History of the Forbidden City of China, £8.99
Weight: 26.530 g
F.W. Hasluck Bequest
Room 68: Money
Silver 8-reales of the Mexican Republic with Chinese chopmarks
Made in the Mexican Republic, circulated in China, AD 1862
Chopped dollar made from Mexican silver
European trade with China began in 1517 when Portuguese merchant ships arrived on the Chinese coast. The Portuguese came to buy silk and porcelain, and the Chinese merchants wanted silver, preferably large European-style silver coins. China was the destination of much of the silver coming from the mines of Spanish-America.
Despite this, there was no official silver coinage in China until 1890. Instead, privately made ingots and foreign silver dollars were accepted in payment by weight, like this 8-reales coin of Spanish Mexico. The imported coins were often cut by money changers and banks in order to check that they were genuine. The cut marks, called 'chop marks', were often made with signature punches.
The oldest Spanish coin ever found in China was a silver dollar of Philip II (King of Spain, 1556-98) from the Segovia Mint in southern Spain, dated 1590. It was found in a pot containing silver coins from the mints in Mexico City and Potosi, found near Nanan in Fujian province in 1972. The pot had been buried in about 1650, and the silver coins were dollars and fractional issues of dollars - 1, 2 and 4 real pieces.
W. Bertsch, 'Chinese chops - a bibliographical survey of Western publications', Oriental Numismatic Society In, 29 (January 1998)