Inscription: Wen Yin, Wen Yin (Fine Silver) Dimension: 64 (L) x 30 (W) x 16 (H) mm Weight: 150 g (4 taels)
Inscription: None Dimension: 55 (L) x 29 (W) x 9 (H) mm Weight: 89 g (2 taels and 5 maces)
For westerners sycee has been a noun generically representing Chinese
silver ingots circulated in the old China. As for Chinese, as matter of
fact, word sycee means tiny, delicate waves or wrinkles¾, which is
a symptom of silver in good purity.
In Chinese society not every silver ingots had the privilege in
bearing the name of sycee, unless its purity up to certain level. A booklet
regarding silver authenticity written by an unknown author who had been a
silver shop owner in Beijing during the years of Chieng Lung (1736-1895),
recorded sycee as a kind of silver with its purity up to 95% (then
standard). Thereafter, however, the definition of sycee in China seems to
be varying all the time.
Chinese in the past had a common knowledge about authenticating
silver. They all knew that those tiny waves are not only normal, but also
necessary for a good silver, besides, the intervals between each wave are
essential, too. The smaller the intervals are, the higher purity silver has.
Normally, a silver in purity less than 90% can hardly have any wave there.
The shown 2 silver are both in the late Ming to early
pattern. No.1 has lots of delicate waves with small intervals, which might
have been qualified as sycee in the past, its inscription of Wen
Yin (Fine Silver) also has articulated such fact. No.2 has less waves with
larger intervals, which indicates that it is in an inferior purity. It is
quite possible that No.2 was not recognized by then as sycee.