A 50-Tael Shansi Yuanbao
The shown sycee silver, sized 116(L) x 66(W) x 6.9(H) mm, weighted 1862g, i.e. 50
taels, made in shoe shape, is kind of silver so called Yuanbao by Chinese
people. Its inscriptions read as:
Right - Tong Ze Liou Nien [Jing
Left - Chi Hsieng Wu Pei Fang
A round stamp
which mean 'The ? month, the 6th year of Tong Ze period (1867,
and 'Chi County (in Shensi Province), cast by silversmith Wu Pei
*Jin Bao: A name for the silver with their purity up to certain standard, as
requested by Chi Hsien, Tai Ku Hsien and other places in
**Bat: A symbol of bat as shown on the silver. Bat, a word in Chinese,
pronounced as Fu, the same as 'Luck'. Therefore the images or symbols of
bats have often been used in many occasion by Chinese, with a view to
***Chang is just a code word used by assayers, representing
for the silver had passed the examination and up to certain purity standard.
In addition to this, there were other words, such as Yuan,
Tien, ..., severally standing for different purity standards.
- Shensi Banks had been one of the most famous economic groups to
Chinese traditional society in late Ching Dynasty, since the years of
Kuang (1821-1850). This group of merchants had endeavored in remittance
business at the first stage and successfully built up business networks
throughout the recent China. After a decade's expansions their business had
already covered almost all the areas that a modern bank might step in, and
dominated those business until foreign countries and their capitals invaded
- During the prime time of Shansi Bank's business Shansi bankers had
not only won their business nationwide from commercial fields and civilians.
Most important, the governments, including central and local, assigned them
to remit official silver payments instead of submitting cash silver by
officials personally which they had been requested by the preceding rulings
to do so. However, such remittance service meant to them too much
convenience, no one would ever want to obey the laws anymore, moreover, the
governments also trusted most of their official capitals and private savings
into Shansi Bank. Hence, Shansi Banks and their bankers had become the most
powerful and richest group in China.
- The place of the shown silver, Chi County, was one out of three places
where most Shansi Banks being originated from, the other two are: Tai
County and Ping Yao County.
- 50 taels of sycee silvers are very scarce now, as for those still may
be found in today, Shansi Yuanbaos contribute a great majority. Most of
them, as we know, were cast for Shansi banks, for their remittance or
banking business, as payment on demands. It may be a mirror showing us that
how vigorous the bankers' business were, and what significant roles did they
play in then China.
A Legendary Currency in
Late Ching Dynasty - A Study on Yunnan Pai-Fang-Ding