Knife Coins of the Chou Dynasty

(1122-255 BC)

Knife coins are interesting in their varied styles and shapes, and may be like the spades, representative miniatures of larger implements. They are harder to find intact because of their long shape, many of the larger heavy knives are found broken at the handle to the blade. All have an end ring for stringing together. These knives are usually read holding the point up and the ring down and the characters are thus read from top (tip) to bottom (ring), but not in all specimens as standards were not set in these early time periods.

It is said that counterfeiting was as much a problem in the ancient past, not just the present. S-45 is known as a 3-character Ch’i knife. As counterfeiting was happening the official mints would increase the number of characters on the knives. S-44 was the last of such an attempt to keep the minting only by authorities, it is known as a 6-character Ch'i knife. 4-character and 5-character knives are known. All became part of the regular circulation.

S-45 reads: Ch’i fa huo “the authorized currency of Ch’i.

S-44 reads: Ch’i chien pang chiu fa huo “the authorized currency on the establishment of Ch’i”.

The reverse for S-44 under the dot is the character Sheng (to grow, as in wealth).

The remaining reverses are all found on 3-character knives:

S-46r: mu “wood”;

S-47r: jih “day”;

S-48r: huo “currency”;

S-49r: t’u “the land”;

S-50r: fa “the land”. 

Weight range of specimens: 34 to 50 gm. Average length: 18.5 cm.

Ch'i Knives (S- 44 - 50)  Ming Knives (S- 51 - 61)  Others (S- 62 - 65)

Ch'i Knives (S- 44 - 50) 

Ming Knives (S- 51 - 61) 

Others (S- 62 - 65)

The Ming knives come from the ancient city of Ming in Ho-chien district in Chihli province. They are very common and have been found in great numbers in dried up wells and tumbled down walls. They are recognized by their distinct “knee” and the character ming that looks like an “eye”. Ming means bright or clear as when there is a full moon which provides light at night. S-51 shows the most common rendering of the character ming, S-57 is a variant. Schjoth had in his collection the following reverses:

S-51 & 52: hsing “going”.

S-53: yu “right”.

S-54: (variation of 53).

S-55: t’ai ch’ien “eminent, thousand”.

S-56: t’ai san shih “eminent, thirty”.

S-57: t’ai “eminent”.

S-58: t’ai yi “eminent, city”.

S-59-61 are blurred and are not entered here.

The following coins are with pointed ends and slight curved backs. They also come out from Chihli province. They all are absent of a dominate script and have a singular character more noted as a reverse identifying character. S-62 & 63 are held in reverse (points down) showing the correct orientation for their characters.

S-62: liu “six”.

S-63: mao “the fourth character of the sexagenary cycle”.

S-64: hsia “below”.

S-65: no script (considered by Schjoth “A large and valuable specimen”).






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