Height: 341.000 mm
Width: 222.000 mm
Room 68: Money
Great Ming Circulating Treasure Note
Ming dynasty, first issued AD 1375
Early Chinese paper money
This note was issued under the Ming dynasty. After seizing power from the Mongol rulers of China in 1368, the Ming rulers tried to reinstate bronze coins. However, there was not enough metal available for this, and paper money, made of mulberry bark, was produced from 1375. Paper money continued to be issued throughout the Ming dynasty, but inflation quickly eroded its value. The effect of inflation was so devastating that paper money was regarded with suspicion for many years. It was not until the 1850s that a Chinese emperor dared to issue paper money again.
The Chinese writing along the top of this Ming note reads 'Da ming tong xing bao chao' from right to left. This translates as 'Great Ming Circulating Treasure Note'. Below this, the denomination is written in two characters 'yi guan' ('one string'). Beneath the denomination is a picture of a string of 1000 coins, arranged in ten groups of one hundred coins. Beneath this are the instructions for use and a threat to punish forgers.
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)