- Museum number
- Production date
- Curator's comments
The handwritten entry in the register reads:
"1974,0910.1 // Fenner purchase, £4 // AE, FE, string // 460 x 90 mm // 490 g // Chinese sword shaped coin charm // Handle 45 // Guard 20 // Blade 50 // Dangling 4 // Containing 1 iron rod and 119 coins"
Label for 'A Kind of Magic' exhibition, 2003: 'Coin-swords were a form of talisman used in south China to ward off evil influences, especially those inducing fever. They were made by tying together 'cash' (the pidgin term for Chinese coins with a square hole in the middle) on to an iron rod. The coins in this sword are almost all coins of the Qianlong emperor (1736-95). However, it is thought that coin-swords made with coins of his grandfather, the Kangxi emperor (1662-23), were even more effective in driving away evil influences. This is because the Kangxi emperor reigned for a full sixty-year cycle of the Chinese calendar, and his name means good health and prosperity. Today, the easiest place to see a coin-sword in use is in Chinese kungfu movies, where, if a person is writhing on his sick-bed, tormented by fever, there is often a coin-sword hanging on the wall above the bed.'
“What is commonly called a Cash-sword is considered very efficacious in keeping away evil spirits. It is often hung up on the front and the outside of the bridal bed-curtain, in a position parallel to the horizon. About the time of a woman’s confinement, a cash-sword is sometimes taken and hung inside of the curtain. This sword is usually about two feet long, and is constructed out of three kinds of things, each of which is regarded as a preventive of evil spirits: 1st. Two iron rods, about two feet long, constitute the foundation of the sword. 2d. About one hundred cash, either ancient or modern (if ancient, or if all of the same emperor’s reign, so much the better), are ingeniously fastened on these rods, concealing them from view. The rods are placed in the centre, and the coins are tied on the outside in two rows. 3d. Red cords or wires are used in tying on the cash. These three kinds, joined together in the shape of a sword, make a really formidable weapon, of which the maliciously-disposed spirits are exceedingly afraid!”
Justus Doolittle (edited and revised by Paxton Hood), “Social Life of the Chinese. A Daguerrotype of Daily Life in China” (London: Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, 1868), p. 563, coin-sword illustrated on p.565.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017-2018 2 Nov-8 Apr, BM Gallery 35, Living with gods
2003 Apr-Jun, Leeds, Henry Moore Institute, 'A Kind of Magic'.
1994-5 Dec-Feb, BM (Old Map Corridor), 'Chinese Arms and Armour'.
- The blade of the sword is sound, but the coins on the handle were loose. Before display, Simon Dove (Conservation, BM) created a few reproduction pieces (some marked 'BM 2003'), which were tied to the end of the handle to secure all the coins in place.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- One of two coin-swords purchased.
- Coins and Medals
- Registration number