The Liao Dynasty Cash Coin
with Kidan Inscription

Last update 18-Jun-02
Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge Click image to enlarge
Weight 19.35 g      Diameter 40.6 mm
Kidan characters which in Chinese are read as Tian Chao Wan Shun (top-right-bottom-left) - ten thousand [years] of obedience to heaven dynasty (?).

Reverse: plain

      Kidan scripts belongs to Kidan ( qidan) people of the Liao dynasty (907 - 1125 AD).

      Being based on the legend translation it can be supposed that it is commemorative or charm issue.

      Liao coin's with Kidan legends are known in different metals and types, listed in the table below.

Item Type Metal Diameter,
Characters order Place of
1. I Cu 37.5
[1 #815-2; 2]
2. II Cu 60.0
[1 #815-3; 2]
3. III Cu 40.0
[1 #815-1; 2]
4. III Cu 40.6 19.35
5. IV Ag 40.0 21.00 top-right-left-bottom Inner Mongolia
aimak Balinzozi
near location of the Liao city Shanjin
[1 #816-1; 2; 3]
6. IV Ag 39.0 31.00 top-right-left-bottom
7. V Au 31.0 16.60 top-right-bottom-left Inner Mongolia
near town Chifen
[4, 5]
8. VI Fe

top-right-left-bottom Liaoning province

      Hua Guangpu writes [1]:       "Emperor Sheng Zong during the 1st year of tonghe in 983 AD reverted to the use of Kidan as the Dynastic Title < instead of the name "Great Liao" adopted by the first Liao Emperor Tai Zu in the 1st year of Huitong (947 AD) - V.B.> , while the casting of large cash also began during the Tong He reign-title period..."       Some quotes from Chinese articles: Ji Ronggui, Jin Youngtian
"Inscriptions of the silver coin with Kidan legend continues to be studied" [2]

      On 15 May 1977 member of the community Lindong of aimak Balinzozi <in Inner Mongolia - V.B.> comrade Shi Yuilan have found silver coin with Kidan inscription in 1 km on the west from location of the Liao dynasty city Shangjing ('Upper Capital') < First Liao dynasty capital was Linhuangfu in Shangjing (south of present-day Bairin Left Banner in Inner Mongolia). In 916 AD once more capital was established north of the Xar Moron River and named Huangdu (imperial capital; later called Shangjing). See here - V.B.>. He donated this coin to a local Culture Palace <kind of cultural organization or club in PRC, former Soviet Union, present day Russia and some other countries - V.B.>. Currently this coin is in the museum of aimak Balinzozi. Diameter 4 sm, thickness less than 0.2 sm, weight - 21 g. On the obverse are 4 large Kidan relief characters. On the reverse side engraved eight Kidan characters and this inscription, just as obverse legend, continues to be studied (pic.1).
      Earlier already where known at least 3 types of copper coins with obverse inscription, similar to obverse legend of this silver coin. Rubbing of one of this coins have Mr.Jin Zi..., size and characters order are the same as of this silver coin (it is 1st type). Rubbing of another copper coin (diameter 6 sm) with the same order of characters have Mr. Jia Jingyan (2nd type). And finally Mr. Jia Jingyan have rubbing of once more copper coin with Kidan characters, diameter is the same as silver coin, while order of left and bottom characters is different than on this silver coin (3rd type, pic.2) <it is the same type as scanned image presented here - V.B.>. Current location of those 3 copper coins is unknown.
      It is known during a long time that silver coin with Kidan inscription is holded in Balinzozi museum. However, one of this paper authors, Ji Ronggui, have once more silver coin with the same order of characters. Coin diameter is 3.9 sm, thickness 0.35 sm, weight 31 g (pic.3). As written in the article by Wan Youngjun and Li Guohui, in the Keshketan (?) aimak was found golden coin with Kidan legend. Also is information that not so long ago in the Liaoning province was found iron coin with the same Kidan inscription. So coins, made from gold, silver, copper and iron with Kidan legend are known. We hope that "earth don't like to hide treasures" and we'll know soon about new findings. <Further in the article are learned Kidan coin legends, different readings etc. - S.S.>

Gao Hanming
"Short Dictionary of Ancient Cash Coins" [3]

      Silver coin of the Liao dynasty with Kidan inscription was found in 1977 in Upper Capital of Liao (Shangjing) (in location of the aimak Balinzozi in Inner Mongolia). Similar coins with the same inscription are known, but they produced from different metals (including copper). Inscription was made by simplified Kidan script with large characters ( ), on the reverse engraved inscription in small Kidan characters. Obverse inscription have few variants of reading, for example:

  • Tian Zan Wu Wan - heaven assist in fifty thousand [years] (?);
  • Tian Lu Tong Bao - heaven prosperity current coin;
  • Tian Chao Wan Sui - heaven dynasty ten thousand years.
      Now it is considered that legend is read as Tian Chao Wan Shun, accurate reading needs further investigations. Eight small reverse characters are not read until now, but they supposedly have the congratulatory or ritual meaning. Coin production quality is very high, calligraphy style very nice. Studying of a coin testifies that it was not issued for circulation but only as commemorative coin or donative for some ceremony.

Wan Youngjun, Li Guohui
"New gold coin with Kidan inscription found" [4]

      Not so long ago in the region of the Chifen town was found gold coin with Kidan characters. Reverse of the coin is plain. Detailed learning of the obverse inscriptions shows traces of the casting error. Diameter 31 mm, thickness 2.2 mm, central hole 6.2 mm, weight 16.6 g. Pure gold content about 80%.
      As written in 14th scroll of the "History of the Liao" (Liao Shi), in 20th year of the reign title tonghe Emperor Sheng Zong of the Liao dynasty (1002 AD) "in December ... governor in the region Zijinshan and Tuhechuan ... donated ... gold money" <text in the Liao Shi is written in old-Chinese literary language wenyang, so it is very hard for translation - S.S.>, so it can be concluded that during Liao dynasty gold coins were in circulation <in my opinion from this passage can be only concluded that gold coins exists. Probably it were special donative issues which used as awards, gifts etc. in limited transactions. - V.B.>.

  1. Hua Guangpu, Ed. "Zhong Guo Gu Qian Mu Lu", 1998, volume 2 "Sung to Ming", 481 p., in Chinese
  2. Ji Ronggui, Jin Youngtian "Inscriptions of the silver coin with Kidan legend continues to be studied", Inner Mongolia Ancient Financial Research Journal, 1997, issue No.1, p.41, p.42, in Chinese.
  3. Gao Hanming "Jianming Guqian Cidian" ("Short Dictionary of Ancient Cash Coins"), in Chinese.
  4. Wan Youngjun, Li Guohui "New gold coin with Kidan inscription found", Inner Mongolia Ancient Financial Research Journal, 1992, issue No.1, p.46, in Chinese.
  5. Japanese journal Shushu, in Japanese.

      I am thankful to:
- Gilbert Tan <>, Singapore (English translation from [1] and scans of articles [2, 4, 5]);
- S.Savosin <>, Russia (Russian translation of some quotes from Chinese sources [2, 3, 4]);

      Next publications wanted:

  • Liu ..., Wang Qing "Liao Shangjing Chutu Qidan Dazi Yinbi" ("Silver coin with large Kidan script unearthed in Liao's Shangjing") , in Wenwu (Monuments of culture), 1981, N10, in Chinese.
  • Jia Jingyan "A study on the coins with Khitan characters", in Zhunguo Qianbi (Chinese numismatics), 1985, N4, in Chinese.
  • Nei Meng, Chen Maixiong "The explanatory study of the coins of the Liao Dynasty with Khitan characters", in Zhunguo Qianbi, 1985, N4, p.6-11, in Chinese.

          Any information about exact references [3, 5] (authors, journal, year, issue, page numbers) highly appreciated. If somebody can write short resume of the Japanese article [5], I'll be very grateful.

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