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award / coin

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Gold coin/award associated with a Chinese secret society. Octagonal with a square hole in the centre. Modelled on the traditional Chinese 'cash' coins which were round with a square hole in the middle, with the inscription arranged as on the coins. The shape of this piece calls to mind the expression 四面八方 (si mian ba fang) literally meaning "four sides and eight directions" and thus implying "everywhere". The inscription on the obverse follows the standard inscription found on Chinese coins (ie X X tong bao), but is not a coin inscription. The inscription on the reverse contains two acronyms/composite characters (the characters above and below the hole) which are unintelligible to most Chinese readers).


  • Authority

  • Date

    • 19thC-20thC
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Weight: 6.71 grammes
    • Diameter: 21 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

        Hong ying tongbao
      • Inscription Translation

        Hong ying coin (literally, Hong ying circulating treasure)
      • Inscription Comment

        The inscription is presented in the same way as inscriptions on Chinese 'cash' coins. 'Hong' is a character associated with secret societies. "Ying" means "brave", and is used in the Chinese name for England (Yingguo 英国).
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

        (1) 順天行道
      • Inscription Transliteration

        (1) [acronym of] Shun tian xing dao (2) [acronym of] Zhong xin yi qi (3-4) san wen
      • Inscription Translation

        (1) Obey Heaven and Follow the Way (2) Faithful in heart, loyal in spirit (3-4) 3 cash
      • Inscription Comment

        (1) and (2) are well-known slogans of the Heaven and Earth Society. (3-4) the 'three cash', also known as the 'Hong cash', were carried as a sign of membership of the Society.
  • Curator's comments

    This is a secret society piece, possibly issued by a local branch of the Hongshun Tang 洪顺堂. For further information about secret societies, see G. Schlegel, The Hung League (Batavia, 1866, and subsequent reprints); J.S.M. Ward and W.G. Stirling, The Hung Society, or the Society of Heaven on Earth, vol. 1 (London, 1925); and W.P. Morgan, Triad Societies in Hong Kong, 2nd ed. (Hong Kong, 1982).A similar piece, in silver, is published, and illustrated (fig.1) , in an article by Xu Yuan, 2013. The article says this silver piece appeared for sale at Beijing Hanhai (北京翰海) in May 2011, and was published by Yu Liuliang and Zhu Yongkun, 2012 (p. 289, no. 1381).

    XU Yuan, "Tiandihui 'Hongying tongbao' bajiaoxing yinqian kao", in Qianbi bolan 77 (2013, no. 1), pp. 34-37 // 徐渊:《天地会‘洪英通宝’八角形银钱考》, 《钱币博览》 2013年第1期总77期)

    YU Liuliuang and ZHU Yongkun, "Zhongguo zhenxi qianbi tudian - guqian", Shanghai kexue jishu chubanshe, 2012 (p. 289, no. 1381) // 余榴梁、朱勇坤:《中国珍稀钱币图典:古钱》,上海科学技术出版社2012 年)For further info and background, see "The Ritual and Mythology of the Chinese Triads - Creating an Identity" by Barend J. Ter Haar (Brill 1998), ISBN 0169-9563.


  • Bibliography

    • Wang 1994 pp.167-90 bibliographic details
  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    One of 20 objects acquired.

  • Department

    Coins & Medals

  • Registration number


Gold coin/award. Octagonal with a square hole in the centre. Its form is modelled on the traditional Chinese 'cash' coins. The inscription indicates that it is a secret society piece.

Gold coin/award. Octagonal with a square hole in the centre. Its form is modelled on the traditional Chinese 'cash' coins. The inscription indicates that it is a secret society piece.

Image description



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Object reference number: COC94

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