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Chinese Knife Money of the State of Ming

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Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

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Basic Information

Accession Number:1935C547.602
Collection:Antiquities - Ancient & Mediaeval Coins
Date:480 BC - 255 BC


The first 'coins' made in China seem to have been miniature bronze hoes (or spades) produced by the kingdom of Zhou in the early sixth century BC. Soon other states were making hoes or coins shaped like model knives. This one comes from the city of Ming, in the modern Shaanxi province. The first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, banned these early coins and replaced them by round coins with a square hole in the centre.

Thomas G Barnett Bequest, 1935.

Further Information

Denomination:Cash - knife money
Place of Origin:Ming, Shaanxi province, China

Associated Places


Height:135 mm
Width:17 mm