Ancient China Lucky charm coin Success in the Imperial Examination and Fu Deer
Ancient Chinese Charm coin
Success in the Imperial Examination
Obverse: 狀元及第 (zhuang yuan ji di)
May you be the first rank at the examination for the Hanlin Academy.
Reverse: Fu 福 on top
deer and Orchid flower below
Fu on top, Fu (福), which means good luck, fortune, blessings and happiness, refers to the "God of Happiness". Orchid flower below.
The Chinese character for deer (鹿) and the Chinese character for the salary of a government official (禄) are both pronounced lu.
Success in the Imperial Examination System
In ancient China, being successful in the imperial examination system would result in being appointed to an official government position which ensured a comfortable life of wealth and influence. The examination system existed for approximately 1300 years and finally ended just before the collapse of the Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty in 1911.
A successful candidate would also bring honor to his entire extended family. Therefore, it was very common for Chinese parents to acquire charms in the belief that they could assist in having their son, or sons, meet with success in the examinations.
In addition to an auspicious inscription (legend) written in Chinese characters expressing hope for success, these charms also relied on traditional Chinese symbols to make a similar statement using pictures and visual puns.
Examples of such charms are presented in the section below and are accompanied by an explanation of the hidden meaning of their symbols and pictures.
Introduction to Chinese Charms
China was one of the first countries in the world to use metal coinage and its ancient coin history can be traced back well over two thousand years. In addition to official coinage, China also has a long history of producing "coin-like" charms, amulets and talismans.
Coins, as a form of money, represent power. Coin-shaped charms are, therefore, a very compact form of power. They are filled with symbolism and are believed by the multitude of Chinese to have vast powers.
Cast throughout the centuries, these ancient charms, informally referred to by the Chinese as "ya sheng coins" (压胜钱), "flower coins" (huaqian 花钱) or "play coins" (wanqian 玩钱), were not used as money but rather to suppress evil spirits, bring "good luck", "good fortune" and to avert misfortune.
The Chinese also produced other "coin-like" pieces such as "horse coins" (马钱), depicting famous historical horses, which were used for games and as gambling tokens. Other metal coin-shaped pieces traditionally included by collectors in the category of charms are the chess pieces used in Chinese chess also known as xiangqi (象棋) or "elephant" chess.
For the most part, all these old charms, horse coins and chess pieces were privately cast and their quantities and dates are almost impossible to determine. Nevertheless, they serve as important cultural artifacts from the life of the common Chinese throughout the centuries.
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