Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Height: 174.000 mm
Width: 102.000 mm
Coins and Medals
Diploma of the Yixing Gongsi, or Patriotic Rising Society
San Francisco, United States of America, late 19th - early 20th century AD
Membership certificate for a Chinese secret society
This secret society certificate is full of hidden symbols. The design follows Chinese paper money, with the location and name of issuer printed right-to-left across the top. Here, the location is San Francisco in the United States and the issuer is the Yixing Gongsi, or Patriotic Rising Society.
The rest of the information on the note is written vertically down the five sections, starting with the right-hand column. It is presented as a receipt for six silver dollars in the town of Sacramento. The characters at the top of second and fourth columns are composite characters, which expand to read 'united together in peace' and 'unite in tens of thousands and make a mark'. Both are secret society mottoes.
Even the serial number at the bottom of the fourth column is symbolic. The number 321 is written in longhand. In their shorthand form, these numbers can arranged to form the Chinese character hong meaning the 'triad' of heaven, earth and man.
H. Wang, 'Coins and membership tokens of the Heaven and Earth Society', Numismatic Chronicle, 154 (1994), pp. 167-90