China, 18th-19th century AD

Coin-swords were a form of talisman used in southern China to ward off evil influences, especially those causing fever. They were made by tying together 'cash' (the pidgin term for Chinese coins with a square hole in the middle) on to an iron rod.

The coins in this sword are almost all from the reign of the Qianlong emperor (1736-95). However, it is thought that coin-swords made with coins of his grandfather, the Kangxi emperor (1662-23), were even more effective in driving away evil influences. This is because the Kangxi emperor reigned for a full sixty-year cycle of the Chinese calendar, and his name means good health and prosperity.

Today, the easiest place to see a coin-sword in use is in Chinese kung fu movies, where, if a person is writhing on his sickbed, tormented by fever, there is often a coin-sword hanging on the wall above the bed.

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Museum number

CM 1974.9-10.1



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