of Resistance against the Japanese (1936-1945).

While enduring the hazards of the Long March en-route to Shensi, the Red Army paused in Kweichow province after capturing the city of Tsunyi. It was here that the Chinese Communist Party elected Mao as undisputed chairman. Mao’s policy based upon mobile and guerrilla warfare was adopted. Contrary to the majority view, which called for a new base to be set up in western Sikang province (former province in southwest China, today part of Szechuan), Mao insisted upon pushing northward to Shensi where another Communist base already existed. Mao reasoned that the Japanese, not the Nationalists, were the immediate threat (after all, if Japan prevailed there would be no China or Nationalists to overcome) and he wanted to be close enough to reach the Japanese when the conditions were right. This could not be accomplished in far away Sikang. Completing their torturous march, the remnants of the Red Army eventually settled in Yenan, which in time became the Communists’ wartime capital. 


Money of Communist China – Part III  Part III describes the money used in the Communist ” Liberated Areas ” during the civil war with the Chinese Nationalists (1945-1949).

The fall of Japan and the end of World War II found China divided into three parts – the east coast and the principal cities formerly under Japanese occupation, the Communists in the north, and the Kuomintang in the south and west, centered upon their wartime capital in Chungking. By the end of the war Kuomintang prestige was considerably diminished after the defeats suffered at the hands of the Japanese, while the fortunes of the Communists had only increased through their campaigns to win over the peasant population. China reverted to the old Lenin struggle between workers and capital. 


Japanese Sponsored Coin and Bank Note Issues for the Occupied Regions of China  Occasionally, even today, one will encounter in a dealer’s junk box or stock, a coin or piece of paper money whose origins lay in Japan’s conquest and occupation of China (1937-1945). In order to administer such a vast country, Japan divided China up into administrative regions, each with its own financial management.

The coin and bank note issues of these Japanese “puppet” autonomous regions should not be viewed in isolation, as it is the totality of the story that is interesting. Coin collectors, perhaps, are aware of the coins, while bank note collectors are familiar with the various note issues. To appreciate the “total picture” as to what really transpired during the Japanese occupation, they must be viewed together. .


 

Those Elusive Chinese MulesThis article examines various possibilities as to how a mule could occur as well as describing some Chinese mules seen by the author.What on earth, you might reasonably ask, is a Chinese mule? Is it a cross between a horse and an ass? Well, perhaps, but the mules we’re talking about are defined in Webster’s dictionary as “coins or tokens struck from dies belonging to two different issues”. The act of combining dies that do not match, thus creating a mule, is known as muling. These coins are infrequently encountered due to their rarity; therefore, as a collector of Chinese coins I feel privileged to own several. I obtained my first mule in an unusual way – by accident you might say, as the dealer who sold it to me for the princely sum of $1.50 didn’t recognize it as such and neither did I at the time. Both of us made the mistake of accepting the provincial name on the English reverse as bona-fide without checking the obverse mintmark. It wasn’t until a careful examination of the coin prior to cataloging, that the discrepancy was revealed. We will find out more about my mule later. First let us examine the classification of Chinese coins wherein mules are to be found.


Cast Coinage of the “Ming Rebels”   The Ming dynasty lasted from 1368 to the year 1644 when China was over-run by barbarians from the north calling themselves Manchu’s. These fierce horsemen quickly conquered the decadent Ming, in turn establishing their own Ch’ing dynasty, China’s last experiment with imperial rule.

The Ming court did not die easily, however, as one usurper after the other tried, for forty years, to reestablish Ming rule. Collectively these men were known as the “Ming Rebels”. Each prince and warlord had his own court, army and bureaucratic following, setting up bases in various parts of China from which to overthrow the Ch’ing. Some enjoyed significant success while others did not. All, however, issued their own cast coinage for use in the areas they temporarily held. The coins are well executed, beautiful, specimens and are reasonably easy to acquire even today.

This article tracks the history of each rebel revealing both treachery and brutality in the attempt to eliminate the remaining vestige of loyalty to the Ming dynasty. The coin issues of each Ming Rebel are described in detail. 


  A Monetary History of the Former German Colony of Kiaochou  The defeat of China after two Opium Wars lamhotfgcok2.jpgeft the Ch’ing Dynasty weak and disorganized. European powers were quick to exploit this weakness. Both Britain and France placed exorbitant demands upon China in the form of monetary indemnity for expenses they had incurred during the wars, and for the outright concession of Chinese territory. Sensing this weakness, other European powers were quick to seize territorial concessions and to set up their own ‘spheres of influence’ within China for commercial purposes. This is the story of how Germany became a colonial player in the China trade.


The Significance of Stamps Used on Bank Notes  Every collector, sooner or later, runs into a bank note or two with atsosuobn2.jpgdhesive stamps affixed to them. This article, originally written by Dr. Arnold Keller, the dean of paper money collectors, explores the various reasons governments altered the original use of bank notes by affixing stamps thereto. Some stamps were attached to merely authenticate the value of the note itself after a change in government, other uses had tax implications, while still other applications were efforts to alter the economy of a region or whole country. Many of these schemes were ingenious beyond belief, and many of them actually worked! All examples of stamps found on bank notes which are known to the author are enumerated in this article. Undoubtedly there are other examples. Fellow collectors who know of other examples are invited to share their knowledge with us. 


The Use of Bank Notes as an Instrument of Propaganda – Part I  All propaganda is designed to influenctuobnaaiop.jpge public opinion. Such communications take many forms including the subtle use of propaganda both printed and concealed which may be found on a nation’s paper currency. Paper money can be a handy tool in the hands of a cunning propagandist, as seen in the examples given in Part I. These examples cover propaganda found on paper money issues from the American Revolution through the occupation of Europe during World War II.The ever popular Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the word propaganda as “ the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person”. The dictionary goes on to state that by the act of propagandizing, such ideas, facts or allegations are deliberately spread to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing one. Therefore, propaganda is a deliberate attempt by countries, individuals, or groups to form, control, or alter the attitudes of others through communication, with the intent that, in any given situation, the reaction of those so influenced will be that which is desired by the propagandist. In totalitarian states the government controls all permitted communication through monopolistic political parties and their officials.


The Use of Bank Notes as an Instrument of Propaganda – Part II   This article examines propaganda used ontuobnaaiop4.jpgbank notes during the War in the Pacific against Japan, the Korean War, the Vietnamese War and finally the Gulf War in Iraq.Toward the end of World War II, in an effort to hasten the downfall of the Empire, the Allies commenced dropping airborne propaganda notes over Japanese occupied territory in widely separated geographic locations. The first of these was an airdrop over Singapore and the Malayan States during 1944 and 1945. The British selected the Japanese Government 10 dollar Malayan occupation note for their propaganda message. Printed on Psychological Warfare presses in Calcutta, India these notes, when ready, were delivered to various Royal Air Force bases in India and Burma. From there they were delivered over the target area by the 231st Wing of the RAF.


 

MONEY OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVENLY PEACE. S

Few people, if asked today, could identify the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace,

tell you where it was located, or how or why it came into existence. The Kingdom

of Heavenly Peace, sometimes referred to as the Heavenly Kingdom of Great

Peace, started as a noble experiment with great promise, which soon turned into

outright rebellion against Manchu rule in China. The movement went terribly

wrong, ultimately claiming the lives of 25 million Chinese before government

troops aided by Western forces restored order.

The Kingdom of Heavenly Peace was born out of an 1850 uprising known as

the Taiping Rebellion, perhaps the most devastating period in China’s long history.

The rebellion took the Ch’ing dynasty to the brink of extinction. Lasting fifteen

years, during which time China was torn by the world’s bloodiest civil war, the

Kingdom of Heavenly Peace boasted a full-grown independent government

complete with an administrative bureaucracy, an enormous army and its own

communal treasury. The horrific loss of life was primarily due to Taiping tactics.

Since most engagements consisted of siege warfare against walled fortifications,

the tactics employed called for surrounding the enemy in his walled city and letting

starvation and disease take their course. If the fortification didn’t surrender, it was

so weakened that it could be easily vanquished.

The factors leading up to the rebellion centered upon social unrest. From

time immemorial the Chinese peasant class had struggled to eke out a bare

subsistence living, were suppressed by corrupt officials considering themselves the

scholarly elite, and had no prospect of improving their lot in life. A number of

factors came together in the mid 1840s that would soon change their lives

dramatically.

At that time southern China, where the Taiping movement originated, had

experienced repeated crop failures and flooding, making the lot of the peasant

farmers even more arduous. Widespread homelessness was the result. As if this

were not bad enough, the despised foreign “barbarians” were gaining a foothold

along the coast in what had been, before the Opium War, an area closed to

Westerners. And to make matters still worse, these “long hairs” had discovered the

immense profits that were to be made through the opium trade, caring little about

addicting the peasant population in the process. Hung Hsiu-ch’uan, the founder of

Manchu Empire at the height of the Taiping insurgency (1855). Shaded area shows the maximum

extent of Taiping conquest.

the Taiping movement, came from a humble peasant background and was only too

aware of these conditions. Resentment among the peasants against the ruling

Manchu class had been building up for some time. In 1850, seeing the government

weakened by the Opium War, the peasants seized upon the opportunity and amidst

increasing economic distress launched their revolution. This rebellion differed

from previous uprisings in that, in addition to the overthrow of the ruling power, it

contained elements of social revolution as well. In their desire to overthrow the

Manchus and reestablish Chinese rule over their land, they were later to practice a

form of ethnic cleansing when defeating the enemy.

Hung Hsiu-ch’uan, the disturbed self-appointed leader of the Taiping uprising. Believing himself

to be the “Second Son of God”, Hung ravaged China in the name of Christianity for fifteen

disastrous years.

Hung Hsiu Ch’uan, the self appointed leader of the insurrection, was an exschool

teacher and sometime fortune teller who held a grudge against the

government for his four time failure to pass the coveted civil service examinations.

Successfully passing these examinations was the only way a Chinese peasant could

escape poverty. Those who succeeded then became part of the Manchu

bureaucracy, serving in the capacity of civil servants. Those who failed the final

tests were barred from advancement forever. Hung was so dismayed by his failure

that he fell ill, becoming delirious during which time he had visions of an old man

who ordered him to kill demons on earth. Converted to Christianity by Canton

missionaries some years earlier, Hung turned to religion. The missionaries, in their

wildest dreams, could not have realized how strong their influence would be.

Turning to the reading of Christian pamphlets and missionary tracts during

convalescence, Hung became convinced that he was destined to save the Chinese

people. About this time he began referring to himself as the “Second Son of God”,

the younger brother of Jesus. He believed that God had given him the mission to

destroy the demons mentioned in his vision. “Demons” in Hung’s mind equated to

“Manchus”. His goal was to replace the miserable life the peasants endured with a

“Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace”. The result would bring universal happiness.

“Great Peace” in Chinese is translated as “Tai-ping”, thus the movement got its

name.

Gathering a following of other disaffected types, Hung set forth on his God

given mission to overthrow the Manchus, while replacing the Confucian and

bureaucratic systems in the process. China’s ancient Buddhist and Tao religions

were to be abandoned in favor of Hung’s version of Christianity. Hung proposed

many radical reforms, the most important of which aimed at better balancing the

agricultural population with available farmland. By this means he was sure to win

over the support of the depressed peasantry to his cause. Hung’s form of Chinese

Christianity spread like wildfire among the dispossessed peasantry. Loyalty to the

Taiping cause intensified, their numbers multiplied, and they began to enlarge their

domain. Panic spread before them, as villagers feared impressment into Taiping

work and military units and scholars recoiled from the thought of an ideology

dictated by foreign gods, totalitarian rule, and able-bodied women. These Taiping

armies were to sweep through province after province, defeating all the Manchu

forces that emperor Hsien Feng could send to oppose them.

The Taiping movement called out for many other reforms aimed at correcting

social injustices. Among these were the elimination of the eunuchs who

surrounded the Manchu court, women’s rights, elimination of opium trafficking,

overhaul of the tax system, outlawing of slavery and the cessation of the practice of

foot-binding. The last of these evils (that of foot-binding) was a practice whereby

the feet of young girls were bound together into a wedge – a beauty symbol of the

times known as “lily feet” – which left women crippled for life. This cruel practice

caused women to hobble when they walked. Confucianism stressed the inequality

of the sexes and taught that women should not have a will of their own.

Consequently, almost all women in China endured the practice. Hung was a

member of the minority Hakka tribe of Kwangsi, which was considered inferior and

looked down upon by most Chinese. This was in part because Hakka women did

not practice the custom of foot binding and consequently were considered ugly by

Chinese men. This seemingly insignificant fact – women able to fight as equals

alongside men – was to play a large part in the Taiping’s initial success.

Foot binding was one of the evils the Taipings wished to eliminate. Infant Chinese girls had their

feet bound so that their toes would grow together to form wedges known as “lily feet”, considered

a beauty mark by Chinese men.

These proposals proved too bizarre and irrational for China’s ruling class.

Trouble started when Hung’s supporters began to smash idols in village temples.

The Manchu troops sent to quell these disturbances met with resistance and open

rebellion followed. Before it was over, Hung came very close to toppling the

Ch’ing dynasty.

Huge numbers of the impoverished consisting principally of ignorant

unenlightened peasants from the interior, seeing no chance to improve their lives as

long as the Manchus retained power, flocked to the ranks of the rebel army.

Hung’s rise to become the rebel king of half of China has been likened by

contemporary historians to that of Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler and Josef

Stalin. Many of the same elements were present: the mysteries of chance, a

background of social unrest, his charisma with the masses, and a cadre of dedicated

fanatical leaders among whom Hung was merely first among equals. Their

movement was highly motivated and strictly organized along communal lines.

Their communistic concept of state controlled common property was embodied in

the Taiping catch phrase and slogan “Share Property in Common”. Total

dedication and organizational skill bound the diverse elements of their society into

an army of a million peasants.

Hung’s Taiping followers lived by a strict code of ten commandments which

had been set to poetry. A primitive communistic society evolved, which was not

unlike those to follow in later years. These devout adherents were known as

Brothers and Sisters and were commanded to live in total self-restraint and

abstinence. There was an absolute ban on alcohol, tobacco, gambling, prostitution

and dancing. Serious violators were beheaded. Soaring through central China, the

movement quickly assumed crusading proportions taking on a combined

militaristic, evangelical and patriotic character. Hung ruled this mass through four

subordinates on whom he bestowed the titles: King of the North, King of the East,

King of the South and King of the West. These associates displayed remarkable

military competence, a dichotomy considering their prewar trades were that of

charcoal maker, scholar, farmer and handyman. What they lacked in military

training they made up in fierce determination on the battlefield.

Adhering zealously to their cause, his followers became exemplary soldiers –

well disciplined, loyal and fierce in battle, certain that if they fell they would go

strait to heaven. Total equality was afforded each of the sexes. Men and women

were segregated even to the point of organizing an all-woman’s corps of one

hundred thousand troops with their own regiments and separate barracks.

Unhindered by bound feet, these soldiers were a welcome addition to Hung’s army.

In July 1850 Hung ordered all God worshipers throughout Kwangsi to

assemble at Chin-tien. Sweeping north from Kwangsi province the Taipings

overran city after city in their quest to overthrow the Manchu dynasty. Before it

was all over fifteen years later, the rebels had operated in sixteen of China’s

eighteen provinces and had ravaged six hundred of its walled cities. No mercy or

quarter was given. One good example of Taiping brutality concerns the ill-fated

city of Hangchow once visited by Marco Polo and described by him thus:

“Hangchow is the finest and most splendid city in the world, with palaces

gardens and mausoleums of art loving emperors; a city of lagoons, with

twelve thousand bridges, three thousand public baths fed by warm springs,

with streets brimming with turbulent life, as smooth as the floor of a

ballroom and so wide that they could take nine coaches side by side.”

The cruel tide of Taiping conquest destroyed the greatness of Hangchow

forever. In the spring of 1852 hoards of invading Taiping soldiers overwhelmed the

place, reducing its walls, monuments and libraries to ashes. After burning the city

to the ground the Taipings systematically murdered six hundred thousand people

including all the Buddhists, Taoists, civil servants and bureaucrats they could lay

their hands on – in effect everyone in their frenzied path. When the carnage was

over, the remainder of the population perished from starvation and disease. Those

who still survived drowned themselves in the city’s canals and West Lake to avoid

their inevitable fate.

By 1853 Hung’s ever expanding army had fought from Kwangsi in southern

China north to Nanking, defeating the Manchu troops as they went. The Taipings

selected Nanking as their seat of government, renaming it the “Heavenly Capital”.

Hung established his headquarters there and declared himself emperor of the new

Taiping dynasty. From Nanking, Hung’s armies spread out across the fertile

Yangtze valley, holding onto this territory throughout the rebellion. Gathering the

support of other restive elements including bandits, private armies, members of

secret societies and other dissidents, his legions swelled to over three million

fanatical supporters. When Nanking fell, the rebels seized huge stores of gold and

silver belonging to the Manchu government, thereby enabling them to finance their

revolution. It was said that the Taipings boasted a treasury six times that of the

imperial government.

At first foreigners were impressed with the Taiping movement, and who

wouldn’t be considering that the rebels stood against all that sin and corruption!

Britain, France and the United States adopted an official policy of watch and wait.

Missionaries embraced the Taiping war on all things evil. When visiting Nanking

they were taken by its order and cleanliness. An American Baptist missionary, the

Reverend Isaachar Roberts, who Hung had known earlier through his proselytizing,

was invited to come and live in Nanking. After repeated Taiping victories on the

Taiping forces routing the Imperial garrison from their fort at Tientsin.

battlefield, some governments entered into provisional diplomatic relations with the

rebels. It was at this point that things began to fall apart.

The principal irritant was the Taiping stand on opium. In the past this

lucrative traffic had been encouraged by Westerners as a way to reverse the

negative balance of payments for the silks, porcelains, and tea eagerly sought by the

West. Since opium trafficking had resulted in the addiction of millions of Chinese,

Western missionaries were solidly behind Taiping efforts to eradicate it. Of course,

all this flew in the face of the British merchant class who saw their lucrative profits

endangered. On the opium issue the Taipings would not budge. The British began

to have second thoughts – after all, it was easier and vastly more profitable to deal

with a weak imperial government unwilling or unable to control the traffic.

Other troubles began to surface from within. While demanding a celibate

existence from his followers, Hung lived a very contrasting life of debauchery. He

surrounded himself with harems and luxury. Even the missionaries commented

upon the homosexuality practiced by the Taiping rulers. This more than anything

else eroded the discipline of the army.

To make his dreams a reality, Hung had to first crush the Ch’ing dynasty into

submission. The Taiping army was better organized and better disciplined than the

government troops. At the height of their military success the Taipings marched to

within eighty miles of the Manchu capital at Peking, forcing emperor Hsien Feng to

flee in panic to his Summer Palace outside the city. Hastily rallied imperial forces

and an especially severe northern winter saved the day. Realizing that they had

everything to lose, the wealthy landowners and governmental officials firmly

backed Manchu authority. Since the interests of the Taipings ran counter to those

of the foreigners, the Manchus picked up strange bedfellows. Britain, France and

the United States had too much invested in the status quo to lose. Newly won

treaty concessions stemming from the Second Opium War gave them a big stake in

continuing to support Manchu rule. Re-equipped with modern arms, the imperial

soldiers were now able to reverse the tide of battle. Loyal Chinese armies soon

forced the Taipings to fall back upon their Heavenly Capital in Nanking.

When the 1856 expedition to capture Peking failed, Hung recalled his

principal lieutenants to Nanking. In the arguments which followed, Wei Chang-hui

(the King of the North) assassinated the East King who had usurped Hung’s role as

“God’s Second Son” in his absence. Over the next few days Wei slaughtered

twenty thousand followers of the King of the East. Infuriated, Hung turned on Wei

and murdered the King of the North together with his generals. These actions were

later to be mirrored in the purges of Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein. Foreigners

now turned away from Hung and his movement. The Reverend Roberts, after

living several years in Nanking, finally left in disgust. Roberts proclaimed Hung to

be crazy and his teachings “abominable in the eyes of God”.

To finance their revolution the Taipings set up their treasury with loot

plundered from captured Ch’ing resources. Their financial system was based upon

the same copper cash, which had been used in China since time immemorial. After

overrunning the copper mines in Yunnan province, they commenced the

manufacture of their own coins utilizing the production facilities of former imperial

mints. Minting of copper cash continued throughout the next eleven years of the

Heavenly Kingdom’s existence.

Cast bronze “money tree”, showing eleven yet to be finished coins.

The treasury initially was a shoestring operation run by village pawnbrokers,

as was the custom in rural China at that time. It wasn’t until the capture of Nanking

and the setting up of the Taiping “Heavenly Capital” there in 1853 that adequate

resources were obtained to finance the expanding revolution. This huge hoard of

gold and silver, plundered from the Ch’ing treasure vaults in Nanking, was

regularly augmented by assets captured from provincial treasuries as the Taiping

armies swept northward. In excess of 18 million additional silver taels were

acquired along the route-of-march, enough to seemingly assure prosperity for the

movement. Monies acquired in this way were held in a “common treasury” set

aside for all believers. Theoretically, this money was to be equally shared – in

conformance to the state’s communistic concept of common property. In other

words, the state was to provide all items of subsistence in return for a man’s labor.

In practice, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Up until 1861 the only central government coins manufactured were one cash

pieces, one thousand of which constituted a “string”, the string being the equivalent

of one “liang”, or ounce of pure silver. These coins were cast, rather than struck,

utilizing clay molds. All Taiping coins have the characteristic square center hole.

The typical brass cash coin consisted of fifty percent copper, forty percent zinc and

the balance a combination of tin and lead. The clay molds contained a central

channel, down which the molten metal flowed into branches, each one of which

terminated in an unfinished coin. Once the metal had cooled, the two halves of the

mold were broken apart revealing a “money tree” with a cast coin at the end of each

branch. The coins were then broken off the tree for final processing. Since the

resulting coins contained rough metal projections from the mold attachment, they

were irregular in shape necessitating filing. To do this the coins were inserted onto

a square chuck and placed into a primitive lathe. In this manner an entire string of a

thousand coins could be rounded at the same time. While the lathe was being

rotated the excess metal was removed using a hand file.

Since the intrinsic value of a single cash coin was so small, tying cash into

strings was necessary to facilitate commerce. The typical string found throughout

China contained 1,000 coins, while Manchurian practice called for 500. Only when

a transaction was for less than a full string were the cash taken apart. The

theoretical string containing 1,000 coins in reality contained as few as 990, the

difference being the surcharge levied by the money-changers as compensation for

the material (twine) and labor to produce it.

The first official coins of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace were issued in

1853 after Hung’s conquering army had taken Nanking, making it their “Heavenly

Capital”. These coins bore no marks indicating face value, and no dates. The

coin’s obverse usually contained the four characters “T’ai P’ing Tien Kuo”

(Kingdom of Heavenly Peace). They were popularly called Sheng Pao (variously

translated as “holy money” or “sacred coinage”).

Two single cash coins shown beside a string of copper cash, called “ch’ien” in China and “tiao” in

Manchuria. Pictured here is a Manchurian string containing 500 cash.

Since the central government did not issue standard patterns down to the

local level, the coins in this series came in many varieties and sizes. Instead of

using an official “mother coin” to guide them, the various mint masters took

matters into their own hands, casting coins which followed their own inclinations.

All one cash coins were made of copper, brass or bronze with the exception of one

iron specimen which is known to exist.

I will attempt to list below the various types of one cash coins.

Government Issues

T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo, (Kingdom of Heavenly Peace), (read top-bottom-right-left)

with “Sheng Pao” (Sacred Coinage) on the reverse (read right-left), 25, 35 or

45mm. The 25mm coin is the Taiping coin found in most collections. Note that the

character “Kuo” (Kingdom) found on Taiping coins differs from that usually

encountered, due to religious interpretation.

The most commonly encountered Taiping coin is the “T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo” (Kingdom of

Heavenly Peace) one cash with “Sheng Pao” (holy coin) on the reverse. This type is found in a

variety of sizes ranging from 25mm to 56mm. Some coins are found with narrow rims and others

with wide ones. On some coins the “Sheng Pao” characters on the reverse are read top to bottom,

while on others they are read right to left. These variants were due to a lack of central

government control over the minting process, leaving each mint-master to his own inclinations.

Top coin: Narrow rims, “Sheng Pao” read roght to left

Middle coin: Wide rims, “Sheng Pao” read top to bottom

Bottom coin: Large 55mm coin with uneven casting

Shown here are other Taiping coin types:

1. “Tai P’ing Sheng Pao” with “T’ien Kuo” reverse

2. “T’ien Kuo T’ai P’ing” with “Sheng Pao” reverse

3. “T’ien Kuo” obverse, “Sheng Pao” reverse

4. “T’ai P’ing” obverse, “Sheng Pao” reverse

Same coin with “T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo” read right-left-top-bottom, 25mm. Reported

by Lockwood.

Same coin with “Sheng Pao” on the reverse read from top to bottom. This copper

coin was made in a variety of sizes ranging from 25mm to 35mm. The 35mm coin

has wide rims. The same coin was minted in bronze in larger size format ranging

from 38mm to a whopping 56mm. (cast with uneven relief ). Both wide and

narrow rims exist.

Same coin as 35mm T’ai P’ing Sheng Kuo with wide rims listed above, only iron.

T’ai P’ing Sheng Pao, (Sacred Coin of Great Peace), (read top-bottom-right-left)

with “T’ien Kuo” (Heavenly Kingdom) on reverse (read right-left), 26mm.

T’ien Kuo T’ai P’ing, (Great Peace of the Heavenly Kingdom), (top-botton-rightleft)

with “Sheng Pao” reverse, 25mm.

T’ien Kuo Sheng Pao, (Sacred Coinage of the Heavenly Kingdom), (top-bottomright-

left) with “T’ai P’ing” (Great Peace) reverse, 21-23mm.

T’ien Kuo, (Heavenly Kingdom) (top-bottom) with “Sheng Pao” reverse, 25mm.

Cresswell states that this heavy coin circulated as ten cash, but I can find no

corroboration elsewhere.

Same coin, 36-38mm, with large and small characters

T’ai P’ing, (Great Peace) (read right-left) with Sheng Pao reverse, 24mm.

T’ai P’ing Cheng Pao, (True Coin of Great Peace), plain reverse. Perhaps the

scarcest of the Taiping coins, the word “Cheng” for “true” as used here suggests

that counterfeiting was a sufficient problem to warrant a new issue.

Coins Issued by Taiping Supporters and Military Units

A. Coins of the SMALL SWORD SOCIETY: (Shanghai religious group)

T’ai P’ing T’ung Pao, (Currency of the Taiping) with reverse containing a

crescent above the center hole and character “Ming” below, 22mm.

T’ai P’ing cash coins: T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo with “Sheng Pao” right to left, 42mm, narrow rims

(above). T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo with “Sheng Pao” top to bottom, 35mm, wide rims (center), and

T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo as above, 33mm, narrow rims (below).

Same coin with dot above hole, and crescent below on reverse.

Same coin with character “Wen” above on reverse.

Same coin as above, with “Wen” to the right of hole.

Some groups, sympathetic to the rebel cause, issued their own coins. Examples of these are coins

of the Shanghai based Small Sword Society (left) and the Heaven and Earth Society of Chekiang

(right).

B. Coins of the HEAVEN AND EARTH SOCIETY: (Chekiang)

Huang Ti T’ung Pao, (Currency of the Emperor) with character “Che” and

“Pao” (right-left) for Chekiang mint on reverse, 23mm. These is a

dichotomy here in that the character “Pao” is written in Manchu, the very

language that the Heavenly Kingdom everywhere suppressed.

Same coin, 23mm, with character “Sheng” to right of hole, but written

sideways.

K’ai Yuan T’ung Pao, reverse “Wu” above center hole, 24mm.

T’ien Ch’ao T’ung Pao, reverse “Yung” above center hole, 24mm.

C. Coins of Tai’ping MILITARY UNITS: (mintage date of coins cast for

military coins believed to be 1857). All military coins bear four characters

on the obverse as shown below:

These are read top-bottom-right-left. The characters “P’ing Ching Sheng Pao”

translate to “Heavenly Peace Victory Money”. The reverses of this interesting

series pertain to the various units within the army. One can speculate that all

reverse expressions relate to the same army location. It is reasonable to assume that

this place is the Heavenly Capital at Nanking. When taken together they give us a

good description of Tai’ping military organization.

Many Tai’ping military units cast their own coins. The “P’ing Ching Sheng Pao” series appears to

have been issued for an entire army, with various coins designated for specific units; such as the

imperial bodyguard, the left flank, right flank, reserves, etc. Shown here are coins indicated for

use by (1) the “Yu Lin Chun” (Imperial Bodyguard), (2) the “Ching Ying” (Center Battalion), (3)

the “Hou Ying” (Reserve Unit) and (4) the “Yu Ying (Right Flank).

P’ing Ching Sheng Pao, obverse, 26mm, with “Yu Lin Chun” reverse. These

reverse characters translate to “imperial bodyguard”.

Same coin, with “Ch’ang Sheng Chun” reverse, (read top-right-left),

translation:

“long victorious army”, or “invincible army”.

Same coin, with “C’hien Ying” reverse, ( read right-left); which when

translated reads: “battalion in front”. Note: “Ying” may be variously translated

as “camp”, “barracks”, “battalion”, etc.

Same coin, with “Chung Ying” reverse, (read right-left); translation:

“middle” or

“Center” battalion.

Same coin, with “Hou Ying” reverse, translation: “behind” or “after” –

therefore

“battalion reserves”.

Same coin, with “Tso Ying” reverse; translation: “left” or “at the left side” –

therefore “battalion on the left”.

Same coin, with “Yu Ying” reverse; translation: “right” or “at the right side”

– therefore “battalion on the right”.

P’ing Ch’ing T’ung Pao, (read top-bottom-right-left), reverse “Chung” in seal

writing at right, 23mm.

Note: Other Tai’ping military coins may exist.

Uncertain Issue

Nan Wang T’ung Pao, (Coinage of the Southern Prince), plain reverse.

Because

“Nan Wang”, the Southern Prince was a title which Hung Hsui Ch’uan had

bestowed upon himself, it is felt that this coin properly belongs to this series.

In the spring of 1860 Hung called a council of war to determine the future

course the war would take on the battlefield. At that time the Ch’ing army

surrounded Nanking. The plan was to strike out from Nanking with two great

pincers, one on either side of the Yangtze River. In this way the Tai’pings would

control the river while at the same time relieving the pressure on Nanking and

ultimately scattering the Ch’ing army, driving Manchu forces from central China.

To make this plan work it was necessary to take the port of Shanghai. There they

would secure needed supplies – including twenty armed river steamboats for use on

the Yangtze – and establish friendly trading relations with the Westerners in the

port, whom the Tai’pings saw as brother Christians.

As it turned out Hung went too far with his attack on Shanghai. He had

badly misread the Westerners. Upon hearing of Hung’s approach, panic broke out

in the International Settlement. A mercenary force of a few rag-tag Europeans and

soldiers of fortune, together with six thousand Chinese was hastily

thrown together under command of an American daredevil named Frederick Ward.

Desperate to defend Shanghai from the rapidly approaching Taipings, the local

Chinese authorities looked to the Westerners to help defend the city. This idea was

supported by the American ambassador, Anson Burlingame, the first United States

minister to reside in Peking. Inasmuch as the United States was involved in its own

civil war at the time, and as the other powers were unwilling to get bogged down in

a lengthy struggle with the Taiping, the plan succeeded.

Up to this point the Western powers had been sympathetic to the Taiping

movement. The concessions gained from the Manchus as a result of the Second

Opium War, however, changed all this. Since a Taiping victory would threaten

their newly won treaty gains, it was decided to back the Manchus to prevent the

seizure of Shanghai. From the moment the West went to the aid of the Ch’ing

dynasty, supplying them with modern weapons, ammunition, advisers and

mercenaries, the Taiping cause was doomed.

Ward’s command was known as the “Ever Victorious Army”, a title

bestowed upon it by Emperor Hsien Feng. Far from victorious in all their

campaigns, the army did stop the Taipings from capturing Shanghai. When Ward

was killed defending the city an English adventurer took command of the army.

This was none other than the future English General Charles Gordon of Sudan

fame. In later years “Chinese Gordon”, as he had become known, found himself

besieged at Khartoum and was butchered together with his entire garrison by

another religious fanatic. (See my article in the January 2003 issue of

 

NI Bulletin

 

entitled “Siege Notes – Windows to the Past”).

The Taiping belatedly tried to “Westernize” their rule, however, old

traditions were too ingrained to permit radical change. The man behind this move

was Hung Wen-kan, a younger relative of Hung Hsiu-ch’uan. In the early years of

the revolution he had lived and worked in Hong Kong. There he became familiar

with British colonial government administrative practices. Returning to Nanking

he was enthusiastically received by the Heavenly King. Upon being appointed to

the post of prime minister in 1859, Hung Wen-kan submitted a lengthy document

entitled “A New Treatise on Aids to Administration”. In this document he called

for a sweeping overhaul of the Taiping administrative system, which he presented

to the Heavenly King. His visionary program called for the creation of a new legal

and banking system, the creation of a postal service, newspapers, and the

construction of highways and railroads in Taiping domains. Hung accepted these

proposals as “proper and correct” with the exception of newspapers. He apparently

felt newspapers were too radical an idea, instructing that they be delayed until after

the demons were annihilated. Few steps were taken to implement these reforms

with the exception of the overhaul of the banking system.

The Taiping government decided its new currency would be based upon the

silver tael, paralleling the system then in use by the Manchus. It must be

remembered that in China, the tael at that time was not considered a “coin”, rather a

unit of weight representing one ounce of pure silver. Up to this point large

transactions were accommodated through the use of silver ingots called “sycee”

which ranged in size from one up to fifty ounces. To replace this cumbersome

system the Tiapings ordered their Nanking mint-masters to develop coins in tael

denominations. Molds were made for ¼ and ½ taels to be cast in silver and a 5 tael

coin in gold. The coins characteristically had a square hole at the center with “T’ai

P’ing” (top-bottom) on the obverse and “Sheng Pao” (top-bottom) reverse. Trial

pieces for these coins were made, a few of which may be found in various

collections, but it is doubtful that any real production found its way into general

circulation.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Taiping finances was the introduction

in 1861 of a paper currency denominated in taels. The Ch’ing emperor Hsien Feng

had found it expedient to take this drastic step in 1850 when he re-introduced paper

money to China as a means of financing the war. From the beginning of the war

the Manchu “Ta Ch’ing Precious Notes” had to be forced upon the population as

the Chinese of that time were completely distrustful of paper bank notes due to the

uncontrolled inflation which had grown out of excessive issues of paper during

Ming dynasty times. Consequently, China had not had a paper currency for nearly

seven hundred years.

In 1860 the Taiping government belatedly tried to “Westernize” their administration, including

the introduction of a standardized coinage. The new currency was to be based upon the silver

tael. Trial pieces such as this silver ¼ tael “T’ien Kuo” were made, but in all probably didn’t find

their way into circulation.

Following the Manchu example, Hung ordered the printing of tael

government banknotes. Since Nanking’s print shops were staffed and equipped to

produce tens of thousands of bibles espousing Hung’s new form of Chinese

Christianity, they were in all probability given this task as well. The revised

Taiping bibles, by the way, were made in such quantities that there were enough for

every leader down to the level of army sergeant, for use in indoctrinating troops.

Of the paper money, very little is known. Eduard Kann, an acknowledged

Western authority on Chinese currency who lived in China and worked in the

banking industry there, reported in his voluminous 1950s work

 

The History of

Chinese Paper Money

 

 

 

, that he had seen a Taiping bank note while living and

working there. This was a one tael note of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace dated

 

the eleventh year in the reign of Hung Hsiu-chuan (1861). The note was of

 

contemporary design, i.e., similar in format to the Ta Ch’ing Precious Notes then in

 

circulation outside the Taiping domain. They all conformed to the ancient Chinese

 

method of producing banknotes from hand carved wooden blocks in a vertical

 

format.

 

Kann describes the note he saw as follows:

 

“The frame of the note displays the usual two dragons striving for a fire ball.

 

The note states in its upper part that it was issued by the order of the

 

Heavenly King; in its lower space it reminds the populace of this fact and

 

assures his subjects that the note was usable for purchases of commodities, as

 

well as for the payment of taxes. It warns that forgers will be punished with

 

severity in accordance with the law.”

 

Kann goes on to state that soldiers and officials were paid liberally with these

 

notes, and that, due to their forced circulation, they were at all times depreciated

 

and became valueless at the rebellion’s inglorious end in 1864.

 

Until very recently no surviving examples of these notes were known to

 

exist. In 1993, by an extreme stroke of good fortune, a one tael specimen of the

 

same note described by Kann surfaced in a Singapore auction. From it a detained

 

description may be obtained. This unique note bears out the sketchy description of

 

the one seen by Kann. The note measures an enormous 180 x 310mm overall. As

 

with the Ch’ing Dynasty cash and Board of Revenue tael notes, it is uniface with a

 

conspicuous lack of endorsements on its back. Manchu notes of the period

 

circulated from hand to hand and were endorsed on the reverse with the seal of the

 

pawnshop or money-lender to attest to the note’s authenticity when presented for

 

payment – much in the same way that coins were counter-stamped. Considered

 

“communal” rather than “private” property by the Taiping, their notes lacked such

 

endorsements.

 

The paper from which the note was made is heavy, soft and two-ply, and is

 

probably bamboo. The color is tan. Upon this stock is printed the design,

 

measuring 145 x 259mm, in black ink. The central rectangle is divided into three

 

portions of text, the principal of which contains nine vertical columns of characters,

 

the extreme left one containing the date.

 

As Eduard Kann reported, the 24mm wide border contains two dragons, a

 

fire ball and a coral mountain rising from the sea. The coral mountain is a Chinese

 

mystical symbol, which represents the universe. Not mentioned by Kann are two

 

phoenixes, birds of immortality, which appear in the top border. Ancient legend

 

holds that the phoenix’s life span was five hundred years, after which it burned

 

itself, rising again from the ashes to soar for another five centuries! On the extreme

 

right edge of the note is found a counterfoil consisting of a vertical column of

 

characters, a portion of which remained with the stub from which the banknote was

 

cut. This practice served as a crude anti-counterfeiting device. When offered for

 

redemption, the serially numbered note was compared to the stub, which, if

 

matched proved the note to be genuine. If a particular note did not match up with

 

the characters on the retained stub, it was counterfeit.

 

 

The one tael note of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace, dated the eleventh year of the republic

(1861).

Superimposed upon the whole is an oversize brown seal, measuring 108 x

108mm, containing the two large characters “chun” and “chih”, which is itself

surrounded by a border of fire breathing dragons. When placed upon the note, the

seal attested to its having been authorized for issue by imperial decree.

When translated, the central text reads: “Money of the Heavenly King” and

“One ounce of silver”. A liberal translation of the nine columns of text reads:

“The Heavenly King, together with his people, subjects of Jesus Christ,

authorizes this note for market transactions so that the people may enjoy their

welfare and benefit from this. This note may be used for the purchase of

commodities or in the payment of taxes. Anyone counterfeiting this note will

be severely punished.”

Inasmuch as the text on the one tael note is written in formal Chinese, such as

that employed in legal texts of the time, it may be helpful to include the formal

version as well:

“The Heavenly King decrees: I order that all princes, holy generals and

military leaders, all civil servants inside and outside the court take note that

the emperor gives – in the name of Jesus, the Savior of the World – the

knowledge that he (the emperor) orders the issue of one liang (tael) notes,

also called “Bao-yin”. (These notes) shall circulate in commerce, (they)

cannot be surpassed and shall bring good luck. (They) shall circulate

anywhere under the heavens. Counterfeiters will be punished according to

the holy royal law.”

As with Kann’s sighting, this note is dated the first month of the eleventh year

( January 1861) of the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace. The note’s well circulated

appearance bears testimony to its use.

So, we now know with certainty that the Taiping rebels resorted to the use of

paper money, as well as coins, to finance their genocidal war against the Manchu

“devils”. Since a one tael note does exist, so must have other denominations, but

until one of these notes comes to light the matter will remain one of speculation.

As we have seen, a few Taiping army military units issued their own coins.

Apparently some military units may also have issued their own banknotes. One

unusual fifteen cash note, believed to be a military issue, measures 4 x 4 3/8 inches,

has no printing on it but, instead, contains fifteen overlapping impressions of the

“T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo” coin in dry seals. Their square centers have been punched

out of white, watermarked rice paper with imbedded threads. The watermark

consists of parallel dark lines laid 7/16

th

of an inch apart. The note when

discovered was accompanied by a yellowed memorandum written by Dr. Choy Lee

 

Ling of Tinghai, Chekiang. His note reads: “This (banknote) was used during the

 

Taiping rebellion at Yanchow, Sinkiang province”. I must state, however, that my

 

hypothesis is based solely upon Dr. Choy’s say-so. It is also possible the note is a

 

piece of joss (hell note) as has been suggested by several experts. It has long been

 

the practice among the Chinese to burn joss at the funeral of family members as a

 

mark of respect and filial piety and to ensure the departed’s financial independence

 

in the afterworld. More research in the area of Taiping military notes is required.

 

In addition, there exists an article in Chinese by one Wang Ning entitled

 

“Investigating the Cloth Money Issued by Zong Ling Tang of Ge Lao Hu”. I have

 

not seen the article, but this suggests that additional issues were put into circulation

 

by local commanders to circulate at the local level.

 

After their defeat at Shanghai, the Taiping rebellion dragged on in the

 

Yangtze valley for another four years. Victory came slowly for the imperial forces

 

as their armies had to cope with other rebellions in the empire as well. Nanking

 

finally fell in July 1864. After fifteen years of struggle, trapped between enemies

 

both East and West, the peasant uprising collapsed. Hung met an ignoble end at

 

his own hands, by committing suicide. When the imperial troops entered Nanking

 

only a handful of the 100,000 rebel “true believers” surrendered, the remainder

 

committed genocide. The heads of the rebel leaders were chopped off, spiked onto

 

poles, paraded about the country, finally to be sent in triumph to Peking.

 

The rebellion had left most of the country ravaged. The Ch’ing victory did nothing

 

to ease the grinding poverty which plagued the peasants; rather, taxes became more

 

onerous than before. Under a succession of weak and ineffective Manchu

 

Emperors social reforms were postponed indefinitely. It was not until after the turn

 

of the century, in 1911, that Sun Yat Sen’s republican revolution finally brought a

 

measure of relief to the long suffering Chinese people.

 

I would like to thank Erwin Beyer of Grafschaft-Vettelhoven, Germany for

 

assistance rendered in translating both Chinese coins and bank notes while I was

 

preparing this article.

 

 

A fifteen cash note of a Taiping military unit. This note depicts fifteen impressions of overlapping

“T’ai P’ing T’ien Kuo” coins in dry seal relief (shown here in facisimile). The center holes of the

“coins” were punched out of the paper upon which the impressions had been made. A most

unusual bank note!

Year 5 (1855) “Ta Ch’ing Pao Ch’ao” 500 cash note of the Chinese Empire. This note was issued

by Ch’ing dynasty emperor Hsien Feng as a means of financing the war and to pay troops fighting

the Tai’ping Rebels.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carr, Caleb The Devil Soldier, New York, 1992, Random

House

Cresswell, O.D. Chinese Cash, London, 1979, Spink & Sons

Crossley, Pamela, K. The Manchus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1997,

Blackwell Publishers Inc.

Fisher, George A. Fisher’s Ding, Littleton, Colorado, 1990, privately

published

Hucker, Charles O. China’s Imperial Past, Stanford, California,

1975, Stanford University Press

Jen, David Chinese Cash Identification and Price Guide Iola,

Wisconsin, 2000, Krause Publications

Jiaju, Qian A History of Chinese Currency, Hong Kong, 1983,

New China Publishing House

Jiang, Arnold X. The United States and China, Chicago, 1988, The

University of Chicago Press

Kann, Eduard “The History of Chinese Paper Money”, Section I:

Ancient Chinese Paper Money – Part IV, Far

Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong, Vol.XXII,

April 1957.

Krause, Chester L. Standard Catalog of World Coins,

Mishler, Clifford Nineteenth Century, Second Edition, Iola,

Wisconsin, 1999, Krause Publications

Lockwood, James Stewart The Stewart Lockhart Collection of Chinese

Copper Coins, Shanghai, 1915, Kelley and Walsh,

Ltd.

Paludan, Ann Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors, London, 1998,

Thames and Hudson, Ltd

Peyrefitte, Alain The Immobile Empire, New York, 1992, Alfred A.

Knopf

Polo, Marco The Book of Marco Polo, Citizen of Venice,

Wherein is Recounted the Wonders of the World,

early fourteenth century, Venice

Roberts, J.A.G. China Through Western Eyes, London, 1991, Alan

Sutton

Sandrock, John E. Copper Cash and Silver Taels, Baltimore,

Maryland, 1994, Gateway Press, Inc.

Seagrave, Sterling Dragon Lady, New York, 1992, Alfred A. Knopf

Spence, Johnathan D. God’s Chinese Son, the Taiping Heavenly

Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan, New York, 1996,

W.W. Norton & Company

Spence, Johnathan D. The Search for Modern China, New York, 1990,

W.W.Norton & Company

and 1940, they did not commence appearing

on the streets of Shanghai until February 1940.

In order to alleviate the Shanghai shortage of small change, the central government in Chungking

finally authorized special “small change” notes of 1 and 5, 10 and 20 cents for circulation there.

The smaller denomination one and five fen (cent) notes bear as their central

vignette a picture of a nine storied pagoda together with the value in cartouches at

right center and at the four corners. The Chinese date “28th Year of the Republic”

(1939) appears below. Their reverse depicts the standard republican one and five

fen “spade” coins respectively. The one cent note is red, while its five cent

companion was printed in green. The work was contracted out to two local firms,

the Union Printing Company and Union Publishers and Printers whose imprint

appears on the notes. Thus, two varieties of each exist.

The two larger denominations of one and two chiao (ten and twenty cents)

were printed by the Chung Hwa Book Company, Ltd. and are of superior

The “specific use” small change note for 20 cents authorized to replace Shanghai’s private paper

money issues.

workmanship. Both show Sun-Yat-Sen in an oval at right with their denominations

in cartouches, as mentioned before. The Chinese date on the obverse of these notes

reads “29th Year of the Republic” while on the reverse the date “1940” is shown.

Unlike the two smaller denominations, the printed signatures of the General

Manager and the Assistant General Manager appear on these notes. All carry the

title “The Central Bank of China” in Chinese on the obverse and in English on the

reverse. The one chiao specimen is light green while the two chiao note is blue.

Both notes are very common and can be easily found by collectors today attesting

to the quantities undoubtedly remaining when the Japanese authorities took over

Shanghai.

Surrender Passes

One other aspect of this story is of more than passing interest. While it has

no bearing on Shanghai directly, it is nevertheless an integral part of the overall

numismatic picture. I refer here to the surrender passes printed by the Japanese

puppet Reformed Government of the Republic of China. These interesting pieces,

rarely encountered today, constitute a part of many important Chinese collections.

After the Japanese attack on Shanghai in 1937 her Central China

Expeditionary Army swept up the Yangtzi river valley to attack Nanking, the then

capital of nationalist China and the seat of Chang Kai Shek’s government. Despite

a pledge that Nanking would never fall, the government and troops panicked

precipitating a mass exodus of civilians and garrison troops. The Japanese

bombarded the city with leaflets promising decent treatment for all civilians

remaining there. Nonetheless, the invading troops on 13 December,1937, upon

entering Nanking, unleashed upon the defeated troops and helpless civilians terror,

destruction and cruelty that has had few parallels. The wanton violence lasted

three weeks and took over 60,000 lives. This action has come to be known as “The

Rape of Nanking”.

Once Nanking had fallen, the Japanese moved to install yet another “puppet”

regime similar to those previously established in Manchukuo, Mongolia and North

China (see my article entitled “Japanese Sponsored Coin and Bank Note Issues

for the Occupied Regions of China” which appeared in the March 1997 issue of

The NI Bulletin). The new governing body was given the somewhat grandiloquent

name “Reformed Government of the Republic of China”. Its area of authority was

to extend over all of central and south China. One Liang Hongzhi, a Chinese with

Japanese sympathies, was installed as President on 28 March, 1938. Chronically

short of money his regime was forced to rely upon an alliance with the gangsters

who ran the rackets in Shanghai for much of its income. Finally the Japanese came

to the rescue by establishing the Central Reserve Bank of China in March 1941,

which was to ultimately serve central and south China as the sole bank of issue.

Initially, its bank notes met a poor reception among the local population; and in

Shanghai’s International Settlement still under the influence of Chungking, the new

notes were refused altogether.

In an effort to swell the ranks of its Japanese controlled puppet army, the

Reformed Government hit upon the idea of printing surrender leaflets and good

conduct passes to entice the morale stricken Nationalist troops to come over to

their side. Issued by the Nanking government’s Military Affairs Committee, these

Front and back sides of a surrender pass guaranteeing safe conduct through the lines. This leaflet

was the product of the newly created Reformed Government of the Republic of China, a Japanese

controlled political entity set up to administer the “liberated” area of China. Its purpose was to

encourage defection of soldiers from Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist Army. Note that the face of

the note is identical to the 5 cent Shanghai emergency issue of the Central Bank of China. The

printers imprint of the obverse of the real note is lacking on the leaflet, however.

surrender leaflets took the form and appearance of previously issued Central Bank

of China “fa-pai” (legal tender) notes. It is known that the lowly five cent note

prepared to alleviate the Shanghai coin shortage and an obsolete one yuan note of

1936 were used for this purpose. Other examples may exist. The propaganda use

of these notes must therefore equate to the year 1940 – subsequent to the issue of

the five cent note (1939) and prior to the run away inflation commencing in 1942.

For sake of comparison it should be pointed out that a rickshaw fare costing sixty

cents in 1939 had escalated to four hundred dollars by late 1942. To be of any use

for propaganda purposes the notes scattered over Nationalist lines by Japanese

aircraft had to have sufficient value to be picked up and examined!

The surrender pass most usually encountered (although very rarely) is the

green five cent piece, the face of which was printed to resemble its genuine

counterpart. Harry Atkinson, having such a note in his collection, reports that this

pass was also issued in a light-blue ink. The back of the leaflet consisted of a

reproduction of the one yuan note printed by Thomas de la Rue dated 1936 which

had been modified by removing the central and right hand vignettes to

accommodate the propaganda message. All bear the serial number 558829 N/E.

A translation of the message appearing on the reverse of these notes is as follows:

Caption: Certificate for Returning Soldiers

Left hand vertical: Welcome. Join the peace movement.

Right hand vertical: Protect safety of life.

Nine column central message:

This certificate is issued to those who volunteer to join the peace movement

of the New Central Government before a circular is issued by the Military Council.

Agreement has been made with Japanese troops at the front that this certificate will

provide for protection if produced to the Japanese patrol and also for conveniences

for coming back to the New Central Government.

Issued by the Military Council of the Nanking Government.

(Translation courtesy of Harry Atkinson)

Having passed through Shanghai during the war while experiencing some of

China’s history first hand, I have always held a fascination for Asian numismatics.

I have enjoyed researching this little known story of Shanghai’s emergency money

and in shedding new light on this seldom reported and often neglected field.

Bibliography

Ball, J. Dyer Things Chinese, Singapore, 1949, The

International Press

Chen, Jian H. “Development of the Central Mint”, The Journal

of East Asian Numismatics, New York, Vol. III,

Summer 1996

Jacobs, Wayne L. “The Universal Dollar of Republican China”,

Chinese Coins, Montreal, 1969

Lee, Frederic Currency, Banking and Finance in China,

Washington, D.C., 1926, Government Printing Office

Miyashita, Tadao The Currency and Financial System of

Mainland China, Tokyo, 1966, Daini Insatsu

Printing Company

O’Neill, Hugh B. Companion to Chinese History, Oxford, 1987,

Facts on File Publications

Rand, Peter China Hands, New York, 1995, Simon and

Schuster

Sergeant, Harriet Shanghai, New York, 1990, Crown Publishers,

Inc.

Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China, London, 1990,

W.W. Norton and Company

Tong, Hollington K. China Handbook 1937-1943, New York, 1943,

The Macmillan Company

Woodhead, H.G.W. The China Yearbook – 1939, Shanghai, 1939,

The North China Daily News and Herald, Ltd

.The Illustration only for premium member,

please subscribed via comment.

 

 

 
   
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AA2-10

20

 

300

 

1000

RMB

 

 

3000

 

9000

 

10000

 

1368-99

20, 300, 1.000 cash

A1-8

1853-59

 

RMB

 3000

500, 1.000, 1.500, 2.000, 5.000, 10.000, 50.000, 100.000 cash

A9-13

1853-59

1, 3, 5 10, 50 Tael
    – General Bank of Communications

1$

5$*

10$

A14-9

1904

 

 

1909

1, 5 10 dollars; Canton, Hankow, Kaifeng, Shanghai, Swatow, Wusih or Yingkow Branch
    – Hu Pu Bank 

A24

1905

1906

1 dollar

A25-35

(1909)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 50, 100, 500 Teals
    – Imperial Bank of China

A36-8

$1*

1898

1, 5, 10 dollars; Canton Branch

A39-44

1898

5 mace, 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 tales; Peking Branch

A39-44

1898

5 mace, 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 tales; Peking Branch

A45-50

1898

1/2, 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 tales; Sanghai Branch

A51-54A

1898

1, 5, 10, 50, 100 dollars; Shanghai Branch

A55-55A

$5

$10*

1904

5, 10 dollars
    – Imperial Chinese Railways

A56

1895

1 dollar; Peiyang Branch

A57-61

1895

1, 5, 10 dollars; Shanghai Branch
    – Ningpo Commercial Bank

A61A-D

1909

1, 2, 5, 10 dollars
    – Ta Ch’ing Government Bank 

A62-75

1906

1, 5, 10 dollars; Chinanfu, Fengtien, Foochow, Hangchow, Hankow, Hunan, Kaifong, Kalgan, Kwangchow, Peking, Shanghai, Tientsin, Urga, Wuhu, Yingkow, Yunnan Branch

A76-78B

1909

1, 5, 10, 50, 100 dollars

A79-82

(1910)

1, 5, 10, 100 dollars
    – Ta Ch’ing Government Bank, Shansi

A83-83J

5 yuan*

(1911)

(1912)

1, 3, 100, 1.000 talesShanghai yuan 

 

$1

 

 

 

$5.-

 

 

3000

2000

5000

RMB

Charter bank of Inida,Australia and China
Close Window

 

$10

Date

 20.000

RMB

Sino_Belgian Bank   Hongkong banknote

 

 

Hong Kong,10 Dollars,
The Chartered Bank of India,Australia and China.
1st.Sept.1956.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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