Bamboo tally

From Jiangsu province, China
Qing dynasty, 19th century AD

Token money used in south-eastern China

Bamboo tallies are token forms of money. The inscription on this bamboo tally states that it is 'worth-1000' standard cash coins. They were issued by local banks or large firms and were sometimes used in place of coins in the Shanghai region. Usually the name of the issuer and the denomination are burnt or pressed into the body of the bamboo tally. The serial number and instructions for use (such as 'lost tallies will not be replaced') are handwritten in black lacquer.

The majority of bamboo tallies seen in recent years appear to have come from the city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province, south-eastern China. These tallies were made in the 1920s and 1930s and the serial numbers suggest that thousands were issued to serve as small change when there was a shortage of coins.

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Bamboo tally


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Length: 143.000 mm
Width: 16.500 mm
Weight: 8.300 g

Museum number

CM 1979-5-20-56



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