VIETNAM, MAC refugees at Cao Bang, 1592-1677, (or 18th c.), 1 van, no date (1414-28 AD), Obverse: AN PHAP NGUYEN BAO, Reverse: inner and outer rims, bronze, 22.8mm, 1.57g, B52.2v, N103E, some kind of “copy,” but not the normal small kind, cleaned, VG

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The Mac Dynasty was founded by a powerful military guy in the previous Le Dynasty. He took over the general government in 1527, and the family ruled until 1592. Driven from power, they set up an enclave around Cao Bang. Numerous irregular coin types were issued from their land.

Vietnam has rarely been fully united as a country. Unlike the Koreans, who always formally accepted Chinese suzerainty, the Vietnamese never accepted that status. We could say that the country has been at war with China for the last 2000 years. Still, as we all know, a lot of Chinese cultural influence, including the way they structured their economy and the kinds of coins they made. My main reference for Vietnamese cast coins: The Historical Cash Coins of Viet Nam, by Allan Barker.

China calls itself “Central Country.” That is in reference to the vast Asian hinterland that is not China, and to the island peoples out in the Pacific Ocean. Because China tended to do organizational things earliest in that part of the world, the outsiders would notice and adopt useful practices that they observed. Among those borrowed cultural practices was the adoption of the money economy to replace direct barter, or to replace less convenient shapes of metal, rings and tools and jewelry bits. The Chinese style of market money being square holed cast bronze coins, that became the form of the coins made in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the islands out to Java, into Siberia and as far west as Kazakhstan.