While enjoying the rich stories, personalities, and lessons of the Three Kingdoms era, it is all too easy to forget that this is all taking place within a unique culture. A culture full traditions, unique weapons, armor, and clothing, unique pottery—and coins. That’s right, coins! If you are a coin collector, you are already very curious. If not, read on and enjoy this section. You might find it much more interesting than you anticipated. Presenting a detailed coin-by-coin analysis, presented, photographed, and written by Adrian Loder (web site; more coins; discussion; full credits) of Chinese coins ranging from the Early Han dynasty on into the Jin. And let’s not forget the Three Kingdoms!
Additional Reading and Goodies
Wu Zhu—This coin is something of an enigma. A very knowledgeable dealer attributes it to Eastern Han, one of the “Liu Yan” issues that seem actually to have been cast under Liu Bei about 50 years later (according to CCC and the Great Dictionary). However, the “Liu Yan” variety known to have the character “Chuan”—river, and also short for Sichuan (the Shu region of China)—is found with the character being incuse, not part of the casting. It is difficult to tell from the image, but the calligraphy is not really indicative of those Shu issues—it looks much more like one of the weak-rimmed or rimless issues of the Liang Dynasty—part of the Southern Dynasties period preceding reunification under Sui—which lasted from 502–557 (or 587 if you include Later Liang). For now it goes with the post 3K coins.
Western Jin Wu Zhu—The coin below is a great example of the sort of chaos that reigns in attribution of Wu Zhu varities beginning with Eastern Han and really going wild after Han’s fall. Originally these were attributed to the Liao Dynasty of the 12th and 13th centuries AD, a non-Chinese dynasty comprised of the Turkic Khitan people. Later archaeology placed them much earlier, and they were attributed to Shu-Han, under the casting authority of either Liu Bei or Liu Shan. However, the Great Dictionary of Chinese Numismatics further refines these as indeed having been cast in the Shu region of the country (far west in ancient China, Chengdu was the largest city) but not under Shu-Han but rather under Western Jin. Jin overthrew Wei in AD 265—two years after Shu-Han was defeated (*sniff*) by Wei. Jin wouldn’t defeat Wu until AD 280 and wouldn’t flee East until AD 316 so these could date anywhere from AD 265–316 You’ll notice there is dirt only on the Zhu. This is because I have learned the hard way that the more intricate characters often are best served by surrounding dirt for contrast. So I cleaned the soil from everywhere but the Zhu character.
All coin photographs and instructive text © Copyright 2006 Adrian Loder (Website)
Primary sources: David Hartill’s Cast Chinese Coins (ISBN: 1-4120-5466-4), Robert Kokotailo’s Calgary Coins Website
Extended Credit and Copyright Details
July 27, 2009