Chinese calligraphy, £6.99
Diameter: 32.000 mm
Weight: 2.950 g
Marc Aurel Stein Collection
CM BM Stein [IA.XII.a.3]
Room 68: Money
Silver coin of Hormizd IV
Sasanian, AD 579-90, Iran
Found in a burial in the Astana cemetery, near Turfan, north-western China
Iranian influence in the east
This silver coin was found in the mouth of a person buried in the Astana cemetery in the early seventh century AD. It was issued by Hormizd IV (reigned 579-90) of the Sasanian dynasty, an Iranian dynasty that ruled lands to the west of China. Many of the Astana tombs have been disturbed, and if the coins are considered in isolation, it seems that they were merely used as part of a special burial ritual. However, documents found in the tombs at Astana indicate that such coins were, in fact, widely used as currency in the Turfan area of north-west China.
Further east, over 1500 Sasanian silver drachms have been found in China, mostly in the form of hoards or funerary deposits found in tombs of the fourth and eighth centuries AD. In mainland China these foreign coins may have been used as a means of storing wealth or for burials, rather than as currency. Nonetheless they demonstrate the influence of the ancient Iranian world far to the east.
H. Wang, 'The Stein collection of coins from Chinese Central Asia' in Studies in Silk Road coins a-1 (Kamakura, Institute of Silk Road Studies, 1997), pp. 187-99
M.A. Stein, Innermost Asia: detailed repor, 4 vols. (Oxford, 1928, reprinted New Delhi, 1981)
F. Thierry, 'Sur les monnaies sassanides trouvées en Chine', Res Orientales, 5 (1993), pp. 89-139
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)