The Charm of Ancient Currency

Currency was invented in the commodity exchange, and its institution was relied on the development of commodity trade. The earliest money ,cowrie, was instituted in the Shang dynasty(1600BC-1046BC) and it existed in the forms of Shi Bei, Gu Bei, Tao Bei, and later evolved into Tong Bei. The appearance of Tong Bei marked the beginning of a new era of ancient currency. The development and popular use of Tong Bei marked a turning point in early currency.

In 221BC, after the First Emperor of Qin1. unified China, gold and rounded square hole copper wire were stipulated as currency. The rounded square hole copper wire remained the major Chinese currency for more than 2000 years. In 118BC, Emperor Wu2. ordered the minting of currency by the central government and produced the Wuzhu coin which propagated to North Korea, Japan and other countries.

 In Wei Jin Northern and Southern Dynasties(222-589), the Wuzhu Coin was made smaller in size. The Wuzhu coin was rarely used in the Sui dynasty(581-618) . The appearance of Kai Yuan Tong Bao in the Tang dynasty(618-907) ended the currency system of the Qin and Han dynasty. Due to the rapid development of trade, paper money was produced during the Song dynasty including Jiao zi and Hui zi. Although coins were minted in small number, paper money remained the major currency in the Yuan dynasty.

At the beginning of the Ming dynasty(1368-1644), people primarily used silver dollars and coins . Foreign merchants traded silver coins for Chinese silk, tea, and porcelain, expanding the use of silver coins in China during the mid-Ming period. The currency system of Qing dynasty(1616-1912) is based on the coins of the Ming dynasty and a variety of paper money printed by the government. As trade development depends on currency,the importance of the currency is closely associated with commerce.

This article is written by He Ting.

Bei Currency :1

Image source:Tian jing Press,2004

Tong Bei:2

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Wuzhu coin:3

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Rounded square hole copper wire:4

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 Kai Yuan Tong Bao:5

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Jiao zi:6

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Hui zi:7

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Cite this blog post
gdri (2016, April 23). The Charm of Ancient Currency. EurasiaTrajeco. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from

  1. The First of Qin , the first emperor of Qin in China []
  2. Emperor Wu, the seventh emperor in Han and ordinary politician, poet []

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