Bronze Kaiyuan tongbao coin

From China
Tang dynasty, first issued AD 621

A new beginning for Chinese coinage

The Chinese inscription on this coin reads 'Kai yuan tong bao', arranged top-bottom-right-left around the square hole. The characters 'Kai yuan' mean 'new beginning', while tong bao means 'circulating treasure' or 'coin'.

In AD 621 the first emperor of the Tang dynasty, Gaozu (reigned 618-626), established a new coinage system which had a profound influence throughout East Asia. The new Chinese coinage had a decimal base, with each coin weighing a tenth of a Chinese ounce and measuring a tenth of a Chinese foot in diameter. From this 'new beginning' the new coinage system lasted for over 1200 years.

The coin shown here is a standard Kaiyuan tongbao coin. A later development to the Kaiyuan came after AD 845 when over 4600 Buddhist monasteries were closed in China, releasing a large quantity of copper from statues and bells, which was entrusted to regional mints for recasting into coins. In the Huainan region of southern China, the character chang (an abbreviation for the Huichang reign period of AD 841-46) was cast on the reverse of coins. From then on, the government ordered each mint to put a single character on the reverse to indicate the place of issue. These coins are known as Huichang Kaiyuan coins.

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More information


J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)


Diameter: 25.000 mm
Weight: 4.100 g

Museum number

CM 1884-5-11-67



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