Early Chinese Round Coin, With Round Hole, Zhou Dynasty 403 BC To 378 BC

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by sand, Sep 24, 2022.

  1. sand

    sand Well-Known Member

    Here is my example, of one of the earliest Chinese round coins.
    Much of the following information, is from the book "The First Round Coins Of China" by Gratzer & Fishman published in 2017 (henceforth called "Gratzer & Fishman" or "G&F"). G&F is, in my opinion, the best English language book on the early round coins of China. It has excellent information, and many color photos of coins.
    Note that, all metal Chinese coins were cast, not struck, until 1889 AD, with the exception of the Chu gold block money from 400 BC to 220 BC. (Hartill page 79) (That's the only exception that I know. Are there other exceptions?)
    Before circa 403 BC, Chinese coins were not round. The non-round Chinese coins included cowrie shells (as early as circa 1400 BC), imitations of cowrie shells made of bone, stone, bronze, and gold (as early as circa 1300 BC), spade coins (as early as circa 1200 BC), knife coins (as early as circa 700 BC), and "ghost face" (also called "ant nose") bronze (alloyed with lead) imitations of cowrie shells inscribed with Chinese characters (as early as 600 BC). (G&F pages ii to iv)
    An interesting question : Which of the pre-403 BC non-round Chinese coins, should be called "coins", rather than "money"? However, I won't try to figure that out, in this post.
    The earliest Chinese round coins were cast circa 403 BC, during the Zhou Dynasty, during the "Warring States Period". (G&F pages 1 through 59) This was when, the Zhou Dynasty had lost most of its control over its various states, which then fought against each other.
    Almost all of the earliest Chinese round coins, had a round hole in the center of the coin, rather than the square hole that most of the later Chinese round coins had.
    The only 2 possible exceptions to this "round hole rule", are 2 exceedingly rare coin types, which have square holes : type G&F A6.3 (G&F page 17) and type G&F A11.15 (G&F page 59). Both of these possible exceptions, have not been accurately dated, and could date as far back as circa 403 BC, or as recently as circa 225 BC and 221 BC respectively. (G&F pages 17 and 59)
    The earliest Chinese round coins were cast, before the first "Ban Liang" coins. The "Ban Liang" coins were round coins, usually with a square hole (sometimes with a round hole), which were cast by the Qin state, as early as circa 378 BC. (G&F page 72) By 221 BC, the Qin state had conquered all of the other warring states, and the Qin state became the Qin Dynasty. After that, the Ban Liang coins became the only legal coinage of China (G&F page viii), until the Western Han Dynasty began casting other types of square hole coins in 206 BC (while also continuing to cast Ban Liang coins). (Hartill pages 83 to 85)
    All of the types of the earliest Chinese round coins are either rare, very rare, extremely rare, or exceedingly rare. (G&F pages 1 through 59) My example is of the only type (G&F A6.4), which is merely rare. (G&F pages 17 to 19)
    Unfortunately, there are many fakes, of the earliest Chinese round coins. For the earliest Chinese round coins, there are many more fake coins than authentic coins. (G&F page xiv)
    China. Zhou Dynasty. Warring States Period. Wei (Liang) State. Circa 403 BC To 378 BC. Probably cast in the ancient city Wangyuan (literally meaning "King's city"). Hartill 6.3. Schjoth 73. Gratzer & Fishman A6.4. 38.7 mm. 7.74 grams. Obverse Character Yuan (literally meaning "city"). Reverse blank.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2022
    Loong Siew, paschka, tommyc03 and 7 others like this.
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  3. Loong Siew

    Loong Siew Well-Known Member

    Nice coin.. Good write up and quotations from sources as well.. These pre-Qin round holed coins are indeed rare and more so than the spades and knives issued around the same period as well.
    sand and Silphium Addict like this.
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