Chinese Grater Monies

Image received from Scott Semans
Message from Scott Semans (23-Nov-02):       I am curious about the "grater money" or coiled dragon and stars, Lung Niu Hsing, but did not find anything at using the search feature. I wonder if you could create one of your "question" pages to collect opinions on this type of money?

      These pieces, listed by Coole and others as "debatable" money items were traditionally considered charms by Chinese collectors, but Mr. Sun Zhong-hui, well-known Shanghai numismatist, recently wrote that he believed them to be tools to aid in hand-washing. The two examples shown here have a similar look to openwork charms, and were probably made by the same craftsmen. The larger piece is robust and rounded, as the nicest charms of the early Ming dynasty and before. The smaller piece is flat in the handle, and the projections in the grater very uneven, suggesting that it is a second-generation casting. In fact, the smaller piece is so uneven that it is unsuitable for the scraping action of hand-washing, suggesting that it may indeed have some purpose other than utilitarian.

Here is the quote from A.B.Coole Coins in China's History (p.112):

      The two oblong pieces, which what looks like handles, are called Chestnut Burr coins by Li Tso-hsien (Ku Ch'uan Hui, 1864) from the hundreds of stubby bristles sticking up on the obverse face which look like dots on the picture. Ni Mo (Chuan 20, f.4) list them as Knotted Dragon big coins, from the coiled dragons at the tip end of the 'handle'. I have yet to find out just what object they represent. Could they have been an early-day curry comb? a rasp of some kind? That will be an interesting study in itself when someone has the time to delve into the library. But in that period between the barter age and the coin age numerous models of larger objects showed up as mediums of exchange and a coin is no more nor less than a medium of exchange. The making of coins, as we think of them today was a gradual development over centuries. References:
  • Coole, Arthur B. Coins in China's History. Mission, Kansas, USA, 1965.

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