Chinese Coins

An exhibit of Chinese currency from ancient times to the present on display now until the end of November.

The study of currency, monetary systems and the appearance of the different coins provides us with important evidence of the numerous political, social, economic, and cultural changes that took place in China during various periods. This exhibit presents the methods of payment throughout the rich and ever-changing history of China with its enormous and endless diversity.

The first coins that served as currency were in the shape of a spade and a knife, and appeared at the turn of the 6th and 7th centuries BC, close to the appearance of the first coins in the West.

In the 3rd century BC, the Qing dynasty united the country and Qinshi Huangdi became its first emperor. Among the reforms his dynasty initiated was a new and unified coin that slowly penetrated all the country’s regions. The new coin was round and in its middle was a square hole, a form that was maintained for some 2,000 years. According to ancient Chinese tradition, the circular outline of the coin symbolizes heaven, while its square center – the earth. In addition to its symbolism, the central hole served for stringing several coins on a cord, thus creating higher denominations – a common practice that stemmed from the low value of the single coin. In fact, the square hole originated from the need to stack coins on a square rod, thus making it possible to file them all together on a stone.

Unlike coins in other countries, the Chinese coins do not bear pictorial images; they carry inscriptions with symbolic significance and were designed to increase the emperor’s prestige. The inscriptions create a model and serve as a means of identification; in most cases they include the name of the period, value of the coin and the minting location. Unlike Western coins, cast mainly in gold and silver, Chinese coins are made mostly from bronze using a traditional 2,000 year-old casting technique.

Opening Hours: Sunday-Wednesday: 10:00 to 16:00, Thursday: 10:00 to 20:00, Friday and Saturday: 10:00 to 14:00.

Chinese Coins, Curator: Cecilia Meir
The Eretz Israel Museum
2 Haim Levanon St., Ramat Aviv
Tel: 03-6415244