This entire series of posts comes from a group lot of coins I recently bought. I thought it would be interesting to write up all of the Ming dynasty. My sources are Cast Chinese Coins, 2nd Edition by David Hartill, China: A New History, Second Enlarged Edition by John K. Fairbank and Merle Goldman, and other random snippets from Wikipedia and the like. All coin images are mine except the two from Hartill. The map below comes from Fairbank and Merle. The Ming (“Bright”) dynasty was formally declared on January 23, 1368. During its over two and half centuries of rule it would be seen as a golden age due to its role as a native Han interlude between two foreign conquerers, the Mongols and the Manchus respectively. It would turn out to be the last native dynasty. Much of the Great Wall as we know it today was built by the Ming, and the Forbidden City served as the apex of imperial ostentation. For all its magnificence and achievements, however, it was beset by constant fiscal problems which greatly impaired its ability to defend its frontier to the north. This ultimately proved to be the dynasty’s undoing, as after the fall of the main dynasty at the hands of a peasant revolt, the remainders became extinct at the hands of the alien Qing dynasty. Da Zhong Tong Bao Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming dynasty, was not born into high society. Rather, he was a peasant farmer who starved and begged for a living. He buried both his parents at the age of sixteen, and joined a Buddhist monastery shortly after where he became literate. Then in 1352 he joined and quickly rose through the ranks of a rebel force called the Red Turbans, which called for an end to Mongol rule. The Mongols were quickly routed to beyond the Yangtze River, and after a civil war Zhu gained the upper hand over his rivals. This led to his enthronement in 1368 as the first Ming emperor, taking the reign title of Hongwu (“Valiantly Martial”). Traditionally this coin was cast from 1361 to 1368. However, according to mint records this coin was probably made until the 1390s. 2. Hong Wu Tong Bao After his enthronement, the new emperor’s first job was to fully reunify the country, which was accomplished by the 1380s. This was done in part by employing the same administrative divisions as the Mongols. A new capital was established in Nanjing. Hongwu created a large land reform policy (that would in theory protect the peasants from becoming landless) and an updated legal code. He also worked to consolidate power under his personal rule through the abolition of the traditional office of Chancellor (essentially prime minister) and its replacement by the Grand Secretariat, a coordinating agency. During the 1380s and 1390s numerous purges of upper class families occurred, resulting in a little under 50,000 deaths, which were only halted upon the emperor’s death in 1398. This was enabled by a new secret police, the Embroidered Uniform Guard. Economically, the emperor focused on agriculture instead of merchants, which would have a lasting impact on the subsequent perception of the merchants by the state. Paper money was introduced in 1375 but quickly led to inflation. His grandson succeeded him upon his death as the Jianwen Emperor. This coin was cast from 1368 to 1389. This can be seen from the writing on the reverse, which is the coin’s weight of 1 qian (3.73 grams). The next year the weight was increased to 1.2 qian. Throughout the period there were numerous times where coins were not cast for a year.