50. The use of silver ingots in Ming dynasty tax payment

LI Xiaoping 李晓萍 , of the Zhejiang Provincial Museum 浙江省博物馆, has authored several books on silver currency, and edited Academic Conference Proceedings of Gold and Silver Currency and Social Life. (She publishes under two different names, which look the same in the romanised form – LI Xiaoping – but have different characters for Xiao:  李晓萍 and 李小萍)

In her 2013 monograph 《明代赋税银锭考》 (The Use of Silver Ingots  in Ming Dynasty Tax Payments) she traces the origins and development of the use of silver in tax payments in the Ming dynasty, referring throughout to real examples. She spent eight years researching and writing the book, seeing almost 200 ingots in public and private collections, and discusses over 70 examples in the book. However, as she notes in her preface, only a small number of Ming ingots have survived, and we should understand that they represent merely the tip of the iceberg.


Front cover of the book

LI Xiaoping contents

Contents page



LI Xiaoping, Mingdai fushui yinding kao

(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 2013 // ISBN 978-7-5010-3854-1)

李晓萍: 《明代赋税银锭考》(北京:文物出版社,2013年)


  • 自序  (李晓萍)  —  Preface by the author
  • 序言  (金德平)  —  Foreword by JIN Deping
  • 第一章:明代白银货币发展概况
  • Ch 1:   Overview of the development of silver money in the Ming dynasty
  • 第二章:田赋与田赋折银
  • Ch 2:   Field tax and field tax commuted into silver (and developments thereafter)
  • 第三章:军费的来源与去处
  • Ch 3:   Military expenses – income and outgoings
  • 第四章:徭役折银
  • Ch 4:   Corvée commuted into silver
  • 第五章:公用征银
  • Ch 5:   Levies for public use
  • 第六章:地方性特殊收入折银
  • Ch 6:   Localised special income commuted into silver
  • 第七章:商业税银
  • Ch 7:   Commercial tax in silver
  • 第八章:专卖收入折银
  • Ch 8:   Specific sales income commuted into silver
  • 第九章:渔税折银
  • Ch 9:   Fishing tax commuted into silver
  • 第十章:贡物抽分银 – 椒木银
  • Ch 10: Silver received in tribute – in place of plant produce
  • 第十一章:皇室内库之白银种类
  • Ch 11: Different kinds of silver in the Palace Treasury
  • 第十二章:永宣时期的银矿税 – 闸办银课
  • Ch 12: Silver mine tax in the Yongle and Xuande periods
  • 第十三章:与赋税相关的金锭
  • Ch 13: Gold ingots associated with the field tax
  • 参考书目  —  Bibliography
  •   —  Postscript

In the introduction she notes the locations of the key archaeological sites for Ming dynasty ingots (but also refers to other sites and locations in the book):

  • 北京定陵 – the Dingling Mausoleum, in Beijing, being the tomb of Wanli (1563-1620) and Empress Xiaoduan and Empress Xiaojing
  • 钟祥梁庄王墓 – the mausoleum of Prince Liang Zhuangwang (d.1441), in Zhongxiang city (Hubei)
  • 北京李伟墓 – the tomb of Li Wei (grandfather of Wanli), in Beijing
  • 余姚袁炜墓 – the tomb of Yuan Wei (1507-1565), high minister to Jiajing, in Yuyao (Zhejiang)
  • 湖北蕲春刘娘井墓 – the tomb in Liuniangjing village, Qichun (Hubei)
  • 四川洪雅、新都、彭山 – Hongya, Xindu, Pengshan (in Sichuan)
  • 浙江杭州、湖州 – Hangzhou and Huzhou (in Zhejiang)
  • 安徽芜湖 – Wuhu (Anhui)
  • 广西阳朔 – Yangshuo (Guangxi)
  • 江苏、上海 – Jiangsu and Shanghai



47. Chinese Money Matters – so why does it have such a low profile?

This was the title of the short presentation I gave at the Art, Materiality and Representation conference that took place in London, 1-3 June, organised by the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI), the BM’s Department for Africa, Oceania and the Americas, and the Dept of Anthropology at SOAS. My paper was one of 17 papers in the one-day session “Museums of Asian Arts outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities” (see the list of speakers and titles at the end of this post). The day was superbly conceived, organised and presented by Iside Carbone of the RAI. (more…)

45. “Cultural Revolution style red packets”

Frances Wood (formerly Head of the Chinese section at the British Library, and author of Hand Grenade Practice in Beijing: My Part in the Cultural Revolution and many other books) recently donated a pack of “Cultural Revolution style red packets” to the British Museum. She purchased them in a Chinese supermarket in central London earlier this year.  (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…)

35. The account books of Derek Bryan, consular official in Peking (Beijing), in the 1930s

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) recently acquired “The Personal Papers of Derek Bryan, Consular Official and Teacher” [SOAS PP MS 99]. Derek Bryan went to China in 1932, aged 21, as a student interpreter with the Foreign Office, and remained there, on and off, until 1951. Back in the UK, he worked to encourage understanding of China, writing and teaching. He was very much involved in the Britain-China Friendship Association (BCFA), and founded the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) in 1965. Among his papers are very detailed financial accounts and letters home. Further biographical information for Hermann Derek Bryan (1910-2003) can be found on the SOAS blog.  (more…)

25. China Numismatics 2017.1 (144) – English summary

China Numismatics 《中国钱币》 is published bimonthly by the China Numismatic Museum 中国钱币博物馆 and China Numismatic Society 中国钱币学会 in Beijing. The journal is published in Chinese. (more…)