China is one of the world’s greatest civilizations. Among its manifold achievements are the so-called Four Great Inventions: paper, gunpowder, moveable type, and the magnetic compass. Unsurprisingly for such an advanced society, China’s sophisticated money system dates back thousands of years.
Minted for more than two millennia from copper and iron, Chinese cash coins all have easily identifiable legends, although countless varieties are to be found. From the mint names, first used regularly by the T’ang Emperors, we can trace the expansion of China. The size changes of the coins mark the periods when inflation affected the country.