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The smallest Ban Liang Coin Hartill 7.13 ANCIENT CHINA Bean Ban Liang 206-119 BC
Bean Ban Liang, 豆半两 c. 206-119 BC
The smallest Ban Liang Coin


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Reference: Hartill 7.13
Weight: 0.5 grams; Size: 8.5 mm; Material: Bronze

Bean Ban Liang c. 206-119 BC


Ban Liang coins

The Ban Liang coins take their name from their two character inscription Ban Liang(Chinese: 半兩; pinyin: bàn liǎng), which means half a liang. The liang, the Chinese ounce, consisted of 24 zhu (Chinese: 銖; pinyin: zhū), and was the equivalent of about 16 grams. Thus the original Ban Liang weighed the equivalent of 12 zhu - 8 grams; however, it kept this inscription even when its weight was later reduced. This means that Ban Liangs are found in a great variety of sizes and calligraphic styles, all with the same inscription, which are difficult to classify and to date exactly, especially those of unofficial or local manufacture.

These coins were traditionally associated with Qin Shi Huang Di, the first Chinese Emperor, who united China in 221 BC. The History of Han says: “When Qin united the world, it made two sorts of currency: that of yellow gold, which was called yi and was the currency of the higher class; and that of bronze, which was similar in quality to the coins of Zhou, but bore an inscription saying Half Ounce, and was equal in weight to its inscription.”

Archaeological evidence now shows that the Ban Liang was first issued in the Warring States period by the State of Qin, possibly as early as 378 BC. A remarkable find was some bamboo tablets amongst which were found regulations (drawn up before 242 BC) concerning metal and cloth money. A thousand coins, good and bad mixed, were to be placed in pen (baskets or jars) and sealed with the Seal of the Director. At Zhangpu in Shaanxi, just such a sealed jar, containing 1,000 Ban Liang of various weights and sizes, was discovered. 7 Ban Liang were found in a tomb datable to 306 BC. At the beginning of the Western Han Dynasty, c. 200 BC, the people were allowed to cast small light coins known as yu jia (Chinese: 榆莢; pinyin: yú jiá), “elm seed” coins, as the heavy Qin coins were inconvenient. In 186 BC, the official coin weight was reduced to 8 zhu, and in 182 BC, a wu fen (Chinese: 五分; pinyin: wǔ fēn) (5 parts) coin was issued – this is taken to be 5 parts of a Ban Liang, i.e. 2.4 zhu. In 175 BC, the weight was set at 4 zhu. Private minting was permitted again, but with strict regulation of the weight and alloy. In 119 BC, the Ban Liang was replaced by the San Zhu, and then the Wu Zhu coin.



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The smallest Ban Liang Coin Hartill 7.13 ANCIENT CHINA Bean Ban Liang 206-119 BC

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