VIETNAM, LATER LE Dynasty, 1428-1527, 1 van, no date (1434-40 AD), Obverse: THIEU BINH THONG BAO, Reverse: inner and outer rims, bronze, 24mm, 3.47g, B30.2, N203, some crust, cleaned, F+

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The Chinese were never happy with the way things were in Vietnam, and from time to time would invade to try to make the country more like how they wanted it to be. It never worked. The Vietnamese always resisted. The Ming Yong Le Emperor invaded in 1407 and tried to turn Vietnam into a Chinese province. There was rebellion everywhere. Le Loi became top dog amongst the rebels and went on to found the Later Le dynasty after the Chinese withdrew in 1428.

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. Supplementary reference: A Working Aid for Collectors of Annamese Coins, by John A. Novak.

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.