CHINA, NORTH and SOUTH Dynasties, 420-581 AD, cash, Obverse: SI ZHU, Reverse: CHUN YU SI ZHU, square, loop with incomplete hole on bottom, bronze, 11x16mm, 2.79g, H13.63v, VG/F

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Poor governance by later Han administrations combined with external pressures caused a breakup of China into smaller independent kingdoms. Unsettled conditions continued for several centuries until reunification by the Sui Dynasty, whose reforms were largely adopted by the successor Tang Dynasty.

The oldest Chinese coins are at least as old as the earliest Greek coins. The Chinese coinage system differed from other systems in two ways. It was monometallic, only bronze coins circulated in general commerce. Gold and silver were treated as commodities. And the manufacturing method was by casting in moulds rather than by striking heated solid planchets. The main reference I use in attributing and describing these coins is the book: Chinese Cast Coins, by David Hartill.