Bronze knife coin inlaid with gold

From China
Wang Mang period, issued AD 7

One knife, worth 5000

This distinctive coin combines features of ancient knife money and the traditional round coin with the square hole. The Chinese inscription reads 'yi dao ping wu qian' ('one knife, worth 5000') with 'yi dao' written in the round part at the top, and 'ping wu qian' reading down the body.

Wang Mang (reigned AD 9-23) was the nephew of Emperor Yuandi (reigned 48-33 BC) of the Han dynasty and became one of the most powerful officials of the late Western Han dynasty (206 BC - AD 9). His worthy deeds, including donations of a million cash to help the poor, earned him both praise and comparison with famous ministers of antiquity. He married his daughter to the child emperor Pingdi (whom he was accused of poisoning), before eventually taking the throne himself in AD 9. He was killed by his own troops in AD 23.

Wang Mang instituted four coinage reforms in a space of just seven years (AD7, 9, 10, 14), issuing twenty-one different kinds of coins. He also reintroduced the spade- and knife-shaped money which had circulated under the Zhou dynasty over two hundred years before. This coin had a token, decimal value, rather than the value of the amount of metal they contained. The reforms were revolutionary but not successful.

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Bronze knife coin inlaid with gold


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Length: 76.000 mm
Height: 30.000 mm
Weight: 32.720 g

Museum number

CM 1939-3-17-11



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