Vietnamese Commemorative coin
Hong Duc Thong Bao

Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Image received from Craig Greenbaum
Diameter 44 mm, weight ~37 g
Obverse: Hong Duc Thong Bao - coin of the Hong Duc period (1470-1497 AD)

Reverse: Thien-ha thai binh in the seal (zhuan) style of inscription (top - bottom - right - left)

Message from Craig Greenbaum (21-Nov-02):

      This large medal was produced in Vietnam during the reign of Le Thanh Tong (1460-1497). During his reign Vietnam prospered and this medal reflects Vietnam's emergence as an independent nation. It is the first large type coin or medal produced in Vietnam.
      The front has a border (or fret) which is known as the Greek T pattern. This pattern has been in use in China on porcelain, rugs and amulets since ancient time. The face reads Hong Duc Thong Bao which was the second reign title (after Quang Thuan) used by Le Thanh Tong.
      The reverse has an elaborate seal script with the vietnamese phrase Thien-ha thai binh which Desire Lacroix translated as "l'empire est en paix" or the empire is at peace. I translate Thien-ha differently, since Thien means heaven and ha means under or rule. Thus Thien-ha as a compound word should mean "Under Heaven" or "the world". If I am correct then the phrase is more like "the world is at peace".
      Is it rare? I have never seen one before and it is listed only in Desire Lacroix's Numismatique Annamite, 1900 (coin #369).
Click image to enlarge

Vladimir Belyaev (23-Nov-02):

      This expression (Tian-xia tai-ping in Chinese) can be often found on Chinese charms and on special palace coins of the Qing dynasty. It is usually translated as 'Heaven under peace' or 'An Empire at Peace' [1]. Seems that first time this legend appeared during Qian-long period (Ding #2335). Another examples are coins of Jia-qing (Ding #2368,2369), Guang-xu (Ding #2661) and Xuan-tong (see the coin from the ANS collection).
      I'm not sure that this charm was casted during Hong Duc period. Style of characters hong and duc is very different from the style on the ordinar cash coins of this period. Also we can see that Greek T pattern first time appeares on the commemorative coins of the period Canh Hung (1740-1786), Emperor Hien Tong [3, #909]. Such pattern also can be found on the coins of Canh Thinh period (1793-1802), Emperor Quang Toan [3, #1108, 1116, 1118].
      F.Thierry writes that "La frise du rebord est appelée "motif du tonnerre" dans la terminologie numismatique chinoise" [3, p.64] ("The edge pattern is called "reason for the thunder" in the Chinese numismatic terminology").
      The tradition of large coins was introduced in Vietnam in 1709 when large coin 50.5 mm with the legend Vinh Thinh thong bao was issued. This coin commemorated the accession of the new lord Trinh, Trinh Cuong An Do Vuong (1709-1729) [3, #616]. This tradition also is connected with Chinese commemorative issues in 60th anniversary of Chinese Emperor Sheng Zong in 1713 AD (period Kang-xi), continued by Emperor Gao Zong in 1771 (period Qian-long) [3, p.59].
      Hence we can suppose that shown here large coin Hong Duc thong bao was issued not earlier than second half of the XVIIIth Century.


  1. Krause, Chester L., Mishler, Clifford 1995 Standard Catalog of World Coins. 22nd edition. Krause publications.
  2. Ding: Ding Fu-bao. Lidai Guqian Tushuo diagram; chart, map, picture speak, say, talk; scold, upbraid ("The Charts of the Past Dynasties Ancient Coins"), 1997, with Ma Dingxiang's comments. In Chinese.
  3. Thierry, François, Catalogue des monnaies vietnamiennes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris 1987. In French.

François Thierry, (09-Dec-02):       I have already made the demonstration that the Lacroix' exemplar is a late 18th century coins (see François Thierry, "Une monnaie de présentation inconnue de l'ère Vinh Thô de Lê Thanh Tông (1619-1643/1649-1663)", in Bulletin de la Société Française de Numismatique, 1999-9, pp.187-192). About the beginning of the casting of large coins in Vietnam, I would inform you that before the large Vinh Thinh coin in the Cabinet des Médailles, Vietnamese authorities casted large coins: a large ten cash of Tran Minh Tông, Khai Thai nguyen bao (1314-1329) is known (see François Thierry, "Une monnaie inconnue de Minh Tông des Tran (1314-1329)", in Journal Asiatique, 287-1, 1999, pp.405-420), and two large Vinh Thô thông bao coins are known (see François Thierry, "Une monnaie de présentation inconnue de l'ère Vinh Thô de Lê Thanh Tông (1619-1643/1649-1663)", in Bulletin de la Société Française de Numismatique, 1999-9, pp.187-192).
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