56. Two Cabinets of Coins from the Qianlong Period in the State Hermitage Museum

LAI Yu-chih:”Casting the Territory: A Study of Two Cabinets of Coins from the Qianlong Period in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg”, Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Vol. 101 (2018), pp.1-62.

Article in Chinese, with English abstract, available online (open access) at

賴毓芝: 《「鑄造」疆域:聖彼得堡冬宮博物館藏乾隆時期二匣回疆錢幣研究》,《中央研究院近代史研究所集刊》第101期(民國 107 年9 月),1-62
[賴毓芝,  中央研究院近代史研究所副研究員]

The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg houses two cabinets of coins from East Turkesktan presented when the Qing empire conquered the territory in 1759. The museum asserts that these two cabinets were a diplomatic gift from Emperor Qianlong to Catherine the Great. The cabinets were both made of valuable Zitan wood and are covered with inscriptions in Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian, and Uighur scripts. Both cabinets contain three tiers of coins, 32 and 51 in total respectively, dating from 2 BCE to 12 CE. Scholarship on the coins themselves has neglected the circumstanced of their gifting. However, the archives of the Qing court allow us to reconstruct when, how, and even why Emperor Qianlong ordered the coins to be collected and displayed. This article situates the analysis of these two cabinets of ancient Chinese coins in the context of both Chinese and European numismatic traditions, and offers an interpretation of the political meanings of Qianlong’s gift. Its visual and material aspects show Qianlong’s understanding of European practices and his use of non-verbal forms to promote his political agenda.


A low-res shot of the first of nine plates


46. Is that a coin on Mao’s desk?

In the Yan’an Revolutionary Memorial Hall (延安革命纪念馆) there is a small wooden table which Mao Zedong used as a writing desk on a kang bed-stove. In early February 1936, Mao and Peng Dehuai stayed in the home of a peasant called Bai Yucai 白育才 in Yuanjiagou village 袁家沟村, Qingjian county 清涧县, in Shaanxi province. Mao used the kang as his office, and the kang-table 炕桌 as his desk. His poem 《沁园春·雪》”Snow – to the tune of Qin Yuan Chun”, is said to have been written at this desk.  (more…)

41. Chinese guides for identifying silver dollars and other coins, 19th century

There are two Chinese guides – merchant manuals or shroff’s guides – in the Department of Coins and Medals, at The British Museum (nos 4 and 8 below). Several similar guides are known, and I’m grateful to Richard von Glahn and Byron Hamann for sharing their expertise and knowledge on this subject. I’ll give a very brief introduction below, and then share ten of these guides. If you know of others, or of research on these guides, please leave a comment. (more…)

40. Thai porcelain tokens (“pee”)

Thai porcelain tokens (pee) are found in many collections, often just one or two pieces, and sometimes more. These are known by various terms, including the following (for more, see the bibliography below): (more…)

34. The Nicholas Rhodes Collection of Tibetan Coins

A reminder of how useful auction catalogues can be…  The Nicholas Rhodes Collection of Tibetan Coins  (羅寶士收藏 : 中國西藏錢幣 中國西藏紙幣), sold by Spink China, 21 August 2013, in Hong Kong – is available online.  (more…)

33. Marco Polo Studies and Yuan dynasty money

There was a very interesting conference in Tübingen this week: Marco Polo Studies: Past, Present, Future (I’ve copied and pasted the programme below). It was an intense, and friendly, workshop, bringing together expertise from different fields. I’m not an expert in this period, and felt very honoured to be invited, and to have the chance to learn from specialists from Austria, China, France, Germany, Italy and the USA. I gave a powerpoint presentation packed with images, aiming to illustrate representative pieces and introduce some recent work. I mentioned, for example: (more…)