Author Topic: Zhi Dao Yuan Bao, grass script, 17th century trade coin  (Read 712 times)

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Offline bgriff99

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Zhi Dao Yuan Bao, grass script, 17th century trade coin
« on: June 28, 2019, 06:43:42 AM »
Found at Palembang.    It is from a common group of trade cash imitating Northern Song, but smaller, and slightly novel patterns.    The group is referred to as "Characters-touch-centerframe Zhi Dao style".   There is no documentation, just information generated from finding them, often fused together in strings lost in rivers or ocean wrecks.    Sometimes original strings as cast are found, with mixed reign titles.   Sometimes circulated strings are found with bronze import coins mixed with local lead and tin imitations.

They were cast for trade with Indonesia and Vietnam, either in China or Vietnam, probably middle 1600's.    The same set when found in Vietnam is slightly larger, usually 23mm diameter.    This is 22.4mm, weight on the heavy side at 3.18g.    Its metal is reddish and soft, with a high lead content and less tin than the original coins.    The original Zhi-dao reign was 995-98AD.    Three different script styles were used, all copied in these trade cash.   

Offline THCoins

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Re: Zhi Dao Yuan Bao, grass script, 17th century trade coin
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2019, 05:47:35 PM »
Thanks for showing, beautifull piece. I would not directly associate a coin like this with Sumatra, but that's my lack of knowledge. It is a mazing that a 600 years old original was used as a basis for a trade coin at the time.
When i read "Grass Script" it reminded me of "Grasshopper" from the seventies "Kung Fu" television series, though offcourse that has nothing to do with this. Just youth memories.
The patina is nicely variegated over the coin surface. Could be this also shows some traces of contact with adjacent coins ?
« Last Edit: June 28, 2019, 07:16:41 PM by THCoins »

Offline bgriff99

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Re: Zhi Dao Yuan Bao, grass script, 17th century trade coin
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2019, 09:01:21 PM »
The obverse is heavily cleaned to make it legible, and presentable.    It was not purchased as a fused mass, but had been probably when found, or fused for a couple centuries, then naturally and gradually broken apart.   Tin and lead copies are more common than this particular pattern in bronze.   

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Zhi Dao Yuan Bao, grass script, 17th century trade coin
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2019, 09:31:31 AM »
Congratulations, Bruce. A spectacular purchase. Are these normally found in what is now Indonesia? If so, wouldn't it make sense that they were produced locally?

I can see the effect of the next coin lying on top. The centers of the two coins were so close together that it suggests a string, with the binding material long gone, of course. A river bed find, I presume? If so, the string would not have been lost accidentally, but rather been thrown in the water as a sacrifice while crossing it. IIRC, Kipling describes this tradition in "Kim". The string may have been made for this purpose, for lack of genuine cash coins.

With time, the red of the copper will patinate again. Capnbirdseye uses sulphur to hasten the process.

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

Offline bgriff99

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Re: Zhi Dao Yuan Bao, grass script, 17th century trade coin
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2019, 06:03:20 PM »
So far these are turning up only at Palembang.    They were widely copied in lead and tin in Java as well as Sumatra, so presumably were sent to all the usual trading places.    Equivalent patterns but slightly larger are found in Vietnam.    Those are no longer common.   

A fraction of the ones found do look like local work.   Some are recast, others of crude workmanship.    They are trade coins, not made for ritual purpose.    Lots of those get found, but in Java and Bali.    One of the rituals was to throw them into a fire, so zinc became the favorite metal, easy to cast and burns bright green.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Zhi Dao Yuan Bao, grass script, 17th century trade coin
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2019, 10:18:53 PM »
I am sure you have handled a string. It's not something you lose unnoticed. Rich Chinese would have a servant walking behind them, carrying their strings (and a sword or dagger, just in case).

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

Offline bgriff99

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Re: Zhi Dao Yuan Bao, grass script, 17th century trade coin
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2019, 01:36:25 AM »
The preponderance of corroded bronze cash coins come from their having been buried, in strings, then never dug up.    That was done preferably in sealed pots, but also could be intended for the short term just laid out in a trench.    River dredging at Surabaya, Palembang and Jambi produced a lot of tin coins, and artifacts, but less in the way of bronze coins.    Tin coin caches are also found, from burial and buildings, but largely because they became obsolete as money, just so much scrap metal.    This seller's group of bronze trade cash would have been from a wreck in water too deep to salvage, or land burial.    Bronze cash coins continued to circulate in parts of Indonesia through the Japanese occupation.    These pieces would have been worn down and/or broken in 30 years continuous use.    I have to handle them carefully.   I have broken many just from cleaning.    Newly made, most are of composition that could be snapped like a twig.

Strings of cash or pitis in Indonesia were made into loops of 200, then 5 such loops tied together into what was called a keti.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Zhi Dao Yuan Bao, grass script, 17th century trade coin
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2019, 06:05:51 AM »
Fascinating stuff, Bruce. Glad there are people like you who appreciate them for what they are. TFP.

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