What is a "terui-sen"? Xiang-fu yuan-bao non-dynastic cash made in Vietnam

Started by bgriff99, December 30, 2023, 06:05:14 AM

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Coin is inscribed Xiang-fu yuan-bao, as for the Northern Song reign AD 1008-16.  It is an imitation produced in Vietnam circa 1560.  It may have been made by the Mac Dynasty mint because they were prohibited from using their own reign titles by China.  They were usurpers, who asked for but did not receive that permission.  They cast their dynastic titles from 1527-46, then stopped.   

"Terui-sen" is a Japanese term, in worldwide use, for unknown private cash grouped by calligraphy. "Te Rui" means 'hand class'.  Most were made in Vietnam, or were trade cash made in China for the monsoon trade.  This system was started in Japan in the 1680's when the majority of them now known were not yet even made.   

It is a feature of private mints copying older Chinese reign titles to use multiple inscriptions.  That is, at once for variety, plus changing them over time.  About 100 calligraphic groups have been named. In theory, each group is from one mint.  The reality is that some groups are sloppy, contain multiple mints.  There is no official coordinator of all this.  I have named, or re-named a few groups myself at Zeno.   

Needless to say, western collectors, even advanced ones, find this confusing, and some refuse to use it.  The alternative is to key them by reign title, then refer to somebody's catalog number.  This system however is universally used in Japan, China, and Vietnam for their own cash.

Calligraphic group names originally used a single unique variety as a group "naming coin".  That is still a preferred plan, but naming by other features, such as "broad rims" is mixed in.   The naming coin of this Xiang-fu is "Different furnace bird-claw Zheng-long", referring to an immediate predecessor group, same inscription, but sand-cast versus baked clay mold.  The original dynastic Zheng-long was Chinese Jin Dynasty 1156-60.



Xiang-fu tong-bao, believed issued by the rebel Tran Cao c.1517-21.  He tried to restore the Tran Dynasty, versus the Later Le, and did take the capital, make himself king, and then his son.  The calligraphic group is named "Van Kiep hand" for a very rare piece honoring the great battle of Van Kiep, in which the Tran army finally defeated the Mongol invasion.  Zeno has it, and a decent collection of the group:  https://www.zeno.ru/showphoto.php?photo=151609

At least 23 different inscriptions are recognized.  Some have just a single character, presumed to be badges or awards of rank.  The Xiang-fu varieties are the least scarce, thought to be used as money.  Other inscriptions honor past Tran kings, or have patriotic slogans, all rare.   

The metal is high tin content bronze, almost white color.  A common feature is the slightly curved lines of the centerhole frame, making points of the corners.  Usually on the reverse, but here both sides.   The rare coin shown in Barker, number 14, page 67, is not a Tran dynastic issue of the 1200's, but from this group. 

The original Chinese Xiang-fu was issued with both yuan-bao and tong-bao.



Xiang-fu yuan-bao, 21.5mm diameter, cast at Quanzhou, Fujian, c.1570-80 for use by the licensed overseas trading fleet.  Most were sent to Indonesia.  They were not supposed to circulate in China, but some did only in the city where they were produced.

This was by the "main official mint" for trading, but there are others recognized.  All are in one calligraphic group called "Tian-ping hand", for its naming coin, a unique inscription, same mint.   These ought to be classified as Ming coins, but at least one of the mints was in Java, and the others are unknown.  So they are kept together in one group of terui-sen, awkwardly classified as Vietnamese-unofficial, which none in the group actually are.

This group is unusual in having strong contemporary documentation, by the Dutch and Spanish, including a picture published in 1597.  Traders at Banten had to use them to buy pepper, first needing to buy them with silver coin.  This group anchors all other monsoon trade coins, because they can be dated by whether before, concurrent to, copies of, or after them.  The tian-pings evolved from earlier versions, slightly larger, but all privately produced for illicit trade.

See here my numismatic magnum opus, about this group:  https://zeno.ru/data2/B%20Griffith%20Sino-Javanese%20Pitis.pdf
And here, the group naming coin:  https://www.zeno.ru/showphoto.php?photo=248223&cat=18720&ppuser=&sortby=d&way=desc



Xiang-fu tong-bao monsoon trade coin probably cast in China, diameter 22.5mm.  The calligraphic group is found in Vietnam and Indonesia. Produced circa 1540-60.  It uses 7 different inscriptions, all Song reign titles except Kai-yuan.  Some slightly broader ones are found, probably those for Vietnam.
I have found some "in the wild" from salvaged strings, always badly corroded and only the naming coin "Small characters Chun-xi", which is common.  All others are scarce.  This is a gem quality example, from a Japanese auction.  Metal is leaded bronze. 



Thank you, Bruce. This is 100% uncharted territory for me, which is a positive, as far as I am concerned. No tick marks in front of catalogue numbers. I suspect the "mints" could vary from a more or less centrally controlled operation to the local smith?

Instinctively, I have sympathy for a classification by production characteristics, such as "broad rim", as I would expect it to be more stable than reign characters or calligraphic style. Nevertheless, I would expect that the categories become too broad if you look at technology only, so you may be forced to take calligraphy on board. However, die makers may travel from one mint to another (as they did in Afghanistan for civic issues) or otherwise rotate in quick succession.

Another thing that occurred to me is that the provenance of strings would be interesting and that could best be determined by stats on all of the coins on the string. If you start cherry-picking the interesting coins, you would impair that archeological information. I suspect that the strings are usually already broken up before they enter the mainstream market, though.

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


Yes you hit multiple points.  Especially about the information that can be gotten from whole intact strings.  The vast majority of those found are sifted for rarities and high grade common stuff, if easily separated.  Then the rest is melted down for scrap metal.  The few that I've seen, whether individual coins could be recovered, or all of them just looked at but too far gone to separate intact, have provided the bits of information I combine into my somewhat aggressive attributions. 

Tian-pings for example were strung at the mint with only two different reign titles together, but the styles would be the same because made at the same time.  They were put on the string 5 or 6 at once, the same kind and facing the same way. Then reverse-facing for the next 5.  The same coins in after-market strings were all mixed up and with other kinds.   I once separated a fused loop (ocean salvage) of 200, almost all in nice condition after cleaning.  The coins were sorted by size, ranging from 4 gram N. Song at one end, to half gram lead pitis on the other.  That was somebody's pocket money, as the values of the types varied at least by a factor of 6.     

"Calligraphy" means also all features of how pieces are made.  How are they cast, what is the metal, what do they copy, uniface or both sides, how are the rims made, etc.  Writing detail takes a lot of experience to recognize.  Also some experience with methods of casting, mining, the entire picture, which is far different from just taking things as found objects, read the characters, assume that is what they are. People following Burger expect calligraphic continuity sometimes for a 60 year reign.  I have to remind then, workers don't work that long, and eyesight goes for that kind of thing even more quickly.

I could also point out, I started collecting at age 5.   My brain is wired for scrutinizing worn buffalo nickels, and remembering dates, mintages, alloys and such. It was natural for me to fall into collecting cash coins by date, which is really a learning experience!