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Hartill 1.2 ANCIENT CHINA Jade Stone Cowry shell money as Coin Shang Dy. 1000 BC


Shang Dynasty 1766-1154 BC

Jade/Stone cowry shell money Earliest Coin

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Reference: Hartill 1.2

Size: 25 mm; Material: Jade/Stone



By the Shang Dynasty and continuing into the Zhou Dynasty, actual cowry shells were used as a form of money but they fall more into the category of "primitive money" than true coins. Their use far pre-dates the first true coins as shown by Wang on pages 64 and 65 of his book "Early Chinese Coinage" where he describes a bronze Tsun vessel bearing the inscription.

Cowry shell money

Inscriptions and archaeological evidence shows that cowrie shells were regarded as important objects of value in the Shang Dynasty (c. 1766-1154 BC). In the Zhou period, they are frequently referred to as gifts or rewards from kings and nobles to their subjects. Later imitations in bone, stone or bronze were probably used as money in some instances. Some think the first Chinese metallic coins were bronze imitations of cowrie shells found in a tomb near Anyang dating from around 1200 BC, but these items lack inscriptions.

Similar bronze pieces with inscriptions, known as Ant Nose Money (Chinese: 蟻鼻錢; pinyin: yǐ bí qián) or Ghost Face Money (Chinese: 鬼臉錢; pinyin: guǐliǎn qián) were definitely used as money. They have been found in areas to the south of the Yellow River corresponding to the State of Chu in the Warring States period. One hoard was of some 16,000 pieces. Their weight is very variable, and their alloy often contains a high proportion of lead. The name Ant [and] Nose refers to the appearance of the inscriptions, and is nothing to do with keeping ants out of the noses of corpses.



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Hartill 1.2 ANCIENT CHINA Jade Stone Cowry shell money as Coin Shang Dy. 1000 BC

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