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Coin reflects early currency styles

STARTING from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) in ancient China, coins used as currency were called "tong bao."

Different emperors issued different kinds of coins in their ruling title name.

For example, the coins issued by Emperor Yongle in the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) are called "yong le tong bao."

The Shanghai Museum displays a partly damaged yong le tong bao.

The bronze coin is called "ji zhong qian," meaning it was inscribed with the weight of the coin.

The inscription on the back of the coin, says "san qian," which means "3 qian."

Qian was a unit of weight in ancient China, and 1 qian approximately equalled 3 grams, so that the coin weighs about 9 grams.

The front of the coin is inscribed with the four characters "yong le tong bao."

These characters represent the name and type of the coin and indicate the time when it was made.

The characters on the coin bear the style of the earlier Song Dynasty (960-1279) and are clearly inscribed in an ancient and elegant writing method.

Only two "yong le tong bao" coins weighing 3 qian are known to exist.

One of them, a coin completely intact, has been lost.

This damaged one was found by coin expert Wang Yinjia, now deceased, who was a Suzhou native.

It was later added to the Shanghai Museum collection.

The coin is not recorded in history books and experts believe this is because it could be a product of a trial casting.

The discovery of the coin not only fills in the blanks of history books, but also is significant for historians wanting to know more about the currency systems of the early Ming Dynasty.


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