Northern Song Dynasty Cash Variety Guide, Volume 2
Translated into English, with parallel Chinese (Pinyin Romanisation), and provided with a variety numbering system.
by Norman F. Gorny
CURRENTLY Out-of-Print! DO NOT ORDER!
Volume 2, Kosen Daizen, Song Yuan to Jing You, published in large easy-to-read 8-1/2 x 11" (21 x 28cm) format, 40 pages, stapled binding.
Price (USD): $8 each, plus postage (USA, $1.50 media; Canada, $2.00 air mail; Other Countries, $4.50 air mail).
Volumes 2-7 complete Kosen Daizen, price $48 postpaid (media) U.S.A.
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Excerpted from the
Introduction to Volume 2
The catalog you are now holding in hand is the key to studying, understanding, and collecting Northern Song dynasty Chinese cash. It will enable you to reference and build your collection intelligently. It can lead you to new discoveries. It will encourage you to buy bulk quantities of inexpensive cash from this dynasty and sort through them. That is the way to build a comprehensive collection. Start with an "unsearched" string of at least 100 cash. If you can get about five strings of 100, you will be able to find them all in the volumes of this series and own a very impressive attributed collection.
The Northern Song dynasty was possibly the most prolific issuer of cash coins in the history of China. While the rest of the world, numismatically speaking, was still in the grips of the middle ages, China during the Northern Song period was mass producing coins of identical appearance, shape, size, and weight, using methods developed and refined over the course of a thousand years. The coins were produced not by the hundreds or thousands, but by the millions. Unlike the ancient and medieval coins of the European and Islamic worlds which exhibit innumerable variations due to their primitive production methods, Chinese cash can be collected and classified by meaningful varieties. The variations in calligraphy style, position of the writing relative to the rims, dimensions and styles of the inner and outer rims, and the size of the center holes, all these methods were used to denote mint location, workshop or furnace, and casting period (more than one per year). Why the Northern Song officials took so much trouble to track these details in such an obscure way, we do not know. Nor is it known today, except in a few cases, at which mint or in what year a coin was cast. Similar concepts were still in place in China during the Qing dynasty, and from existing documents and records some researchers have elicited the kind of information that we westerners like to know — primarily mint location and year of issue. Nevertheless, knowing in general when a coin was cast and learning to distinguish the known varieties (and perhaps discovering as yet unpublished varieties) makes the study and collecting of Northern Song dynasty cash a very rewarding pursuit.
For those who have begun to classify their collections by Fugo Senshi, the variety names are usually the same, but the numbering system is necessarily different. Fugo Senshi numbers are given alongside the Kosen Daizen numbers whenever they occur. (We must remember, as westerners, that the variety number is not important, the variety name is.)
All this being said, we proceed to more practical matters.
Manufacture and Design
Cash coins are cast in sand moulds and made of bronze or brass alloys, or iron. Occasionally lead, zinc, or odd materials are encountered. Northern Song cash are bronze, brass, or iron. The coins are kept uniform in appearance by using a ‘mother cash’ to cast "seed cash" which are then used to create the mould impressions for the circulation coins. The style of writing, the diameter, and the rims and holes, are uniform aspects derived from the seed cash. Only one aspect is subject to unintentional variation: the weight/thickness of a cash coin. Though same varieties with different weights/thicknesses are collected, they normally do not merit their own variety number.
Cash coins do not have pictures on them. Except for symbolic images, the design is confined to inscriptions only. Beginning in the Tang dynasty, the face of the cash coin invariably has 4 characters arranged above, below, left and right of a central square hole. "Round as the heavens, square as the earth," is the Chinese saying to illustrate metaphorically the design of the coins. On the practical side, it was very early discovered that a square hole fit a square shaft, which enabled a quantity of coins to be turned on a lathe to remove casting irregularities.
The face of a cash coin has the "nian hao" or reign title.
Normal reading direction is 1-Top, 2-Bottom, 3-Right, 4-Left. In the Northern Song dynasty, the circular reading pattern 1-Top, 2-Right, 3-Bottom, 4-Left is frequently encountered. Other reading directions are found in other dynasties on coins issued by minority nationalities.
Calligraphy styles in this dynasty can be classified into three broad groups: Orthodox, Seal, and Cursive.
Orthodox script can be broken down further into "regular" and "clerkly". A third form of Orthodox script is the elegant "Slender Gold" style, invented by Emperor Hui Zong.
Seal script is recognized by the noticeably rounded outlines of the characters.
Cursive can be broken down into ordinary "running" hand and "grass" writing.
Finally, it is not unusual for more than one style to be used in writing the characters on a cash coin.