Shima-sen groups

Started by bgriff99, March 22, 2015, 05:06:01 AM

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I'm modifying this post at the top to reflect new things I have learned, and in part glossed over originally.    These groups apply to shima-sen that were exported only.   They were carried by Ryukyu maritime traders who are known to have first landed at Palembang in 1428, and Java in 1430.  In most cases these issues were made for that purpose, and are not seen much among the kinds found in Japan, which circulated.    The domestic Japanese ones in overall appearance resemble these, but in detail are often different.   They are called "Hakusai", meaning junk freight.

Classification of domestic pieces is done differently.  I did not realize the Japanese catalog I use is entirely of export issues.   Also that the book is not universally known and used by Japanese collectors.    They have of course in their collections the domestic kind, found, or really, collected and preserved in Japan long ago. Thus all the head butting with Zeno's Japanese moderator.   He has not seen or even heard of this catalog before, and I have had great difficulty translating the body of its extensive text.    It is long out of print.    We are sort of getting it resolved.   OK, back to the original spiel.....

Shima-sen have been divided into morphological groups, nominally reflecting common origins.    The 1987 Japanese book 'Shima sen Bunrui Senpu' shows 22 groups.   Each is given a name, the translations of which lose a bit of their idiom.   Most have reverse rims.   Metal is usually pale yellow, which means leaded bronze at 30-45% tin and lead.    They tend to be as thin as practical, made in clay molds with characters directly pressed into the clay when soft.   

All of my pieces were found in Sumatra or Java.   Diameters are usually 23-24mm, with some smaller.    Inscriptions are sometimes mirror image.   They copy Yung-lo, Kai-yuan, and Sung and other early Ming reign titles.    None of mine are magnetic.    Several groups I neither have any examples of nor have seen from Indonesia, so perhaps were strictly domestic Japanese issues.

1.  Deep characters hand.   The strokes are pressed into clay with a stylus.   This specimen is mirror image.

2.  Spot writing hand.   

3.  Square character hand.

8.  Broad characters hand.

9.  Streak characters hand.   This piece is relatively heavy, and looks very much like a bita-sen.


10.  Weak Form hand.   

This piece copies the Tang inscription 'Chien yuan chung pao' in mirror image.   It is white metal, from a minimal edge scratch, and so may be of pewter.   It is not listed exactly in Bunrui Senpu, but is close to a non-reversed piece shown, and resembles the group in general composition.   Diameter 22.5mm.


11.  Flipped characters hand

Probably intended to be "Kai yuan".    Upside down, the 'tung pao' reads correctly.   Most listed pieces in this group have similarities in appearance which this (listed) one does not share.   It may be a stray from a different group that happens to be partially inverted.


13.  Contract writing hand.   

The description says something about keen sharp characters.   These are well represented in Indonesia.   I have 3, maybe 4, and missed a couple distinctive ones for want of proper bidding.   At this point the groups are getting... uncertain of actual affinity?    It is a first generation workup. 



15.   Reduced strokes hand

Another Chien Yuan tung pao, this time not mirror image, but very simplified. 


6.  Savage Writing hand
(14.  Leaning Centerframe hand)
18.  Reduced Rim hand

By its writing this belongs to the "Savage Writing hand".   It also has the rim grooves (reverse only here) which define a group mostly overlapping it.   They don't look like an intentional feature to me, and do show up somewhat randomly on what are clearly not related groups.   "Hand" refers specifically to the writing.   Thus the difficulty of recognizing and choosing what is relevant to origin versus simply appearance groupings. 

Group 14, all rare, has rotated centerframes on either obverse in relation to characters, or on the reverse.   Centerholes are large with thick frames.   The catalog includes a few which ought not to belong.   Rotation on the reverse as on this coin is unusual, but only incidental.


5.  Surround writing hand

This exact piece is cataloged under group 18, with the grooved rims.   Obviously they are not present here.   Calligraphically this belongs to the "Surround Writing hand".    It is less obvious with the characters 'Tai Ping' not lending themselves to being turned into its characteristic enclosed gridded boxes (as 'Kai' for example is).


19.  Whittled down characters, has good reverse rims hand

This gets into the gray area, between domestic Chinese forgery, terui-sen (nominally a Vietnamese copy), and bita-sen.   It is not magnetic, was found in a coastal trade wreck.   Bright metal from an edge scratch is almost white.   It is the quality of a South China Seas trade cash or bita-sen.   It looks sand cast, Katou-sen fashion, using a cleaned up original coin for its seed.   


20.   Whittled down characters, reverse rough and negligent (i.e. flat)

Just posted recently, and a poor example, but for completion's sake.   'Huang Sung tung pao.'


22.  Cast duplicate model

This final group is defined by method of being made, not calligraphy.    It was done by pressing an original, or possibly good quality copy into clay to show its pattern.   Then the impression was deepened.   The resulting cast may be the final coin, or alternately one of many seed coins for sand casting.

The upper character seems to be entirely original, deeply and well copied.   The other characters came out fainter and needed deepening.   'Tung-pao' show both some of the fainter original impression, and additional marking.   The bottom character is mostly added over the original impression.   

This is a completely different method from cleaning up and retooling an original coin to use for a seed in sand casting.   The outer rim was reduced before use, and is rather irregular.


12.   Another shima-sen from a new group to add, called "flower pattern".    Found near Palembang, cast probably in Java.    Metal is pale yellow.   


It almost looks like someone who couldn't read the characters interpreted them into flowery images. Highly interesting!

Do you see any connection with this piece?

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.