Bronze Hongwu tongbao coin

From China
Ming dynasty, Hongwu reign period (AD 1368-98)

From paper money to coins

In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang, a former Buddhist monk, overthrew the Mongol rulers of China and re-established Chinese rule. The Mongols used paper money and silver as money, but the new Ming dynasty (1368-1644) tried to re-instate bronze coinage. The coins were in the traditional cash form (round with a square hole). Those issued by the provincial mints also had a mint name on the reverse much like the earlier Tang dynasty coins issued in AD 845. Several denominations were issued: 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10-cash pieces.

The inscription on this 10-cash coin reads 'Hong wu tong bao'. The four characters are arranged top-bottom, right-left around the square hole. 'Hongwu' refers to the Hongwu reign period, and tongbao means 'circulating treasure' or 'coin'.

The new Ming coinage was not a success, and in 1375 it was abandoned in favour of paper money like that issued under the Mongols. It took over one hundred years before an attempt was again made to reintroduce coins as a workable substitute for paper money. From 1505 coins of brass, instead of bronze, were cast, and this change marks the re-introduction of successful coinage in China after 300 years of paper money.

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Diameter: 46.000 mm
Weight: 34.760 g
Diameter: 46.000 mm
Weight: 34.760 g

Museum number

CM H.174



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