ZHOU Dynasty, bridge money


CHINA, ZHOU Dynasty, 1122-255 BC, ching or bridge money, no date (c. 700-300 BC), Obverse: linear decoration obv., Reverse: flat, loop top, deep lip top too, bronze, 140x64mm, 23g, VF

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There are several types of enigmatic bronze objects made in ancient China that some have proposed were used as money before the earliest coins or alongside them. Among them were these things, called “ching” (chime) in Chinese, after their resemblance to ancient Chinese musical chimes. English speaking collectors of ancient Chinese coins have called them “bridge money,” or “tingle dangles.” As a class of object they are not particularly rare.

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.