Cash (Chinese coin)

Cash (Chinese coin)

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A cash was a type of coin of China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

 from the 2nd century BC until the AD 20th century. The photograph to the right shows replicas of various ancient to 19th century cast coins in various metals found in China and Japan.

Terminology


The English word "cash", meaning "tangible currency", is an older word from Middle French
Middle French
Middle French is a historical division of the French language that covers the period from 1340 to 1611. It is a period of transition during which:...

 caisse..

There are a variety of Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 terms for cash coins, usually descriptive and most commonly including the character qián (錢) meaning "money." Confusingly, Chinese qián is also a weight-derived currency denomination in Chinese called mace in English.

Manufacture


Traditionally, Chinese cash coins were cast
Casting
In metalworking, casting involves pouring liquid metal into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowing it to cool and solidify. The solidified part is also known as a casting, which is ejected or broken out of the mold to complete the process...

 in copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

, brass
Brass
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin...

 or iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

. In the mid-19th century, the coins were made of 3 parts copper and 2 parts lead. Cast silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 coins were periodically produced but are considerably rarer. Cast gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 coins are also known to exist but are extremely rare.

History



Chinese cash coins originated from the barter
Barter
Barter is a method of exchange by which goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money. It is usually bilateral, but may be multilateral, and usually exists parallel to monetary systems in most developed countries, though to a...

 of farm
Farm
A farm is an area of land, or, for aquaculture, lake, river or sea, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food , fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single...

ing tools and agricultural surpluses. Around 1200 BC, smaller token spade
Spade
A spade is a tool designed primarily for the purpose of digging or removing earth. Early spades were made of riven wood. After the art of metalworking was discovered, spades were made with sharper tips of metal. Before the advent of metal spades manual labor was less efficient at moving earth,...

s, hoes
Hoe (tool)
A hoe is an ancient and versatile agricultural tool used to move small amounts of soil. Common goals include weed control by agitating the surface of the soil around plants, piling soil around the base of plants , creating narrow furrows and shallow trenches for planting seeds and bulbs, to chop...

, and knives
Knife
A knife is a cutting tool with an exposed cutting edge or blade, hand-held or otherwise, with or without a handle. Knives were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago, as evidenced by the Oldowan tools...

 began to be used to conduct smaller exchanges with the tokens later melted down to produce real farm implements. These tokens came to be used as media of exchange themselves and were known as spade money and knife money
Knife money
Knife money is the name of large, cast, bronze, knife-shaped coins produced by various governments and kingdoms in what is now known as China, approximately 2500 years ago. They had holes on the end to be easily strapped onto belts or rings. Known as jin cuo dao in Chinese, knife money circulated...

.

As standard circular coins were developed following the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang , personal name Ying Zheng , was king of the Chinese State of Qin from 246 BC to 221 BC during the Warring States Period. He became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 BC...

, the most common formation was the round-shaped copper coin with a square or circular hole in the center, the prototypical cash. The hole enabled the coins to be strung together to create higher denominations, as was frequently done due to the coin's low value. The number of coins in a string of cash (yīguànqián 一貫錢) varied over time and place but was nominally 1000. A string of 1000 cash was supposed to be equal in value to one tael
Tael
Tael can refer to any one of several weight measures of the Far East. Most commonly, it refers to the Chinese tael, a part of the Chinese system of weights and currency....

 of pure silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

. A string of cash was divided into ten sections of 100 cash each. Local custom allowed the person who put the string together to take a cash or a few from each hundred for his effort (one, two, three or even four in some places). Thus an ounce of silver could exchange for 970 in one city and 990 in the next. In some places in the North of China short of currency the custom counted one cash as two and fewer than 500 cash would be exchanged for an ounce of silver. A string of cash weighed over ten pounds and was generally carried over the shoulder. (See Hosea Morse's "Trade and Administration of the Chinese Empire" p. 130 ff.) Paper money equivalents known as flying cash
Flying cash
Flying cash was a paper currency of Tang Dynasty China and can be considered the first banknote.-Origins:Due to inconveniences in transferring large numbers of the standard copper cash coins over large distances, the Tang government decided to pay merchants with which they did business in paper money...

 sometimes showed pictures of the appropriate number of cash coins strung together.

The Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

ns, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese, and Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

ese all cast their own copper cash in the latter part of the second millennium similar to those used by China.

The last Chinese cash coins were struck, not cast, in the reign of the Qing
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 Xuantong Emperor shortly before the fall of the Empire in 1911. The coin continued to be used unofficially in China until the mid-20th century. Vietnamese cash
Vietnamese cash
Vietnamese cash is a cast round coin with a square hole. The same type of currency circulated in China, Japan and Korea for centuries.-History:The first Vietnamese coins were cast under the rule of the Đinh Dynasty ....

 continued to be minted to 1933.

Inscriptions and denominations



The earliest standard denominations of cash coins were theoretically based on the weight of the coin and were as follows:
  • 100 grains of millet
    Millet
    The millets are a group of small-seeded species of cereal crops or grains, widely grown around the world for food and fodder. They do not form a taxonomic group, but rather a functional or agronomic one. Their essential similarities are that they are small-seeded grasses grown in difficult...

     = 1 zhū (銖)
  • 24 zhū = 1 tael (liǎng 兩)

The most common denominations were the ½ tael (bànliǎng 半兩) and the 5 zhū (wǔ zhū 五銖) coins, the latter being the most common coin denomination in Chinese history.

In AD
Anno Domini
and Before Christ are designations used to label or number years used with the Julian and Gregorian calendars....

 666, a new system of weights came into effect with the zhū being replaced by the mace (qián) with 10 mace equal to one tael. The mace denominations were so ubiquitous that the Chinese word qián came to be used a the generic word for money. Other traditional Chinese units of measurement
Chinese units of measurement
Chinese units of measurement are the customary and traditional units of measure used in China. In the People's Republic of China, the units were re-standardised during the late 20th century to make them approximate SI units. Many of the units were formerly based on the number 16 instead of 10...

, smaller subdivisions of the tael, were also used as currency denominations for cash coins.

A great majority of cash coins had no denomination specifically designated but instead carried the issuing emperor's era name
Chinese era name
A Chinese era name is the regnal year, reign period, or regnal title used when traditionally numbering years in an emperor's reign and naming certain Chinese rulers . Some emperors have several era names, one after another, where each beginning of a new era resets the numbering of the year back...

 and a phrases such as tōngbǎo (通寶) meaning "general currency" or zhòngbǎo (重寶) meaning "heavy currency."

Coins of the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 (1644–1911) generally carried the era name
Chinese era name
A Chinese era name is the regnal year, reign period, or regnal title used when traditionally numbering years in an emperor's reign and naming certain Chinese rulers . Some emperors have several era names, one after another, where each beginning of a new era resets the numbering of the year back...

 of the emperor and tōngbǎo on the obverse and the mint location where the coins were cast in Manchu
Manchu language
Manchu is a Tungusic endangered language spoken in Northeast China; it used to be the language of the Manchu, though now most Manchus speak Mandarin Chinese and there are fewer than 70 native speakers of Manchu out of a total of nearly 10 million ethnic Manchus...

 and Chinese on the reverse.

See also

  • Economy of the People's Republic of China
    Economy of the People's Republic of China
    The People's Republic of China ranks since 2010 as the world's second largest economy after the United States. It has been the world's fastest-growing major economy, with consistent growth rates of around 10% over the past 30 years. China is also the largest exporter and second largest importer of...

  • Economic history of China (pre-1911)
  • Economic history of modern China
    Economic history of modern China
    The economic history of modern China began with the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Following the Qing, China underwent a period of instability and disrupted economic activity. Under the Nanjing decade , China advanced several industries, in particular those related to the military, in an effort...


External links