CHINA, ZHOU Dynasty, 1122-255 BC, silver plated bronze shield money


CHINA, ZHOU Dynasty, 1122-255 BC, duan shield money, Obverse: a smooth dome, Reverse: 2 bars on back, oval, bronze, silver plated obverse, 32x23mm, 29.19g, supplier called this “duan,” crusty, F

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The many kinds of “shield money” are distinguished by a bar on the back for mounting on something, clothing perhaps. Maybe they were ornaments, but they made a lot of them. There is a group of ancient Chinese bronze objects that some people like to think of as money of some sort. Most of the people who think that way are not Chinese. Chinese tend to look at the ancient texts that mention money and point out that none of them mention these things. The quantities known of some of these enigmatic objects tend toward the monetary view.

There are a variety of small bronze items that have been speculatively considered to have been some kind of local money, but they are not mentioned in the classical Chinese monetary and numismatic books. Notwithstanding, some of these objects are found in such large quantities that it seems reasonable to consider them as money objects. The idea that enigmatic bronze objects were early forms of Chinese “money” was popularized in Europe by a monograph written by H. A. Ramsden in 1912.

Zhou dynasty was a confederation of little kingdoms with a figurehead Emperor. Various constituent states started using money in their commercial activities. Odd shaped coins such as spade, knife, ant, nose, yibi, and possible money items like fish and cicada money were followed by the early round coins.

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.