The Chinese Economic Sphere

Round cast bronze coins were China’s staple currency for over 2000 years. The coins travelled widely during the medieval period as the result of trade. During the Mongol (or Yuan) and Ming periods, as paper money began to be used increasingly within China, large quantities of older, worn coins were deliberately exported. These coins came to be used as currency in many areas around the Indian Ocean and South China Seas, as well as further north in Japan, Korea and Mongolia. Local imitations were made when supplies of Chinese coins were short.

When some neighbouring countries such as Japan (in 683), Anam (or Vietnam, in 970), and Korea (in 996) began to issue their own official coinages, they adopted the Chinese system. While Chinese coins were only made from bronze, her neighbours also occasionally produced gold or silver coins and coins of different shapes, such as oval coins and types of ingots.

Chinese copper cash, obverseChinese copper cash, reverse Chinese copper cash, obverseChinese copper cash, reverse
Chinese copper cash, Sixteen Kingdoms (AD 304-581)
Da Quan Wu Zhu
© Fitzwilliam Museum
Chinese copper cash, Five Dynasties
Emperor Shih Tsung (954-959)
© Fitzwilliam Museum
Korean copper cash, obverseKorean copper cash, reverse Bronze coin, Anam, obverseBronze coin, Anam, reverse
Korean copper cash
Wang Dynasty, anon., 1097
© Fitzwilliam Museum
Bronze coin, Anam
Prince Dinh Bo-linh (968-80)
© Fitzwilliam Museum
Copy of Chinese cash coin, obverseCopy of Chinese cash coin, reverse Silver mon, Japan, obverseSilver mon, Japan, reverse
Copy of Chinese cash coin
made for circulation in Japan
© Fitzwilliam Museum
Silver mon, Japan
Tensho era, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1582-1598)
© Fitzwilliam Museum
Cast bronze pitis, reverseCast bronze pitis, obverse
Cast bronze pitis, Java (Indonesia)
Pangerang Ratou of Bantam, 16th C
© Fitzwilliam Museum


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Department of Coins and Medals, © Fitzwilliam Museum.