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September 13, 2009

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Rebel's valor medal coins very rare

ZHANG Xianzhong was one of the best known leaders of a peasant uprising in Chinese history.

He not only left Chinese people with legendary and controversial stories about his violent reign, but also priceless treasure that collectors rally to gain possession of - commemorative coins that were made under his command.

Toward the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Zhang Xianzhong led his army in rebellion against Ming's authority, conquered Wuchang, a city in China's mid-west, and proclaimed himself the "West King."

He ordered commemorative coins of gold, silver and bronze made to bestow awards on his officers and soldiers who had made great contributions to his victories.

The four characters carved on the coins, which read "xi wang shang gong" in Chinese, mean "award bestowed by West King for contribution."

These coins are very valuable because they are very rare. They were not entered into general currency because they were only commemorative coins and only very few were made. And they were made during wartime when the cherished was easily destroyed.

Also, the regime of the West King only lasted for a relatively short time.

After the regime was finally eliminated by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), most of the coins were confiscated and destroyed by the Qing government.

The coins are now regarded as being among the 50 "most valuable kinds of coins" in China.

According to the research of well-known Hong Kong coin collector, Guan Hanheng, no more than 10 coins from Zhang's era have been discovered, and among them only two are gold coins.

However one of the two, regrettably, is believed to have been destroyed in the early decades of last century by a person who had little knowledge of ancient coins.

The other gold coin (pictured center) is on display in the Shanghai Museum and could be the only gold one of its type to have been preserved so far.


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