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Large Size GE LIU ZHU Ant Nose Money Bronze Cowry shell, State of Chu 1030-223BC


Zhou Dynasty, State of Chu 1030 BC–223 BC

GE LIU ZHU, Large Size

Ant Nose Money Cowry shell money


Reference: Hartill 1.9, Large Size

Weight: 10.0 grams; Size: 29.6 mm; Material: Bronze

Authenticity guaranteed !!


FD-6. Obverse : The reading of this is uncertain but might be "GE LIU ZHU" (ZHU being the modern form of SHU) which would mean something like "each six shu". This makes sense although only the heaviest examples weight the 3.0 grams that one would expect of a 6 shu coin. The calligraphy resembles the natural lines on the underside of a genuine cowry, which is probably intentional to indicate a value of a cowry, so here we have a clue that the value of a cowry shell may have been 6 shu when these coins were in use. This is the second commonest type in this series.



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 catagory of "primative 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 900 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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Large Size GE LIU ZHU Ant Nose Money Bronze Cowry shell, State of Chu 1030-223BC