Author Topic: Ying Yuan - from the Chu State during the period of the Warring States  (Read 3216 times)

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Ying Yuan
21 of China’s first gold coins were unearthed in the City of Dafeng in Jiangsu province in April 2009. Recently it has been identified by Jiangsu province’s Bureau of Cultural Relics as the “Ying Yuan” from the Chu state during the period of the Warring States. ‘Ying’ was the name of the Chu capital and ‘Yuan’ was the currency unit of weight. With a history of about 2,500 years, these gold coins are China’s earliest discovered coins.

According experts at the Jiangsu Bureau of Cultural Relics, these ‘Ying Yuan’ were unearthed at the Friendship village in Liuzhuang township in the City of Dafeng. The coins vary in size but have consistent thickness, weighing 175 grams. The characters ‘Ying Yuan’ are stamped on the coin surface using the square seal script calligraphic style. These coins were circulated and widely used in the Chu state during the period of the Warring States.

After appraisal work performed by a specially appointed team of experts by the Jiangsu province Bureau of Cultural Relics, the place of origin of the excavated coins is clear. These widely circulated “Ying Yuan” had been chiselled and engraved, and provides important value for the research of coins of the Warring States period as well as insight into how “Ying Yuan” were used. Previously in 1982, “Ying Yuan” were unearthed in the county of Xuyi in Jiangsu Province. Those were still intact in rectangular blocks not having been cut or circulated.

“Ying Yuan” were used as a weighing currency. It comes in two shapes, one is in rectangular or square gold block and the other is a flat circular gold piece. The former was more common. It was used according to need and the gold block or piece would be cut into fragments. Then through specific weighing scales they were weighed and traded accordingly. Consequently, the majority of excavated coins from the Chu period were in fragments and their size and weight varies greatly. So through the circulated “Ying Yuan”, the cut marks are easily evident.

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During the Warring States period, gold circulation was limited to the upper class of society. In fact, they would only be used for gift-giving between states, lobbying of princes, rewards from kings and large amounts of trading.


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