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Chinese Manuscript coin catalogue of 1721.

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Credit: Chinese Manuscript coin catalogue of 1721. Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Illustrations from a coin catalogue of 1721. The descriptions are pasted on the brodcade of the album. The Chinese are traditionally thought to be the first - from around the 11th century BC - to widely use coins cast from metal. The Shang Dynasty minted copper coins to use as currency, to replace the traditional shell currency. Early Chinese cash coins were sometimes made of odd and curious shapes and forms resembling bridges, bells, fishes, weapons. These Chinese coins are highly traditional. From the Han Dynasty (BC 206 - AD 220) onwards, the small holes in the centre of the famous twelve zhu Ban Liang coins were square shape. Since then, the shape of Chinese coins (round with a small, square hole in the centre) remained unchanged until 1918. Collecting and study of ancient Chinese cash coins has always been a fascinating subject. The Wellcome catalogue of Chinese coins comprises 20 folios bound between two ornate wooden covers. The descriptions consist of drawings of coins and corresponding descriptions pasted on brocade.

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