CHINA, THREE KINGDOMS period, ZHI BAI WU ZHU, GANSU, 100 cash, bronze, 221-65 AD


CHINA, GANSU, State of SHU, 221-263 AD, cash, 221-65 AD, Obverse: ZHI BAI WU ZHU, Reverse: incuse SHI (#10) topbronze, H11.3v, S184v, ex-Fisher collection, G

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The State of Shu, in western China, endured from 221 to 265 AD. The Zhi Bai Wu Zhu began as a fiat currency valued at about 50 times its metal value. Coins like that are always disliked in the market, but Shu stuck with them, reducing their size over time until them were thin and tiny.

After the fall of the Han Dynasty China broke up into several independent kingdoms for several centuries. Two historical periods are described in the literature: the Three Kingdoms, one of which conquered the others and unified China for a few decades, then it failed and 16 small kingdoms emerged briefly. Then followed the Division of North and South, with several successive dynasties in the two regions. After that the country was unified again by the short-lived Sui Dynasty, whose administrative reforms were adopted and built upon by the 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.