Northern Song Dynasty Cash Variety Guide, Volume 4
Translated into English, with parallel Chinese (Pinyin Romanisation), and provided with a variety numbering system.
by Norman F. Gorny
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Volume 4, Kosen Daizen, Yuan Feng to Yuan You, published in large easy-to-read 8-1/2 x 11" (21 x 28cm) format, 40 pages, stapled binding.
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Excerpted from the
Introduction to Volume 4
This fourth volume introduces the student and collector to a new pattern of "dui qian," matched cash. We have seen that matched cash in two calligraphy styles as originated by emperor Li Yu of Southern Tang consisted of coins in seal script and orthodox writing.
Subsequently Tai Zong, the second Northern Song emperor, issued matched cash in sets of three styles, orthodox, cursive, and grass script, for a period of about nine years. The next emperor, Zhen Zong, abandoned the production of matched cash for 24 years. When "dui qian" were revived by emperor Ren Zong during several of his reign periods, they reverted back to the original two styles, seal script and orthodox, although the orthodox coins sometimes mix styles. His successors, Ying Zong and Shen Zong, continued the tradition of seal and orthodox matched cash. However, in the Yuan Feng period of emperor Shen Zong a new pattern emerged, seal script and cursive writing. This innovation was to last about 24 years, through the Yuan Feng period, and during the three reign periods of Zhe Zong the next emperor, finally ending in the Sheng Song period of emperor Hui Zong.
In this fourth volume we will study the most abundant coin of the dynasty, Yuan Feng Tong Bao. According to Schjöth, "the emperor Shen Zong issued the coins in increasing numbers, there being no less than twenty-six mints in operation, yielding five and a half million strings of cash annually." As a string is interpreted to be a string of 1000 cash, that puts annual production at 5.5 billion (thousand million, milliard) coins! If coins were cast at all 26 mints for every year of production, and if production began in the first year of Yuan Feng (as stated by Ding Fu Bao) and lasted eight years, we would expect to find 208 varieties, at least of the value-1 coins. The actual number of varieties shown in Kosen Daizen is 242 for value-1, and 74 for value-2 coins. It is probable that each mint in operation had two casting periods per year, a spring and an autumn period. It cannot be assumed that all 26 mints operated continuously either, so nothing definite can be deduced from the meagre evidences we have at our disposal. Suffice it to say that Schjöth’s report is credible, based on the prolific number of varieties of Yuan Feng in both sizes, whatever his sources.
Yuan Feng value-1 coins have four variety groups each based on a shared characteristic seen in the seal or the cursive script coins.