American Philosophical Society
New series - volume 36
History of the Chinese Society
Currency and money-lending
When Hu Chiao visited the bazaars of the Supreme Capital sometime between 947 and 9491, he was surprised to find that cloth was used instead of coined money. Do the historical and archaeological data on Liao currency confirm his observation?
Investigations of Chinese numismatists have yielded considerable information on the coins of the Liao dynasty, their inscriptions, and their weight. We offer a chronological list of all Liao coins that have been found so far (see table 7). An asterisk * in front of an inscription means that the coin in question is also mentioned in the survey of Liao currency in LS 60, 2b-3b.
1 Hu Chiao together with his patron Hsiao Han entered the Supreme Capital as followers of the victorious emperor, Shih-tsung, in 947. Hsia Han was arested for high treason in 948 and executed in the spring of 949 (cf. XII (19) (21) (22)). His accomplices fled to the east. Among them was Hu Chiao, who thus must have been in Supreme Capital in 947 or 948 or at the beginning of 949. Cf. also Chavannes 97 VC, 390 ff.
2 Emperors for whose reigns coins have been found.
3 In the T'ang and Sung dynasties there were ten lei to a shu . A lei was equivalent to 0.155 gram and a shu to 1.55 grams. Cf. Wu CL 37, 237 ff.
Most of the coins that have been found are mentioned in literary records from the year 1021 on; before that time the records and the collections do not completely correspond. No coin has been discovered for the reign of T'ai-tsung who, the Liao Shih claims, promoted metallurgy and minting. Again according to the Liao Shih, Sa-la-ti made the first coins, and his son, T'ai-tsu, used them5. The archaeological collections contain one coin from the reign of the son; there are none for the time of his father. The numismatic evidence is incontrovertible as far as it goes; whether or not there were other earlier coins can be decided only by further archaeological investigation.
It is theoretically possible, though not probable, that there were early experiments with a crude currency in the agricultural fringe of the country, but if such experiments were made they do not seem to have been successful. The sixteen sourthern prefectures were only acquired in 938, and the Chin capital was looted in 947. Until then the Chinese forms of production and exchange, though used by the Ch'i-tan, probably were confined to sourthern zone and to a few scattered northern colonies. The Liao Shih does not mention a single inscribed coin before the time of Ching-tsung, and the collections have only one coin, inscribed T'ien-tsan T'ung-pao, for the first two rulers of Liao. This lonely pioneer certainly circulated in the agricultural south and pehaps in the east. When Hu Chiao, immediately after the death of the second emperor in 947, visited the political centers of the north, he found the traditional system of exchange by barter or cloth money still in use. The emperor, Shih-tsung, for whom Hu Chiao's patron fought, minted no new money. It was more than a generation after Hu Chiao's sojourn in the Supreme Capital that Liao currency began to spread over the country. Then for the first time the Liao Shih records money-lending in the Supreme Capital by the yün-wei families.
b. Expansion of Money Economy
A number of circumstances contributed to the increased circulation of money at the end of the tenth and during the whole of the eleventh century. The natural resources of copper were more fully exploited; and they were augmented by the discovery of a huge treasure of old coins6. Even in Tung-ching money was minted and issued7.
How much money was put in circulation annually? As noted in section III8, a mint in the time of Ching-
4 Throughout the Liao Shih the fifth reign title of Tao-tsung is written as Shou-lung except in 43, 9b where the title is rendered as Shou-ch'ang . Since Shêng-tsung's Chinese name was Lung-hsü , Tao-tsung would not, on account of the taboo, have used the first part of his grandfather's name for his reign title. We find that the reign title in question is rendered as Shou-ch'ang not only in the Liao inscriptions but also on the preserved Liao coins. This proves that Tao-tsung had not adopted Shou-lung but Shou-ch'ang as his reign title. The Liao Shi writes Shou-lung instead of Shou-ch'ang because during the time of Chin and Yüan the word ch'ang must have appeared in the name of a member of the Chin or Yüan house and was therefore taboo. Hence the original reign title was Shou-ch'ang because of the taboo of the word lung during the Liao period, but was changed later to Shou-lung because of the taboo of the word ch'ang.
5 VI, 1 (1).
6 VI, 1 (2).
7 VI, 1 (3).
8 See III, introduction.
tsung turned out five hundred strings of cash annually. If a string contained a thousand cash, then the mint coined about five hundred thousand pieces of money per year. This assumption conforms to the historical picture. Until the time of Ching-tsung's successor, Shêng-tsung, money was still rare. Only then were more and varied coins minted. In addition, Sung copper coins entered the Liao empire, partly in payment of salt9 and other northern commodities, partly by exchange for a Liao iron coin that circulated for some time along frontier. This limited iron issue10 seems to have had little if any effect on Liao economy, but it was otherwise with influx of song copper money which even influenced the monetary policy of Korea11. Su Ch'ê (T. 1039-1112), who visited Liao territory during the later part of the dynasty, was so astounded by the number of Sung coins in use in the northern empire that he suggested iron coins be made available in the Sung border regions as a protective measure12. Recent archaeological discoveries confirm Su Ch'ê`s observation. Torii found many more coins of Sung than Liao origin in the excavated Jehol sites13; and a vase dug up in Hsing-ching (Kirin), and apparently buried there during Chin times, contained primarily Sung coins, Liao coins being the next most numerous14. The expanding production of copper coins within the northern empire and the influx of Sung currency were probably, in the main, responsible for an increasingly conspicuous money economy during the later years of the dynasty.
Yang Tsun-hsü was able to collect four hundred thousand strings of money for taxes in arrears. Liu Shên collected an annual sum of more than three hundred thousand strings. Both did so while holding office in Tung-ching Circuit15. The first amount is said to have been tax money, and taxes surely contributed in large part to the second item. Naturally the amount of money possessed privately must have been considerably in excess of the sums paid out. According to archaeological evidence, Tao-tsung and his wife, I-tê, presented fifty thousand and a hundred and thirty thousand strings respectively to a Buddhist temple16. Accoring to our texts, a prime minister was able to accumulate seventy thousand strings17, and a temple could turn over ten thousand strings to the government18.
It would, of course, be a mistake to assume that an annual income of, let us say, three hundred thousand strings meant the actual presence of this sum in the treasure at the end of the fiscal year. The Ministry of Revenue took in and paid out monies at the same time, and in spite of a considerable revenue the treasure might find itself without any reserve19. Similarly it would be erroneous to think only of the production of new coins without considering reductions in the old ones by loss, export, and destruction20.
An annual income of three hundred thousand strings of money for Tung-ching Circuit is mentioned as an all-time high21; Chung-ching Circuit once accumulated two hundred thousand strings in half a year22. Both figures are marginal; the normal income must have been much less. The revenue of Hsi-ching seems to have been much small: during the discussions of 1123 neither side stressed the economic significance of this territory23. The revenue of Shang-ching Circuit, which included the Supreme Capital, probably was at least equal to that of the Eastern Capital whose older agricultural civiliation had been weakened by a harsh anti-Po-hai policy.
The wealthiest region in the empire, however, was Nan-ching Circuit. In 1123 its annual revenue was said to have been the equivalent of 5,492,906 strings of money24, while only one-tenth of this amount is claimed to have been the norm for the preceding "two hundred years"25. The figures for 1123 are calculated on the basis of sharply inflated prices due to the chaotic political situation26. But the earlier peace-time figure seems extremely low. Could the explanation lie in the fact that the anti-Chin officials of the Southern Capital, mostly Liao Chinese, purposely understated the totals in the hope of reducing the payments that the Sung government was expected to make for the cession of the territory? Whatever the background of these calculations of 1123, fourfifths of the revenue was "converted"27, that is, defined in money but, as a rule, collected in kind. The remaining fifth, 1,208,416 strings (in 1123), the so-called k'o-ch'êng money and a composite of
9 See III, note 41.
10 Between 1041 and 1048 (SS 180, 7b). The event is not mentioned in the Liao Shih.
11 KRS 79, 607; see VI, 1 (3) and note.
12 LCC 41, 12a-b.
13 Torii 37, 239 and 349.
14 See Wei CH 37, 154.
15 VI, 1 (1), 1055-1101.
16 MCPL 2, 49a.
17 VIII (11).
18 VI, 1 (1), 1055-1101.
19 Loc. cit. See also X, 1 (66).
20 VI, 1 (4) (5).
21 VI, 1 (1), 1055-1101.
22 X, 1 (66).
23 SCPMHP 13, 10a ff.
24 Op. cit. 14, 11a.
25 Op. cit. 13, 11a.
26 Op. cit. 7b.
27 Op. cit. 14, 11a.
miscellaneous fiscal items (house tax, salt revenue, and income from other government monopolies28), may have been gathere at least in considerable part, in cash. In the two hundred years before 1123 the annual k'o-ch'êng (cash ?) income amounted to no more than 120,842 strings if the ten-to-one ration also applied to this item; more probably it amounted to a figure above this sum and considerably below 1,208,416 strings.
This estimate, based though it is on most limited data, accords well with information on the cash revenue of Tung-ching and Chung-ching Circuits. The data concerning the "eastern" and "central" territory are maxima figures; the average years certainly yielded much less. No other circuit exceeded Nan-ching in wealth; none, in all probability, equalled its cash revenue. If the Southern Capital collected more than 120,000 strings annually, all five capitals may well have had a combined cash income of a half a million strings per year.
Barter and natural money were the classic forms of exchange among the tribes; the spread of coined money must have provoked their distrust and resistance. Only in the middle of the eleventh century, when a considerable amount of cash had accumulated in the Supreme Capital, did money appear conspicuously in the tribal world. The government, which so far had relieved the needy tribes with grants of grain and textiles, now began to distribute both produce and money29 or even money alone30. At the same time the administrative officials were forbidden to lend out money to the tribes or conclude commercial transactions with them31.
A new monetary trend appeared among the tribal peoples of Liao, but this trend remained ffeble. It was the last weak ripple of a movement which was bound to lose its drive as soon as the dynamic center of power collapsed. When the Liao empire was crumbling, the monetary system temporarily lost its hold even in the agricultural regions. during the famine of 1118 grain was sold in Nan-ching Circuit, not for cash, but for silk32. Small wonder that in this crisis the tribes continued to cling to their timehonored national economy. In 1123, when the herdsmen of the southwest were forced to make restitution for stolen grain, the amount was calculated, not in money, but in sheep.
2. A Dynasty Without an Inflationary Policy
Our table of the currency of the Liao dynasty shows great stability in the weight of the coins until the end of Shêng-tsung's reign. The first coin issued under T'ai-tsu was relatively heavy (three shu six lei). The exact weight of the new coins issued during the reign of Shêng-tsung (982-1031) is not known, but the T'ai-p'ing Yüan-pao and the T'ai-p'ing T'ung-pao are described as heavy, the latter being coarsely stamped. About this time more money was minted. The two coins appearing after the issue of the T'ai-p'ing series weighed only three shu. These lighter coins, which circulated together with the older and heavier pieces, no doubt invited counterfeiting by private producers. It is interesting to note that just "at this time" measures had to be taken against the private production of coins33. The simultaneous suppression of the sale of copper and iron to the Uighurs was probably for military rather than financial reasons.
In the reign period Ta-k'ang (1075-1085) a coin was issued which weighed not more than two shu four lei. It is difficult to understand why at the end of this period private smelters began to destroy copper coins and use the metal for tools34. Yet this behavior is comprehensible for the period Ta-an (1085-1095) when a heavier coin of two shu eight lei appeared. Obviously there was a tendency to take "good" money out of circulation. In 1086 the government had to fight the flow of Liao coins across the border35. During the next reign new coins were made which again weighed two shu four lei. The first coin issued under the last emperor, T'ien-tsu, was decidedly heavier. The political purpose of this change is not clear; but, even if it fif not stem the tide of financia decay, it certainly shows that the government did not expect relief from a radical inflationary policy. The excessive rise in prices which occurred in Nan-ching Circuit prior to 1123 was obviously due to a scarcity of goods rather than to a deterioration in Liao currency.
The replacement of "good" coins by "bad" ones, which played so important a role in the internal policy of typically Chinese dynasties such as Han and T'ang, was not a significant factor in the time of Liao. The Ch'i-tan rulers were not threatened by a powerful class of independent business men whose financial strength had to be undermined by an energetic inflationary policy36. The wealth of the yün-wei families
28 Op. cit. 14, 11a-b.
29 XII (70) (86).
30 XII (82) (101).
31 VI, 2 (4).
32 XII (118).
33 VI, 1 (1), 1055-1065.
34 VI, 1 (4).
35 VI, 1 (5).
36 This was an avowed motive in the inflatinary policy of Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty. Cf. HCS, Ch'in and Han VI, 117 b.c., HS 6, 14a ff., ms.
was no major problem in a society whose main centers of power depended little upon industry and commerce. Indeed there are many indications that the greater part of the country's wealth in money and in property was concentrated in the hands of the imperial family, the Ch'i-tan nobility, and the high Chinese officials37. An inflation which would have hit hardest those who alone could effectively initiate it naturally had no chance of developing.
2. Money and grain lending
37 See VIII and IX, introductions.
The system of coinage:
1 The title t'ai-shih in the Chinese sense designated a grand preceptor; it was generally granted only to very high officials. Here it means merely a director or head of a government department. For the use of Chinese titles in the Nrotern Administration of the liao empire see XIV, introduction and XIV, 1 passim.
2 The founder of the Later Chin dynasty (936-946). Being politically dependent on Liao, he was considered a "son" of the Liao emperor, T'ai-tsung. The liao emperors called him Êrh Huang-ti , "Son" Emperor (CWTS 137, 8b).
3 Northwest of modern Fang-shan County, Hopei.
4 All other available sources connect this story with Liu Shou-kuang's father, Liu Jên-kung , and with the son. Liu Jên-kung usurped the throne of Yen in the beginning of the tenth century. He built his palaces in the region of Ta-an ountain and ordered his subjects to use an interior kind of money made of glue and clay. The copper coins were taken away from the people and hoarded in a cave at the top of Ta-an Mountain (CWTS 135, 4a-b). Our text obviously refers to Liu Jên-kung's treasure.
5 That is to say, the coins were minted previously but owing to the abundance of funds were not needed until this period.
6 And to the Tsu-pu (Tatars). See V (15).
7 Ch'ien (coined money).
8 The exact years when the Liao coins were struck are mentioned in the Ch'ien P'u of Tung Yu :
Ministry of Revenue10. He obtained more than four hundred thousand strings of cash and was installed as assistant amanuensis11 of the Chancellery. Liu Shên, who as commissioner of the Ministry of Revenue had brought about an additional annual revenue or more than three hundred thousand strings of cash, was promoted to the post of chancellor of the Southern Division. In case of a calamity this [surplus] money was given out to relieve the poor and distressed together with the famillies of the different camps who were distributed along the frontier for guard service.
At this time, althought there was no such accumulaton that the strings [holding the cash] rotted away so that [the cash] could not be counted, yet it could be called rich indeed.
When it came to the last years of his [Tao-tsing's] reign, expenditures were tremendous. The coining [of money] was carried on as ever, but the national expenses could not be met. Even a contribution of ten million [cash] offered by the Buddhist Hai-yün Temple12 was not refused but accepted. Before long the people were forbidden to take money beyond the borders.
996 On the day chi-hai [of the fourth month in the fourteenth year of T'ung-ho] digging was undertaken at Ta-an Mountain in order to recover the cash hidden by Liu Shou-kuang. 13, 7a
1056 On the day chi-hai of the intercalary [third] month [in the scond year of Ch'ing-ning] cash minted in the Eastern Capital was put in circulation for the first time13. 21, 3b
1084 On the day jên-ch'ên of the sixth month [in the tenth year of Ta-k'ang] a prohibition was issued against destroying copper coins to make implements. 24, 6a
1088 On the day chi-ssû [of the seventh month in the fourth year of Ta-an] it was forbidden to allow cash to go out from the territory [of Liao]. 25, 2b
10 The office of the Ministry of Revenue ( ) was presumably the same as the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Revenue of the Eastern Capital ( ). See XIV, 2 (7).
11 An official in the Chinese Chancellery. Cf. XIV, 2 (5), LS 47, 3b.
12 See IX (40).
13 Accoring to the Korean official history, Korea up to the beginning of the twelfth century still used plain cloth together with coins as a medium of trade. In 1112 the Korean king urged the increased use of coins, remarking that "Great Liao also has begun to use coins in recent years" (KRS 79, 607). The korean statement probably refers to the circulation of coins in the adjacent Eastern Capital.
Recent finds have reemphasized the importance of Sung coins in the Liao territor. Torii (37, 239 and 349) discovered many Sung and but few Liao coins in Jehol. According to a note in the Peiping newspaper I-shih Pao , Henri P'u-i presented the archaeologist Lo Chê-yü with a vase filled with ancient coins which have been buried in what is now the caital of Kirin, Hsing-ching . he vase is said to have been buried n Chin times, but most of the conis are of Sung origin; Liao coins follow in number (Wei CH 37, 154).
982-983 During [the reign period] Ch'ien-hêng of Shêng tsung1, because the yü-wei2 families service, leaving this affliction to the poor people, therefore each of these families, whenever its interest [on a loan] became as great as the principle, was compelled to turn over all [the interest] to the government for equal distribution among the common people. 59, 3b-4a
1013 On the day mou-shê [of the seventh month in the second year of K'ai-t'ai] an imperial decree ordered that the interest of Tun-mu Palace3 be used to relieve the poor people. 15, 6b
1035-1044 "The families without adults [capable of military service] offer double prices for hired [substitutes], but these men fear the hardships and run off in the middle of the journey, so that provisions for the frontier troops frequently cannot be supplied, and if they seek a loan from a person, tenfold interest has to be paid. Things go so far that repayment is impossible even if children are sold and fields ceded."4 103, 2a
On the day kêng-hsü of the twelfth month [in the third year of Ch'ing-ning] the administrative officials were forbidden to lend out money or to carry on cmmercial transactions within the tribes. 21, 5a
1088 On the day kuei-wei [of the tenth month in the fourth year of Ta-an] repayment of government grain loaned to the people was remitted. 25, 2b
Among the more than fifty cities [in Tung-ching] each of the prefectures situated along the frontier had a Fair Purchase Granary6. Following the ancestral system, the stale grain was removed and replaced with a new supply. The people were permitted of their own accord to borrow [the grain] at an interest of twenty per cent7. 59, 3a-b
1 See V, note 22.
2 From a philological point of view it is possible to punctuate differently, to place a comma between yün and wei ; this reading would eliminate the term yün-wei and with it the idea of a special social category of yün-wei families. But the authors of the Liao Shih (116, 21a) list the yün-wei-so ( may be an error for ) as a special term which they relate to the ying-yün families of the subsequent Chin dynasty (cf. CS 46, 13b). Our interpretation therefore follows that of LS 116, which assumes the existence of a special type of business family, called yün-wei. See above, V, introduction.
3 This ordo was established by Shê-tsung's brother near region of modern Pei-chên County, Liaoning (see XV, 1 (16)).
4 This passage is part of a memorial by Hsiao Han-chia-nu (see XV, 1 (51)).
5 This order, announced in 1083, closely resembles the prohibition issued in 1058. The fact that the malpractice had to be attacked again after twenty-six years shows that it was deep rooted and difficult to combat.
6 For the granary system of the Liao dynasty cf. XII, introduction.
7 For the notes and complete text of this passage see XII (119).