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June 13, 2012

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Ration coupons for expats tell history

HUNDREDS of antique certificates, including ration coupons for necessities issued to expatriates, and railway bonds issued overseas as far back as the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), went on display in Shanghai yesterday.

The exhibition includes a set of rare cloth ration coupons issued by the city government to expats in 1954, when only about 3,000 foreigners lived in Shanghai.

The government issued the special coupons, which are different from ordinary cloth coupons, to care for expats' special needs.

It's the only complete set of expat cloth ration coupons that have been found in the country, organizers said.

"The coupons help us to understand the real life of people at that time," said Zhang Letian, a sociologist at Fudan University.

The ration coupons, a product of China's planned economy decades ago, were issued in the 1950s when food and other commodities were scarce.

The ration coupon system was abolished in the 1990s, following the growth of industry and agriculture.

Today, the coupons are highly sought after by investors as collector's items.

The exhibition contains 500-plus certificates issued between the end of the Qing Dynasty and 1993. The entire collection is estimated to be worth tens of millions of yuan.

One eye-catching piece is a Chinese bond issued in Germany in 1908 to raise funds for a railway from Tianjin to Nanjing, capital of the eastern Jiangsu Province.

Around 10 collectors from around the country provided the certificates. Once the exhibition ends, they will be returned to the owners.

The exhibition, free and open until September 12, can be seen on Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30am to 4pm at Fudan University's Humanities Building, which is at the main Handan campus in Yangpu District.


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