Author: huobishi2014

Collector: Justus Doolittle (1824-1880)

Rev. Justus Doolittle (1824-1880), American Board missionary in China, is well-known for his publications, including

  • Social Life of the Chinese, with some accounts of their religious, governmental, educational and business customs and opinions, with special but not exclusive reference to Fuhchau [Fuzhou] (1865)
  • Social Life of the Chinese: a daguerrotype of daily life in China (1868)
  • A Vocabulary and Hand-book of the Chinese Language (1872).

He was also a collector of Chinese coins. Note the spade-money issued by Wang Mang on the spines of these books!

borg books

Social Life of the Chinese: Religious, Governmental, Educational, and Business Customs and Opinions – by Justus Doolittle (New York, 1865) – first edition (image source: Borg Antiquarian)

And the “facsimile of a Hong Kong cent” on the frontispiece of this book! There are numerous illustrations of coins in Chapter XXIII on Business Customs:

doolitlle image

Social Life of the Chinese: a daguerrotype of daily life in China – by Justus Doolittle (London, 1868) (Source:

In A Vocabulary and Hand-book of the Chinese Language, he includes among his sources Hillier’s Translation of the Chronicles of Cash (preface, p.3):

doolitlle vocab

A Vocabulary and Handbook of the Chinese Language – by Justus Doolittle (London, 1872) (source:

Doolittle died on 15 June 1880. His collection of Chinese coins was sold a year later by Messrs Bangs & Co., 739 and 741 Broadway, New York City, in June 1881, and a printed catalogue was prepared: Catalogue of American and foreign coins and medals, the collection of O.A. Jenison, of Lansing, Mich. Also, the collection of Chinese coins formed by Rev. Justus Doolittle, of China. Together with a fine and large collection of Union envelopes, the property of a lady of Boston. And a collection of old coin sale catalogues. to be sold by auction, by Messrs. Bangs & Co. … on Wednesday and Thursday, June 22, 23, 1881. A digital version of the Catalogue is available here:

[pp.44-47] Coins of China. Collected and classified by Rev. Justus Doolittle, an eminent Chinese scholar and numismatist: arranged in cards 5½ x 8 in. The references by numbers in red on the cards are to a translation of a Chinese work on Coins, “Chronicles of Cash: a New Arrangement” (See below, No. 1226a) references in black are to R. Wylie’s [sic] work, “Chinese Coins of the Ta-ts’ing Dynasty” (see below No. 1226b). Like most Chinese Coins, they are nearly all in a sort of bronze, varying in composition at different periods; they are generally carefully selected specimens, and it is said that many of the earlier ones are extremely rare. [nos 1182 – 1226b]

1226a   Brief notice of the Chinese work: “Chronicles of Tsien”: a new arrangement by C.B. Hillier; many hundreds of illustrations of Chinese coins from 2356 B.C. to 1623 A.D.; 8˚, paper. Hong Kong, 1852.

1226b   Chinese Coins of the Ta-Ts’ing, or present dynasty of China, by A. Wylie, with author’s autograph; hundreds of engravings; 8˚, paper. Hong Kong, 1857.


Doolittle’s grave in Sunset Hill Cemetery, Clinton, Oneida County, New York, USA (Source:

The Diary of Justus B. Doolittle, covering his life as a foreign missionary in Foochow [Fuzhou], China, until 1873 is in the Hamilton College collection (Clinton, NY), and a digital version is available here. A family photo is included at the end of the digital version – but there is something amiss here: the handwritten comments appear to be in three different hands, and the main caption has been questioned (with question marks in pencil).

justus doolittle photo

The caption appears to read “Rev [Justus B. Doolittle] from daguerrotype taken 1860 ??” (Source: Hamilton College Library – Digital Collections)

According to WU Xiaoxin’s Christianity in ChinaA Scholars’ Guide to Resources in the Libraries and Archives of the United States (Routledge, 2017, p.244) the diaries cover the period from c.1750 to 1783.

Taiwan’s Tokens

YUAN Mingda 袁明達:  《臺灣的代用幣 / Taiwan’s tokens 》 , published by the author, Taipei, 2016. ISBN 978-986-94062- 0-8. Soft cover, 207 pages, colour photographs. Price : 600NTD.

taiwan tokens

I haven’t seen this book, but it was featured in E-Sylum vol. 20, no. 31, July 30, 2017. I’m copying part of the review from E-Sylum below (which is, itself, an excerpt from a review by James Contursi, published in the July/August 2017 issue of the TAMS Journal, the official publication of the Token and Medal Society):

This book publishes the token collection that Yuan has dedicated more than twenty years to build, and it provides the distilled research findings that he has managed to ferret out from various corners during the same time frame. Paging through this volume is equivalent to taking a voyage through the erstwhile uncharted waters of Taiwan tokens, and with Yuan at the helm, a uniquely informative journey ensues.

Yuan archives nearly 700 Taiwan tokens – metal, plastic and paper – in a quarto-sized tome, printed on glossy paper, and divided into nine main headings. I list these because their format and composition may vary from the chapter titles usually encountered in the west. They include: 1) United States military; 2) the public sector, comprised of public park, telephone, transportation and government-issued tokens; 3) children’s playgrounds; 4) department stores; 5) zoos; 6) amusement parks; 7) hotels; 8) industrial enterprises, which encompasses banking, cruise ship, bowling alley, golf and batting range, and restaurant tokens; and 9) early video arcade tokens. These are followed by three pages of early Republic tokens, with an emphasis on Shanghai; seven pages of miscellaneous world tokens; and four pages of Taiwanese paper tokens.

The Anthropology of Money in Southern California

This is from 2004, but worth revisiting. I wish more exhibitions were recorded.

The following passages are copied from the website:

The Anthropology of Money in Southern California is an exhibition of the uses of money and money-like objects in the cultural, religious or ritual practices of various communities of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. It was created from original research conducted by the students in an undergraduate class at the University of California at Irvine, on the anthropology of money (Anthropology 125S) in the Fall of 2004. For about four weeks out of a ten week quarter, in addition to conducting their regular assignments for this class, students worked in small groups to collect data on monetary uses of non-monetary objects and the non-monetary uses of legal tender. They employed participant-observation, interviews, archival and web-based research. The goals of the project were: (1) to introduce students to ethnographic research methods and to give them the opportunity to conduct independent, original research on a little-studied phenomenon; (2) to illuminate and document the diverse practices involving money and money-like objects in which many Southern Californians participate; (3) to contribute to research in the humanities and social sciences on the social meanings and uses of money.

…Some of these practices gain their force from an imagined “Chinese culture,” described to students in various terms by Chinese and non-Chinese alike. The pervasiveness of “Chineseness” is perhaps best illustrated by the Honduran woman one of the research terms interviewed about Feng Shui. There are also traces in the research represented here of Middle Eastern, South and Central Asian cultural and political histories that transcend religious and ethnic divides, or that intertwine those divides to the point where they almost disappear. Students were surprized – and frustrated, at times – by the fuzzy and often flat-out contradictory lineages their interviewees recounted for these money objects, their “cultures,” and their associated uses and beliefs.

…Some of these practices have rarely been documented. Even the most ubiquitous – ghost money, or hell money – has received only cursory scholarly attention. This may be because many of these practices are assumed to be “women’s work” or “women’s knowledge,” and/or activities involving the sustainance of family and kinship across the generations and back into the time of the ancestors. Or it may be because, like legal tender itself, they are so ubiquitous that they seem to go without saying.

… The student researchers on this project discovered more than the earmarking of money for special purposes, or the inherent tension between gift and commodity that becomes so difficult to sustain when faced with cultural economies of money and money-like objects. They also discovered that money is a complicated tangle, ultimately representationally inadequate to the notions of value, community and sociality it is purported to index. And that inadequacy opens money up to reveal its deep sociality, its metaphysical meanings side by side with its earthly pragmatics.



Money lei with intricately folded bills (original source: )

“…this project presented one of the greatest challenges of my college studies to date.”   – Dave Eggers, Anthro 1255, Fall 2004

“It  not only takes skill, communication, and good research techniques, but the ability to look at a project that lies in fragments, see the whole it can become, and turn it into that very thing.”   – Alexandria Ostowari, Anthro 1255, Fall 2004

Treasures in the Netherworld (lecture in Oxford, 19 July)

“Treasures in the Netherworld – a nineteenth-century Chinese local handicraft industry of mock money” – is the title of a talk by Dr PAN Weilin 潘玮琳 on Wednesday 19 July in the Heberden Coin Room, at the Ashmolean Museum.

Dr Pan, of the Institute of China Studies, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, is currently a visiting scholar in the Dept of Coins and Medals, at the British Museum. Her visit is funded by the E.S.G. Robinson Charitable Trust, which commemorates the legacy of Sir Stanley Robinson (1887-1976), a former Head of the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum, and Reader in Numismatics at Oxford, and “unquestionably the greatest Greek numismatist of his time”.


Pan Weilin’s publications include a long article (in Chinese) on this subject:

潘玮琳:《”祀鬼之业”:近代社会变迁中的江浙锡箔业》,复旦大学历史学系、复旦大学中外现代化进程研究中心编:《近代中国的物质文化》 (近代中国研究集刊 5),上海古籍出版社,2015,1-42页。ISBN978-7-5325-7958-7。[“The business of making offerings for ghosts”: the tin-foil industry in Jiangsu and Zhejiang during modern social changes]

East Asian Coins in North America

Asian Coins in North America is the title of Chapter 4 in Numismatic Archaeology of North America – A Field Guide, by Marjorie H. Akin, James C. Bard, and Kevin Akin (New York: Routledge, 2016). ISBN 978-1-61132-920-9 paperback (also available in hardback and ebook).


The book contains a lot of interesting information about East Asian coins found in North America, largely thanks to Marjorie H. Akin.

“Marjorie H. Akin has spent most of her life in California where she completed her education (PhD, University of Riverside, 1996), married, and raised four children. Her area of specialization within the field of historic archaeology is numismatics, and included among her publications are contributions to Roberta Greenwood’s Down by the Station: Los Angeles Chinatown 1890-1933, Julia Costello’s The Luck of Third Street, and many articles and reports about Asian coins recovered in North America. Her publications in other fields include the seminal essay “Passionate Possession: The Formation of Private Collections” (Smithsonian, 1992), which examined the world of collectors and the often-fractious relationship between archaeologists and collectors. She has been active in the Riverside “Save Our Chinatown Committee” to protect the archaeological remains of Riverside’s Chinatown from development (see” (from about the authors, on p.290)

East Asian coins are mentioned throughout the book, but, the authors write, “Chinese coins and similar Asian coins were never used as circulating currency anywhere in North America, so they have been separated from the other coins that are discussed in this book.” (p.65).

The structure of Chapter 4: Asian Coins in North America (pp.65-81)

  • Why are Asian coins found in North America?
    • Why wen and dong could not have circulated as money
  • The types of Asian coins used in North America
    • Chinese coins
      • Qing period currency systems (1644-1911)
      • Description of wen
      • Avoiding confusion
      • Counterfeits, replicas and forgeries
      • Inscriptions
      • Qing reign names
      • Qing mints
      • Hong Kong mil or wen
    • Vietnamese coins
      • Description
      • Some Vietnamese reign names
    • Japanese mon (1626-1870)
      • Japanese coins exported to China and beyond
    • Korean mon (1678-1888)
  • The Noncurrency uses of Asian coins in North America
    • Fur trade and Native American uses
    • The uses of wen and other Asian coins by the overseas Chinese
    • Talismans
    • Funerary
    • Games and gambling
    • Decoration
    • Medical
    • Hardware

“This book is primarily intended to help archaeologists and historians, as well as people working in the fields of material culture and museum studies, understand just how much information can be gleaned from the complex objects that are collectively referred to as numismatic artifacts. Because they are so complex, combining the economic, political, and aesthetic values of their temporal context, it is not surprising that any archaeologist working with recovered items would need numismatic resources to help understand their significance. New archaeological methods of analysis and what they can reveal will be of interest to more experienced numismatists who want to deepen their understanding and appreciation of numismatic materials and who wish to learn about the relationship between numismatics and archaeology.” (Ch.1, p.19)

Evolution of Silver – from Sycee to Silver Dollar

This was the title of a Zhejiang Provincial Museum (浙江省博物馆) exhibition from 2 March to 2 April 2016. It was the 14th in a series of exhibitions drawing on private collections. The China Numismatic Society’s Special Committee on Gold and Silver Money (中国钱币学会金银货币专业委员会) brought together over 530 pieces from more than 30 collectors of gold and silver money in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. The exhibition was arranged chronologically, showing the evolution from early silver ingots to machine-struck silver coins. The expert on Chinese silver and gold ingots at the Zhejiang Provincial Museum is Ms Li Xiaoping 李晓萍.  A beautiful catalogue was produced.

Exhibition title: 《银的历程:从银两到银元》

Catalogue: 浙江省博物馆编:《银的历程:从银两到银元》 (北京:文物出版社,2016。ISBN 978-7-5010-4491-7  [Zhejiang Provincial Museum (ed.): Evolution of Silver – from Sycee to Silver Dollar (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 2016)]


See more images of the inside of the book here.

The following information is taken from the Zhejiang Provincial Museum website:

The earliest silver money in China found through archaeological excavation is from the Warring States period 2000 years ago – imitation cowrie shells made of silver, and silver spade money very similar to hollow handle spade money. In the Tang dynasty there were silver bars (银铤 yinting) and cakes (银饼 yinbing), but limited use of silver as money. In the Song and Jin dynasties, silver and gold money became widespread, and a particular form developed, more or less rectangular, with a large top, a small base, and which narrowed at the waist. This shape continued into the Yuan dynasty. In the Ming dynasty, silver was in common use, and a variety of shapes emerged. In the Qing dynasty, silver ingots continued to be made in a variety of shapes. The influx of foreign silver coins prompted suggestions for a currency reform, to put Chinese silver coins into circulation alongside the foreign coins. In 1887 Zhang Zhidong 张之洞, governor of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, proposed that a mint be established in Guangzhou (Canton), and purchased minting machinery from Heaton, in Birmingham, UK. In 1890, the Canton Mint issued silver coins, marking the beginning of the move to machine-struck silver coins in China.

The following photographs of the exhibition are taken from the Zhejiang Provincial Museum website:


The opening of the exhibition






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”.

10dfa9ec8a136327a5fdabc1998fa0ec08fac734 Panthera Pardus

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.

leopard - paul noll

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)