43. Ma Rong – engraver of Mao and monkeys

Generally speaking, the designers and engravers of Chinese banknotes and postage stamps do not receive a lot of attention. Until recently, banknote printing was shrouded in secrecy. In 2015, the new edition of the 100-yuan note was issued, and hit the news for two specific reasons: it was China’s first digitally engraved banknote and it was engraved by a woman. MA Rong is hardly a household name, but her work is known to millions. (more…)

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42. A Viking ship on a Chinese note

This piece was first published on the British Museum blog on 9 June 2014, at the time of the Viking exhibition. It’s since disappeared from the BM website, so I’ll post it again here. I was reminded of this piece by Professor Robert Bickers, University of Bristol, who emailed this week with news of Fartsan T. Sung, one of the signatories on this note, having just posted a photograph of Fartsan T. Sung and his wife Margaret Wang Song on the website Historical Photographs of China (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…)

37. Coins and charms in the “Jin shi suo”, by Feng Yunpeng and Feng Yunyuan

Two small volumes have recently been acquired by the library of the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum. The titles are missing from the front covers, but they can be identified as two volumes that together make up the Coins section of the Jin shi suo (Metals part 4). (more…)