Portable ivory balance with brass pan and weight

From China
Qing dynasty, early 19th century AD

Equipment for weighing silver

There was no official silver coinage in China until 1890. Before then, silver ingots and foreign dollars were accepted as payment according to the weight of silver they contained. Chinese merchants would test the quality of a silver coin by cutting or 'chopping' it. They did this because they were interested in the amount of pure silver in the coin, not the value that was written on its face.

Portable balances like this were used to weigh small amounts of silver. Official weights were available, but most money changers and merchants used small hand balances like this one.

There is a Chinese inscription written in black ink on the wooden case. It reads 'ri jin qian jin' ('May we take 1000 in gold every day').

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Length: 158.000 mm (balance)
Weight: 6.420 g (balance)
Diameter: 58.000 mm (pan)
Weight: 6.420 g (balance)
Length: 158.000 mm (balance)
Width: 18.000 mm (weight)
Weight: 6.420 g (balance)

Museum number

CM CH 1021



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