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Chinese Charm coin, Song Dynasty Fish Lucky Charm, wave and pearl c.960-1280AD

Chinese Charm coin, Song Dynasty

open-work charm

Fish Lucky Charm, wave and pearl

Size: 36 mm; 8 grams; Bronze


The Fish Symbol in Traditional Chinese Culture

Because the Chinese character for fish (yu 鱼) is pronounced the same as the Chinese character for "abundance" or "surplus" (yu 余), the fish symbol is frequently used to symbolize the wish for more in the sense of good luck, good fortune, long life, children, etc.

And, the Chinese particularly like to fashion charms using the carp fish as the model because the Chinese character for carp (li 鲤) is pronounced the same as the character (li 利) for "profit".

The fish symbol is, therefore, frequently associated with other symbols and Chinese characters to symbolize the wish for "more" in the sense of "more" good luck, good fortune, long life and children.
As an example, to express the wish for "having more happiness year after year" a charm may use the Chinese character 年 (nian) for year, and also include a picture of a fish, a lotus and a magpie. The fish (yu 鱼) represents "more" (yu 余). The character 莲 for lotus and the character 连 meaning "in succession or one after another", as in expressing year after year, are both pronounced lian. The magpie (xi que 喜鹊) is pronounced the same as happiness . So the fish, lotus, magpie and the Chinese character 年 (year) together would have the implied meaning of "more" "happiness" "year after year".
Because of its reproductive abilities, the fish also represents fertility in marriage.
Two fish, or a pair of fish (shuang yu 双鱼), represent happiness in marriage.
While fish charms are fairly common, it is rare to find a fish symbol on a real Chinese coin although one can be seen at Ancient Chinese Coins with Charm Features.
See carp for additional information on the fish symbol.


Chinese Open Work Charms

"Hollowed Out" Money

There was a major shift to the casting of open-work charms during the Tang (618 - 907 AD) and Song (960 - 1279 AD) Dynasties. The themes of these open-work charms included flowers and plants, insects, fish, dragons, the phoenix, Chinese unicorn or qilin (kirin in Japanese), deer, horse, and figures of persons. Most of the open-work charms of this period were used for ornamentation such as for dress and personal adornment, accessories for horses, etc.

It was also during this time that charms with auspicious sayings on the obverse side, such as chang ming fu gui (长命富贵), were making their appearance. The reverse side of the charms showed various pictures reflecting the Taoist (Daoist) influences, the bagua, and the twelve animals of the zodiac.

One of the major types of ancient Chinese charms is known as "open-work" money. In Chinese, lou kong qian (镂空钱) actually means "hollowed out" money. These charms are also known as ling long qian (玲珑钱) or "elegant" money.

These are charms that have irregular shaped "openings" or "holes" between their exquisite design elements. They are round and almost always have a round hole in the center. Open work charms with scenes of buildings such as temples, however, tend to have square holes in the middle.

Open work charms are almost purely pictorial and only a very few include any Chinese characters or inscription. The picture on one side is the same as that on the other side, only reversed. Therefore, only one side of each charm is displayed below.

Chinese open work charms made their first appearance during the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) although many of the specimens from that time may have actually been small pieces taken from other metal utensils.

Open work charms became very popular and were often worn for personal adornment during the Song (960 -1279 AD), Yuan (1271 - 1368 AD) and Ming (1368 - 1644 AD) dynasties. Their popularity, however, seemed to wane somewhat during the Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD).




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Chinese Charm coin, Song Dynasty Fish Lucky Charm, wave and pearl c.960-1280AD