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Fragments of a stone mould and bronze knife money


Length: 186.000 mm (knife)
Width: 29.000 mm (knife)
Weight: 46.940 g (knife)

CM 1979-2-2-1;CM 1979-2-2-2;CM 1883-8-2-43

Room 68: Money

    Fragments of a stone mould and bronze knife money

    From Qi state (Shandong province), north-eastern China
    Eastern Zhou dynasty, around 350 BC

    Chinese knife money

    During the fourth and third centuries BC, a distinctive type of money was issued in the Qi state, in the form of large knives. The knife money was associated with particular cities within the state, and the knives are almost always found in modern-day Shandong province. The inscriptions on some of the knives indicate that they were sometimes issued in commemoration of important events, such as the inauguration of a new ruling dynasty. The inscription on this knife money indicates that it is 'legal currency of Qi'.

    Knife money has its origins in the scraper-knives of nomadic hunters and fishermen of northern and eastern China. By the sixth and fifth centuries BC the northern and eastern states of Yan, Qi, Zhongshan and Zhao were using knife money with inscriptions. The inscriptions were usually numerals or single words such as 'fish' and 'sheep', perhaps indicating value. The pointed blades on the early knives break very easily. Later knife money of the Qi state - like this example - is usually more rounded or thicker, and therefore less fragile.

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

    F. Thierry, 'The origins and development of Chinese coins' in Origin, evolution and circulat (Manohar, Sri Lanka, 1998), pp. 15-62