Survey of Chinese ceramics, £14.95
China, 18th century AD
This charm was intended for use in driving away evil or disease. The inscription reads 'drive out evil, and let good fortune come'. On the right is Zhong Kui, the famous demon-chaser, holding up his tablet of honour. He is chasing the spider, one of the Five Poisons. The Five Poisons are the lizard, the snake, the spider, the scorpion and the three-legged toad. These all feature on the back of the charm, together with the tiger, renowned for its powers in chasing away demons.
The tradition of using charms in the shape of coins dates back about 2000 years to the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), and maybe even earlier. Coins, as money, represent power, and in traditional Chinese thought, the key function of a coin was to circulate. In this way, this coin-shaped charm can be seen as a very compact form of power, packed with symbolism, with far-reaching powers.