Ancient Chinese Charms and Coins (2)

The major evolution and development of Chinese charms occurred during the period from the Six Dynasties (220 – 586 AD) to the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 AD).  During this time, wordings on charms to wish for “happiness” and “longevity” became more common and widespread. Charms with Buddhist and Taoist sayings also appeared as did charms for marriage. These charms were now being made from such various materials as gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead, jade, porcelain and paper. The styles of calligraphy also evolved from the Han script to the regular style, grass style, seal style and “Taoist magic symbol” style.

Most of the charms cast during the period from the beginning of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE) to the end of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (581 AD) were very similar to coins in circulation at that time or similar to coins of the not distant dynasties. What differentiated them was that simple symbols were added to the reverse side of the charms. These symbols included the sun, moon, stars, the tortoise, the snake, and the double-edged sword. Sometimes, depictions of people and the animals of the Chinese zodiac were placed on the back of the charm. The obverse side of these charms resembled the coins in circulation at the time such as da quan wu shi (大泉五十), wu xing da bu (五行大布), yong tong wan guo (永通万国), and chang ping wu zhu (常平五铢). As an example, wu xing da bu (五行大布) charm which, on the reverse side, has the snake above, the tortoise below, the double-edged sword to the right and the seven-star (Big Dipper) constellation to the left of the square hole.

There was a major shift to the casting of open-work charms during the Tang (618 – 907 AD) and Song (960 – 1279 AD) Dynasties. The themes of these open-work charms included flowers and plants, insects, fish, dragons, the phoenix, Chinese unicorn or qilin (kirin in Japanese), deer, horse, and figures of persons. Most of the open-work charms of this period were used for ornamentation such as for dress and personal adornment, accessories for horses, etc.

It was also during this time that charms with auspicious sayings on the obverse side, such as changming fugui (长命富贵), were making their appearance. The reverse side of the charms showed various pictures reflecting the Taoist (Daoist) influences, the bagua, and the twelve animals of the zodiac.
The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, representing the Twelve Earthly Branches (十二肖), were used to designate hours, days, months and years. These animals include the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Serpent, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Cock, Dog and Pig. 

Charms with inscriptions such as fu de chang shou (福德长寿) and qian qiu wan sui (千秋万岁) were first cast at the end of the Northern Dynasties and then continued right through the Liao, Jin and Yuan Dynasties. Pieces used in table games such as the horse game, chess, and the drinker’s wager game also made their appearance during this period.

The Song Dynasty (960 -1279 AD) saw a large number of charms cast. The quality of horse coins used as pieces in a board game and as gambling tokens reached its peak during this time. 
Besides the board game played with horse coins, the Chinese also developed their own version of chess which we call “Chinese chess”. The Chinese call it “elephant chess” (xiangqi) and the game includes elephants, cannons and even a river. 

During the Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 AD), the types of charms most commonly seen were those with fortuitous inscriptions such as the previously mentioned qian qiu wan sui ( 千秋万岁), as well as waist-worn charms in the shape of fish, and charms with the animals of the zodiac.

The Jin Dynasty (1115 – 1234 AD) saw the emergence of charms with some special characteristics. This was the result of the merging of the cultural arts of a plateau nationality with the ceremonies and legal customs of the Han nationality, along with styles of charms that had developed since the Song Dynasty. The Chinese are very good in using symbolism, allusions, suggestions, and homonyms to describe their customs and, during this period, drew on the experiences of the national minority of the Jin Dynasty to do so. For example, they used the symbol of the dragon to represent the emperor and the phoenix to represent the empress. Tigers and lions represented the ministers of government. The pine tree and the crane symbolized longevity. The jujube fruit symbolized “morning or early” because of a shared pronunciation (zao). Similarly, a “chicken” represented “lucky” because both characters are pronounced ji.  

The Ming (1368 – 1644 AD) and Qing (Ch’ing) (1644 – 1911 AD) Dynasties saw the production of a very large quantity of charms with inscriptions of good fortune and celebration..
Chinese have traditionally sought what is called the “three many”, that is happiness, longevity and many children and grandchildren.  They have also sought official position and wealth. Many of the charms from the Ming/Qing (Ch’ing) era reflect these desires.  Many of these charms also rely on implied meanings using figures of persons and animals. Depictions of the tortoise, crane, pine tree, rocks and the peach were used to symbolize longevity.  The crane symbolized the arrival of a happy event.
Ming and Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty charms further expanded the repertoire of visual puns to convey a hidden meaning. For example, it may seen strange to the uninitiated to frequently find depictions of bats on the charms of this period until one is informed that the character for a bat (蝠) has exactly the same pronunciation as the character for “happiness” (福). On many charms, these bats are shown upside down. This is because the Chinese word for “upside down” (倒) is pronounced exactly the same as “to have arrived” (到). A person seeing a picture of an upside-down bat on a charm might say “the bat is upside-down” but anyone listening would just as easily hear this as “happiness has arrived” which, of course, is a good omen.

During the late Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty, opposition to Manchu rule began to occur in parts of China. The Taiping Rebellion (1850 -1864 AD) was one such large-scale peasant uprising and an example of its rebel coinage can be seen at Peace Coins and Charms. Tokens also began to appear during this period, particularly in Jiangsu Province. 

Chinese Charms of Different Shapes

Most Chinese charms are similar to old Chinese coins in that they are round with either a square or round hole in the center.

However, old Chinese charms can take on different shapes according to their intended use. For example, lock charms are meant to help “lock” children to life and therefore resemble traditional Chinese locks but with auspicious inscriptions on their front and back.

Gourds have a very long history of use in China and are a prominent symbol of longevity.

The fish symbolizes “more” as in the sense of more good luck, fortune, long life, children, etc.
Fish charms symbolize perseverance in overcoming the barriers a person must pass through in life.

The peach has a most interesting Chinese mythology and has come to stand for longevity and immortality.

Chinese spade charms are distantly related to the spade shaped money of the Zhou Dynasty (11th Century BC – 221 BC).

This entry was posted in Charming Culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to Ancient Chinese Charms and Coins (2)

  1. Yamah Lov says:

    Great blog!

  2. Pingback: Howiykk

  3. Cialis kaufen says:

    This was a great topic! I just wish it was longer.

  4. physician assistant says:

    I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

  5. emt training says:

    found your site today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

  6. Vanna Mofield says:

    Good !

  7. Harry Dunn says:

    Yes, it is a great article.

  8. Oma ficken says:


  9. Oma Fotzen says:

    Hi,Hello i so totally dig your special blog, i would feel special to publish a blog review on your amazing work on my little Breaking News Newssite

  10. Vitaor says:

    Fantastic blog! I actually love how it’s easy on my eyes as well as the info are well written. I am wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which ought to do the trick! Have a nice day!

  11. wamucards says:

    I’m grateful for this worthwhile great page; this would be the type of subject that sustains me although out the day.We’ve consistently heard been recently seeking shut to with your web-site best soon after I observed about these from a near buddy and was delighted when I was in a place to obtain it following looking out for some time. Being a excited blogger, I’m happy to discover other people taking effort and including for the neighborhood. I just wanted to comment to demonstrate my knowing for any publish as it is particularly inviting, and many writers do not get the credit they deserve. I’m beneficial I’ll be back again yet again and will send a several of my friends.

  12. kitchen says:

    I’ve been scouting on the internet for any good quality read regarding this particular issue . Scouting around in Aol I now saw this web site. After reading these details So i am lucky to mention that I have a really good sensation I located everything that I was ready for. I most certainly will make certain to don’t forget this web-site and visit consistently.

  13. kitchens says:

    I’ve been exploring for some time just for a high-quality view in regards to this one subject . Checking in Yahoo I now encountered this website. Seeing this data So i am grateful to pronounce that I’ve got a fine sensation I stumbled upon exactly what I wanted. For certain i will make sure to don’t forget this website and take a look constantly.

  14. herbagra says:

    Since looking for a time just for a really good articles or blog posts to do with the following area . Searching in Yahoo and google I at last identified this website. Looking at this information I am delighted to pronounce that I’ve got a really good feeling I stumbled onto just what I needed. I most certainly will make certain to remember this web site and visit consistently.

  15. Jenny says:

    OMG! I have to say, your blog has to be one of the most well written blogs that I have read in a long time.What I wouldn’t give to be able to publish posts that are as interesting| as yours. I guess I’ll have to continue reading yours and pray that one day I can write on a topic with as much knowledge as you have! Bravo!!

  16. streovie says:

    Thanks heap mate, I love movies and watching them online.

  17. kitchabine says:

    When I see a really great post I do three things:1.Forward it to all the relevant friends.2.keep it in all of the favorite bookmarking sites.3.Make sure to visit the same website where I came accross the post.After reading this article I am seriously thinking of doing all of the above…

  18. Kareen Cassetty says:

    Oh, that’s nice!

  19. Makeerne says:

    Every time I visit this site there’s something new and improved for me to learn from. Haha I’ve been in your source code multiple times to learn how you’re doing some things so I can put them on my site. Thanks! I can teach you about ways to make money online. Just subscribe to my RSS Feed and follow my blog! :)

  20. Dr. Rosales says:

    Hi, my name is Dr. Rosales, I wanted to thank you for the accurate information. I was searching google for this and finally found it, please accept my appreciation for your work. Thanks!

  21. pandora says:

    Hello, everyone! Pay attention to this post please! To a large extent, this post that has explained some contents very carefully and totally. It really contains a lot of aspects of something that we are very eager to know and are very necessary to us in our daily life.

  22. Buyacklink says:

    Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  23. Buacklin says:

    Way to focus and straight to your point, i love it. Keep up the work people. Dont let anyone stop us bloggers.

  24. toarness says:

    dispenses use a fantastic web site decent Gives thank you for the work to guide myself

  25. Issac Maez says:

    very good page good info congrats.

  26. doiy says:

    I discovered your blog last week and started follow your posts religiously. I have not commented on any blog just yet but I was thinking I would love to. It’s really exciting to actually contribute to a article even if it’s only a blog. I really don’t know exactly what to write other than I really enjoyed reading through 2 of the articles. Nice articles indeed. I sure will keep visiting your blog weekly. I learned quite a bit from you. Thx!

  27. Thanh Fritcher says:

    Very nice post.

  28. Traveuky says:

    Man I love your article and it was so informational and I am gonna bookmark it. One thing to say the Indepth analysis this article has is greatly remarkable.

  29. Cologur says:

    great post!

  30. Poloud says:

    WOW! Keep it up man! you rock

  31. Jackson says:

    Alright, this page formats wonderfully on my new HTC,

  32. Santiago Moncur says:

    Its consistently great to learn guidelines such as you part targeted blog posting. As I only began posting remarks targeted blog and dealing with trouble as in lots of rejections. I think the suggestion would be useful for me. i’ll let you know if its function for me too.

  33. Jamie Maurin says:

    There is perceptibly a bunch to know about this. I think you made certain nice points in features also.

  34. Pdvertisi says:

    Helpful information here. I added your site on my favorite, so visit again.

  35. Hosuran says:

    great post i a.m. recently starting out inside community management/marketing media plus trying into learn how to manage it well – wealth equivalent the one substance are incredibly helpful. as our throng is based inner the us, it?s everyone a bit new into us. the sample over is event because i worry with regard to as well, how toward play your possess true enthusiasm and participate the fact because your goods is beneficial inner that case.

  36. Lindsey Madariaga says:

    Nice one

  37. Autoto says:

    Cool writing work, thx for your effort.

  38. Chaitu says:

    I love wearing my skinny jeans with my short, black studded boots and a white T.

  39. Jadewelry says:

    Thanks for the nice writeup!

  40. Nikirax says:

    It is my great honor to have the chance to look throught the nice and informative posts.Many thanks for sharing with us.Looking forward for more connotation piece from you!

  41. Aberabber says:

    I am apreciating it very much.I have never read such a lovely article and I am coming back tomorrow to continue reading.

  42. crystal says:

    I just discovered your blog whilst searching on google and read this post and some of your other pages as well! Continue to keep up the good work, I have bookmarked your website! :-)

  43. bancosprestamo says:

    My spouse and i were very lucky Albert could do his studies using the ideas he made from your own site. It’s not at all simplistic to just always be giving away tips that many some others may have been making money from. So we discover we now have the blog owner to give thanks to for that. Most of the explanations you’ve made, the straightforward web site navigation, the friendships you will make it possible to create – it’s most amazing, and it is leading our son in addition to our family feel that this idea is enjoyable, and that is quite mandatory. Thank you for the whole lot!

  44. Travf says:

    Hi I love this article and it is so fabulous and I am gonna bookmark it.

  45. James Z Despain says:

    Thanks for the great post.

  46. goleach says:

    We sincerely enjoyed your article. It looks like you have placed a lot of effort into your blog and I need more of these on the net these days. I do not really have a large amount to say in reply, I only wanted to sign up to say great work.

  47. JenyInvereshan says:

    Nice web site , i have bookmarked it for later use, thanks.

Leave a Reply