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              History of Chinese Invention and Discovery

History of Chinese Invention - The Invention of Monetary Coins

Barter is the exchange of resources or services for mutual advantage, and may date back to the beginning of humankind.

From about the twelfth century BCE monetary use was made of grain, cloth, animals, ornaments and metals, most functional of which were cowry shells and bronze tools. The first coins were cast bronze imitations of these monetary objects, hoes, knives and cowries. The earliest coins were inscribed imitation hoes issued by the Zhou kings in the late sixth century BCE ... In the third century BCE a practical solution to the problem of handling irregularly shaped coins was found by replacing hoe and knife coins with flat disc-shaped coins with a central hole, so they could be carried in bulk on strings.

China pioneered over 500 years of early paper money, spanning from the ninth through the fifteenth century CE. From the ninth century to the fifteenth century CE, in China, the first actual paper currency was used as money. Through this period the amount of currency skyrocketed causing severe inflation. Unfortunately, in 1455 the use of the currency vanished from China. European civilization still would not have paper currency for many years.

Early Chinese coins         

c. 3000 BCE: Development of Banking in Mesopotamia

Banking originates in Babylonia out of the activities of temples and palaces which provided safe places for the storage of valuables. Initially deposits of grain are accepted and later other goods including cattle, agricultural implements, and precious metals. Cappadocian rulers guarantee quality in weight and purtiy of silver ingots helps their wider acceptance as money.

c. 1000 BCE: First Metal Money and Coins

Bronze and Copper imitations of cowrie shells were manufactured by China about 1000 BCE and could be considered some of the earliest forms of metal coins. Metal tool money, such as knife and spade monies, was also first used in China. These early metal monies developed into primitive versions of round coins. Chinese coins were made out of base metals, often containing holes so they could be put together like a chain. The earliest writer on Chinese coinage was Kuan Tzu, (645 BCE) one of the most renowed Chinese statesman of antiquity. During the Southern Sung dynasty, in 1146, Yang Hung Tsun's Chhuan Chih or A Treatise on Coinage which is widely considered the first comprehensive numismatics works in any language.

From about the twelfth century BCE monetary use was made of grain, cloth, animals, ornaments and metals, most functional of which were cowry shells and bronze tools. The first coins were cast bronze imitations of these monetary objects, hoes, knives and cowries. The earliest coins were inscribed imitation hoes issued by the Zhou kings in the late sixth century BCE. In the third century BCE a practical solution to the problem of handling irregularly shaped coins was found by replacing hoe and knife coins with flat disc-shaped coins with a central hole, so they could be carried in bulk on strings.

500 BCE: Modern Coinage

Outside of China, the first coins developed out of lumps of silver. They soon took the familar round form of today, and were stamped with various gods and emperors to mark their authenticity. These early coins first appeared in Lydia, which is part of present-day Turkey, but the techniques were quickly copied and further refined by the Greek, Persian, Macedonian, and later the Roman empires. Unlike Chinese coins which depended on base metals, these new coins were made from precious metals such as silver, bronze, and gold, which had more inherent value.

References

A Survey of Primitive Money
The Beginnings of Currency
written by Quiggin, A. Hingston and published by AMS Press, New York, 1979

The Ancient Coinage of China
The American Journal of Archaeology and of the History of the Fine Arts
W.S. Ament, Vol. 4, No. 3 ,September, 1888

Primitive money in its ethnological, historical and economic aspects.
2nd ed., revised & enlarged
written by Paul Einzig, Pergamon, 1966

Money and Credit in China
A Short History
written by Lien-Sheng Yang, published by The Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 1 (November, 1953)

The Genius of China
3,000 Years of Science, Discovery and Invention
written by Robert K.G. Temple and published by Simon and Schuster, 1986
Currently out-of-print

PBS: The History of Money

Financial Sense University, Dave Ramsden

 

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