What Are Chinese Copper Coins

What Are Chinese Copper Coins

Ancient copper coins were an important form of currency throughout Chinese history, with strict specifications for their shape and weight. Since the Qin Dynasty, copper coins have been a primary currency in China, characterized by a round shape with a square hole, typically having a diameter of 15-18 centimeters and a weight of around 12-15 grams. The obverse side of the copper coin usually bears the inscription "Half Liang," while the reverse side features various patterns and decorations, often accompanied by phrases such as "Five Fen" or "Twelve Fen."


Chinese copper coins history

The history of copper coins in ancient China dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period when various states began minting copper coins in different forms. Over time, copper coins gradually became one of the main forms of currency, with diverse shapes, weights, and evolving characteristics. Here is a detailed overview of the history of copper coins:

 Copper Coins in the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period

During this era of division, characterized by frequent economic interactions among states, copper coins took various forms such as knife-shaped, cloth-shaped, and round coins, each differing in weight and fineness. The circulation and use of these coins played a crucial role in driving economic development.

 Qin Dynasty's Half Liang Coins

In the Qin Dynasty, which achieved unification, Emperor Qin Shi Huang implemented uniform and standardized monetary policies. Half liang coins became the primary currency, featuring a round shape with a square hole, weighing around 12-15 grams. The circulation and use of half liang coins played a significant role in the economic development of the Qin Dynasty, laying the foundation for subsequent copper coin systems.


III. Han Dynasty's Wu Zhu Coins

During the Han Dynasty, changes occurred in the weight and fineness of copper coins, and Wu Zhu coins became the predominant currency. Weighing approximately 3.3-4 grams, Wu Zhu coins were significantly lighter than the half liang coins of the Qin Dynasty. The casting technology improved, resulting in higher quality coins that were more conducive to circulation and use, contributing to economic development.

 Tang Dynasty's Kai Yuan Tong Bao

In the Tang Dynasty, Kai Yuan Tong Bao became the primary currency. While retaining the round shape with a square hole, the coin omitted the unit "zhu" and no longer named the coin according to weight. The casting process became more sophisticated, and the quality improved, facilitating circulation and use. The advent of Kai Yuan Tong Bao marked the evolution of ancient Chinese currency from weight-labeled coins to universally recognized currency.

 Copper Coins in the Song, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties

During the Song, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties, the form and weight of copper coins largely followed the precedent set by the Tang Dynasty's Kai Yuan Tong Bao. However, some variations occurred, including different denominations such as "Da Guan Tong Bao" and "Chong Zhen Tong Bao." These coins featured diverse casting techniques and artistic designs, possessing certain artistic value.

 Copper Coins in the Qing Dynasty

In the Qing Dynasty, copper coins maintained a traditional form and weight initially, often imitating coins from preceding dynasties. Eventually, the Qing Dynasty developed its own specifications for form and weight. Coins from the mid to late Qing Dynasty were often denominated in "wen" and had lower face values, primarily used in daily transactions.


In conclusion, the history of copper coins in China traces back to the Spring and Autumn Period. Through the evolution and development during the Qin, Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties, copper coins established unique specifications for form and weight. As a crucial form of currency, copper coins played a vital role in driving economic development throughout Chinese history. Additionally, copper coins served as carriers of culture and art, appreciated for their exquisite designs and casting craftsmanship. While copper coins no longer circulate as currency today, their unique charm and historical value continue to attract attention and appreciation from collectors and enthusiasts.


ancient Chinese copper coins style

Ancient copper coins exhibit a diverse range of types, varying in form and composition across different periods and regions. Here are the main categories of ancient copper coins:


Square-hole Copper Coins: Among the earliest forms of Chinese ancient coins, square-hole copper coins originated in the Warring States Period. They became renowned as a primary currency for military and commercial exchanges during this period. Characterized by a round shape with a square hole, this coin type continued to be the mainstream form of Chinese copper coins until the end of the Qing Dynasty.

Round Copper Coins: Commencing in the Qin Dynasty, round copper coins became the most common and widespread type of ancient Chinese coins. Reaching their peak during the Han Dynasty, round copper coins played a significant role in China's ancient monetary culture.

Copper Alloy Coins: A special type of ancient copper coin, these were cast from copper and tin alloys. The casting of copper alloy coins began in the Han Dynasty and gained prominence as a distinctive type with varying alloy compositions, colors, and textures. These coins hold a certain artistic value.


Additionally, there are some unique forms of copper coins, such as "Yan Sheng Qian" (厌胜钱), "Xier Qian" (洗儿钱), "Sa Zhang Qian" (撒帐钱), "Jian Lun Qian" (剪轮钱), etc. These coins, often associated with specific purposes or illicit casting, possess distinct shapes and relatively higher intrinsic value.


In summary, the types of ancient copper coins are highly diverse, encompassing various forms, materials, denominations, and inscriptions. The study and collection of ancient copper coins provide valuable insights into the historical and cultural development of China. Moreover, these coins serve as carriers of culture and art, appreciated for their exquisite designs and casting craftsmanship. Although copper coins no longer circulate as currency today, their unique charm and historical value continue to attract attention and appreciation from collectors and enthusiasts.


what are Chinese coins used for

Ancient copper coins played a crucial role in economic and social activities, serving various purposes. Here are the primary uses of ancient copper coins:


Commercial Transactions: Ancient copper coins were the primary currency for trade. People used them to purchase a wide range of goods and services, including food, clothing, furniture, tools, and other daily necessities.

Payment of Taxes and Fines: In ancient societies, governments imposed various taxes and fines, and these charges were typically settled using copper coins. Thus, copper coins became a vital financial instrument for public finances.

Rewards and Gifts: Ancient copper coins were often used as rewards and gifts. Emperors, for instance, would grant copper coins to meritorious officials and achievers to acknowledge their contributions and loyalty. Additionally, copper coins were exchanged as gifts among family and friends, symbolizing blessings and camaraderie.

Moreover, in folk culture, copper coins were endowed with special symbolic meanings and functions. Coins like the "Five Emperors' Coins" were believed to ward off evil, protect against malevolent forces, bring prosperity, and convey blessings. As a result, these coins were frequently employed in feng shui arrangements and popular beliefs. Over time, these coins became witnesses to cultural and historical legacies.


In summary, ancient copper coins, serving as both currency and cultural artifacts, played essential roles in economics, politics, and culture. While modern society no longer utilizes copper coins extensively, the historical and cultural values embodied by these ancient coins continue to be cherished and passed down through generations.



what are Chinese coins made of

Ancient copper coins were primarily crafted from copper alloys. In ancient China, the manufacturing of copper coins has a long history, and over time, the material composition of copper coins has undergone certain changes.


Initially, copper coins were cast mainly from pure copper. However, pure copper has a relatively soft texture, making it prone to wear and less suitable for use as currency. Therefore, attempts were made to incorporate other elements into copper to improve its physical properties. Among these, bronze, a copper-tin alloy, became the most common copper alloy. Bronze has a relatively hard texture and excellent wear resistance, gradually becoming the main material for ancient copper coins.


Apart from bronze, some copper coins were made using different copper alloys such as brass and white copper. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, characterized by a yellowish color and softer texture. White copper, on the other hand, is an alloy of copper with nickel or silver, exhibiting a whitish color and harder texture. Manufacturing coins with these various materials requires careful control of alloy proportions and casting techniques to ensure the quality and circulation performance of the coins.


During the coin-casting process, factors like the shape, size, and weight of the coins also needed consideration. Copper coins typically had a circular or square shape with a square hole in the center for stringing together. The size and weight were determined based on the contemporary monetary system and economic conditions. To ensure coin quality and standardized measurements, ancient governments often established specialized mints responsible for coin casting and distribution.


Beyond serving as currency, ancient copper coins held cultural and artistic value. The craftsmanship involved in coin casting was exquisite, with unique designs and inscriptions reflecting the cultural and aesthetic standards of the time. Some special coins, such as those used for specific purposes like warding off evil or related to folk beliefs, carried additional cultural and religious significance.


In ancient societies, copper coins had wide-ranging uses. They served not only as an essential medium for daily transactions but also as a crucial means for government taxation, rewarding officials, and disbursing military pay. The widespread circulation and use of copper coins contributed to the development and prosperity of the contemporary social economy.

what do Chinese coins symbolize

Ancient copper coins symbolize specific meanings and values in various aspects. Here are some common symbolic meanings:


Symbol of Wealth and Inner Virtue: As a primary form of currency in ancient China, copper coins represent wealth and value. The outer circle and inner square of the coin symbolize the cultivation of inner virtue and the completeness of moral conduct.

Symbol of Unity between Heaven and Humanity: Copper coins hold a high status in Chinese folklore, considered as items with divine power crucial for blessings and wealth-seeking. The connection between copper coins and human emotions and life experiences is profound. It signifies a close relationship between the natural world and human society, representing the ancient Chinese cultural concept of "unity between heaven and humanity."

Symbol of Prosperous and Noble Life: Copper coins were frequently used as currency by the ancient noble class, symbolizing prosperity and status. In folk beliefs, copper coins are often used to pray for wealth and good fortune.

Ten Reigns of Emperors: Each of the ten emperors' reigns, spanning from Shunzhi to Xuantong, represents a period of flourishing national prosperity, social stability, and excellent coin craftsmanship. The coins bear inscriptions reflecting the emperor's era, providing a sense of divine energy, and are believed to have the power to ward off evil, bringing prosperity.

Warding Off Evil and Avoiding Malevolence: Copper coins are believed to have the power to ward off evil and avoid malevolence, commonly used in feng shui arrangements.

Talisman for Good Luck: In folk beliefs, copper coins are often used as talismans to pray for good luck and fortune. They may be strung on a red cord or placed in a wallet to ensure smooth financial fortune.


what are Chinese coins in jewelry

The application of copper coins in jewelry can be traced back to ancient times. Beyond its decorative role, copper coins in jewelry often carry auspicious meanings such as good fortune, warding off evil, and blessings. Here are some common applications and symbolic meanings of copper coins in jewelry:


Five Emperor Coins: This refers to a jewelry piece made by stringing together copper coins from the reigns of five emperors during the Qing Dynasty. It is often used as a necklace, bracelet, or pendant, symbolizing peace, auspiciousness, wealth, and longevity. Five Emperor Coins are believed to dispel negative energy, ward off disasters, and possess a powerful energy field that enhances personal aura and fortune.

In ancient times, copper coins were an essential part of daily life, widely used to create various decorative items and jewelry. The circular shape and square hole of copper coins, along with their durable characteristics, made them an ideal material for crafting jewelry.


One of the most common applications is the creation of copper coin bracelets. Multiple coins are strung together to form bracelets or necklaces. These copper coin bracelets are not only aesthetically pleasing but also signify wishes for financial prosperity and good fortune. In ancient beliefs, wearing a copper coin bracelet was thought to bring luck and wealth, making it a symbol of the pursuit of fortune and happiness.


Additionally, copper coins can be combined with other materials to craft more intricate jewelry pieces. For example, combining copper coins with materials like gold, silver, or jade can result in various forms of jewelry such as pendants, earrings, and rings. These pieces not only hold high artistic and aesthetic value but also convey auspicious meanings of good fortune, wealth, and happiness.


In summary, ancient copper coins were an important form of currency in Chinese history, characterized by strict specifications for their shape and weight. Copper coins were durable and easy to cast, contributing to their long circulation and use. Additionally, these coins held cultural and artistic value, being considered auspicious items and significant categories of art and collectibles. Through the study and collection of ancient copper coins, people can gain a better understanding of the developmental trajectory of Chinese history and culture.

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