Gold-Coin Leopard

The Chinese for “leopard” is 金钱豹 jin qian bao (“gold-coin leopard”) because its spots are thought to look like Chinese “cash”.

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金钱豹 Leopard (Panthera pardus) (Source: Baidu)

Gold-Coin Leopard is also a well-known character in the Chinese opera “Red Plum Mountain” (红梅山 Hongmei Shan). The story goes that the Gold-Coin Leopard has occupied Red Plum Mountain and wants to marry the daughter of the local squire. The heroes of the Journey to the West – Tang Seng the monk, Sun Wukong the Monkey King, Zhu Bajie (also known as Pigsy) come to the rescue, until soldiers from Heaven arrive to overpower it.

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Gold-Coin Leopard is recognizable by his mask – note the “cash” on each cheek (Source: Paul Noll)

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Gold-Coin Leopard in action – note the “cash” on his cheeks and his costume (Source: 白头老王的博客

By the way… a couple of English coins are also known as “leopards”: the gold half-florin of 1344 was known as a “leopard” because there was an image of a leopard in the design; and the gold florin of 1344 was known as a “double-leopard”  because the king is shown seated between two leopards. Strictly speaking, these were lions rather than leopards, and the term “leopard” was borrowed from medieval heraldry to distinguish between the lion rampant (which stands on its back legs, with its front legs raised) and the lion passant guardant (the walking lion, usually with its head turned to face you).


Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 2:10-11): The pard, a beast of many colors, is very swift, likes blood, and kills with a leap. The adulterous mating of the pard with a lion (leo) produces degenerate offspring, the leopard. (Source: The Medieval Bestiary)

Charles Batten Hillier (1820-1856)

A few years ago, Andrew Hillier visited the Department of Coins and Medals, British Museum, in search of information about his great-great-grandfather, C.B. Hillier, who had published two pieces on Chinese numismatics in the Transactions of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in the 1840s and 1850s. Since then, Dr Hillier has completed a PhD on the Hillier family in China and Hong Kong. Now a Research Associate at the University of Bristol, he kindly agreed to write this guest-post, putting C.B. Hillier’s work into a broader context. (more…)

Money in Ancient China: People and their Everyday Life around Money

Money in Ancient China: People and their Everyday Life around Money, by KAKINUMA Yōhei (Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 2015, ISBN 978-4642057950)  —  thanks to Wen-yi Huang for highlighting this book on her EarlyChinaSinology blog. The book is in Japanese, and I’ve tried to put the abstract and contents into English below. (My Japanese isn’t very good, and if you spot any errors, please let me know so I can correct them.) (more…)

Prof YANG Junchang, archaeo-metallurgist in London, 8 June

Prof YANG Junchang 杨军昌 is one of the leading scholars in archaeo-metallurgy and conservation in Shaanxi Province. After 20 years’ service as a conservation scientist in institutions of archaeology and cultural heritage, Professor Yang joined the Northwest Polytechnic University 西北工业大学材料学院 in Xi’an recently, setting up a new department to promote multi-disciplinary research combining material, archaeological and conservation sciences. (more…)

Lord Charles Beresford’s Chinese coins at the V&A

In 1899, “a small but interesting collection” of Chinese coins was displayed in the Cross Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. Gertrude Burford Rawlings, author of The Story of the British Coinage, Coins and How to Know Them, The Story of Books, and Old London (and a translator of 17th-century French philosophy) wrote a short, descriptive note about the display in Spink’s Numismatic Circular in September 1899. She noted that the collection was lent by Lord Charles Beresford, but offered no further information about him, suggesting perhaps that he was too well known to need an introduction.  (more…)