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cyclical characters on Kang Hsi Fukien cash

Started by bgriff99, October 02, 2015, 09:51:45 AM

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bgriff99

Reign title Kang Hsi, reverse 'Fu' right in Chinese, left in Manchu.   Type cast 1667-70.   Reverse has a cyclical character 'Yu' above reverse.   Burger discusses these at length.  He finds 9 of the twelve characters to exist on them.   One is on a 1668 coin, the other eight (including this one) he determines are on the same 1670 piece.   They are shown in many older and 19th century books.   Burger says they are probably private inventions, or at best mint sports.    He rates them all rarity one.   He had in hand one each of the 1670 and 1668 kind.

Hartill finds a more elaborate story in old sources.   That they were cast beginning in 1713 to celebrate the emperor's 60th birthday, to be cast in March each year for 12 years at the Fukien mint.    Except it had been closed since 1695.   Hartill finds ten of the characters, corresponding to the ten years of the emperor's life before he died in 1723.    They look contemporary, are brass as were the originals.   My two pieces look to me like recasts.   That is, original coins had the reverse characters added in tin or wax, and were used as mother cash to make a small batch of each kind.   That is compatible with the birthday story.   Hartill wonders why the special commemorative "Lohan" obverse was not used.   If no new mother cash were to be made, but rather just existing Fukien coins copied, that is why.   Also Burger's 9 rubbings (and my coins) show perhaps some other years in the run from 1685-95 were used.  They are barely different from the 1670 kind (the most common date), although slightly less robustly cast.

Weight is 5.4g, very slightly above the 1.4 mace regulation weight of the whole period.   Diameter 26.5 mm.   

Figleaf

There is a basic contradiction between the opulent and over-decorated Chinese world and the introvert commemorative you are presenting. Only scholars could have known these coins were special, let alone what they were commemorating. The closest I can think of are the "quotes of the emperor", a few handwritten characters on rice paper, given as tokens of appreciation to high officials. These are not coins for the common people, they are meant for the educated few. So why do they look circulated?

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

bgriff99

Peter, this coin is not so much circulated as encrusted.   There is no way to account for its career.   Who knows where it has been?   It may have been tucked in a drawer over the adult lifespans of six different owners, spent 50 or 100 years in sporadic circulation.   It may or may not have spent 70 years on a buried string in a backyard forgotten.   It was at once both a curio worthy of attention, and a robust piece even without the added character of an emperor whose larger coins already were accorded a degree of talismanic value in his lifetime.   "Fu" of course means happiness and great luck, so the unadorned coins were virtually charms to begin with.

The 60th birthday thing was a really big deal, a year of national celebration, with special cash issued by the Board of Revenue the whole year, the "Lohan" cash.  These Fukien pieces, Burger says, are highly prized by Chinese collectors.   As to being "introverted", perhaps.   Enough that they seem to have escaped the notice of makers of copies, both then and now.   At the time of casting, if the story is true, there would have been some hoopla around distributing them, if only because the mint itself was closed.