Southern Song dynasty coinage

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Clockwise inscriptions on the observe; mint marks, and years on reserve are very typical elements of Southern Song coinage styles.

The Southern Song dynasty refers to an era of the Song dynasty after Kaifeng was captured by the Jurchen Jin dynasty in 1127.[1][2] The government of the Song was forced to establish a new capital city at Lin'an (present day Hangzhou) which wasn't near any sources of copper so the quality of the coins produced under the Southern Song significantly deteriorated compared to the cast copper coins of the Northern Song dynasty.[3] The Southern Song government preferred to invest in their defenses (as its incapable military easily fell to the Jurchens) while trying to remain passive towards the Jin dynasty establishing a long peace until the Mongols eventually annexed the Jin before marching down to the Song establishing the Yuan dynasty.

Coins from the Song dynasty have appeared in variants written in either standard (top-bottom-right-left) or clockwise (top-right-bottom-left).

The Southern Song dynasty saw the emergence of paper money, while coins were increasingly becoming a rarity.[4] Iron cash coins also started to be used in greater numbers, at first due to the lack of copper, but later even as more copper was found the production of iron cash coins remained cheaper and an abundance of iron made it more attractive for the government to produce, while several problems such as the fact that iron is harder to inscribe, and that iron corrodes faster ensured the continued production of copper cash coins.[5] Despite the chronic shortages of copper the Southern Song used special coins as a form of psychological warfare against Jin army defectors,[6] and copper coins (and later silver sycees) would remain the standard of administration even for the newly introduced paper money.[7]


A coin with a clockwise inscription and with the year of minting on the reverse, cast in the 3rd year of the Qing Yuan era (1197).

The Southern Song would suffer from what had been called "currency famines" or Qian Huang (), during the mid-13th century, this was because the production of bronze coinage had fallen to merely 2 to 3% of what it had been under the Northern Song, meanwhile the relative value of silver compared to bronze had steadily increased leading to the Song government adopting silver as the new standard as the value of silver would remain pretty much standard at the entire duration of the Southern Song while the value of bronze would fluctuate enormously.[8]

The Song dynasty had several "monetary regions" which all had their own separate combination of bronze, and/or iron coins, paper money, and silver sycees in circulation. These separate regional currency standards created distinct regional characters that would often hinder interregional trade between them. The Song government's general inability to create enough bronze wén coins to circulate helped strengthen this monetary diversity that would impede trade, even though the Northern Song had enough bronze for this demand and to even create large coins called "biscuit coins", the southern regions lacked these resources after they had lost the North to the Jin.[9][10]

Despite the large variety in different media of exchange, Southern Song dynasty documents always measure prices in bronze coins (guàn , and wén ), which includes the value of silver bullion itself.[11] After Wang Anshi reformed the fiscal administration of the Southern Song between 1069 and 1085, silver became a vital element in administrative book-keeping, especially in certain regions rich in silver such as modern-day Sichuan.[12][13]

Until 1179 the Northern Song era's policies of casting coins in varying typefaces continued but after this year most coins tended to only have Regular script inscriptions. Beginning in 1180 coins cast by the Southern Song government started to cast the reign year on the reverses of coins as well as mint marks in order to stop forgeries from circulated, this was because the technology to cast inscriptions on both sides of the coins hasn't been adopted yet by private mints at the time. From 1180 until the end of the Song dynasty very few bronze coins were produced by the government as the preference went to iron, this was because bronze cash coins needed to have a specific typeface which was more intricate to produce.

A constant problem for the Song government was the outflow of its currency, particularly to the Jin dynasty which didn't produce much coinage of its own. This outflow of coins eventually caused the Song government to produce more paper money in order to sustain its economy.[14]

By 1160 bronze coins had become a rarity, and became largely an abstract measurement of value rather than a tangible currency, the most important attribute of bronze coins after this year was as a measurement for the value of other currencies, by 1161 a shortage in wén coins had forced the Southern Song government to halve the salary of their soldiers and rather than pay them 50% in Huizi, 30% in silver, and only 20% in bronze coins. After 1170 the Song court established Huizi paper money on a permanent basis based on the "Pinda" () formula that mandated that taxes were only half paid in coin and the other half in Huizi notes. This formula would prove successful as it increased the value of Huizi in circulation, while also increasing the demand for the uncommon wén coins. Huizi notes were increasingly used for commercial purposes while bronze coins were often being hoarded up as savings, although the Huizi notes were also hoarded up as savings, the government had set up a 3 year expiry term so people would have to constantly renew their banknotes at government offices to stop them from hoarding the value up like what happened with bronze coinage.

Due to the constant threat of the Mongol Empire and increased military expenditures the Song government started to cast more coins leading to inflation. Eventually coins became a rarely used item in Lin'an causing the Southern Song government to start producing small coin tallies called Qian Pai () in denominations of 10, 40, 100, 200, 300, and 500 wén, in reality however the denominations were discounted per 100 wén (often at 30%) and were worth less on the actual market, an example of this would be 77 wén for official business, 75 wén for trading purposes, and could be discounted to as low as 56 for writings. The majority of Qian Pai tablets tend to have the description "(for) use in Lin'An Prefecture" (), the contemporary capital city.

As the Mongols started to advance Southwards the last 3 emperors of the Song dynasty did not cast any coins as they had neither the time to set up any mints nor the resources to produce any cast coins.

List of coins produced by the Song dynasty[edit]

The coins produced during the Song dynasty period include:[15][16]

Northern Song dynasty coins[a][edit]

Inscription Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Scripts Period minted Emperor Image
Song Yuan Tong Bao 宋元通寶 宋元通宝 Regular script 960–976 Taizu S170 Taizu SongNord (7930295452).jpg
Tai Ping Tong Bao 太平通寶 太平通宝 Regular script 976–989 Taizong S171 SongNord TaiZong TaiPing 976 994 (7112437651).jpg
Chun Hua Yuan Bao 淳化元寶 淳化元宝 Regular script, Seal script, Running script 990–994 Taizong S173 Taizong ZhiDao cursive (7930329252).jpg
Zhi Dao Yuan Bao 至道元寶 至道元宝 Regular script, Seal script, Running script 995–997 Taizong S97 SongNord ZhenZong (7992567567).jpg
Xian Ping Yuan Bao 咸平元寶 咸平元宝 Regular script 998–1003 Zhenzong S97 SongNord ZhenZong (7992567567).jpg
Jing De Yuan Bao 景德元寶 景德元宝 Regular script 1004–1007 Zhenzong S255 SongNord ZhenZong (7992563301).jpg
Xiang Fu Tong Bao 祥符通寶 祥符通宝 Regular script, Running script 1008–1016 Zhenzong S234 SongNord ZhenZong (7992578802).jpg
Tian Xi Tong Bao 天禧通寶 天禧通宝 Regular script 1017–1022 Zhenzong S289 SongNord ZhenZong (7992565541).jpg
Tian Sheng Yuan Bao 天聖元寶 天圣元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1023–1031 Renzong S177 SongNord RenZong (8014838014).jpg
Ming Dao Tong Bao 明道元寶 明道元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1032–1033 Renzong S177 SongNord RenZong (8014838014).jpg
Jing You Yuan Bao 景佑元寶 景佑元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1034–1038 Renzong S178 SongNord RenZong (8014834217).jpg
Huang Song Yuan Bao 皇宋元寶 皇宋元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1039–1054 Renzong S181 SongNord RenZong (8014829975).jpg
Kang Ding Yuan Bao 康定元寶 康定元宝 Regular script 1040 Renzong
Qing Li Zhong Bao 慶歷重寶 庆历重宝 Regular script 1041–1048 Renzong 2cash SongNord RenZong QingLi H16128 1ar85 (8721146228).jpg
Zhi he Tong Bao 至和通寶 至和通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1054–1055 Renzong S186 RenZong ZhiHe 1 (8020144883).jpg
Zhi he Yuan Bao 至和元寶 至和元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1054–1055 Renzong S269 RenZong ZhiHe 1 (8020151732).jpg
Jia You Tong Bao 嘉佑通寶 嘉佑通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1056–1063 Renzong S222 RenZong JiaYou 1 (8020155670).jpg
Jia You Yuan Bao 嘉佑元寶 嘉佑元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1056–1063 Renzong S223 RenZong JiaYou 1 (8020155116).jpg
Zhi Ping Tong Bao 治平通寶 治平通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1064–1067 Yingzong S99 YingZong ZhiPing 1 (8074415656).jpg
Zhi Ping Yuan Bao 治平元寶 治平元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1064–1067 Yingzong S188 YingZong ZhiPing 1 (8074418009).jpg
Xi Ning Tong Bao 熙寧通寶 熙宁通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1068–1077 Shenzong
Xi Ning Yuan Bao 熙寧元寶 熙宁元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1068–1077 Shenzong S189 ShenZong XiNing 2 (8104956094).jpg
Xi Ning Zhong Bao 熙寧重寶 熙宁重宝 Regular script, Seal script 1068–1077 Shenzong S481 ShenZong XiNing 1 (8094688402).jpg
Yuan Feng Tong Bao 元豐通寶 元丰通宝 Regular script, Seal script, Running script 1078–1085 Shenzong S194 ShenZong YuanFeng 2 (8175903407).jpg
Yuan You Tong Bao 元佑通寶 元佑通宝 Seal script 1086–1094 Zhezong S487 ZheZong YuanYou 1 (8198426609).jpg
Shao Sheng Tong Bao 紹聖通寶 绍圣通宝 Regular script, Seal script, Running script 1094–1098 Zhezong Shao Sheng Tong Bao 1094-1097 - Dr. Luke Roberts 01.jpg
Shao Sheng Yuan Bao 紹聖元寶 绍圣元宝 Regular script, Seal script, Running script 1094–1098 Zhezong S202 SongNord ZheZong ShaoSheng H16308 1ar85 (8729169272).jpg
Yuan Fu Tong Bao 元符通寶 元符通宝 Regular script, Seal script, Running script 1098–1100 Zhezong 1cash SongNord ZheZong YuanFu H16342 S245 1ar85 (8723958974).jpg
Sheng Song Tong Bao 聖宋通寶 圣宋通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1101 Huizong
Sheng Song Yuan Bao 聖宋元寶 圣宋元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1101 Huizong S411 SongNord HuiZong ShengSung 1ar85 (8903949946).jpg
Chong Ning Tong Bao 崇寧通寶 崇宁通宝 Regular script 1102–1106 Huizong Chong Ning Tongbao 1.JPG
Chong Ning Zhong Bao 崇寧重寶 崇宁重宝 Regular script 1102–1106 Huizong S254 SongNord HuiZong ChongNing fer H16416 1ar85 (8751213634).jpg
Da Guan Tong Bao 大觀通寶 大观通宝 Regular script 1107–1110 Huizong S472 SongNord HuiZong DaGuan (7256117202).jpg
Zheng He Tong Bao 政和通寶 政和通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1111–1117 Huizong S598 SongNord HuiZong ZhengHe H16454 1ar85 (9165912246).jpg
Chong He Tong Bao 重和通寶 重和通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1118–1119 Huizong
Xuan He Tong Bao 宣和通寶 宣和通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1119–1125 Huizong S284 SongNord HuiZong XuanHe H16486 1ar85 (8988949678).jpg
Xuan He Yuan Bao 宣和元寶 宣和元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1119–1125 Huizong Xuan He Yuan Bao 1119 - Dr. Luke Roberts.jpg
Jing Kang Tong Bao 靖康通寶 靖康通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1126–1127 Qinzong
Jing Kang Yuan Bao 靖康元寶 靖康元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1126–1127 Qinzong

Southern Song dynasty coins[edit]

Inscription Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Scripts Period minted Emperor Image
Jian Yan Tong Bao 建炎通寶 建炎通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1127–1130 Gaozong S585 SongSud GaoZong JianYan H1726 1ar85 (8823182282).jpg
Jian Yan Yuan Bao 建炎元寶 建炎元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1127–1130 Gaozong
Jian Yan Zhong Bao 建炎重寶 建炎重宝 Seal script 1127–1130 Gaozong
Shao Xing Tong Bao 紹興通寶 绍兴通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1131–1162 Gaozong Shao Hsing T'ung Pao - John Ferguson.jpg
Shao Xing Yuan Bao 紹興元寶 绍兴元宝 Regular script 1131–1162 Gaozong S494 SongSud GaoZong ShaoXing H1745 1ar85 (9016774601).jpg
Long Xing Tong Bao 隆興通寶 隆兴通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1163–1164 Xiaozong
Long Xing Yuan Bao 隆興元寶 隆兴元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1163–1164 Xiaozong
Qian Dao Tong Bao 乾道通寶 干道通宝 Regular script 1165–1173 Xiaozong
Qian Dao Yuan Bao 乾道元寶 干道元宝 Regular script 1165–1173 Xiaozong
Chun Xi Tong Bao 淳熙通寶 淳熙通宝 Regular script 1174–1189 Xiaozong
Chun Xi Yuan Bao 淳熙元寶 淳熙元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1174–1189 Xiaozong S500 SongSud XiaoZong Chunxi H17198 1ar85 (9024890827).jpg
Shao Xi Tong Bao 紹熙通寶 绍熙通宝 Regular script, Seal script 1190–1194 Guangzong
Shao Xi Yuan Bao 紹熙元寶 绍熙元宝 Regular script, Seal script 1190–1194 Guangzong S502 SongSud GuangZong ShaoXi 1190 1194 (6966389284).jpg
Qing Yuan Tong Bao 慶元通寶 庆元通宝 Regular script 1195–1200 Ningzong S594 SongSud NingZong Qingyuan H17395 1ar85 (9182388551).jpg
Qing Yuan Yuan Bao 慶元元寶 庆元元宝 Regular script 1195–1200 Ningzong
Jia Tai Tong Bao 嘉泰通寶 嘉泰通宝 Regular script 1201–1204 Ningzong S504 SongSud NingZong JiaTai H17485 1ar85 (9046944101).jpg
Jia Tai Yuan Bao 嘉泰元寶 嘉泰元宝 Regular script 1201–1204 Ningzong
Kai Xi Tong Bao 開禧通寶 开禧通宝 Regular script 1205–1207 Ningzong
Kai Xi Yuan Bao 開禧元寶 开禧元宝 Regular script 1205–1207 Ningzong
Jia Ding Tong Bao 嘉定通寶 嘉定通宝 Regular script 1208–1224 Ningzong
Jia Ding Yuan Bao 嘉定元寶 嘉定元宝 Regular script 1208–1224 Ningzong Jingding Yuanbao.jpg
Sheng Song Zhong Bao 聖宋重寶 圣宋重宝 Regular script 1210 Ningzong
Bao Qing Yuan Bao 寶慶元寶 宝庆元宝 Regular script 1225–1227 Lizong
Da Song Tong Bao 大宋通寶 大宋通宝 Regular script 1225 Lizong
Da Song Yuan Bao 大宋元寶 大宋元宝 Regular script 1225–1227 Lizong
Shao Ding Tong Bao 紹定通寶 绍定通宝 Regular script 1228–1233 Lizong S501 SongSud LiZong ShaoDing H17700 1ar85 (9049358032).jpg
Duan Ping Tong Bao 端平通寶 端平通宝 Regular script 1234–1236 Lizong S620 DuanPing H17741 1ar85 (10246361604).jpg
Duan Ping Yuan Bao 端平元寶 端平元宝 Regular script 1234–1236 Lizong
Duan Ping Zhong Bao 端平重寶 端平重宝 Regular script 1234–1236 Lizong
Jia Xi Tong Bao 嘉熙通寶 嘉熙通宝 Regular script 1237–1240 Lizong S258 SongSud LiZong JiaXi H17756 1ar85 (8996837238).jpg
Jia Xi Zhong Bao 嘉熙重寶 嘉熙重宝 Regular script 1237–1240 Lizong
Chun You Tong Bao 淳佑通寶 淳佑通宝 Regular script 1241–1252 Lizong
Chun You Yuan Bao 淳佑元寶 淳佑元宝 Regular script 1241–1252 Lizong
Huang Song Yuan Bao 皇宋元寶 皇宋元宝 Regular script 1253–1258 Lizong S538 SongSud LiZong BaoYou H17817 1ar85 (9160561738).jpg
Kai Qing Tong Bao 開慶通寶 开庆通宝 Regular script 1259 Lizong
Jing Ding Yuan Bao 景定元寶 景定元宝 Regular script 1260–1264 Lizong Jingding Yuanbao.jpg
Xian Chun Yuan Bao 咸淳元寶 咸淳元宝 Regular script 1265–1274 Duzong Xianchun Yuanbao.jpg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This list is included because Northern Song dynasty coins still circulated in the Southern Song dynasty.


  1. ^ Bai, Shouyi (2002), An Outline History of China (Revised ed.), Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, ISBN 7-119-02347-0 
  2. ^ Bol, Peter K. (2001), "The Rise of Local History: History, Geography, and Culture in Southern Song and Yuan Wuzhou", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 61 (1): 37–76, doi:10.2307/3558587, JSTOR 3558587 
  3. ^ "Chinese coins – 中國錢幣 (Southern Song Dynasty)". Gary Ashkenazy / גארי אשכנזי (Primaltrek – a journey through Chinese culture). 16 November 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2017. 
  4. ^ Richard von Glahn, "Origins of Paper Money in China," in Origins of Value: The Financial Innovations that Created Modern Capital Markets, ed. K. Geert Rouwenhorst and William N. Goetzmann (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  5. ^ "Song Dynasty Chinese Coins。". Admin for (Treasures & Investments). 3 June 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2017. 
  6. ^ "Southern Song Coin for Jin Army Defectors". Gary Ashkenazy / גארי אשכנזי (Primaltrek – a journey through Chinese culture). 13 October 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2017. 
  7. ^ Wang Lingling (王菱菱), Songdai kuangyeye yanjiu 宋代矿冶业研究 (Baoding: Hebei daxue chubanshe, 2005).
  8. ^ Robert M. Hartwell, "The Imperial Treasuries: Finance and Power in Sung China," Bulletin of Sung-Yuan Studies 20 (1988).
  9. ^ Wang Wencheng (王文成), Songdai baiyin huobihua yanjiu宋代白銀貨幣化研究 (Kunming: Yunnan daxue chubanshe, 2001).
  10. ^ "Song Dynasty Biscuit Coins". Gary Ashkenazy / גארי אשכנזי (Primaltrek – a journey through Chinese culture). 16 November 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2017. 
  11. ^ Gao Congming (高聪明), Songdai huobi yu huobi liutong yanjiu 宋代货币与货币流通研究 (Baoding: Hebei daxue chubanshe, 1999).
  12. ^ Miyazawa Tomoyuki (宮沢知之), Sōdai Chūgoku no kokka to keizai 宋代中国の国家と経済 (Tokyo: Sōbunsha, 1998).
  13. ^ Robert M. Hartwell, "The Imperial Treasuries: Finance and Power in Sung China," Bulletin of Sung-Yuan Studies 20 (1988).
  14. ^ .pdf [ Silver and the Transition to a Paper Money Standard in Song Dynasty (960-1276) China.] Richard von Glahn (UCLA) (For presentation at the Von Gremp Workshop in Economic and Entrepreneurial History.) University of California, Los Angeles, 26 May 2010 Retrieved: 17 June 2017.
  15. ^ Numis' Numismatic Encyclopedia. A reference list of 5000 years of Chinese coinage. (Numista) Written on December 9, 2012 • Last edit: June 13, 2013 Retrieved: 17 June 2017
  16. ^ [ Coincidences of Vietnam and China cash coins legends.] Francis Ng, People's Republic of China, Thuan D. Luc, United States, and Vladimir A. Belyaev, Russia March-June, 1999 Retrieved: 17 June 2017.


Preceded by:
Ancient Chinese coinage
Reason: Jurchen invasion of Northern China.
Currency of Southern China
1127 – 1279
Succeeded by:
Yuan dynasty coinage
Reason: Mongol conquest