|Coin history - The Qing dynasty A.D. 1644-1911|
The Qing dynasty was ruled by the Manzu people. They came from the land north of China, and was essentially the same people that ruled the Jin dynasty, they called themselves Ruzhen then. Westerners often associate the pigtail and shaved forehead, as well as the clothes with high collar, as typical Chinese. But this
was in fact features that belonged to Manzu culture, that were imposed on the ethnic Chinese.
Like in the Ming the Qing continued to use silver for large transactions and coins for small transactions. One Liang of silver was at first equal to 1000 coins, but old and privately minted coins were in use everywhere, and had a lower value than new standard coins. So in daily life the Qing system of currency was not a fix standard. It was generally accepted, that the number of coins in a string of 100 or 1000 was less, the number could vary according to the quality of the coins. Sometimes coins were so inflated, that two coins counted for one. The value of the coins were so small, that people had to carry hundreds of coins to the market (Kann p. 390-391).
Qing had ten emperors and they all cast coins with their reign title. Two emperors had more than one reign title. The first Emperor Shun Zhi cast coins with the reign title Tian Ming before the founding of the empire, and on his death bed Emperor Xian Feng gave his son the reign title Qi Xiang. This was changed to Tong Zhi a few month later, after a coup made by the young emperorís mother Ci Xi. Shun Zhi cast the first type of Qing coin with a blank reverse, but the rest of the Qing coins had many different types of inscription on the reverses, most were written in Manzu script.
Many types of coins were produced in Qing. According to Ren (p. 147) the number was more than one thousand. Ding lists 536 types, included the Taiping rebellion. The most numerous kind is Xian Feng coins of which Ding lists 172 types, denominations ranged from 1-1000 cash. No other system was as complicated as Xian Fengís. There were no fixed standard for the legends, and because of changes in the value of money, a 50 cash coin could be larger than a 1000 cash (Peng p. 641).
The legends were often written by famous calligraphers, and there were great beauty and variety in the Qing coins.
Nearly all Qing coins were not bronze, but brass coins. Bronze are copper alloyed with tin, but in Qing the copper was alloyed with zinc. This alloy is brass.
The Taiping rebellion was a Christian rebellion led by Hong Xiuquan. It was in control of great parts of China from 1851-1864, and made it difficult for the imperial mints to get enough copper to cast coins, so both lead and iron coins were produced because of the shortage, see Xian Feng Tong Bao (Yang p. 29, Ren p. 147).
Seven other rebellions issued 17 different types of coins in Qing, all in small numbers and all are rare today (Ren p. 177).
From Guang Xuís reign some coins were struck by machines, but not in very large amounts. It was not until the republic, that cast coins gradually went out of circulation.