The information on these pages is intended to give the reader a basic overview of major Chinese coin types like knives, spades and round coins, as well as the most basic circumstances of the coinage of each dynasty. Since the information has to cover a large area, it is somewhat superficial, but I give references to more specialized literature where the subject can be studied deeper (see the literature page).  I had studied some Chinese when I started to collect Chinese coins, but I still sometimes had trouble identifying coins. I have included some tools I have found useful myself, and I hope it will be of help to beginners. 

Qian Feng Quan Bao

The title "Chinese Coins" refers here mainly to cast coins of bronze, iron and lead. 
All images of coins are from my own collection. 

Dynasties: Chinas history is divided in dynasties, not in the years of the Christian calendar, and all coins on this site can be accessed from the list of dynasties on the coins page.
China has been unified in most periods, but in some periods it has been divided into minor kingdoms. Every dynasty or kingdom that issued coins are important to the numismatist, and a detailed list can be found on the dynasties page. 
Chinese copper coinage remained practically unchanged from the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-907) up until the first years of Chinese republic that was founded in 1911. Even the first round coins cast in the period from the end of the Zhou dynasty (B.C. 1045-221) up to the Tang dynasty were not much different. The old copper coinage was so alike that 1000 year old coins from the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), still circulated in China as valid currency at the beginning of the twentieth century (Kann p. 385).

Legends: I use the pinyin system to transcribe all coin legends and Chinese words. See conversion table.

Chinese characters: Chinese characters are written in a simplified form in modern China today. Because characters on coins are written in the old full form, all the Chinese characters on this site are also in the full form. Special software is usually needed to read Chinese on computers, but all the characters on this site are images, and therefore no special software is needed.

Not all the images are scanned in good quality: the colors are sometimes slightly distorted, and two coins of the same size may appear different, but the images should give a fairly good idea of what the coins looks like, compared to the rubbings found in many catalogues.


Until recently there was no catalogue which could be considered authoritative. Schjöth was certainly not, even though it has been used in most dealers price lists, but no alternative was much better for long time. In most cases I use the numbers of Schjöth's and Ding's catalogues, to generally indicate where a coin belong. The numbers from the Fisher's Ding catalogue appears to be the same as those in my Chinese edition of Ding from 1992. Along the way all my coins will get the numbers from David Hartill's wonderful catalogue "Cast Chinese Coins".
Hua Guang Pu's "Zhongguo Guqian Daji" vol. I-IV is to my knowledge the best Chinese catalogue.

A page like this is constantly under construction, and I will continuously add new coins and information.  

Comments welcome:

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