Chinese numismatic charm

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Different types of Yansheng coins in Hội An, Vietnam.

Yansheng Coin (simplified Chinese: 厌胜钱; traditional Chinese: 厭勝錢; pinyin: yàn shèng qián), in the west they are more commonly known as Chinese numismatic charms or simply Chinese charms (alternatively they may be known as Chinese amulets or Chinese talismans), refers to a collection of special kinds of coins and coin-shaped objects used mainly for ritual uses as well as fortune telling and are involved in almost all forms of Chinese superstitions and Feng shui. It was very popular in ancient China and even the Republic of China era. Normally these coins are privately funded or cast, such as by a rich family for their own family ceremony, though a few types have been known to be cast by various governments or religious orders over the centuries. They originated during the Han dynasty as a variant of the contemporary Ban Liang and Wu Zhu cash coins but evolved into their right right and into many different categories in various shapes and sizes over the centuries. Chinese numismatic charms typically contain a lot of hidden symbolism and visual puns. Unlike cash coins which usually only contain two or four Hanzi characters on one side Chinese numismatic charms often contain more characters and may or may not also contain pictures on the same side.

Chinese numismatic charms and amulets are not a real kind of currency, however as Chinese coins were valued by their weight in bronze or brass, Chinese numismatic charms tended to circulate on the Chinese market alongside regular government issued coinages as Chinese charms and amulets were often made from copper-alloys and in some cases from precious metals or jade,[1] and in certain cases some variants were sometimes used as alternative currencies especially temple coins issued by Buddhist temples during the Yuan dynasty when copper currency was scarce or its production was intentionally limited by the Mongol government. As some types of Chinese charms and amulets were used as daily fashion accessories many of them are worn.

The collection (e.g. antique collection, coin collection) of this kind of coins has a long history, and has been very popular since the Western Han Dynasty. Normally this kind of coins are heavily decorated, have complicated patterns, and even engraved.[2] Sometimes actual government cast Chinese cash coins can become Chinese numismatic charms such as the fact that in Feng shui Qing dynasty era cash coins with inscriptions of the five emperors Shunzhi, Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong, and Jiaqing placed together are said to bring wealth and good fortune to those that string these five coins together.[3][4]

Chinese numismatic charms and amulets have inspired a similar tradition in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam and often charms and amulets from these other countries can be confused for Chinese charms due to their similar symbolism and inscriptions. Similarly Chinese cash coins themselves may be treated as "lucky charms" outside of China.

Contents

Names[edit]

Its formal name and pronunciation would be Yasheng coin/money (simplified Chinese: 压胜钱; traditional Chinese: 押胜钱; pinyin: yā shèng qián), but nowadays Yansheng is more widely known.

In Shuowen Jiezi, it records: "厌,笮也,今人作压。"[5] ("(厌), bamboo ritual ware, nowadays (Western Han Dynasty period) people use as (压)), which would imply the original meaning of Yasheng is for terrifying ghosts away and praying for victory.[6]

Sometimes, the nickname for the Yansheng coin also includes the so-called "flower coin" or "patterned coin" (simplified Chinese: 花钱; traditional Chinese: 花錢; pinyin: huā qián). They are alternatively referred to as "play coins" (wanqian, 玩钱) in China. Historically the term "Yansheng coin" was more popular but in modern China and Taiwan the term "flower coin" has become the more common name.[7]

History and usage[edit]

Yansheng coins were first appeared during the Western Han Dynasty. It was mainly originated from necromancy, for propitious wishes, terrifying ghosts, lucky money, or even for praying the victory of a war.

In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the imperial government also issued such coins, such as for big festivals or ceremonies like the emperor's birthday or the introduction of a new inscription on government issued cash coins. For example, it was common for the emperor's sixtieth birthday to be celebrated by issuing a charm with the inscription Wanshuo Tongbao (萬夀通寶) because 60 years symbolises a complete cycle of the 10 heavenly stems and the 12 earthly branches.[8][9]

Origins[edit]

An Eastern Han dynasty Wu Zhu cash coin with additional decorations.

The earliest Chinese coinage bore inscriptions that described their place of origin during the Warring States period and sometimes their nominal value was included. Eventually other forms of notation such as circles possibly representing "the sun", crescents possibly representing "the moon", and dots possibly representing "the stars" as well as blobs and lines were inscribed on Ancient Chinese coinage. These symbols were sometimes protruded into the surface of the coin (Chinese: 阳文; Pinyin: yáng wén) and sometimes they were carved, engraved or incused (Chinese: 阴文; Pinyin: yīn wén) into these types of coins. These symbols would eventually evolve into Chinese charms with coins originally being used as charms.

Dots were the first and most common form of symbol (appearing mostly during the Han dynasty) that appeared on ancient Chinese cash coins such as the Ban Liang coins, these symbols though simple to produce usually appeared on the obverse side of the coins and were probably carved as a part of the mold, meaning that they were intentionally added. Crescent symbols are found on both the obverse and reverse sides of these coins and were also added around the same period as the dots, after this both regular Chinese numerals and counting rod numerals began to appear on ancient Chinese cash coins during the beginning of the Eastern Han dynasty. Chinese characters also began to appear on these early cash coins which could've meant that these coins should only circulate in certain regions or might've been the names of the people who cast these cash coins.

Coins made under Emperor Wang Mang of the Xin dynasty were later used as the basis of many Chinese amulets and charms because of how distinct these coins look from Han dynasty era coinage.[10][11]

Ancient Chinese texts refer to the Hanzi character for "star" (星) to not exclusively refer to the stars that are visible at night but to also have an additional meaning of "to spread" and "to disseminate" (布, ), while other old Chinese sources claimed that the character for star was synonymous for the term for "to give out" and "to distribute" (散, sàn), based on these associations and the facts that coinage was seen as power that the dots that appeared on cash coins were thought to have the hidden meaning that cash coins should be akin to the star-filled night sky, and be widespread in circulation, numerous in quantity, and distributed throughout the world.

Another hypothesis on why star, moon, cloud and dragon symbols started appearing on Chinese cash coins is that they represent Yin and Yang and the Wu Xing, or more specifically the element of water (水), this hypothesis claims that the appearance of these symbols wasn't accidental but a manifestation of the fundamental belief of the ancient Chinese people of the time in Yin Yang energy and the elements of the Wu Xing. The Hanzi character for a "spring" (泉), which in this context refers to the underground source of water also meant "coin" in ancient China. In Chinese mythology the moon was an envoy or messenger from the heavens and water was cold air of Yin energy that was being accumulated and had their origins on the moon. As the moon was the spirit in charge of water in Chinese mythology and was in fact its essence the alleged meaning of crescent symbols representing "the moon" on cash coins could indicate that cash coins have to circulate just like water which flows, gushes, and rises. The symbolism of "clouds" or "auspicious clouds" in this context may then refer to the fact that clouds cause rain, in the Book of Changes the second trigram is mentioned to be representative of the element water which appear in the heavens as clouds, this would also imply that like flowing water cash coins should circulate freely. The appearance of wiggly-lines that represent Chinese dragons happened around this time as well and may have also been based on the Wu Xing element of water as dragons were thought to be water animals that were the bringers of both the winds and the rain, this would also confirm that dragons represented the nation that the circulation of cash coins should be free akin to how water flows. In later Chinese charms, amulets, and talismans the dragon became a symbol of the Chinese emperor as well as the central government of China and its power.[12][13][14][15]

Later developments[edit]

Lei Ting curse charms in Delft, the Netherlands, these amulets are shaped like ordinary cash coins but contain examples of Taoist symbolism and imagery.

Most Chinese numismatic charms produced from the start of the Han dynasty until the end of the Northern and Southern dynasties were very similar in appearance to the Chinese cash coins that were in circulation, in fact the only differentiating factor that Chinese charms and amulets had at the time were the symbols on the reverse of these coins. These symbols included tortoises, snakes, double-edges swords, the sun, the moon, stars, depictions of famous people as well as the twelve Chinese zodiacs. The major development and evolution of Chinese numismatic charms and amulets happened during the period that started from the Six Dynasties and lasted until the Mongol Yuan dynasty. It was during this era that Chinese numismatic charms began using inscriptions that wished for "longevity" as well as "happiness", these charms and amulet became extremely common and widespread into Chinese society. Religious charms such as Taoist and Buddhist amulets also began to appear during this period as did marriage coin charms with "Kama Sutra-like" imagery. Chinese numismatic charms were not only made from copper-alloys anymore but also from iron, lead, tin, silver, and gold as well as porcelain, jade, and paper. New scripts and fonts also appeared on Chinese numismatic charms such as regular script, grass script, Seal script, and Taoist "magic writing" script.

Charms with inscriptions such as fú dé cháng shòu (福德長壽) and qiān qiū wàn suì (千秋萬歲)[16] were first cast around the end of the Northern dynasties period and then continued right through the Khitan Liao, Jurchen Jin and Mongol Yuan dynasties. During the Tang and Song dynasties open-work charms began to include images of Chinese dragons, Qilin, flowers as well as other plants, fish, deer, insects, Chinese phoenixes, fish, and human beings. The open-work charms from this era in Chinese history were usually used as accessories to clothes, adornment or to decorate horses. The very common Chinese numismatic charm inscription cháng mìng fù guì (長命富貴) was also introduced during the Tang and Song dynasties while the reverse side of these charms and amulets started showing Taoist imagery such as yin-yang symbols, the eight trigrams, and the Chinese zodiacs. It was also under the Song dynasty that a large number of Chinese charms and amulets were being cast, especially the number of Horse coins cast was large as horse coins were being used as gambling tokens and board game pieces. Under the reign of the Khitan Liao dynasty fish charms meant to be worn around the waist were introduced. Under the Jurchen Jin dynasty new types of Chinese numismatic charms and amulets emerged due to the influence of the steppe culture and arts of the Jurchen people. The Jin dynasty merged the Jurchen culture with the Chinese way of administration and the charms of the Jin dynasty innovated on the charms and amulets of the Song dynasty which used hidden symbolism, allusions, implied suggestions, and phonetic homonyms to describe a meaning. Under the Jurchens new symbolisms such as a dragon representing the Emperor and a phoenix the Empress emerged, tigers were used to represent the ministers, lions the government as a whole, and cranes and pine trees were used to describe longevity. Homonyms as hidden symbolism such as jujube fruits for "morning or early" and chickens symbolising "being lucky" also emerged under the Jurchens.

Under the Ming and Manchu Qing dynasties the manufacture of amulets with inscriptions that wish for good luck and those that celebrate events increased. These numismatic charms and amulets depict what is called the "three many", this name is used to describe happiness, longevity, and having many children and grandchildren. Other common wishes included those for wealth and receiving a high rank from the imperial examination system. During this period more Chinese numismatic charms and amulets started using implied and hidden meanings with visual puns, this practice was especially expanded upon under the Manchu Qing dynasty.[17][18][19][20]

Categories[edit]

A Yansheng coin of Chinese characters 福 (left) and 壽 (right) repeated in various scripts. Qing Dynasty antique

Unlike government cast Chinese cash coins which typically only have four characters, Chinese numismatic charms often have more than four characters and depict images of various scenes.[21]

This kind of coins has several different styles:

  • carved/engraved (Chinese: 镂空品; pinyin: lòukōng pǐn)
    • with animal
    • with people
    • with plants
  • words/characters on coin (Chinese: 钱文品; pinyin: qián wén pǐn)
  • sentences/wishes (Chinese: 吉语品; pinyin: jí yǔ pǐn)
  • Chinese zodiac/zodiac (Chinese: 生肖品; pinyin: shēngxiào pǐn)
  • Taoism/Bagua (Chinese: 八卦品; pinyin: bāguà pǐn), or Buddhism gods (Chinese: 神仙佛道品; pinyin: shénxiān fú dào pǐn)
  • Horses/military (Chinese: 打马格品; pinyin: dǎ mǎ gé pǐn)
  • Abnormal or combined styles (Chinese: 异形品; pinyin: yìxíng pǐn)

Early Chinese numismatic charms tend to be cast while when the first struck coinage started appearing in China machine-struck amulets started to be made as well.

Types of Chinese charms[edit]

Horse coins[edit]

An example of a Chinese horse coin.

Horse coins (Traditional Chinese: 馬錢; Pinyin: mǎ qián) were a type of Chinese charm that originated in the Song dynasty, most horse coins tend to be round coins 3 centimeters in diameter with a circular or square hole in the middle of the coin. The horses featured on horse coins are depicted in various positions. it is currently unknown how horse coins were actually used though it is speculated that Chinese horse coins were actually used as game board pieces or gambling counters. Horse coins are most often manufactured from copper or bronze, but in a few documented cases they may also be made from animal horns or ivory. The horse coins produced during the Song dynasty are considered to be those of the best quality and craftsmanship and tend be made from better metal than the horse coins produced after.[22]

Horse coins often depicted famous horses from Chinese history, while commemorative horse coins would also feature riders, such as the horse coin that features “General Yue Yi of the State of Yan” commemorating the event that a Yan general attempted to conquer the city of Jimo.[23]

Zodiac charms[edit]

A charm depicting the 12 Chinese zodiacs on display at the Östasiatiska Museet.

Chinese zodiac charms are types of charms based on either the twelve animals or the twelve earthly stems. These charms are based on the system of twelve ancient Chinese astronomers deduced by calculating the orbit of Jupiter, which was also applied to Earth, for this reason some ancient Chinese zodiac charms feature stellar constellations. By the time of the Spring and Autumn Period the twelve earthly branches which were associated with the months and the twelve animals became linked to each other which during the Han dynasty became linked to a person's year of birth.[24][25][26][27][28] Based on these traditions charms with inscriptions related to the twelve animals and twelve earthy branches, some ancient Chinese zodiac charms featured all twelve animals and others might also include the twelve earthly branches. It is not uncommon for zodiac charms to feature the character gua (挂) which indicates that the charm should be hung from a necklace or from the waist.[29] Modern Fengshui charms often incorporate the same zodiac based features.[30]

Numismatic charms for good luck[edit]

Chinese "good luck" coins often contain inscriptions wishing for auspicious outcomes.

Chinese numismatic "good luck charms" or "auspicious charms" are special Chinese charms inscribed with various Chinese characters representing good luck and prosperity. As the idea that lucky charms had strong effects has traditionally been very popular in China they were also used to what some people think can scare away evil and presumably protect their families. Chinese "good luck charms" generally contain either 4 or 8 characters wishing for good luck, good fortune, money, a long life, many children, and good results in the imperial examination system.[31] Some Chinese "good luck charms" used images and/or visual puns to make a statement wishing for prosperity and success. Some Chinese "good luck charms" feature pomegranates which symbolise the desire to get successful and skilled male children as the ideal traditional Chinese family would contain 5 sons and 2 daughters as sons carry the ancestral lineage and take care of their family while daughters only take care of their in-laws.[32][33][34][35][36]

Some Chinese numismatic charms depict rhinoceroses which is considered a symbol associated with "happiness" due to the fact that the Chinese words for rhinoceros and "happiness" are both pronounced as xi, as the rhinoceros became extinct in Southern China during the ancient period they became mystified in Chinese legends causing the ancient Chinese to believe the stars in the sky were being reflected in the veins and patterns of a rhinoceros horn. The horn of the rhinoceros was believed that it could emit a vapour that could penetrate bodies water, traverse the skies and open channels to communicate directly with the spirits, for these reasons rhinoceroses are a common theme on Chinese numismatic charms.[37][38][39]

A number of good luck charms contain inscriptions such as téng jiāo qǐ fèng (騰蛟起鳳, “a dragon soaring and a phoenix dancing” which is a reference to a story of Wang Bo),[40] lián shēng guì zǐ (連生貴子, “May there be the birth of one honorable son after another”),[41] zhī lán yù shù (芝蘭玉樹, "A Talented and Noble Young Man"),[42]

Gourd charms[edit]

Gourd charms (Traditional Chinese: 葫蘆錢; Simplified Chinese: 葫芦钱; Pinyin: hú lu qián) are Chinese numismatic charms shaped like calabashes. The calabash in China is associated with medicine so these charms are used to wish for good health or for many sons as trailing calabash vines are associated with men and carry ten thousand seeds, for this reason gourd charms are considered an important symbol for people who wish to have large families. As the first character in gourd is pronounced as (葫) which sounds similar to the Chinese word for "protect" (護) or the word for "blessing" (祜) gourd charms are used to ward off evil spirits. As the number eight is considered to be an omen for good luck in China the fact that calabashes are shaped like the Arabic number "8" these charms are considered to be omens of good luck in the modern age. As calabashes were believed to have the magical power of protecting children from smallpox gourd charms are used with the belief that they keep children healthy as the belief is that the God of smallpox and the measles would transfer the smallpox from the child into the gourd charm. There exists a variant of the gourd charm which is shaped like two traditional cash coins stacked to resemble a calabash with a small cash-shaped coin on top and a bigger one at the bottom, these charms also just have 4 characters however they do not contain any inscriptions used on cash coins but contain auspicious messages.[43][44][45][46]

A visual pun using a bat and the "eyes" of two Wu Zhu cash coins.

Some Chinese numismatic charms contain visual puns such as a Gourd charm that is composed of two replicas of Wu Zhu cash coins with a bat placed to obscure the characters that are nearest to each other, the Chinese word for bat sounds similar to that of "happiness", the square hole in the centre of a cash coin is referred to as an "eye" (眼, yǎn), and as the Chinese word for "coin" (錢, qián) has almost the same pronunciation as "before" (前, qián). For this reason this charm could be interpreted as "happiness is before your eyes".[47]

Eight Treasures charms[edit]

An Eight Treasures charm with the inscription 長命富貴金玉滿堂 which could be translated as "longevity, wealth and honor", "may gold and jade fill your house (halls)" on display at the Museum of Ethnography, Sweden.

Chinese Eight Treasures charms (Traditional Chinese: 八寶錢; Simplified Chinese: 八宝钱; Pinyin: bā bǎo qián) depict the Eight Treasures, these treasures are also known as the "Eight Precious Things" and the "Eight Auspicious Treasures",[48][49][50] but in actuality refer to a large group of items from antiquity known as the "Hundred Antiques" (百古) which consists of objects utilised in the writing of Chinese calligraphy such as painting brushes, ink, writing paper and ink slabs as well as other antiques such as Chinese chess, paintings, Chinese music and various others. Most commonly cash coins, the ceremonial Ruyi, coral, lozenge, Rhinoceros horns, sycees, stone chimes, and the flaming pearls are depicted on older charms. "Eight Treasures charms" can display the eight precious organs of the Buddha's body, the eight auspicious signs, or the various emblems of the eight Immortals from Taoism as well as eight normal Chinese character. Variants without inscriptions also exist.[51][52]

Liu Haichan and the Three-Legged Toad charms[edit]

These are Chinese charms depict Liu Haichan and the Jin Chan, Liu Haichan is one of the most popular figures to appear on Chinese charms, the symbolism behind these charms can differ from region to region as in some varieties of Chinese, the character chan has a pronunciation very similar to qián (錢) which means "coin". Because the Jin Chan lives on the moon these charms symbolise wishing for that which is "unattainable" which can be interpreted as that these charms are the most auspicious and conducive to attracting good fortune to the holder. While contradictory the moral of these charms can be interpreted as that attaining money is the fatal attraction which can lure a person to their downfall.[53][54][55][56]

Vault Protector coins[edit]

A Vault Protector coin made by the Board of Works Mint in Beijing.

Vault Protector coins (Traditional Chinese: 鎮庫錢; Simplified Chinese: 镇库钱; Pinyin: zhèn kù qián) were a type of coin created by Chinese mints that were a lot larger, heavier and thicker than regular cash coins and were well-made as they were designed to occupy a special place within the treasury of the mint. The treasury had a spirit hall for offerings to the gods of the Chinese pantheon, Vault Protector coins would oftentimes be hung with red silk and tassels for the Chinese God of Wealth and these coins were believed to have charm-like magical powers that would protect the vault from misfortune while bringing wealth and fortune to the treasury.[57][58]

The Book of Changes and Bagua charms (Eight Trigram charms)[edit]

A Chinese amulet with the 8 trigrams.

Chinese charms depicting illustrations and subjects from the I-Ching are used to wish for the cosmic principles associated with divination in Ancient China such as simplicity, variability, and persistency. Bagua charms may also depict the Eight Trigrams. Bagua charms commonly feature depictions of trigrams, the Yin Yang symbol, Neolithic jade cong's (琮), the Ruyi sceptre, bats, and cash coins.[59][60][61][62][63][64][65]

Book of Changes and Bagua charms are alternatively known as Yinyang charms (Traditional Chinese: 陰陽錢) because of the fact that the Taijitu is often found with the eight trigrams.[66][67] This is also a popular theme for Vietnamese numismatic charms and many Vietnamese versions contain the same designs and inscriptions.[68]

Open-work charms[edit]

An Open-work charm on display at the Museum of Ethnography, Sweden.

Open-work money (Traditional Chinese: 鏤空錢; Simplified Chinese: 镂空钱; Pinyin: lòu kōng qián) also known as "elegant" money (Traditional Chinese: 玲瓏錢; Simplified Chinese: 玲珑钱; Pinyin: líng lóng qián) are a collection of types of Chinese numismatic charms characterised by irregular shaped "openings" or "holes" between the rest of the design elements of these coins and they tend have a single large round hole in the middle of the coin, while open-work charms that feature designs of temples and other buildings tend to have a square hole in the centre similar to Chinese cash coins. The majority of open-work charms are exclusively decorated with images which are identical on both sides of the coin only reversed, while open-work charms that contain Chinese characters are rare. Compared to other Chinese charms open-work charms are notable for more often being made from bronze than brass and being significantly larger. The first Chinese open-work charms can be dated to the Han dynasty, though the majority of those from this era are small specimens taken from various utensils. They became more popular during the reigns of the Song, Mongol Yuan, and Ming dynasties but loss popularity under the Manchu Qing dynasty.[69][70][71][72][73][74]

Categories of open-work charms:

Category Image
Open-work charms with immortals and people 91643 SMVK OM objekt 118302.jpg
Dragon open-work charms 91643 SMVK OM objekt 118342.jpg
Phoenix open-work charms
Peacock open-work charms 91643 SMVK OM objekt 118324.jpg
Chinese Unicorn open-work charms
Bat open-work charms
Lotus open-work charms
Flower and Vine open-work charms
Open-work charms with buildings and temples[a]
Fish open-work charms 91619 SMVK EM objekt 1016714 (1).jpg
Deer open-work charms Section 8.6 Open-work charm - Deer or other animals - John Ferguson.jpg
Lion open-work charms
Tiger open-work charms
Rabbit open-work charms
Bird open-work charms
Crane open-work charms
Horse open-work charms

24 character charms ("Good Fortune" and Longevity Charms)[edit]

A 24 character charm on display at the Museum of Ethnography, Sweden.

24 character "Good Fortune" charms (Traditional Chinese: 二十四福字錢; Simplified Chinese: 二十四福字钱; Pinyin: èr shí sì fú zì qián) and 24 character longevity charms (Traditional Chinese: 二十四壽字錢; Simplified Chinese: 二十四寿字钱; Pinyin: èr shí sì shòu zì qián) refer to Chinese numismatic charms which have twenty-four characters on them and either contains a variation of the Hanzi character (福, good luck) or shòu (壽, longevity) which are the most common and second most Hanzi characters to appear on Chinese charms, respectively.[75][76][77][78][79] The Ancient Chinese believed that the more characters a charm had the more good fortune it would bring, although it is currently unknown why 24 characters is the default used for these charms. One proposition claims that 24 was selected because it is a multiple of the number 8 which was seen as auspicious to the Ancient Chinese due to how the number 8 is pronounced in several varieties of Chinese where the pronunciation is close to that of "good luck", another proposed possibility as to why 24 characters were selected for these charms is because of the twelve Chinese zodiacs and the twelve earthly branches of Chinese mythology. Other possibilities include that these Chinese charms are based on the fact that the Chinese feng shui special compass (罗盘) has 24 directions, that Chinese years are divided in 12 months and 12 shichen, the fact Chinese season markers are divided into 24 solar terms, or the 24 examples of filial piety from Confucianism.[80][81][82]

Old Chinese Chess (Xiangqi) pieces[edit]

An ancient Chinese metal xiangqi piece on display at the Museum of Ethnography, Sweden.

The game of Xiangqi was originally played with either metallic or porcelain chess pieces during ancient times and these pieces were often collected and researched by those with an interest in Chinese cash coins,[83][84] Chinese charms and horse coins. These coins are regarded as a type of Chinese charm and are divided into the following categories:[85][86][87][88]

  • Elephants (象)
  • Soldiers (卒)
  • Generals (将)
  • Horses (马)
  • chariots (車)
  • guards (士)
  • Canons (炮)
  • Palaces (宫)
  • Rivers (河)

The earliest discovered Xiangqi pieces date to the Chongning era (1102-1106) of the Song dynasty and were unearthed in the province of Jiangxi in 1984. These chess charms were also found along the Silk road in provinces like Xinjiang and were also used by the Tanguts of the Western Xia dynasty.[89][90][91]

Safe journey charms[edit]

Safe journey charms or safe passage charms are a major category of Chinese numismatic charms, these charms were produced out of a concern by people for their safety while traveling. One side would usually contain an inscription wishing for the holder of this charm to be granted a safe journey, while the other would contain aspects used on many Chinese charms and amulets such as the Bagua, weapons, and stars. It is also believed that the Boxers used safe journey charms as badges of membership during their rebellion against the Manchu Qing dynasty.[92]

Chinese Spade charms[edit]

A Chinese spade charm on display at the Museum of Ethnography, Sweden.

Spade charms are Chinese charms based on Spade money, as Chinese charms first emerged during the Han dynasty most Chinese numismatic charms actually imitated the round coins with a square hole in the middle that circulated at the time, but as Chinese numismatic charms started to evolve separately from government minted Ancient Chinese coinage,[93] and coins shaped like spades, locks, fish, peaches, gourds, etc. emerged,[94][95][96][97] but most Chinese charms kept looking like contemporary Chinese coinage. Spade charms are based on Spade money which circulated during the Zhou dynasty until they were abolished by the Qin dynasty,[98][99] spade money was briefly reintroduced by Wang Mang during the Xin dynasty. Chinese spade charms are generally based on the spade money that was produced under the Xin dynasty by Wang Mang.[100][101][102]

Chinese lock charms[edit]

A silver Chinese lock charm on display at the Museum of Ethnography, Sweden.

Chinese lock charms (Traditional Chinese: 家鎖; Simplified Chinese: 家锁; Pinyin: jiā suǒ) are Chinese numismatic charms based on locks symbolising protection from evil spirits of both the holder and their property as well as (supposedly) bring good fortune, high results in the imperial examination system, and longevity and could often be found around the necks of children tied by either Buddhist and Taoist priests. Chinese lock charms actually do not have any moving parts and are flat, their form resembles that of the Hanzi character “” which can translate to "concave", all Chinese lock charms have Chinese characters on them. An example of a Chinese lock charm is the "hundred family lock" (Traditional Chinese: 百家鎖), this lock charm lends its name to the fact that the families of the babies would give areca nuts to other families who were vested in the personal security of the newborn to invite them to donate some of their cash coins to create this lock charm. Many Chinese lock charms are used to wish for stability. Other designs of lock charms include religious mountains, the Bagua, and Yin Yang symbol.[103][104][105][106][107][108]

Chinese star charms[edit]

Chinese star charms refers to Song dynasty era dà guān tōng bǎo (大觀通寶) cash coins that depict star constellations on the reverse side of the coin,dà guān tōng bǎo cash coins are often considered to be one of the most beautiful Chinese cash coins because of their “slender gold” script (瘦金書) which was written by Emperor Huizong himself. The reason why this coin was used to make star charms is because the word guān means star gazing and is a compound word for astronomy and astrology.[109]

"Five poisons" charms and amulets[edit]

A coin amulet that depicts a snake, a spider, a centipede, a toad, and a tiger.

"Five poisons" charms and amulets (五毒錢) are Chinese charms or Yansheng coins decorated with inscriptions and images related to the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar (天中节) as this day indicated the start of the summer which was accompanied with dangerous animals and bugs as well as the spread of pathogens through infection and the alleged appearance of evil spirits, for this reason this day was marked to be the most inauspicious of all days on the Chinese calendar. An example of a Five poisons charm would bear the legend "五日午时" ("noon of the 5th day"). One of the most common ways many ancient Chinese people attempted to protect themselves on this day was by wearing "five poisons" charms around their necks and especially around the necks of their children. These charms display the "five poisons" (五毒) which are five animals namely snakes, scorpions, centipedes, toads, and spiders although sometimes lizards are included instead of spiders and the three-legged toad or tiger may sometimes be seen as one of the "five poisons", the purpose of these amulets is actually to counter the hazardous effects of the animals displayed on the amulet as the ancient Chinese believed that poison could only be thwarted with poison, e.g. mixing quicksilver with wine.[110][111][112][113][114]

Nine-Fold Seal Script charms[edit]

Nine-Fold Seal Script charms (Traditional Chinese: 九疊文錢; Simplified Chinese: 九叠文钱; Pinyin: jiǔ dié wén qián) are Chinese numismatic charms that are written in nine-fold seal script, a style of seal script that was in use from the Song dynasty until the Qing dynasty. Nine-Fold Seal Script charms cast during the Song dynasty are rare, around the end of the Ming dynasty there were Nine-Fold Seal Script charms cast with the obverse inscription fú shòu kāng níng (福壽康寧, “happiness, longevity, health and composure”), on the reverse side of this charm the text bǎi fú bǎi shòu (百福百壽, “one hundred happinesses and one hundred longevities”) was written.[115]

"Eight Decalitres of Talent" charms[edit]

The "Eight Decalitres of Talent" charm is a Qing dynasty era handmade charm that has a blue coloured rim, the left and right characters are painted green while the top and bottom characters are painted orange. This charm has the inscription bā dòu zhī cái (八鬥之才) which could be translated as “eight decalitres of talent”, this inscription is a reference to a story where Cao Zhi outed to his brother Cao Pi opposing the fact that he was being oppressed by his older brother out of envy for his talents. The inscription was devised by the Eastern Jin dynasty poet Xie Lingyun as a reference saying that talent was divided in ten pieces and that Cao Zhi alone contains eight of the ten.[116]

Fish charms[edit]

Fish charms (Traditional Chinese: 魚形飾仵; Simplified Chinese: 鱼形饰仵; Pinyin: yú xíng shì wǔ) are Chinese numismatic charms shaped like fish, as the Chinese character for fish "" () is pronounced the same as that for surplus "" ()[117][118][119][120] the symbol for fish has traditionally been associated with good luck, fortune, longevity, fertility, and many other auspicious things. As the Chinese character for profit "" () is pronounced similar to carp (, ),[121][122][123][124][125] carps are most commonly used for the motif of Chinese fish charms. As in ancient times the knowledge of medicine wasn't as advanced as today the mortality rate for Chinese children was high and their guardians would use fish charms to supposedly protect them and many fish charms would feature inscriptions wishing for the Chinese children who would carry them to stay safe and live.[126][127][128]

Chinese peach charms[edit]

A Chinese peach charm for "good luck" (福) and "longevity" (壽).

Chinese peach charms (Traditional Chinese: 桃形掛牌; Simplified Chinese: 桃形挂牌; Pinyin: táo xíng guà pái) are peach-shaped Chinese numismatic charms used to wish for longevity, as longevity has traditionally due to Confucianism always been valued very highly to the point that Chinese Emperors would write the character for longevity () to those of the lowest social class if they had reached high ages,[129][130] and in Chinese culture this was seen to be among the greatest gifts, for this reason this character often appears on peach charms and other Chinese numismatic charms. Chinese peach charms often depict the Queen Mother of the West or may depict inscriptions such as “長命” (cháng mìng meaning long life) written in seal script. Ancient Chinese Peach charms were also used to wish for wealth depicting the character “” or higher Mandarin ranks using the character “”.[131][132][133]

Peace charms[edit]

A gourd-shaped Chinese numismatic peace charm.

Peace charms (Traditional Chinese: 天下太平錢; Simplified Chinese: 天下太平钱; Pinyin: tiān xià tài píng qián) are Chinese numismatic charms that depict inscriptions wishing for peace and prosperity and are based on Chinese coins that use the Chinese characters "太平" (tài píng)[134][135][136] and these coins are also often considered to have charm-like powers, these coins were originally thought to have been cast first by either the Eastern Han dynasty or the Jin dynasty at the order of Zhao Xin, who was the governour of Yizhou prefecture and placed the order after he captured the city of Chengdu, but today most sources establish that they were first cast by the Kingdom of Shu after the collapse of the Han dynasty after some archeological finds were made during the 1980s in Sichuan, the Shu Han era coin bore the inscription tài píng bǎi qián (太平百錢) and was worth one hundred Chinese cash coins, the calligraphic style of this coin resembles that of Chinese charms more than it did the contemporary currency. During the Song dynasty Emperor Taizong issued a coin with the inscription tài píng tōng bǎo (太平通寶), and later a Ming dynasty coin was with the inscription tài píng (太平) on the reverse of the coin and chóng zhēn tōng bǎo (崇禎通寶) on the obverse under the reign of the Chongzhen Emperor. During the Taiping Rebellion the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom issued coins (which were referred to as "holy coins") with the inscription tài píng tiān guó (太平天囯). Peace charms, which were unofficial privately cast coins that we were created due to the desire to wish for peace because of China's turbulent and often violent history, these charms were used on a daily basis throughout Chinese history. Under the Qing dynasty Chinese charms with the inscription tiān xià tài píng (天下太平) became a common sight, this phrase could be translated as "peace under heaven", "peace and tranquility under heaven", or "an empire at peace". Peace charms are also found to depict the twelve Chinese zodiacs and contain visual puns.[137][138][139][140]

During the Qing dynasty a tài píng tōng bǎo (太平通寶)[b] peace charm was created that had additional characters and symbolism at the rim of the coin, on the left and right sides of the charm the characters and which can be translated as "good fortune", while on the reverse side the characters rú yì (如意, “as you wish”) are located at the top and bottom of the rim. When these four characters are combined they read rú yì jí xiáng which is translated as “good fortune according to your wishes”, this is a popular expression in China. This charm is notably very rare in its design due to the fact that it has what the Chinese refer to as a “double rim” (重輪), this feature is only rarely found in Chinese cash coins and charms and can be described as having a circular and thin rim surrounding the broad outer rim, further than that this specific charm also has an additional inscription in the recessed area of the rim, an example of a contemporary Chinese cash coin which had these features would be a 100 cash xianfeng zhongbao (咸豐重寶) coin. On the reverse side of this Manchu Qing dynasty era charm are a multitude of inscriptions that have auspicious meanings such as qū xié qiǎn shà (驅邪遣煞, “expel and strike dead evil influences”), tassels and swords which represent a symbolic victory of good over evil, two bats which is a visual pun as the Chinese word for bat is similar to the Chinese word for happiness and the additional inscription of dāng wàn (當卍, “Value Ten Thousand”) this is supposedly the symbolic denomination of this numismatic charm or “coin”.[141][142]

Tiger Hour charms[edit]

Tiger Hour charms are Chinese numismatic charms modelled after the Northern Zhou dynasty wǔ xíng dà bù (五行大布, “Large Coin of the Five Elements”) cash coins,[c] but rather than having a square hole tiger hour charms tend to have a round one. Additionally on the reverse of these coins they feature the inscription yín shí (寅時) which is a reference to the Shichen of the tiger or the "tiger hour" and they feature an image of a tiger and a "lucky" cloud.[143]

Chinese burial coins[edit]

Chinese burial coins made of gold during the Jin dynasty.

Chinese burial coins (Traditional Chinese: 瘞錢; Simplified Chinese: 瘗钱; Pinyin: yì qián) or dark coins (Traditional Chinese: 冥錢; Simplified Chinese: 冥钱; Pinyin: míng qián)[144][145] are Chinese imitations of currency that are placed in the grave of a person that is to be buried. The practice dates back to the Shang dynasty when cowrie shells were used, superstitions around this practice imply that the money would be used in the afterlife and be used as a bribe to Yan Wang who would then give a more favourable destination regarding for the spirit of the deceased. As the practice of burying money with the dead attracted grave robbers the practice changed to replace real money with replica currency as any representation of money could be used in the afterlife,[146][147] these coins and other imitation currencies were referred to as clay money (泥錢) or earthenware money (陶土幣). Clay versions of what the Chinese refer to as "low currency" (下幣) shch as cowrie shells, Ban Liang, Wu Zhu, Daquan Wuzhu, Tang dynasty Kaiyuan Tongbao, Song dynasty Chong Ni Zhong Bao, Liao dynasty Tian Chao Wan Shun, Bao Ning Tong Bao, Da Kang Tong Bao, Jurchen Jin dynasty Da Ding Tong Bao, and Qing dynasty Qian Long Tong Bao cash coins have been found in Chinese graves. Imitations of gold and silver "high currency" (上幣) are also known to appear in some Chinese graves, Clay versions of the Kingdom of Chu's gold plate money (泥「郢稱」(楚國黃金貨)), yuan jin (爰金), Silk funerary money (絲織品做的冥幣), gold pie money (陶質”金餅”), and other cake-shaped objects (冥器) have all been found in Chinese graves from various periods. Today clay imitations of currency are no longer used but has been replaced by Joss paper, which is burned rather than buried with the deceased subjects.[148][149][150][151]

Chinese "Laid to Rest" burial charms[edit]

Chinese "Laid to Rest" burial charms are bronze Chinese funerary charms or coins usually found in graves, they measure from 2.4 to 2.45 centimeters in diameter and have a thickness of 1.3 to 1.4 millimeters, they contain the obverse inscription rù tǔ wéi ān (入土为安) which means “to be laid to rest”, while the reverses of these coins are blank. These coins were mostly found in graves dating from the late Qing dynasty period but one of these coins was found in a coin hoard of Northern Song dynasty coins. the wéi is written using a simplified Chinese character () rather than the traditional Chinese version of the character (). Due to many taboos these coins are excluded from numismatic reference books on either Chinese coinage or charms and amulets, in fact on many online coin forums it is not uncommon for Chinese commenters to state that they find these coins as either "horrifying" or "scary" due to the fact that they were put into the mouths of dead people and that these coins ought to be "thrown away because they are unlucky", for these reason these funerary charms tend to be extremely unwanted among collectors which explains their exclusion from reference books.[152][153][154][155]

Little shoe charms[edit]

Little shoe charms are Chinese charms based on the fact that shoes were associated with fertility and that the Chinese feminine ideal of small feet, which in Confucianism is associated with giving females a more narrow vagina, something the ancient Chinese saw as a sexually desirable trait and enable her to give birth to more male offspring, this was usually accomplished by binding a girl's feet from a young age. Little girls would hang these little shoe charms over their beds in the hope that they will help them find love. Chinese little shoe charms tend to be around an inch long. Shoes are also associated with wealth because their shape is similar to that of a sycee.[156]

Chinese football charms[edit]

During the Song dynasty there were Chinese numismatic charms cast that depict people playing the sport football, these charms display four images of football players in varying positions around the square hole in the middle of the coin, the reverse side of the coin depicts a dragon and a phoenix which are the traditional symbols representing men and women possibly indicating the unisex nature of the sport.[157][158]

Chinese cash coins with charm features[edit]

Some Chinese cash coins were known to display features commonly seen in Chinese numismatic charms, Chinese coins with charm features have been created over two thousand years ago with the early Ban Liang and Wu Zhu cash coins, and when the first Chinese charms started appearing during the Han dynasty these coins were already commonplace. Many government issued cash coins and other currencies such as Spade and Knife money that did not have any extra charm-like features were considered to also have “charm-like qualities” and were treated as charms by some people.[159][160][161] The Wang Mang era Knife coin with a nominal value of 5,000 cash coins was often seen as a charm by the people because the character (or 1000) is written very similar to the character which means "son" so the inscription of the Knife coin could be read as "worth five sons" as this was very much desired in ancient Chinese society. A coin from Shu Han with the nominal value of 100 Wu Zhu cash coins featured a fish on the reverse of the inscription which symbolises "abundance" and "perseverance" in Chinese culture. Another Shu Han era coin contained the inscription of Tai Ping Bai Qian which was taken as an omen of peace and this coin is often considered to be a peace charm. During the Jin dynasty a coin was issued with the inscription fēng huò (豐貨) which could be translated as "(the) coin of abundance" and it was believed by the people at the time that if someone would possess this coin that this would be economically beneficial for them which is why this coin is commonly referred to as the "cash of riches" in popular tongue.[162][163] During the Tang dynasty period images of clouds, crescents, and stars were often added on coins which the Chinese continued to use in subsequent dynasties. During the Jurchen Jin dynasty coins were cast with reverse inscriptions that featured characters from the twelve earthly branches and ten heavenly stems. During the Ming dynasty stars were sometimes used decoratively on some official government produced cash coins. Under the Manchu Qing dynasty yōng zhèng tōng bǎo (雍正通寶) cash coins cast by the Lanzhou Mint were considered to be charms or amulets capable of warding off evil spirits and demons because the Manchu word "gung" looked similar to the broadsword used by the Chinese God of War, Emperor Guan.[164][165] The commemorative kāng xī tōng bǎo (康熙通寶) cast for the Kangxi Emperor's 60th birthday in the year 1713 was believed to have "the powers of a charm" immediately when it entered circulation, this commemorative coin vontains a slightly different version of the Hanzi symbol "", at the bottom of the cash, as this character would most commonly have a vertical line at the left part of it but did not have it, and the part of this symbol which was usually inscribed as "" has the middle part written as a "" instead. Notably, the upper left area of the symbol "" only contains a single dot as opposed of the usual two dots used during this era. Several myths were attributed to this coin over the following three-hundred years since it has been cast such as the myth that the coin was cast from molten down golden statues of the 18 disciples of the Buddha which earned this coin the nicknames "the Lohan coin" and "Arhat money". These commemorative kāng xī tōng bǎo cash coins were given to children as yā suì qián (壓歲錢) during Chinese new year, some women wore them akin to how an engagement ring is worn today, and in rural Shanxi young men wore this special kāng xī tōng bǎo cash coin between their teeth like men from cities had golden teeth. Despite the myths surrounding this coin I was made from a copper-alloy and did not contain any gold but it was not uncommon for people to enhance the coin with gold leaf.[166][167][168]

Chinese marriage and sex education charms[edit]

A group of Chinese sex education coins, each showing four different sexual positions.

Chinese marriage charms (Traditional Chinese: 夫婦和合花錢; Simplified Chinese: 夫妇和合花钱; Pinyin: fū fù hé hé huā qián), also known as "secret play" coins (Traditional Chinese: 秘戲錢; Simplified Chinese: 秘戏钱; Pinyin: mì xì qián), "secret fun" coins, "hide (evade) the fire (of lust) coins" (Traditional Chinese: 避火錢; Simplified Chinese: 避火钱; Pinyin: bì huǒ qián), Chinese marriage coins, Chinese love coins, Chinese spring money (Traditional Chinese: 春錢; Simplified Chinese: 春钱; Pinyin: chūn qián), Chinese erotic coins, Chinese wedding coins and many other names, are Chinese numismatic charms or amulets that depict scenes of sexual intercourse in various positions to illustrate how the newlywed couple should perform on their wedding night to meet their responsibilities and obligations to their family and Chinese society to produce children, dates and peanuts symbolising the wish for reproduction, lotus seeds symbolising "continuous births", chestnuts symbolising male offspring, pomegranates symbolising fertility, brans symbolising sons that will be successful, "dragon and phoenix" candles, cypress leaves, Qilins, bronze mirrors, shoes, saddles, and other things associated with traditional Chinese weddings.

The name "spring money" is a reference to an ancient Chinese ritual in which girls and boys would sing romantic music to each other from across a stream that is still practised by various minorities today. Sex acts were traditionally only scarcely depicted in Chinese art but stone carvings from the Han dynasty showcasing sexual intercourse were found and bronze mirrors with various sexual themes were common during the Tang dynasty. It was also during the Tang dynasty that coins graphically depicting sex started being produced. Chinese love charms often have the inscription "wind, flowers, snow and moon" (風花雪月) which is an obscure verse referring to a happy and frivolous setting, although every individual character might also be used to identify a Chinese goddess or the "Seven Fairy Maidens" (七仙女). Other Chinese wedding charms often have inscriptions like fēng huā yí rén (風花宜人), míng huáng yù yǐng (明皇禦影), and lóng fèng chéng yàng (龍鳳呈樣).[169][170][171][172][173][174] These charms could also be used in brothels where a man who would purchase the services of a prostitute but couldn't communicate in the local language would be able to simply point at the coin and communicate his desired sexual position to the prostitute.[175][176]

Some Chinese marriage charms contain references to the famous 9th century poem Chang hen ge, where characters are illustrated in four different sex positions and four Chinese characters representing the spring, wind, peaches, and plums.[177]

Chinese pendant charms[edit]

Chinese pendant charms (Traditional Chinese: 掛牌; Simplified Chinese: 挂牌; Pinyin: guà pái) are Chinese numismatic charms that are used as decorative pendants. Around the beginning of the Han dynasty a large number of Chinese charms appeared to be produced and the Chinese people started to wear some types of Chinese numismatic charms around their necks or waists as pendants or attached these charms to the rafters of their houses, pagodas, temples and many other buildings as well as on lanterns.[178][179][180][181] It is believed that open-work charms may have been the first Chinese charms that were used in this fashion. As time progressed many different types of Chinese charms were created and while some were worn on a daily basis others were exclusively used for specific rituals or holidays. Fish, lock, spade, and peach charms were all used to be worn on a daily basis and excluding the latter two were mostly worn by young children and infants. Some Han dynasty era charms contained inscriptions such as ri ru qian jin (日入千金, "may you earn a 1,000 gold everyday"), chu xiong qu yang (除凶去央, "do away with evil and dispel calamity"), bi bing mo dang (辟兵莫當, "avoid hostilities and ward off sickness"), or chang wu xiang wang (長毋相忘, "do not forget your friends"), while others mostly resembled contemporary cash coins with added dots and stars. Some pendant charms only contained a single loop while most others also had either a square or round hole in the centre. Some Chinese pendant charms contain the Hanzi character gua (挂) which translates as "to hang" in English, it is currently unknown why this extra character is added as these charms are always shapes like traditional pendants as the loops make them obvious to be hung somewhere or on someone. Although most pendant charms contain pictorial illustrations, the association of Chinese characters into new and mystical symbolic forms reached an even greater extreme when Taoists introduced "Taoist magic writing" (符文) where many Hanzi characters that were prominently featured on both Chinese cash coins and charms would become hidden symbolism.[182][183]

Chinese "World of Brightness" coins[edit]

During the late Qing dynasty the traditional cast coinage was slowly being replaced by machine-struck coinage, one of the first provincial mints to adopt machines for striking milled coinage was the Guangzhou Mint of the province of Guangdong, somewhere around this time machine-struck charms with the inscription guāng míng shì jiè (光明世界, "World of Brightness") started appearing that looked very similar to the contemporary milled guāng xù tōng bǎo (光緒通寶) cash coins. Currently numismatists haven't figured out either the meaning, purpose, or origin of these Chinese "World of Brightness" coins. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain both the meaning and usage of these coins, one hypotheses proposes that these coins were a form of hell money because it is thought that "World of Brightness" in this context would be a euphemism for "world of darkness" which is how the Chinese call death, another hypotheses suggests that these coins were gambling tokens, while another hypothesis has claimed that these coins used by the Heaven and Earth Society due to the fact that the Hanzi character míng (明) is a component of the name of the Ming dynasty (明朝), which meant that the inscription guāng míng (光明) could be read as "the glory of the Ming". There are 3 variations of the "World of Brightness" coin, the most common one contains the same Manchu characters on the reverse as the contemporary guāng xù tōng bǎo (光緒通寶) cash coins indicating that this coin was produced by the mint of Guangzhou, another version has the same inscription written on the reverse side of the coin, while a third variant has nine stars on the reverse aide of the coin.[184]

Chinese palindrome charms[edit]

Chinese palindrome charms are very rare Chinese numismatic charms that contain palindromes and depict what in China is known as "palindromic poetry" (回文詩), in this form of poetry the sentenced produced aren't always palindromes but simply have to make sense when reading in either direction.[185][186] Because of their rarity Chinese palindrome charms are usually excluded from reference books on Chinese numismatic charms. A known example of a presumably Qing dynasty period Chinese palindrome charm reads "我笑他說我看他打我容他罵" ("I, laugh, he/she, talks, I, look, he/she, hits, I, am being tolerant, he/she, scolds") in this case the meaning of the words can be altered depending on how this inscription is read, as definitions may vary depending on the preceding pronoun. Due to the nature of this charm it could be read both clockwise and counter-clockwise which could change the entire meaning of a sentence if read. Due to the way this inscription was written it tells of two sides of a combative relationship and could be read as representing either party.

Traditional Chinese Pinyin Translation
笑他說我 xiào tā shuō wǒ Laugh at him/her scolding me.
看他打我 kàn tā dǎ wǒ Look at him/her fight me.
容他罵我 róng tā mà wǒ Be tolerant of him/her cursing me.
我罵他容 wǒ mà tā róng I curse and he/she is tolerant.
我打他看 wǒ dǎ tā kàn I fight and he/she watches.
我說他笑 wǒ shuō tā xiào I speak and he/she laughs.

The reverse side of this coin features images of thunder and clouds.[187]

"Cassia and Orchid" charms[edit]

"Cassia and Orchid" charms are extremely rare Chinese numismatic charms dating to the Manchu Qing dynasty with the inscription guì zi lán sūn (桂子蘭孫, "cassia seeds and orchid grandsons"), these charms use the Mandarin Chinese word for Cinnamomum cassia (桂, guì) as a pun as it sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese word for "honourable" (貴, guì) while the word for seed is also a homonym for son. The Mandarin Chinese word for orchid (蘭, lán) in this context refers to zhī lán (芝蘭 , "of noble character") which in this context means "noble grandsons". The inscription on the reverse side of this charm reads róng huá fù guì (榮華富貴, "high position and great wealth") describing a traditional Chinese family's wish to produce sons and grandsons who would pass the imperial examination and attain a great rank as a mandarin.[188][189]

Confucian charms[edit]

Confucian charms are Chinese numismatic charms that depict the traditions, rituals, and moral code of Confucianism such as filial piety and "righteousness".[190][191][192][193] Examples of Confucian charms would include a charm that depicts Shenzi carrying firewood on a shoulder pole, open-work charms depicting stories from "The Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety" (二十四孝),[194][195][196] the "five relationships" (五倫), Meng Zong kneeling besides bamboo, Dong Yong (a Han dynasty era man) working a hoe to earn money for his sick father after the death of his mother, Wang Xiang with a fishingpole, as well as coins with inscriptions such as fù cí zǐ xiào (父慈子孝, "the father is kind and the son is filial") read clockwise, yí chū fèi fǔ (義出肺腑, "righteousness comes from the bottom of one's heart"), zhōng jūn xiào qīn (忠君孝親, "be loyal to the sovereign and honor one's parents"), huā è shuāng huī (花萼雙輝, "petals and sepals both shine"), and jìng xiōng ài dì (敬兄愛第, "revere older brothers and love younger brothers").[197][198][199][200]

Men Plow, Women Weave charms[edit]

A Men Plow, Women Weave charm with the inscription "田蚕万倍".

Men Plow, Women Weave charms (Traditional Chinese: 男耕女織錢; Simplified Chinese: 男耕女织钱; Pinyin: nán gēng nǚ zhī qián) are Chinese numismatic charms depicting scenes related to the production of rice and sericulture. Men Plow, Women Weave charms can feature inscriptions such as tián cán wàn bèi (田蠶萬倍, "may your (rice) fields and silkworms increase 10,000 times") on their obverse and may have images of a spotted deer on their reverse.[201][202][203]

Chinese money trees[edit]

A Chinese money tree from the Han dynasty in the Hong Kong Heritage Cultural Museum.

Chinese money trees (Traditional Chinese: 搖錢樹; Simplified Chinese: 摇钱树; Pinyin: yáo qián shù) are Chinese numismatic charms shaped like trees with their leaves made out of replicas of cash coins, these money trees should not be with coin trees which are a by-product of the manufacture of cash coins, but due to their similarities it is thought by some experts they may have been related. Various legends from China dating to as early as the Three Kingdoms period mention a tree that if shaken would cause coins to fall off of its branches, and money trees as a charm have been found in Southwest Chinese tombs from the Han dynasty and later, where they are believed to have been placed there to help guide the dead to the afterlife and provide them with monetary support. According to one myth the origin of the money tree was that an old gray-haired man gave a farmer a special seed and then commanded the farmer to water the seed every day with his own sweat until the seed would sprout and then water it with his blood and after the tree had grown the farmer found out that if he would shake the tree that cash coins would fall out and that this effect was indefinite as the cash coins would grow back after every time which caused the farmer to become rich and the money tree would become an eternal source of wealth, this story was originally thought up to support the moral that one can only become wealthy through their own toil with their own sweat and blood. Literary sources claim that the actual origin of the money tree lies in the fact that the Chinese word for "copper" (銅, tóng) is pronounced similar to the word for "the Paulownia tree" (桐, tóng). The leaves of the Paulownia cash coins and become yellow during the Autumn causing them to physically look like either gold or bronze cash coins. Chen Shou (陳壽) mentions in the "Records of the Three Kingdoms" that a man named Bing Yuan (邴原) walked upon a string of cash coins while strolling and incapable of discovering the owner hung it up in a nearby tree, as other passerby's noticed this string they also began hanging coins up in the tree with the assumption that it was a holy tree and made wishes for wealth and luck. The earliest money trees however date back to the Han dynasty in present-day Sichuan where at the time a Taoist religious order named the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice, the money trees uncovered by archeologists have been known to be as tall as 198 centimeters, other than being decorated with many strings of cash coins these money trees were also decorated with little bronze dogs, bats, Chinese deities, elephants, deer, phoenixes, and dragons and had a foundation made from pottery but a body made from bronze. Both the inscriptions and calligraphy found on Chinese money trees match those of contemporary Chinese cash coins and those from the Han dynasty typically featured replicas of Wu Zhu (五銖) coins while those from the three kingdoms period had inscriptions such as Liang Zhu (兩銖).[204][205][206][207][208]

Taoist Charms[edit]

A Taoist charm that contains Taoist "magic writing" on display at the Museum of Ethnography, Sweden.

Taoist charms (Traditional Chinese: 道教品壓生錢; Simplified Chinese: 道教品压生钱; Pinyin: dào jiào pǐn yā shēng qián) are Chinese numismatic charms that contain inscriptions and images related to Taoism. As the people of Imperial China often believed that fortune both good and bad were the results of the spirits interfering with them they attempted to scare evil spirits away just as they would hostile humans. Since early history the Chinese had attributed magical powers and influence to Hanzi characters believing that certain characters could impact spirits, in fact the Huainanzi described that the spirits were horror-stricken of being commanded by the magical powers of the Hanzi characters which were used for amulets and charms, this is possibly due to the fact that the majority of the population of China was illiterate for most of its history. Many early Han dynasty charms and amulets were worn as pendants containing inscriptions requesting that people who were deified in the Taoist religion to lend them protection. Some Taoist charms contain inscriptions based on "Taoist magic writing" (Chinese: 符文, also known as Taoist magic script characters, Taoist magic figures, Taoist magic formulas, Taoist secret talismanic writing, and Talismanic characters) which is a secret writing style written down by Fulu. The "Records of the Divine Talismans of the Three Grottoes" (三洞神符紀) attribute the origin of Taoist "magic writing" to clouds condensing, the technique of learning Taoist "magic writing" is passed down from Taoist priests to their students and differ from Taoist sect to Taoist sect, these characters are composed of twisted strokes that at times may look like Hanzi characters. The secrecy of Taoist "magic writing" made many people to think that Chinese charms and amulets that contained them would have more effect in controlling the will of the spirits. As the majority of these Chinese charms asked the Taoist God of Thunder to kill the evil spirits or bogies, these numismatic charms are often called to "Lei Ting" charms (雷霆錢) or "Lei Ting curse" charms. As imperial decrees had absolute authority this proliferated the myth that the general populace held that Hanzi characters were somehow magical which in turn inspired Chinese charms and amulets to take the forms of imperial decrees. Many Taoist charms and amulets read as if it were by a high rank official commanding the evil spirits and bogies with inscriptions such as "let it (the command) be executed as fast as Lü Ling.",[d] "quickly, quickly, this is an order", and "(pay) respect (to) this command".[209] Taoist charms and amulets can contain either square holes and round ones, many Taoist amulets and charms contain images of Liu Haichan, Zhenwu, the Bagua, Yin Yang symbols, constellations, Laozi, swords, bats, and immortals.[210][211][212][213][214][215]

During the Song dynasty a number of Taoist charms depicting the “Quest for Longevity” were cast, these Taoist charms contain images of an immortal, incense burner, crane, and a tortoise on the obverse and Taoist "magic writing" on the reverse. Taoist charms containing the quest for immortality are quite a common motif and reproductions of this charm were commonly made after the Song period.[216] Some Taoist charms from the Qing dynasty contain images of Lü Dongbin with the inscription fú yòu dà dì (孚佑大帝, “Great Emperor of Trustworthy Protection”), this charm notably contains a round hole rather than a square one as is typical of most Chinese numismatic charms.[217][218]

A Taoist charm from either the Jin or Yuan dynasty without any written text shows what is commonly believed to be either a "boy under a pine tree" (松下童子) or a "boy worshipping an immortal" (童子拜仙人), but there's an alternative hypothesis that this charm depicts a meeting between Laozi and Zhang Daoling, this hypothesis is based on the fact that the figure supposedly representing Zhang Daoling is carrying a cane which in Mandarin Chinese is a homophone for Zhang. On the reverse side of the charm are the twelve Chinese zodiacs, each zodiac is in a circle surrounded by what in the Chinese numismatic charms world is referred to as "auspicious clouds" which number eight as this is considered a "lucky" number in China.[219]

Chinese charms with coin inscriptions[edit]

Chinese charms of various sizes with both actual and fantasy cash coin inscriptions.

Chinese charms with coin inscriptions (Traditional Chinese: 錢文錢; Simplified Chinese: 钱文钱; Pinyin: qián wén qián) were Chinese numismatic charms that used the contemporary inscriptions of circulating Chinese cash coins, these types of charms have a large overlap with other categories of Chinese charms and amulets but use the official inscriptions of government cast coinage due to the mythical association of Hanzi characters and magical powers as well as the cultural respect for the authority of the government which gave more credence to government decrees and orders including those on coins, for this reason even regular cash coins have had been attributed supernatural qualities in various cultural phenomenon such as folk tales and Feng shui. Various official coin inscriptions already have very auspicious meanings which is also why these inscriptions were selected to be used on Chinese numismatic charms and amulets, during times of crisis and disunity such as under the reign of Wang Mang the number of charms with coin inscriptions seem to increase enormously.[220][221][222] Meanwhile, other Chinese cash coin inscriptions were selected due to a perceived force in the metal used in the casting of these contemporary cash coins, an example would be the Later Zhou dynasty era zhōu yuán tōng bǎo (周元通寶) charm based on cash coins with the same inscription. Even long after the fall of the Xin dynasty charms with inscriptions from Wang Mang era coinage, and charms were produced with inscriptions like the Northern Zhou era wǔ xíng dà bù (五行大布) because it could be translated as "5 elements coin", the Later Zhou dynasty's zhōu yuán tōng bǎo (周元通寶), the Song dynasty era tài píng tōng bǎo (太平通寶), the Khitan Liao dynasty era qiān qiū wàn suì (千秋萬歲, "thousand autumns and ten thousand years"), as well as the Jurchen Jin dynasty era tài hé zhòng bǎo (泰和重寶). Northern Song dynasty era charms may have been based on actual Mother coins that were used to produce the official cash coins produced by the government but were given different reverses to make them into charms.[223][224] During the Ming dynasty there were Chinese charms based on the hóng wǔ tōng bǎo (洪武通寶) with an image of a boy (or possible the Emperor) riding either an ox or water buffalo, this charm became very popular as the first Emperor of the Ming dynasty was born as a peasant and spent his early life as one and eventually attained the title of Emperor which inspired many people that they could also do great things despite their lowly birth. There were also a large number of Chinese numismatic charms cast with the reign title Zheng De (正德通寶), despite the government having deprecated cash coins for paper money at the time and these charms were often given to children as gifts.[225] During the Manchu Qing dynasty a charm was cast with the inscription qián lóng tōng bǎo (乾隆通寶), but was fairly larger and had the tōng bǎo (通寶) part of the cash coin written in a slightly different style as well as had the Manchu characters on its reverse indicating its place of origin rotated 90 degrees. Some charms were also made to resemble the briefly cast qí xiáng zhòng bǎo (祺祥重寶) cash coins. Later charms were made to resemble the guāng xù tōng bǎo (光緒通寶) cast under the Guangxu Emperor but had dīng cái guì shòu (丁財貴壽, "May you acquire wealth, honor (high rank) and longevity") written on the reverse side of the coin.[226][227][228][229][230][231][232]

Ming dynasty cloisonné charms[edit]

A Chinese numismatic charm that looks like a cloisonné version of a cash coin.

Ming dynasty cloisonné charms (Traditional Chinese: 明代景泰藍花錢; Simplified Chinese: 明代景泰蓝花钱; Pinyin: míng dài jǐng tài lán huā qián) are extremely scarce Chinese numismatic charms made from cloisonné rather than brass or bronze which is used for the majority of charms and amulets from China, or silver which was used during the late imperial period. A known cloisonné charm from the Ming dynasty has the inscription nā mó ē mí tuó fó (南無阿彌陀佛 , "I put my trust in Amitābha Buddha"), there are various cloured lotus blossoms between the Hanzi characters, each colour represents something different while the white lotus symbolises the earth's womb from which everything is born, this was also the symbol of the Ming dynasty itself. Another known Ming dynasty era cloisonné charm has the inscription wàn lì nián zhì (萬歷年制, "Made during the (reign) of Wan Li") and the eight Buddhist treasure symbols impressed between the Hanzi characters, these Buddhist treasure symbols are the umbrella, the conch shell, the flaming wheel, the endless knot, a pair of fish, the treasure vase,[e] the lotus, and the Victory Banner.[233][234][235][236]

It is popular for Chinese numismatic cloisonné charms from after the Ming dynasty (especially cloisonné charms produced in the Qing dynasty) to have flower patterns.[237]

Chinese charms with musicians, dancers, and acrobats[edit]

Chinese charms with "barbarian" musicians, dancers, and acrobats (Traditional Chinese: 胡人樂舞雜伎錢; Simplified Chinese: 胡人乐舞杂伎钱; Pinyin: hú rén yuè wǔ zá jì qián) appeared during either the Khitan Liao or the Chinese Song dynasty new Chinese numismatic charms appeared that featured "barbarians" as musicians, dancers, and acrobats. These charms generally depict four individuals of which one is doing an acrobatic stunt such as the handstand while all others are playing various musical instruments; one of which is a four string instrument which might possibly be a ruan, another plays the flute, and the other plays on musical instrument known as the wooden fish. Despite the fact that most numismatic catalogues refer to these charms as depicting "barbarians" or Huren (胡人, literally "bearded people") the characters depicted on these charms notably have no beards. The reverse side of these charms depict four children or babies playing and enjoying themselves which is a common feature for Liao dynasty charms, above these babies is a person resembling a baby that appears to ride on something.[238][239][240][241]

Chinese treasure bowl charms[edit]

Chinese treasure bowl charms are Chinese numismatic charms that feature references to the mythical treasure bowl (聚寶盆) which would usually grant unending wealth to those who hold it but may also be responsible for great sorrow. These charms are pendants with an image of the mythical treasure bowl filled with various treasures from the eight treasures on one side and the inscription píng ān jí qìng (平安吉慶, "Peace and Happiness") on the other. The loops of these charms are a dragon and the string would be placed between the legs and the tail of the dragon, while at the bottom of these charms is the dragon's head looking upwards.[242][243]

Chinese poem coins[edit]

Chinese poem coins (Traditional Chinese: 詩錢; Simplified Chinese: 诗钱; Pinyin: shī qián, alternatively 二十錢局名) were Chinese cash coins cast under the Kangxi Emperor,[244][245] a Manchu Emperor known for his Chinese poetry skills and wrote the work "Illustrations of Plowing and Weaving" (耕織圖) in 1696. Under the Kangxi Emperor 23 mints operated at various times with many closing and reopening, the coins produced under the Kangxi Emperor all had the obverse inscription Kāng Xī Tōng Bǎo (康熙通寶) and had the Manchu character ᠪᠣᠣ (Boo, building) written on the left side of the square hole and the name of the mint in Chinese on the right. As the name Kangxi was composed of the characters meaning "health" () and "prosperous" ()[246][247][248][249] the Kāng Xī Tōng Bǎo cash coins were already viewed as having auspicious properties by the Chinese people. As the Kāng Xī Tōng Bǎo cash coins were produced at various mints some people placed these coins together to form poems, even though many of these poems did not have any meaning they were composed in adherence to the rules of Classical Chinese poetry. These coins were always placed together to form the following poems:

Traditional Chinese Pinyin
同福臨東江 tóng fú lín dōng jiāng
宣原蘇薊昌 xuān yuán sū jì chāng
南寧河廣浙 nán níng hé guǎng zhè
台桂陝雲漳 tái guì shǎn yún zhāng

According to an old Chinese superstition the strung "charm" of twenty coins also known as "set coins" (套子錢) only worked if all coins were genuine and this could be tested by placing them on a chicken-coop and if the cocks did not crow during the early morning. As carrying twenty coins together was seen as less than convenient new charms were being produced that had the ten of the twenty mint marks on each side of the coin, unlike the actual cash coins that they're based on these charms tend to have round holes in the middle and are also round in shape. Sometimes they were painted red as the colour red is viewed to be auspicious in Chinese culture. Sometimes these coins had obverse inscriptions wishing for good fortunes and the twenty mint marks on their reverse, these inscriptions include:

Traditional Chinese Translation
金玉滿堂 "may gold and jade fill your halls."
大位高升 "may you be promoted to a high position."
五子登科 "may your five sons achieve great success in the imperial examinations."
福祿壽喜 "good fortune, emolument (official salary), longevity, and happiness."
吉祥如意 "may your good fortune be according to your wishes."

Kāng Xī Tōng Bǎo cash coins produced at the Ministry of Revenue and the Ministry of Public Works in the capital city of Beijing are excluded from these poems.[250][251][252]

Buddhist charms and temple coins[edit]

A Buddhist numismatic charm with the inscription ē mí tuó fó (阿彌陀佛) referring to the Amitābha Buddha in Delft, the Netherlands.

Buddhist charms (Traditional Chinese: 佛教品壓勝錢; Simplified Chinese: 佛教品压胜钱; Pinyin: fó jiào pǐn yā shēng qián) are Chinese numismatic charms that display Buddhist symbols of mostly Mahayana Buddhism. These charms can have inscriptions in both Chinese and Sanskrit (while those with Sanskrit inscriptions didn't start appearing until the Ming dynasty),[253][254] these charms generally contain blessings from the Amitābha Buddha such as coins with the inscription ē mí tuó fó (阿彌陀佛). Temple coins often had inscriptions calling for compassion and requesting for the Buddha to protect the holder of the coin, most temple coins tend to be diminutive in size, some temple coins contan mantras from the Heart Sūtra. Some Buddhist charms are pendants dedicated to the Bodhisattva Guanyin, many contain the image of a lotus which is traditionally associated with the Buddha, and cooking bananas associated with Vanavasa. Less commonly some Buddhist charms also contain Taoist symbolism including the Taoist "magic writing" secret script. There are Buddhist charms based on the Ming dynasty era hóng wǔ tōng bǎo (洪武通寶) but larger.

Japanese Buddhist charms in China[edit]

The Buddhist qiě kōng cáng qì (且空藏棄) Japanese numismatic charm cast during the years 1736-1740 in Japan during the Tokugawa shogunate dedicated to the Ākāśagarbha Bodhisattva based on one of the favourite mantras of Kūkai is frequently found in China. Ākāśagarbha one of the 8 immortals who attempts to free people from the cycle of reincarnation with compassion. These coins were brought to China in large numbers by Japanese Buddhist monks, another Japanese Buddhist charm frequently found in China has the inscription nā mó ē mí tuó fó (南無阿彌陀佛, "I put my trust in (the) Amitābha Buddha").[255][256][257]

Chinese Boy charms[edit]

A Chinese boy charm on display at Museon, The Hague.

Chinese Boy charms (Traditional Chinese: 童子連錢; Simplified Chinese: 童子连钱; Pinyin: tóng zǐ lián qián) are Chinese numismatic charms that depict images of boys in the hope that these charms would cause more boys to be born in the family of the holder, they usually have an eyelet to be carried, hung, or worn. As the traditional ideal for a Chinese family was to have five sons and only two daughters boys were the preferred sex, this was because of a multitude of factors including but not limited to the fact that males are to carry out the Confucian ideal of filial piety, performing ancestor worship and continuing the family line, as well take care of their parents when they grow up. Many families hoped that at least one of their sons would be succeed to pass the imperial examination system and attain the honourable rank of Mandarin. Often the boys depicted on Chinese boy charms were in a position of reverence, and these little statuettes of boys are found on top of traditional Chinese numismatic charm designs, these charms are more commonly found in Southern China. Some boy charms contain inscriptions like tóng zǐ lián qián (童子連錢) which connect male offspring to monetary wealth, boy statuettes belonging to boy charms can also be found on top of open-work charms. Some boy charms contain images of lotus seeds because the Chinese word for lotus sounds similar to "continuous" wishing for continuous amount of sons being born.[258][259][260][261]

Chinese astronomy coins[edit]

Chinese astronomy coins (Traditional Chinese: 天象錢; Simplified Chinese: 天象钱; Pinyin: tiān xiàng qián) are Chinese numismatic charms that depict star constellations, individual stars, as well as other astronomical objects from ancient Chinese astronomy, they may additionally also contain texts from the Classic of Poetry, the Four Divine Creatures and the Twenty-Eight Mansions, as well as illustrations from the story the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. Astronomy coins usually contain guideposts to differentiate the different stars and constellations on coins, the constellations are divided into four cardinal directions equal to the wind directions.[262][263][264]

House charms[edit]

Chinese house charms refer to Chinese numismatic charms and amulets placed within a house to bring good fortune to the place, or to balance the house according to Feng shui, these charms date back as early as the Han dynasty. As ancient Chinese people believed that they needed assistance from spirts and gods to gain wealth, male offspring, and protection from evil spirits and demonic entities these house charms were placed in houses as early as during the construction of the place, they were also placed in temples and many other types of buildings. Many traditional Chinese houses tend to display images of the menshen. Some buildings were built with a "foundation stone" (石敢當) based on the Mount Tai in Shandong that had the inscription tài shān zài cǐ (泰山在此, "Mount Tai is here") or tài shān shí gǎn dāng (泰山石敢當, "the stone of Mount Tai dares to resist"), ridgepoles in Chinese buildings are usually painted red and are decorated with red paper, cloth banners, and Bagua charms. Many Chinese house charms are small bronze statues of bearded old men assigned to protect the house from evil spirits, the God of War, Zhong Kui (鍾馗), and the "Polar Deity". Five poison charms are often used to scare away unwanted human visitors as well as actual pets depicted on these charms such spiders and snakes. House charms tend to have inscriptions inviting good fortune into the home like cháng mìng fù guì (長命富貴, "longevity, wealth and honour"), fú shòu tóng tiān (福壽同天, "good fortune and longevity on the same day"), zhāo cái jìn bǎo (招財進寶, "attracts wealth and treasure"), sì jì píng ān (四季平安) which means "peace for the four seasons"), wǔ fú pěng shòu (五福捧壽, "five fortunes surround longevity"), shàng tiān yán hǎo shì (上天言好事, "ascend to heaven and speak of good deeds"), and huí gōng jiàng jí xiáng (回宮降吉祥, "return to your palace and bring good fortune").[265][266][267]

Chinese charms and amulets with sword symbolism[edit]

A Chinese coin sword-shaped talisman made from Qing dynasty era cash coins on display at the Museum of Ethnography, Sweden.

Swords are a common theme on Chinese numismatic charms and amulets, and there are even a lot of Chinese talismans shaped like swords made from coins, the usage of swords in Chinese numismatic charms has a long history. Most Chinese numismatic charms and amulets that feature swords often only show a single swords, while those that display two swords are reasonably uncommon. According to Chinese legends the first swords in Chinese history appeared under the reign of the legendary Yellow Emperor, the Yellow Emperor fought with a tribal chief named Chi You (蚩尤) who was described by ancient Chinese legends as having a copper bull-shaped head with an iron forehead. Chi You was also skilled in the art of blacksmithing and myths credit him for the invention of dagger-axes, halberds, lances, long spears, tribal spears, and swords. During the Spring and Autumn Period the notion that swords could not only be used against human enemies but also against evil spirits and demons came to being. Under the Liu Song dynasty swords started becoming a common instrument in religious rituals, most particularly in Taoist rituals, this was deemed so important that it became a must for those who studied Taoism to be able to forge swords which had the capability to dispel demonic entities according to the Taoist "Daoist Rituals of the Mystery Cavern and Numinous Treasure" (洞玄靈寶道學科儀). Many Taoist sects around this time were created that were focused on swords believing that swords could not only defeat demons but contained medical properties. Under the Sui and Tang dynasties ritualistic swords constructed of peach wood started to appear. Around this time Chinese amulets which used swords based on the aforementioned legends started being produced, often these amulets resembled Chinese cash coins but had crossed swords decorated with ribbons or fillets on them, as the ancient Chinese believed that these items enhanced the powers of the item they were tied to. Chinese swords commonly are engraved with imagery representing the Big Dipper and this also became common for Chinese amulets that featured swords. In symbolism where swords are combined with the Big Dipper ribbons are used less frequently due to the belief that swords could draw their magical properties from this constellation which had unlimited power.[268][269][270]

The image of two swords on Chinese amulets stems from a legend where Taoist leader Zhang Daoling saw Laozi appear to him on a mountain in present-day Sichuan and gave him two swords. Alternatively two swords can also represent two dragons which come from a legend where a man named Lei Huan (雷煥) received two swords in the city of Fengcheng (豐城). He kept one sword himself while he gave the other sword to his son Lei Hua (雷華). On a day Lei Hua carried his sword while crossing the Yanping Ford (延平津), his sword suddenly dropped out of its scabbard and then fell into the river below and sank. Lei Hua ordered one of his servants to retrieve his sword by swimming into the river and diving to fetch it, under the water the servant tasked with finding the sword only witnessed two coiled and entwined Chinese dragons.[271][272][273][274]

Another popular way swords are integrated in Chinese numismatic charms and amulets is by stringing Chinese cash coins or imitations of cash coins into a sword-shape, in Feng shui these coin-swords are often hung above windows or on the side of walls because it is believed that demons and evil spirits would be frightened away by these objects because these swords resemble the sword of Zhong Kui. Chinese charms and amulets depicting swordsman usually depict one of the Taoist immortals Zhong Kui or Lu Dongbin, these two individuals can often be recognised by their attire and other symbolism around them, however it isn't always clear which swordsman is depicted on these charms, swordsman further appear on zodiac charms, Bagua charms, elephant chess pieces, lock charms, and other categories of Chinese numismatic charms. Another person who appears on Chinese amulets is Zhenwu who is regarded as the perfect warrior.[275][276][277][278][279]

A common inscription on a Chinese sword charm is The Chinese inscription is qū xié jiàng fú (驅邪降福, "Expel evil and send down good fortune (happiness)"), but most commonly these charms feature inscriptions or "imperial orders"/"edicts" (敕令, chì lìng) ordering for demons and evil spirits to be expelled. Sometimes rather than using images of real swords an image of a calamus is used due to the fact that the leaves of this plant resemble a sword.[280][281][282][283][284]

Chinese Numismatic Charms Museum[edit]

On February 1, 2015 a Chinese Numismatic Charms Museum (Traditional Chinese: 中國古代民俗錢幣博物館; Simplified Chinese: 中国古代民俗钱币博物馆; Pinyin: zhōng guó gǔ dài mín sú qián bì bó wù guǎn) was opened in the Hainanese city of Haikuo, this museum is located in a building that is a replica of the Szechuan Kanting Civilian Commercial Bank in Movie Town Haikou and has exhibition areas that cover around 530 square meters. The collection of the Chinese Numismatic Charms Museum contains both Chinese coins and paper money and has more than two thousand Chinese numismatic charms from the Han dynasty until the Republic of China.[285][286]

Charms from ethnic minorities[edit]

Liao dynasty charms[edit]

A Liao dynasty period charm on display at the Shanghai Museum.

Liao dynasty charms are Chinese numismatic charms produced during the Khitan Liao dynasty that are written in Khitan script and unlike Liao dynasty coins were read counter-clockwise, these charms are rare and because Khitan script hasn't been completely deciphered yet aren't fully understood by modern exports.[287][288][289] Although some Liao dynasty era charms had Khitan script inscriptions others had no inscriptions at all, as the Khitan people may have interpreted certain symbols differently from the Chinese it's currently not well understood what most of these charms represented, as charms from the Liao dynasty are rare not much research has been conducted into them. One of the most well known Liao dynasty charms is the "Mother of Nine Sons" charm, this charm is fully pictorial and has no inscription, the charm has three groups which each consist of three people which are believed to be the sons of the woman riding a dragon on the other side, the three groups are believed to symbolise the three different levels of the imperial examination system. A more recent hypothesis claimed that the person riding the dragon is actually the Yellow Emperor returning to the heavens and that the people represent the “Nine Provinces” (九州).[290][291][292][293]

Charms of the Sui people[edit]

There are Chinese numismatic charms produced by the Sui people of Guizhou. In 2004 a Sui coin was discovered dating to the Northern Song dynasty produced between 1008 and 1016, this coin had the inscription dà zhōng xiáng fú (大中祥符) on one side and the word "wealth" written in Sui script on the other side, as this is the only known coin produced by the Sui people it established that they don't have a numismatic tradition like the Han Chinese have, however several numismatic charms attributed to the Sui people from the Sandu Shui Autonomous County such as a charm depicting male and female dragons (being transformed from fish) on the obverse and the twelve Chinese zodiacs and the twelve earthly branches written in Sui script on the reverse. Unlike Chinese charms Sui charms differentiate between male and female dragons by showing male genitalia on the male dragon, this seems to be a common feature for male dragons on numismatic charms by neighbouring ethnic groups from the same region.[294][295][296]

Implied and hidden meanings of Chinese numismatic charms[edit]

The implied and hidden meanings of Chinese numismatic charms and amulets (Traditional Chinese: 諧音寓意; Simplified Chinese: 谐音寓意; Pinyin: xié yīn yù yì) refer to the not so obvious meanings ascribed to them, these can take many forms which can involve hidden symbolism in their inscriptions as well as visual puns.[297]

One fundamental difference between cash coins and numismatic charms is that the majority of cash coins have 4 character inscriptions that (usually) bear the reign names indicating the period of production and their nominal value, comparably most Chinese numismatic charms also have 4 character inscriptions, though these do not serve for identification but contain wishes and desires such as auspicious inscriptions hoping that good fortune or health will arrive to the carrier, or that they'll succeed in the business world or do well on the imperial examination.[298] Other inscriptions however wish for evil and dark spirits or ghosts to go away, or for misfortune to be averted. Unlike cash coins Chinese numismatic charms also depict a large range of images which are intended to enhance the rich symbolism of Chinese charms. Many Chinese numismatic charms and amulets also contain a lot of visual ad spoken puns, this is due to the nature of Chinese languages where they contain an enormous number of written Hanzi characters but only a minor number of spoken words which means that many Hanzi characters have the same pronunciation.[f] The Chinese charms and amulets produced under the reigns of the Ming and Manchu Qing dynasties often used visual and spoken puns. These implied or hidden meanings are referred in Mandarin Chinese as jí xiáng tú àn (吉祥圖案, "lucky pictures" or a rebus) as it is not uncommon for Chinese charms and amulets to depict animals, plants, and other things as a substitute for words due to their similarities in pronunciation despite there being no other relationship between them or what is expressed with the imagery.[299][300][301][302][303][304]

List of symbols that appear on Chinese numismatic charms and their implied meanings[edit]

Symbol Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Pinyin Implied or hidden meaning Origin of the association Exemplary image(s)
Apple[305] 蘋果 苹果 píng guǒ Apples may be used to denote peace. The Mandarin Chinese word for "apple" (蘋果, píng guǒ) sounds similar to that for "peace" (平安, píng ān).
Apricot grove,
Field of apricots
xìng Successful results in the imperial examination. The first celebration where those who were successful in the imperial examination system was allegedly held in an apricot grove.
Axe Happiness, power, and punitive actions. The Mandarin Chinese word for "axe" (斧, ) sounds similar to that for "happiness" (福, ).
The head of an axe is considered to be one of the Twelve Ornaments imperial China.[306][307]
In the religion of Buddhism axes symbolise the destruction of evil.[308]
The axe is the symbol of the God of Carpenters, Lu Ban (鲁班).[309]
Bamboo (1)[310][311] zhú Being upright, resilience, strength, gentleness, being refind, gracefulness. These are also the ideals of Confucian scholars.
Bamboo is also used to represent Taoist ideals as bamboo often bends during extreme weather conditions without breaking.
Bamboo (2) zhú Wishes or congratulations.
Modesty.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "bamboo" (竹, zhú) is a homophone of the word for "to congratulate" or "to wish" (祝, zhù).
Because bamboos have "hollow centers" (空虚, kōng xū) they are associated with "modesty" (謙虛, qiān xū) because the second character in Mandarin Chinese of both words are homophones.
Bat[312][313] Good fortune.
When bats are placed upside-down this means that happiness bas arrived.
The five fortunes (A long life, being wealthy, being healthy and having composure, virtue, and the desire to die a natural death in old age).[314]
The Mandarin Chinese word for "bat" (蝠, ) sounds like "happiness" (福, ).[315][316]
The Mandarin Chinese word for "upside-down" (倒, dǎo) sounds like "to have arrived" (到, dào), comparatively when a bat is seen descending from the sky (蝠子天来, fú zi tiān lái) this phrase sounds similar to "good fortune descends from the heaven skies" (福子天来, fú zi tiān lái).
Happiness is before your eyes amulet (Etnografiska museet).jpg
Bear[g] xióng Scare away evil spirits.
Heroism (when combined with an eagle).
The Mandarin Chinese word for "Hero" (英雄, yīng xióng) sounds like a composite of "hawk" or "eagle" (鷹, yīng) and "bear" (熊, xióng).
Bran 麩子 麸子 fū zi Fertility. The Mandarin Chinese word for "wheat bran" (麩子, fū zi) is a homophone to the term for "wealthy son" (富子, fù zi).
Butterfly[317][318] 蝴蝶 蝴蝶 hú dié Longevity. The second Hanzi character in the Mandarin Chinese word for "butterfly" (蝴蝶, hú dié) sounds the same as the Mandarin Chinese word for "someone who is 70/80 years of age" (耋, dié).[319][320][321]
Calamus[322][323][324] 菖蒲 菖蒲 chāng pú Protection from bad luck, evil spirits, and pathogens. The leaves of a calamus plant resembles swords.
Carp (1) Strength, power, profit, and fertility. The Mandarin Chinese word for "carp" (鯉, ) sounds like that for "strength" (力, ) and also the word for "profit" (利, ).
Carps lay a lot of eggs which is why they are associated with fertility.[325][326]
Carp (2) Persistence. According to an ancient Chinese myth called the lǐ yú tiào lóng mén (鯉魚跳龍門) carps that leap over the dragon gate shall transform into a Chinese dragon.[327][328][329]
Cash coins qián Wealth and prosperity.
The cash coin is considered to be one of the "Eight Treasures".
"Before".
Completeness.
Cash coins are round with a square hole in the middle which was based on the Ancient Chinese belief that the earth was square and the heavens were circular or round.[330][331][332][333]
The Mandarin Chinese word for "coin" (錢, qián) sounds like "before" (前, qián).
An archaic Mandarin Chinese term for coins (泉, quán) sounds like the word for "complete" (全, quán).
Shih Chien Wu Chu charm - John Ferguson.jpg
Old metal money coins from China.jpg
Cassia[334] guì High ranks through success in the imperial examination system,
When cassia plants are placed together with calabash, pomegranate, and/or lotus seeds this represents the desire that many sons will achieve high ranks through the imperial examination system.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "cassia" (桂, guì) sounds the same as the word for "high rank" (貴, guì).
Cat Māo Longevity.
Protection of silkworms.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "cat" (貓, māo) is a homophone for get word for an "octogenarian" (耄, mào).[335][336]
Cats hunt rats and mice which are the natural predators of the silkworm.[337][338][339]
Chestnut[h] 栗子 栗子 Lì zi Fertility.
Good manners in a woman.
Chestnuts are often given as a Chinese wedding gift.[340][341]
The Mandarin Chinese word meaning "chestnut" (栗子, lì zi) is a homophone to the phrase "producing children" (立子, lì zi).
The first Hanzi character in the Mandarin Chinese word meaning "chestnut" (栗, ) is a homophone to the word for "etiquette" (禮, ) and is associated with that quality in females.
Chopsticks 筷子 筷子 Kuài zi The wish for a newlywed couple to immediately start producing offspring. The Mandarin Chinese word for "chopsticks" (筷子, kuài zi) is homophonic with the phrase "fast sons" (快子, kuài zi).[342][343][344]
Chime stones Qìng Being rich and wealthy. The Mandarin Chinese word for "chime stone" (磬, qìng) sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese word for "to congratulate" (慶, qìng).
Ancient Chinese chime stones were made from jade thus were considered to be expensive and therefore valuable.[345]
The chime stone is considered to be a member of the eight treasures of China.
Chrysanthemum 10th month of the Chinese calendar.
People who maintain their virtuous nature in the face of adverse and tempting circumstances.
Nobility and elegance.
Longevity.[346][347]
The chrysanthemum is one of the Chinese Four gentlemen.
The chrysanthemum blooms quite late in the year when the circumstances are less than optimal.
The Hanzi character for chrysanthemum looks like the Hanzi character for "forever" (永久, yǒng jiǔ).[i]
Cicada Chán Immortality and rebirth.[348][349] Cicadas survive under the ground for a significant amount of time before they rise from the ground and fly towards the skies.
Citron
(Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis)[j]
佛手 佛手 Fó shǒu happiness and longevity.[350][351] The Mandarin Chinese word for Buddha's Hand (佛手, fó shǒu) sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese words for "happiness" (福, ) and longevity" (壽, shòu).
Clouds[k] yún Heaven.
Good luck.[352][353][354]
The Mandarin Chinese word for "cloud" (雲 , yún) has a similar pronunciation as that for "luck" (運, yùn). 91643 SMVK OM objekt 118326 (1).jpg
Coral 珊瑚 珊瑚 shān hú Coral is considered to be one of the Chinese "Eight treasures".
Promotions in rank for officials.
Longevity.
Historically the population of China thought that coral was an underwater "iron tree" (鐵樹, tiě shù) that only blossomed once every century.
Red coral is believed to be auspicious because the colour red is associated with happiness, good fortune, and good luck.
Coral buttons on the hats of government officials signify one of the nine grades.
Coral resembles deer antlers and deer are associated with longevity.[355][356]
Section 10.1 - Pictorial obverse and reverse - Symbols - John Ferguson 01.png
Crab xiè Peace and harmony.
Success in the Chinese imperial examination system and a high rank as a government official.
The Mandarin Chinese term for "crab" (蟹, xiè) sounds similar to the word for "harmony" (协, xié).
The Mandarin Chinese term for "crab’s shell" (甲, jiǎ) also means "first", as in the person who has the highest score on the imperial examination system.[357][358]
Crane[l] Longevity.
Success in the imperial examination system and achieving a high rank.
A harmonious and good marriage.
In Ancient China it was believed that cranes reach high ages before their death.
Images of cranes were embroiled in the dresses of government officials with advanced ranks.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "crane" (鶴, ) sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese word for "harmony" (合, ).[359][360][361]
Cypress bǎi Large quantities. The Mandarin Chinese word for "cypress" (柏, bǎi) sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese word for "one-hundred" (百, bǎi).[362][363]
Date fruits Zǎo Something will happen soon.
The conception of children for newlywed couples.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "a Chinese jujube" or "date" (棗, zǎo) sounds like the words for "soon" and "early" (早, zǎo).
Deer[m] 鹿 鹿 A top government position with a high salary.
Prosperity.
Longevity.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "deer" (鹿, ) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word the salary of a government official (祿, ).[364]
The Mandarin Chinese word for "deer" sounds like the name of the Chinese God of Prosperity.
Traditionally the Chinese people thought that deer could reach high ages because they were thought to be the only animal with the ability to locate the magical lingzhi fungus of immortality.
Denkomanbai - Dr. Luke Roberts 02.jpg
Dog Quǎn The Chinese zodiac "dog". Dogs are one of the twelve Chinese zodiacs.[365] Symbolical animal charm (Hsu - Dog) - John Ferguson.png
Door gods
(Shentu and Yulü)
門神 门神 ménshén Protection against bad luck and evil spirits. The door gods were warriors who fought evil.[366]
Dragon Lóng Longevity, the renewal of life, fertility, prosperity, and benevolence.
Good harvests.
The Emperor[n][367]
The east and the spring.
A human male.[o][368]
The dragon is one of the twelve Chinese zodiacs.
It was believed in ancient China that dragons had the power to bring rain so they're associated with good harvests.
The Chinese dragon is associated with yang (the orient, springtime, and "male energy") while the Chinese phoenix is associated with its opposite, Yin.
Chinese numismatic charms - Scott Semans 27.jpg
Dragonfly 蜻蜓 蜻蜓 Qīng tíng Pureness of a person's character (one of the ideals of Confucianism). The first character in the Mandarin Chinese word for "dragonfly" (蜻, qīng) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "pure" (清, qīng).
Duck 鴛鴦 / 鸂 鸳鸯 / 鸂 Yuān yāng / Xī Peace and prosperity in marriage as well as conjugal affection and fidelity.[369] The ancient Chinese people believed that Mandarin ducks mated for life.
See also: Wedding ducks.
Dumplings 餃子 饺子 Jiǎo zi Abundance.
Money and wealth.
Fertility and large families.
Dumplings are often shaped like crescents which symbolise the desire to have "a year of abundance".
Dumplings are sometimes shaped like silver sycees, the Mandarin Chinese name for "dumplings" (餃子, jiǎo zi) sounds similar to that of the jiaozi banknotes (交子, jiāozǐ) from the Song dynasty, it was customary to place cash coins in dumplings once every while with the wish that the person who would find them would be granted good luck and prosperity.
The characters that compose the Mandarin Chinese characters for "dumplings" sound like "to have sexual intercourse" (交, jiāo) and "child" (子, ). Additionally if a dumpling has dates inside of it this could mean a wish for "the early birth of sons".[370]
Eagle
(or Hawk)
Yīng Heroism. See bear above.
Egret
(Heron)
Pathways.
Wealth.
Longevity, purity, and good fortune.
The Mandarin Chinese word for a "Heron" or an "Egret" (鷺, ) sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese term for "path", "road", or "way" (路, ).
The Mandarin Chinese word for a "Heron" or an "Egret" has a similar pronunciation as refer Mandarin Chinese term meaning "an official's salary" (祿, ).[371]
91619 SMVK EM objekt 1015969.jpg
Eight
(The number 8)
Eight is considered "the most auspicious number" in Chinese culture. The way that the number eight is pronounced in Chinese languages (particularly in the Southern variants) makes it sound like "wealth" or "to prosper" (發財, fā cái).[372]
Eight immortals 八仙 八仙 Bā xiān Depends on each individual member of the eight immortal. The eight immortals refers to eight individuals who practiced the religion of Taoism and had attained immortality.[373]
Eight treasures
(Chinese)[p]
八寶 八宝 Bā bǎo 1. The wish-granting pearl (寳珠, bǎozhū) or flaming pearl
2. The double lozenges (方勝, "fāngshèng").
3. The stone chime (磬, "qìng").
4. The pair of rhinoceros horns (犀角, xījiǎo).
5. The double coins (雙錢, shuāngqián).
6. The gold or silver ingot (錠, dìng).
7.coral (珊瑚, shānhú).
8. The wish-granting scepter (如意, rúyì).[374]
These are the traditional eight treasures from China, but they can also be considered to be a subset of the hundred treasures. Section 17.7 EIGHT CHARACTER OBVERSE, PICTORIAL REVERSE with OR without CHARACTERS - John Ferguson 01.jpg
Eight treasures
(Buddhist)[q]
佛門八寶 佛门八宝 Fó mén bā bǎo 1. The lotus flower symbolises purity and enlightenment.
2. The Wheel of the Dharma symbolises knowledge.
3. The treasure vase symbolises wealth.
4. The conch shell holds the Buddha's thoughts.
5. The victory banner represents that the Buddha's teachings conquer all.
6. The endless knot symbolises harmony.
7. The parasol symbolises protection.
8. A fish pair symbolise happiness in marriage.[375]
The eight treasures in Buddhism are the precious organs of the Buddha's body.
Elephant Xiàng Good fortune.
If an elephant is seen with a vase on its back it symbolises a wish for someone else (or the carrier of the Chinese charm or amulet) to have peace and/or good luck.
The elephant is also the eponymous character of xiangqi or "Elephant Chess".[376]
The Mandarin Chinese word for "elephant" (象, xiàng) sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese word for "lucky" or "auspicious" (祥, xiáng).
The Mandarin Chinese word for "vase" (瓶, píng) has the same pronunciation as the first component for the Mandarin Chinese word for "peace" (平安, píng ān).[377]
Fenghuang
(Chinese phoenix)
鳳凰 凤凰 Fènghuáng Joy and peace.
If shown together with a dragon then the fenghuang and dragon pair represent a harmonious and happy marriage.
The South and Summer.
The Empress of China.[378]
The ancient Chinese people believed that fenghuang (or Chinese phoenixes) only appeared at peaceful times of economical prosperity and when the government ruled its people in a good manner.
The fenghuang (Chinese phoenix) represents yin (female) while the dragon represents yang (male).
Section 9.3 Animals, reptiles, birds, and fish - John Ferguson.jpg
Fish Abundance.
The fish is often used with other Chinese amuletic symbols to represent a wish or desire to get more of that, these things include "more children", "more (good) luck", "more wealth", "more money", "more prosperity", "more (good) fortune", "more success in the imperial examination system", Etc. as well as longevity.
If a wish is combined with a magpie, a lotus and the Hanzi character for "year" (年) it represents a wish for "having more happiness year after year".
Fertility.
Happiness in marriage (if two fish are featured on a charm or amulet).
Fish as a symbol are extremely common on Chinese numismatic charms and amulets but are very rare on government cast Chinese cash coins.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "fish" (魚, ) sounds a lot like the Mandarin Chinese word for "surplus" or "abundance" (余, ).[379]
Because fish lay a lot of eggs at the same time they are considered to have great reproductive abilities which is where their association with sex, fertility, and marriage comes from.
Further reading: Fish in Chinese mythology.
Yung Cheng T'ung Pao charm - John Ferguson 01.jpg
Section 8.7 Open-work charm - Fish - John Ferguson.jpg
Five blessings (1)[r] 五福 五福 Wǔ fú 1. Longevity (壽);
2. Wealth (富);
3. Health and composure (康寧);
4. Virtue (修好德);
5. The desire to die a natural death in old age (考終命).[380][381]
These are the Chinese five blessings described in the Book of Documents.
Five blessings (2) 五福 五福 Wǔ fú 1. Good fortune (福);
2. The salary of a government official (祿);
3. Longevity (壽);
4. Joy or happiness (喜);
5. (Earthly) valuables or property (財).
These are a popular "alternative five blessings" in China.[382]
Five Poisons[s] 五毒 五毒 Wǔ dú The ability to counteract the pernicious influences of toxins.[383] The ancient Chinese believed that one could combat poison with poison. 5 poisons (Snake, spider, centipede, toad, and tiger) - Scott Semans.png
Flaming Pearl
(and other pearls)
寳珠 宝珠 Bǎozhū The endless cycle of transformation.
If a flaming pearl is chased by a Chinese dragon then the pearl in this context may be thought of as a visual metaphor for perfection as well as enlightenment.[t]
The flaming pearl can also represent the wish-granting pearl from Buddhist mythology.
Wealth, treasure, pure intentions, and genius in obscurity.
Chinese dragons are often depicted as chasing a "pearl" like jewel object.[384][385] The pearl also resembles the moon. As a dragon begins to devour the pearl, a decreasing amount of the pearl can be seen and the pearl appears to the watcher as a waning moon. As a dragon disgorges the pearl from itself, an increasing amount of the pearl is seen and the pearl therefore appears to the watcher as a waxing moon.
The flaming pearl is a member of the Chinese Eight Treasures.
Cheng Te T'ung Pao charm (2 Dragons) - John Ferguson.jpg
Fly-whisk 拂塵 拂尘 Fú chén Fly-whisks are tools that can be used to hit or swat gnats and other flies, as a symbol on Chinese charms and amulets the "fly-whisk" bears association with Buddhist gods and Taoist immortals, particularly the members of the 8 immortals Lu Dongbin and He Xiangu. The "fly-whisks" carried by these deities and immortals are symbolically used to signify "the sweeping away of ignorance".
Four Blessings 四福 四福 Sì fú 1. Happiness (喜).
2. The salary of a high government official (祿).
3. Longevity (壽).
4. Good luck or good fortune (福).[386][387]
These are all considered desirable things. 4 (Hapiness) Bats charm (crop) - Scott Semans 02.png
Four Divine Creatures[u] 四象 四象 Sì Xiàng The Vermillion (or sometimes red) Bird (朱雀, zhū què) which represents the south and symbolises the summer.
The White Tiger (白虎, bái hǔ) represents the west and symbolises the autumn.
The Azure Dragon (青龍, qīng lóng) represents the east and symbolises the spring.
The black tortoise (or black warrior) coiled around by a snake (玄武, xuán wǔ) represents the north and symbolises the winter.
Each animal symbolises a direction and has a season associated with that direction.[388]
Four Gentlemen[v] 四君子 四君子 Sì jūn zǐ 1. Orchid (springtime).
2. Bamboo (summer).
3. chrysanthemum (autumn).
4. Plum (winter).[w]
Each member of the Four Gentlemen represents a season.[389]
Four Happiness Boys 四蝠男子 四蝠男子 Sì fú nán zǐ "Good luck" and a wish for many offspring. The "Four Happiness Boys" is an image of two boys that makes it look as if there are four, this illusion creates the hope for frequent successful reproduction and was therefore a common gift for newlywed couples in ancient China.[390]
Four Happinesses 四蝠 四蝠 Sì fú 1. "Sweet rain after a long drought" (久旱逢甘雨, jiǔ hàn féng gān yǔ).
2. "Meeting an old friend in a faraway place" (他鄉遇故知, tā xiāng yù gù zhī).
3. "The wedding night" or a more literal translation "the night of lighting a candle in the bridal chamber" (洞房花燭夜, dòng fáng huā zhú yè).
4. "Having one's name on the list of successful candidates of the imperial examination" (金榜題名時, jīn bǎng tí míng shí).
"The four happinesses" come from a Song dynasty era poem composed by Hong Mai (洪邁).[391]
Frog Fertility. The Mandarin Chinese word for "frog" (蛙, ) has a similar pronunciation as the Mandarin Chinese word for "baby" (娃, ).[392]
Fu Lu Shou 福祿壽 福禄寿 Fú Lù Shòu Happiness, prosperity, and longevity. Fu Lu Shou refers to the three gods who embody these concepts.
Fungus of Immortality[x] 靈芝 灵芝 Líng zhī Longevity. The lingzhi mushroom doesn't decay in the same manner as other species of fungus, instead this type of mushroom becomes woody and has the ability to survive for an extended period of time which is the root of its association with longevity, furthermore it is believed that this fungus grows on the "Three Islands of the Immortals".[393]
Goat Yáng Freedom from starvation and being blessed by Taoist immortals. A reference to a large scale famine in the city of Guangzhou (then still known as (Chuting, 楚庭), in present-day Guangdong which happened under the Zhou dynasty's King Yi, on a day five immortals (sometimes referred to as "five celestial beings") came down from the heavens each of them riding on a goat and floating down on a cloud. Every goat had a six-eared rice stalk in its mouth which were given to the people with the promise by these immortals that Guangzhou would never suffer a famine again. These five goats remained after the immortals had left and transformed into stone.[y][394][395] Symbolical animal charm (Wei - Goat) - John Ferguson.png
God of Examinations[z] 魁星 魁星 Kuí xīng Success in the imperial examination system. The God of Examinations is often thought to help candidates pass the difficult and rigorous Chinese civil exams of the imperial examination system.[396]
God of Happiness[aa] 福 / 福神 / 福星 福 / 福神 / 福星 Fú / Fú shén / Fú xīng Good luck and good fortune.[397][398] The God of Happiness grants good luck and good fortune, the God of Happiness is a continuation of one of Taoism's three original gods or heavenly officials, namely the "Heavenly Official who grants fortune" (天官賜福).
God of Longevity[ab] 寿 Shòu Longevity.
Wisdom.[399]
In Confucianism it is believed that wisdom comes with (old) age.
Taoists admire longevity as their religion revolves around the quest for immortality.
God of Prosperity[ac] 祿 The God of Prosperity is usually seen holding a Ruyi scepter in one hand which in more archaic versions used to be a short sword alongside a sword-guard which he used for either making gestures or self-defense, however the Ruyi scepter stands for whatever its holder wishes for to come true as well as prosperity.
The God of Prosperity is also associated with the saying thay the Ancient Chinese found to be auspicious "may office and salary be bestowed upon you" (加官進祿) which is commonly found on cash coin-shaped charms and lock charms.
The God of Prosperity if a member of the Taoist 3 immortals.[400][401]
God of Thunder 雷神 / 雷公 雷神 / 雷公 Léi shén / Léi gōng The punishment of humans that have committed certain types criminal offences as well evil spirits which have harmed human beings. Leigong is usually featured on Taoist numismatic charms in the form of the inscription "O Thunder God, destroy devils, subdue bogies, and drive away evil influences. Receive this command of Tai Shang Lao Qun (Lao Zi) and execute it as fast as Lü Ling (a famous runner of the Zhou dynasty)" (Traditional Chinese: 雷霆八部,誅鬼降精,斬妖辟邪,永保神清,奉太上老君,急急如律令,敕。; Hanyu Pinyin: Léi Tíng bā bù, zhū guǐ jiàng jīng, zhǎn yāo pì xié, yǒng bǎo shén qīng, fèng tài Shàng Lǎo Jūn, jí jí rú Lǜ Lìng, chì.).[402][403] 91619 SMVK EM objekt 1299079.jpg
God of War 關帝 / 關公 关帝 / 关公 Guān Dì / Guān Gōng Warding off evil. Guan Yu is an immortalised Chinese general who is often depicted wielding a huge broadsword, he uses this enormous broadsword to fight evil.[404]
God of Wealth 財神 财神 Cái shén Wealth and success.[405] Caishen is usually depicted either carrying or being surrounded by cash coins, sycees, coral and other symbols the ancient Chinese associated with wealth.
Gods of Peace and Harmony[ad] 和合二仙 和合二仙 Hé hé èr xiān Peace and harmony.[406] Han Shan (寒山) is usually depicted holding a round container, the Ruyi sceptre, a calabash, cash coins, a persimmon, Etc. While the other twin Shi De (拾得) usually is depicted holding a lotus flower.
Goldfish 金魚 金鱼 Jīn yú An abundance of wealth. The first character in the Mandarin Chinese name for "goldfish" means "gold" (金, jīn), while second character in "goldfish" means "fish" which has a similar pronunciation as the Mandarin Chinese words for "jade" (玉, ) and the Mandarin Chinese term for "abundance" or "surplus" (余, ).[407] Chinesehoroscop-e Lucky Fish in Feng Shui - Fish in Chinese Culture. Retrieved: 28 July 2018.</ref>
Gourd 葫蘆 葫芦 Hú lu Protection or being guarded from something.
To bless or a blessing.
Happiness and attaining a high rank in the imperial examination system.
Fertility, having many sons and grandsons.
The first Hanzi symbol in the Mandarin Chinese term for "gourd" (葫蘆, hú lu) is homonymous to the Mandarin Chinese term for "to protect" or "to guard" (護, ).
The first Hanzi symbol in the Mandarin Chinese term for "gourd" sounds like the Mandarin Chinese term for "blessing" (祜, ).[408]
In some varieties of the Chinese languages their word for "gourd" (葫蘆) sounds alike to the terms for "happiness and rank (as in attaining a high government office)" (福祿).
Trailing vines of calabashes are named in Mandarin Chinese with the Hanzi character "蔓", which can also be a homonym to the Mandarin Chinese word for "ten thousand" (萬, wàn), and due to the fact that the calabash contains a lot of seeds they are associated with having lots of (grand)children.
Magic Spell combined with Eight Trigram - Section 6.2 Gourd shape - John Ferguson.jpg
Grasshopper
(Tettigoniidae)[409][410]
螽斯 螽斯 Zhōng sī Fertility and procreation. Grasshoppers are associated with fertility because like to gather together in a manner similar to a human extended family, and they reproduce in large quantities.
Grasshoppers were raised by ancient Chinese children for fun during the summer and autumn.
The Chinese katydid or long-horned grasshopper has musical abilities akin to a musical instrument by simply rubbing its wings together to create "music".
An example of a Chinese charm that uses a grasshopper would be one with the inscription which could be translated as "may your children be as numerous as grasshoppers" (螽斯衍慶, zhōng sī yǎn qìng).
Halberd Good luck.
Attaining a high rank through the imperial examination system.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "halberd" (戟, ) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese term for "lucky" or "auspicious" (吉, ).
The Mandarin Chinese word for "halberd" sounds like the Mandarin Chinese term for "rank" or "grade" (級, ), which in this context refers to the rank of a government official.[411][412]
Fantasy coins halberds - John Ferguson.jpg
Horse Strength, stamina (or perseverance), and speed.
If a horse is shown holding scrolls these represent the Yellow River Map which brought the origins of Chinese culture to Fuxi.[413]
The Mongols.
Horses are one of the twelve animals represented in the Chinese zodiacs.[414]
Horses are associated with strength because of their physical endurance.
Horses are associated with the nomadic Mongol people who were the dominant class in the society of the Yuan dynasty.
Further reading: Horse in Chinese mythology.
Section 20.9 Two character obverse, horse reverse - John Ferguson.jpg
Horse saddle Ān Peace. Horse saddles are associated with peace because the Mandarin Chinese word for "saddle" (鞍, ān) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "peace" (安, ān).[415]
Kitchen God[416][417][418] 灶君 灶君 Zào Jūn Protection of the hearth and family. The Kitchen God is the most important of a plethora of Chinese domestic gods in Chinese folk religion, Chinese mythology, and Taoism.
Lion Shī Majesty and raw strength.
High government positions and officials.
Male lions are usually seen playing with a ball while female lions are depicted playing with her offspring.
Great wealth.
Gautama Buddha.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "lion" (獅, shī) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "teacher", "master", "tutor", or "preceptor" (師, shī) which could be associated with archaic governmental titles such as "Senior Grand Tutor" (太師, tài shī) and "Junior Preceptor" (少師, shào shī) which explain why lions are associated with high government positions.
Ancient Chinese customs such as the lion dance (獅子舞)[419] and symbols depicting lions are based on an older legend where the ancient Chinese people believed that if a lion were to enter a house's gates that great fortune shall be bestowed upon its residents.
In Buddhism lions are depicted as the guardians of that religion and a symbol of Buddhist kings, and many Buddhist deities are depicted riding a lion.[420][421]
Gautama Buddha is believed to have been reincarnated ten times as a lion.
See also: Cultural depictions of lions.
Chinese numismatic charms - Scott Semans 96.jpg
Liu Haichan and Jin Chan 劉海戲蟾 刘海戏蟾 Liú hǎi xì chán Wealth and prosperity. Please see the information described at Chinese numismatic charm#Liu Haichan and the Three-Legged Toad charms above. Lei Ting and Liu Haichan and the Golden Toad charm - Scott Semans 02.png
Longevity stone 長壽石 长寿石 Cháng shòu shí Longevity. Longevity stones are usually depicted next to images of linzhi mushrooms often at the bottom of the Chinese numismatic charm, amulet, or talisman that features them, longevity stones are odd-shaped rocks associated with longevity due to the fact that they're old.
Lotus 蓮花 / 荷花 莲花 / 荷花 Lián huā / Hé huā Purity and being detached from all earthly cares.
Continuous harmony.
The 7th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar (or the farmer's calendar).
Harmony in marriage and coitus.
Having lots of children continuously (lotus seeds).[422]
Gautama Buddha is often shown sitting on a lotus.[423]
The Mandarin Chinese one of the words for "lotus" is lián huā (蓮花) which has a primary Hanzi character that is pronounced similar to the Mandarin Chinese word for "continuous" (連, lián), meanwhile the first Hanzi character in another term for "lotus" which is pronounced as (荷) sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese word for "harmony" (和, ).
When a lotus pod is shown on the same Chinese numismatic charm as a lotus stem this is used as a symbol for a harmonious marriage and having sexual intercourse.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "lotus seeds" (蓮籽, lián zǐ) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese phrase "continuously giving birth to children" (連子, lián zi).
Lozenge 方勝 方胜 Fāng shèng The lozenge is one of the Chinese 8 treasures associated with good luck.[424]
If two lozenges are interlocked they symbolise an ancient Chinese musical instrument.
People cooperating with each other.
Victory.
It is (currently) still unclear why lozenges are associated with good luck.
The lozenges when two are interlocked symbolise this ancient Chinese musical instrument due to their diamond-shape.
Two interlocked lozenges symbolise two hearts working together with a single mindset.
Magpie 喜鵲 喜鹊 Xǐ què Happiness.[ae]
Marriage.
There are several Chinese sayings associated with magpies which could be conveyed by using images of a magpie or magpies in a rebus.
The first character in the Mandarin Chinese word for "magpie" (喜鵲, xǐ què) is synonymous to the Mandarin Chinese word for "happiness" (喜).[425]
The association of two magpies with matrimony comes from an old Chinese tale where the herder of oxen (牛郎) and the weaving maiden (織女)[af] who were two celestials that were in love with each other but were forever separated from each other except for a single day every year that falls on Qixi.[ag] During this festival they were allowed to meet each other on bridge made of magpies that was on top of a heavenly river.[426]
Some of these Chinese sayings include "there is a happy bird (magpie) on the tip of the plum branch" (喜上梅稍, xǐ shàng méi shāo) which has a homonymous sound to the other Chinese saying "happiness up to one's eyebrows" (喜上眉稍, xǐ shàng méi shāo).
Mirror 銅鏡 铜镜 Tóng jìng Good luck and protection from demons and evil spirts.
A harmonious marriage.
The (bronze) mirror is one of the Chinese 8 treasures.
The ancient Chinese believed that if a demon or evil spirit would see a mirror that they would be scared of their own reflection and run away.
Bronze mirrors alongside shoes were included as traditional Chinese wedding gifts because of the fact that in Mandarin Chinese their names could be a pun as the Mandarin Chinese words for "bronze mirror" (銅鏡, tóng jìng) and "shoes" (鞋, xié) sound like "together and in harmony" (同諧, tóng xié).
Money tree 搖錢樹 摇钱树 Yáo qián shù Wealth, riches, and treasures.[427] See Chinese numismatic charm#Chinese money trees for more detailed information. Modern money tree.jpg
Monkey Hóu The monkey is one of the 12 animals represented as a Chinese zodiac.
The Monkey King
The Monkey King or "Sun Wukong" (孫悟空) Is a character from the Ming dynasty era novel Journey to the West.[428]
Further reading: Monkeys in Chinese culture.
Symbolical animal charm (Shen - Monkey) - John Ferguson.png
Monkey riding a horse[ah] 馬上風猴 马上风猴 Mǎ shàng fēng hóu If a monkey is depicted during on top of a horse it's a visual pun for a wish to be immediately promoted and receive a high rank.[429] The reason why a monkey riding on top of a horse is a visual pun for the Mandarin Chinese phrase mǎ shàng fēng hóu (馬上風猴) is because the first to Hanzi characters of the inscription could mean both "on the horse" as well as "at once", the third Hanzi character which is the Mandarin Chinese word for "wind" or "breeze" is pronounced similar as the word for "to grant a title" (封, fēng), and the final Hanzi character means "monkey" which is pronounced very similar as the word for "marquis" (侯, hóu) which is associated with "a high rank".
Moon
(Crescent)
Yuè In Chinese mythology the moon is the residence of Jin Chan.
In Taoist mythology the "Jade Rabbit" (also known as the "Moon Hare") lives on the moon, this rabbit is known for making the elixir of immortality.[430]
The moon is often a location for various figures from Chinese mythology. Wu Chu charm - John Ferguson 04.jpg
Mountain Shān Limitlessness. In Chinese mythology the mountains are the places closest to the Gods.
Mugwort
(Artemisia Leaf)
Ài The mugworth is a member of one of the Chinese 8 treasures.
Longevity.
Protection from harm.[431]
The mugworth is associated with longevity because of its usage in traditional Chinese medicine.
In ancient China people used to hang mugworths on their doors because they believed that the scent or aroma of the plant would repel bugs such as insects and that because it's shaped like the claws of a tiger it would protect the residence of the place where the mugworth was hung.
Narcissus 水仙 水仙 Shuǐ xiān Immortals.[ai]
A common Chinese rebus or visualised pun using a narcissus would contain the image of a narcissus with a stone, and a bamboo plant. The meaning of this visual would be "the immortals" (symbolised by a narcissus) "wish" (the pun here is bamboo = wish) "for you" to have a "long life" (the stone in this context would be "a longevity stone"). This is considered to be a very auspicious and felicitous saying by Chinese people.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "narcissus" (水仙, shuǐ xiān) means "water immortal".[432]
Nine (9) Jiǔ Forever. The Mandarin Chinese word for the number "nine" (九, jiǔ) is homonymous with the Mandarin Chinese word for "forever" or "long lasting" (久, jiǔ).[433][434]
Nine Similitudes 九如 九如 Jiǔ rú The nine similitudes are associated with the congratulatory greeting: "May you be as the mountains and the hills, as the greater (taller) and the lesser (shorter) heights, as the river streams which flow in all directions, having the constancy of the moon in the sky, like the rising sun which brings us the day, with the longevity of the southern mountain and the green luxuriance of the fir and the cypress." which wishes for the greeted person to be blessed with luxury, wealth, and (of course) longevity. The nine similitudes are from the Classic of Poetry which is a book that incorporates music, poetry, and hymns from the Spring and Autumn Period and the Zhou dynasty.[435]
Onion Cōng Intelligence and wit. The Mandarin Chinese word for "onion" (蔥, cōng) sounds like Mandarin Chinese word for "clever" or "intelligent" (聰明 , cōng míng).[436]
Orange Good luck and good fortune. The orange is associated with good fortune because it is the colour orange.
The Hanzi character for orange is "桔" which contains the two Hanzi characters "木" (which could be translated into English as "tree") and "吉" (which clue be translated into English as "lucky" or "auspicious").[437]
Orchid Lán Being humble, modest, beautiful, and refined.
Female beauty.[438][439][440][441]
The orchid is a member of the Four Gentlemen.
Osmanthus
(or Chinese cinnamon)
Guì "preciousness" and "honour".
Longevity.
The Mandarin Chinese word for an "osmanthus blossom" (桂, guì) sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese term for "something that is precious" or "something that is of value" (貴, guì).
The scent of the Osmanthus fragrans is associated with fragrance (or an "honourable life").[442][443][444]
Ox
(Water Buffalo)
Niú The Chinese zodiac "ox".
If a young man or boy is depicted riding an ox this represents a young Zhu Yuanzhang, a poor agrarian boy who would later found the Ming dynasty.[445]
Harvest, fertility, and springtime.
A simple and idyllic life (to city dwellers as well as officials employed by the government).
The ox is one of the twelve animals represented as a Chinese zodiac.
Due to the fact that oxen are important to agricultural development they're associated with harvests, fertility, and the springtime.
Hung Wu T'ung Pao charm - John Ferguson 01.jpg
Peach Táo Marriage, springtime, longevity, justice, and Taoist immortality.
The second month of the Chinese lunisolar famer's calendar.
The peach is a member of the Chinese "three plenties", which are also known as the Chinese "three abundances".
Weaponry.
Protection from demons.
Peaches are associated with longevity because of the peaches of immortality.[446]
The Peach is associated with weaponry such as arrows and swords because peach wood was used to make these things (and amulets) in China during the antique period due to the fact that the Mandarin Chinese word for "peach" (桃, táo) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese term for "to flee", "to retreat", or "to run away" (逃, táo).
The ancient Chinese people believed that the timber of peach trees could keep demons away because the Mandarin Chinese word for "peach" sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "to eliminate" (淘, táo).[447]
Peacock 孔雀 孔雀 Kǒng què A desire for prosperity and peaceful times.
Dignity paired with beauty.
High rank.
The Queen Mother of the West is sometimes depicted riding a peacock.
The ancient Chinese people believed that a single glance of a peacock would instantly make a woman pregnant.
During Ming and Qing dynasties the seniority of an official could be deduced by how many peacock feathers they had on their hat.[448][449]
Peanut 花生 花生 Huā shēng Fertility. The second Hanzi character in the Mandarin Chinese word for "peanut" which is "生" also is synonymous with the term "to give birth".[450]
Peony 牡丹 / 富貴花 牡丹 / 富贵花 Mǔ dān / Fù guì huā Longevity, happiness, eternally lasting beauty,[451] and loyalty.
The third month of the Chinese lunisolar famer's calendar.
Economic prosperity and wealth.[452]
The double manner in which peonies grow resemble strings of Chinese cash coins which is why they're associated with richness, this is also the origin of the alternative Mandarin Chinese name for the peony "fù guì huā" (富貴花).
Peony in a vase 牡丹花瓶 牡丹花瓶 Mǔ dān huā píng If a peony is depicted inside of a vase it symbolises economic wealth and prosperity during peacetime. The Mandarin Chinese word for "peony" (牡丹, mǔ dān) can be translated as "the flower of wealth and honour", while the Mandarin Chinese word for "vase" (瓶, píng) is a homophonic pun with "peace" (平安, píng ān).
Persimmon Shì The persimmon is considered to be an auspicious symbol in Chinese art due to the fact that it has an orange colour and round shape.
Official matters.
A gentleman or an official employed by the government.
If a persimmon is paired with an apple in a Chinese numismatic charm or amulet then it symbolises that one's matters shall be safe in the form of a rebus.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "persimmon" (柿, shì) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "matters, affairs or events" (事, shì).
The Mandarin Chinese word for "persimmon" sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "official" or "gentleman" (仕, shì).
The Mandarin Chinese word for "apple" (蘋果, píng guǒ) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "safety" (平安, píng ān) forming a visual pun that symbolises the saying "may your matters be safe" (事平安, shì píng ān).[453][454][455][456]
Pig
(may also be depicted as a Boar or a Hog.)
Zhū The pig (or boar) belongs to the twelve Chinese zodiac animals.[457]
Economic prosperity and good luck to families that have the financial capabilities to afford food of high quality.
Protection from evil spirits.
The reason pigs are associated with a protection from evil is because of an ancient Chinese tradition where parents would let their sons wear pig-themed shoes and hats to fool evil spirits into thinking that the boy was a pig and would be left alone.[458][459][460] Symbolical animal charm (Hai - Pig) - John Ferguson.png
Pine tree Sōng Longevity.
Solitude.
Protection of the dead.
The pine tree is one of the Chinese Three Friends of Winter.
The reason why pine trees are associated with longevity in China is because they can endure very rough weather during the winter.
The reason why the ancient Chinese people believed that pine trees protected the dead was because they believed that a creature named Wang Xiang (罔象) loved devouring the brains of dead people but was afraid of pine trees, due to this associated the ancient Chinese often planted pine trees near graveyards.[461][462]
Plum Méi Hopefulness and courageousness.
The first month of the Chinese lunisolar famer's calendar.
The petals of a plum blossom symbolise the Chinese five blessings.[463]
The plum is one of the Chinese Three Friends of Winter.[464]
The ancient Chinese associated plums with courage due to the fact that plums blossom first while the winter still poses a threat to its fruits, which is considered to be brave.
Pomegranate 石榴 石榴 Shí liu Fertility.[465]
The pomegranate is a member of the Chinese "three plenties", which are also known as the Chinese "three abundances".
The first sixth of the Chinese lunisolar famer's calendar.
The pomegranate is associated with fertility for two reasons, one of those reasons is because pomegranates have lots of seeds and the other reason is the fact that the first Hanzi character Mandarin Chinese word for "pomegranate" (石榴, shí liu) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese term for "generations" (世, shì) as in "generations of descendants".
Prawn[aj] Xiā Happiness and laughter. Imagery of prawns are considered to be auspicious in Chinese art because the Chinese character for "prawn" (蝦) is pronounced as xiā in Mandarin Chinese and haa in Yuè Chinese (Cantonese) which are both very similar to the sound people make when they laugh (ha ha ha).[466][467][468]
Pumpkin 南瓜 南瓜 Nán guā A desire to produce male offspring. The first Hanzi character Mandarin Chinese word for "pumpkin" (南, nán ; meaning south) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "boy" or "male" (男, nán).
Qilin
("Chinese Unicorn")
麒麟 麒麟 Qílín Benevolence, goodwill, good fortune, and prosperity.
The west and autumn.
The Qilin was believed by the ancient Chinese people to appear every time a new sage was born, for example the birth of Confucius. For this reason Qilin are often depicted delivering babies on Chinese numismatic charms and amulets.[469][470][471][472][473]
Quail 鵪鶉 鹌鹑 Ān chún Courage.
Peace.
Poverty.
The quail is associated with courage due to the fact that it has a very combative attitude.
The first Hanzi character in the Mandarin Chinese word for "quail" (鵪鶉, ān chún) can be used in a homophonic pun for "peace" (安, ān).[474]
Rabbit
(Bunny or hare)
兔子 兔子 Tù zi Longevity.
The rabbit (or hare) belongs to the twelve Chinese zodiac animals.
The reason that rabbits are associated with longevity in Chinese numismatic charms, amulets, and talismans is because in Taoist mythology the elixir of immortality is prepared by the "moon hare", who resides on the moon.[475][476][477][478] Symbolical animal charm (Mao - Rabbit) - John Ferguson.png
Rat[479] 老鼠 / 大鼠 老鼠 / 大鼠 Lǎo shǔ / Dà shǔ Abundance, fertility, and wealth.
The rat belongs to the twelve animals that are represented as a Chinese zodiac.
The rat is associated with fertility due to the fact that they have strong reproductive abilities. Symbolical animal charm (Tzu - Rat) - John Ferguson.png
Reed pipe Shēng Giving birth.
Rising a rank.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "reed pipe" (笙, shēng) sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese word meaning "to give birth" (生, shēng).[480]
The Mandarin Chinese word for "reed pipe" sounds similar to the Mandarin Chinese word which could be translated as "to rise" (升, shēng).[481]
Rhinoceros horns 犀角 犀角 Xī jiǎo Happiness.
Rhinoceros horns are considered one of the Chinese eight treasures.[482][483]
The first Hanzi character in the Mandarin Chinese word for "rhinoceros horn" (犀角, xī jiǎo) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "happiness" (喜, ).
Ribbons and fillets Dài Ribbons enhance the miraculous powers of the object they are bound to, and they increase their importance.
Greatness and vastness.
Descendants who enjoy longevity.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "ribbon" or "fillet" (帶, dài) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "generations" (代, dài), and as the Mandarin Chinese word for a fillet which has been attached to an official seal is (綬帶, shòu dài), the first Hanzi character of this term could also be associate with a long life because it sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "longevity" (壽, shòu), combined this means that future generations shall enjoy longevity.
As these ribbons are red they are associated with joy and happiness.[484]
The Mandarin Chinese word for the colour "red" (紅, hóng) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese words for "vast" (洪, hóng) and "great" (宏, hóng).
Ritual baton Ritual batons (also known as wooden clappers or castanets) are usually found on Chinese numismatic charms and amulet as a symbol shaped like an "X".
High rank.
It is thought that these wooden clappers are based on narrow tablets made from bamboo, jade, ivory, or shark's skin known as (笏) carried by Chinese officials as authorisation for entrance to the imperial palace, the substance these narrow tablets were made of was dependent on the rank of the Chinese official carrying them.[485][486][487]
Wooden clappers were also associated with one of the eighth immortals, Cao Guojiu (曹國舅).
Rooster
(Cock)
公雞 公鸡 Gōng jī Frightening demons and bogies.
Good luck.
Intelligence and fame.
The rooster is one of the twelve animals that are represented as Chinese zodiacs.
The five virtues (五德).
The second Hanzi character in the Mandarin Chinese word for "cock" (公雞, gōng jī) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "auspicious" or "lucky" (吉, ).
Cocks symbolize a high rank because their combs look like the hats of a Mandarin.[488]
The Mandarin Chinese term for a "crowing cock" (公鳴, gōng míng) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese term for "intelligence and fame" (功名, gōng míng).
Cocks symbolises the five virtues because its comb makes it resemble a Mandarin (civil); its spurs (martial); how the cock conducts itself during combat (courage); cocks protect their hens (kindness), and cocks are very accurate in heralding the dawn.[489]
Ta Ting T'ung Pao charm - John Ferguson.jpg
Ruyi scepter 如意 如意 Rúyì Power and authority.
Good wishes and prosperity.
The Ruyi scepter is one of the Chinese eight treasures.
The Ruyi scepter in Buddhism and Chinese mythology can grant wishes.[490][491] Section 3.9 Twelve Terrestrial Branches and symbolic Animals, animals circled border - John Ferguson.jpg
Sanxing 三星 / 福祿壽 三星 / 福禄寿 Sān xīng / Fú Lù Shòu Prosperity, high rank, and longevity. The "three stars" are the Gods of Prosperity (Fu), Status (Lu), and Longevity (Shou) in Chinese religion.[492][493]
Sheep[ak] Yáng Yang energy (from Yin and Yang).
The sun.
Filial piety.
The sheep is one the twelve animals represented as a Chinese zodiac.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "sheep", "ram", and "goat" (羊, yáng) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "Yang energy" (陽, yáng) which could also mean "the sun".
Because lambs kneel when they receive breastfeeding from their mothers this is seen as "filial piety" in Confucianism because it displays submissiveness towards their mother which is one of the principles of the religion (孝, xiào).[494]
Shoes Xié Wealth and economic prosperity.
Harmony (when they are paired with other items or objects).
Fertility and a wish to produce offspring (if lotus shoes are used).
Shoes ae associated with wealth because they are shaped similar to sycees.
Shoes are associated with harmony because the Mandarin Chinese word for "shoes" (鞋, xié) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese words for "together with" (諧, xié) and "in harmony with" (諧, xié).
The reason why lotus shoes are associated with fertility (other than their supposed ability to enhance a woman's gait, make her vagina more narrow, and let her appear more feminine) is because the Mandarin Chinese word for "lotus flower" (蓮, lián) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "continuous" (連, lián).
Six (6) 六 / 陸 六 / 陆 Liù For things to go smoothly.
Good fortune, good luck, and prosperity.
The reason why the number six is used to make things go smoothly is because the Mandarin Chinese word for the number "six" (六, liù) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "to flow" (流, liú),[495][496] based on this association things like Chinese businesses opening and Chinese weddings are usually planned for the sixth of the month, and there exist a saying "Everything goes smoothly with six" (六六大顺, liù liù dà shùn) based on this.[497][498]
The Mandarin Chinese word for "six" also sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "prosperity" (祿, ).
Snake Shé The Chinese zodiac "snake".[499]
Protection from poison (if combined with the other five poisons).[500]
The snake is a member of the twelve animals represented as a Chinese zodiac.
The snake is a member of the Chinese Five Poisons which are a group of animals associated with the ancient Chinese belief that one can only fight poison with poison.
Further reading: Snakes in Chinese mythology.
Wu Hsing Ta Pu charm - John Ferguson 01.jpg
Spider 蜘蛛 / 蟲喜子 蜘蛛 / 虫喜子 Zhī zhū / Chóng xǐ zǐ Protection from poison (if combined with the other five poisons).
Happiness and/or happy sons.
If a spider is depicted falling from the sky this means "happiness dropping from the sky".
The spider is a member of the Chinese Five Poisons which are a group of animals associated with the ancient Chinese belief that one can only fight poison with poison.
Spiders are associated with happiness because the first Hanzi character one of the Mandarin Chinese terms for "spider" (喜子, xǐ zǐ) means "happiness", the second Hanzi character can also mean "son".[501][502]
91619 SMVK EM objekt 1015964.jpg
Star
(dots)
Xīng Unknown, although it is argued by Gary Ashkenazy that they might represent the fact that "cash coins were widespread, numerous in quantity, and were distributed throughout the world". Dots or "stars" first started to appear on Chinese cash coins during the Han dynasty, they appeared both on the obverse and reverse side of coins and some cash coins only had a single dot while others had many, these symbols started to become the first Chinese numismatic charms and their usage is continued on subsequent Chinese numismatic charms. S589 kaiyuan typeIA H141m 1ar85 (9124907472).jpg
Stork Guàn Longevity.
Promotion and high rank.
Storks are associated with longevity because the ancient Chinese believed that storks lived a millennium.
Chinese numismatic charms and amulets often depict storks next to pine trees which are another longevity symbol in Chinese art.
Both the Queen Mother of the West and Shouxing, the God of Longevity in Chinese folk religion use storks are their main mode of transportation.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "stork" (鸛, guàn) is a homophonic pun with the Mandarin Chinese words for "government official" (官, guān), "first place" (冠, guàn), and "hat" (冠, guàn) which is why it's associated with high rank and a promotion in government and administrative jobs.
Swallow[503][504] Yàn Good fortune, the spring, and bringing prosperous change. Swallows were seen as bringing "new" to "old" by the ancient Chinese people because they arguably "renovate" areas by constructing their mud nests in the cracks of walls and graves.
Swastika 卐 / 卍 卐 / 卍 Wàn "The myriad of things" or "everything". The swastika Hanzi character is pronounced as wàn (卐 / 卍) which is similar in pronunciation to the Mandarin Chinese word for "ten-thousand" (萬, wàn).[505][506]
Sword Dāo Victory over evil (if the sword is used as a symbol for Lu Dongbin).
Protection against evil spirits and bogies (if the sword is a symbol for Zhong Kui).
See Chinese numismatic charm#Chinese charms and amulets with sword symbolism for more information. Ta Ch'uan Wu Shih charm - John Ferguson 01.jpg
Sycee[al] 細絲 / 元寶 细丝 / 元宝 Xì sī / Yuán bǎo Wealth.
High rank.
Brightness and purity.
Sycees are a member of the Chinese eight treasures.
During the Mongol Yuan dynasty silver became an official measurement of wealth which is why sycees have become associated with wealth.
The first Hanzi character in the Mandarin Chinese word for sycees "yuanbao" (元寶, yuánbǎo) also means "first" which could be interpreted as being "first place in the imperial exams" which means that you will attain a high rank.
Taijitu
(Yin and Yang symbol)[am]
太極圖 太极图 Tàijítú The light and the dark, the strong and the weak, the male and the female, Etc. The taijitu is a Taoist symbol that symbolises the basic polarities of the universe.[507][508] 91643 SMVK OM objekt 118332.jpg
Teapot
(or sometimes simply a pot)
Protection.
Blessings.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "teapot" or simply "pot" (壺, ) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese words for "blessing" (祜, ) and "to protect" (護, ).
Ten Symbols of Longevity[an] 十壽 十寿 Shí shòu The Ten Symbols of Longevity are:
1. The pine tree (松);
2. The sun (日);
3. The crane (鹤);
4. Water (水);
5. The mountains (山);
6. The clouds (雲);
7. The deer (鹿);
8. The tortoise (龜);
9. The Lingzhi mushroom (靈芝);
10. Bamboo (竹).[509][510][511]
The Ten Symbols of Longevity are all symbols that the ancient Chinese people associated with longevity, the Ten Symbols of Longevity are also very common symbols on Korean art including Korean numismatic charms.
Three Abundances[ao] 三多 三多 Sān duō The Three Abundances are:
1. The peach (which represents longevity);
2. The pomegranate (which represents progeny or descendants);
3. The Buddha's hand (representing longevity and happiness).
The three plenties are three symbols that the ancient Chinese people saw as being auspicious.[512][513]
Three Friends of Winter 歲寒三友 岁寒三友 Suìhán sānyǒu The three friends of winter are:
1. Bamboo;
2. The pine tree;
3. The plum tree.
Steadfastness, perseverance, and resilience.
The scholar-gentleman's ideal in Confucianism.
The three friends of winter are three plants that grow in the winter despite the harsh weather conditions.[514][515][516]
Three Many 福壽三多 福寿三多 Fú shòu sān duō The three many are the desires for:
1. Happiness;
2. Longevity;
3. Descendants.
The three many are three things the ancient Chinese people thought were desirable and auspicious to acquire.[517]
Three Rounds 三圓 三圆 Sān yuán The "three rounds" could be depicted as any grouping of 3 round items, when these are placed together they get the implied meaning of "high rank". The Mandarin Chinese word for "round" (圓, yuán) is a homophonic pun with the word "first" (元, yuán), which in this context refers to getting the highest score and becoming the number one scholarly official to pass the imperial Chinese examination system. The number three in this context could then refer to the three stages of the imperial exams and that one would come first in all three rounds of them.
Tiger[ap] The Chinese zodiac "tiger".
Protection from evil spirits and misfortune as well as heroism.
Longevity.
The tiger is considered to be the ruler of all land animals in Chinese tradition, while the dragon is considered to be the ruler of all sky animals and those in the heavens.
The tiger is one of the animals represented as one of the twelve Chinese zodiacs.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "tiger" (虎, ) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "to protect" (護, ).
Tigers are also associated with protection because they are the guardian spirit of agriculture and the ancient Chinese believed that the tiger could devour "the demon of drought", due to their strength they were also seen as heroic.
Tigers are sometimes included as a member of the Chinese Five Poisons.
Tigers are associated with longevity because the ancient Chinese believed that their hair turned white after five centuries and that they could live up to a millennium.[518][519]
Caishen is sometimes depicted using a tiger as a mode of transportation.
Further reading: Tiger in Chinese culture.
Section 3.5 Twelve Terrestrial Branches and Symbolic Animals plain - John Ferguson 04.png
Toad 蟾蜍 / 蟾 蟾蜍 / 蟾 Chán chú / Chán Coins and wealth. In some Chinese languages their word for toad (蟾) sounds like their word for "coin" or "money" (錢).
Tortoise Guī Longevity.
The magnetic north and the season of winter.
Endurance and physical strength.
The divine and divinity.
Tortoises are associated with longevity because they live very long.
Tortoises are associated with divinity because the ancient Chinese believed that the universe was round and had an outer shell shaped like a dome which was akin to what the ancient Chinese believed to be the vault of heaven, the lower body of a tortoise is flat like the ancient Chinese believed the earth to be.
Treasure bowl[aq] 聚寶盆 聚宝盆 Jù bǎo pén Wealth. The "treasure bowl" is a mythical object that can infinitely reproduce an object placed inside of it, for example if one were to place a golden cash coin inside the bowl the "treasure bowl" will then all of the sudden be completely filled with golden cash coins.[520]
Twelve Ornaments[ar] 十二章 十二章 Shí'èr zhāng The Chinese twelve ornaments include:[521]
1. The sun (日), which symbolises enlightenment and is the source of life. Sometimes the sun is represented as
2. The moon (月), which symbolises the passive principle of yin, the moon is sometimes represented as the moon hare.
3. The Constellation of Three Stars (星辰), which symbolises that the Emperor of China represents the entire universe as an unending source of pardon and love.
4. The mountain (山), the mountain symbolises the Emperor of China's ability to rule the world and stability as well as the Wu Xing element of "earth".
5. The (five-clawed) dragon (龍), which symbolises the Emperor of China's dignity and authority, the dragon also represents all animals and beasts.
6. The pheasant (華蟲), symbolises literary refinement and birds.
7. The two goblets (宗彝), symbolising filial piety and imperial loyalty as well as the Wu Xing element of "metal".
8. Seaweed (藻), which represents purity and the leadership of the Emperor of China, it also represents the Wu Xing element of "water".
9. Rice grain (粉米), which symbolises prosperity and fertility, it also represents the Wu Xing element of "wood".
10. Fire (火), fire symbolises intellectual brilliance, the summer solstice, as well as the Wu Xing element of "fire".
11. The Axe-head (黼), which symbolises Emperor of China's power to act decisively and punitively.
12. The Fu symbol (黻), the Fu symbol symbolises collaboration and the power of the Emperor of China to be able distinguishing evil from good and right from wrong. This character is also the alleged source of the Taijitu (or Yin and Yang symbol).
According to the Zhou dynasty era Book of Rites the number twelve is also the number of Heaven, as the Emperor was considered to be "the son of heaven" twelve symbols were chosen to represent his authority.
The renowned writers Lu Xun, Qian Daosun, and Xu Shoushang from the Ministry of Education created the Twelve Symbols national emblem based on these symbols and this national emblem appeared on early coins from the Republic of China.
Vase
(or bottle)
Píng Peace and safety.
If a vase is depicted containing a flower from every season this symbol has the implied or hidden meaning of "peace for the entire year".
The Mandarin Chinese word for "vase" (瓶, píng) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "peace" or "safety" (平安, píng ān).[522][523][524]
Willow Liǔ The life of poets and scholars.
Exorcism and "sweeping tombs" during the Qingming Festival.[525]
The parting of ways and the sorrow that follows.
Willow trees are associated with poets and scholars who were inspired while walking among them.
Willow branches are associated with exorcism due to the fact that they were regarded as "magical" by the ancient Chinese people.
Young lads often had green willow branches placed in their hair to prevent them from being reincarnated as a brown-haired dog.
The Mandarin Chinese word for "willow" (柳, liǔ) sounds like the Mandarin Chinese word for "to part" (離, ) which is why willow branches were given to friends and acquaintances who would depart to distant places.[526]
Writing brush and sycee 筆錠 笔锭 Bǐ dìng The hope that everything will go as you wish. The Mandarin Chinese words for "writing brush" (筆, ) and "ingot" (錠, dìng) sound like the Mandarin Chinese term for "certainly" (必定, bì dìng).
Zhenwu 真武 真武 Zhēnwǔ Healing and protection. Zhenwu is a Taoist god associated with healing and protection.[527] Magic Spell combined with Eight Trigram - Section 6.1 Round shape - John Ferguson 03.jpg
Zither[409][528] 齊特琴 齐特琴 Qí tè qín Fertility and marital harmony. "Zithers" in this context refer to Guqin and se musical instruments.
An example of a Chinese numismatic charm or amulet displaying the zither-theme would be one with an inscription that could be translated as "with the qin and the se be friendly to her" or "the qin and se zithers warm her heart" (琴瑟友之, qín sè yǒu zhī).

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Most of the open-work charms depicting buildings and temples are believed to have been cast in the city of Dali, Yunnan during the Ming dynasty.
  2. ^ This was an official inscription on a government cast cash coin during the Northern Song dynasty.
  3. ^ It is very common for Chinese numismatic charms to adopt the calligraphy used on this coin.
  4. ^ Lü Ling was an ancient Chinese runner from the Zhou dynasty during the Mu Wang era in the 10th century BC.
  5. ^ Also known as "the urn of wisdom".
  6. ^ Depending on the local Chinese variety as the pronunciation of Hanzi characters can differ substantially between them.
  7. ^ Note that bears are very uncommonly used for Chinese numismatic amulets and charms.
  8. ^ The eight-sided holes holes in some charms, amulets, and coins mostly found in Tang and Song dynasty era are referred to as "chestnut holes" or "flower holes".
  9. ^ Similarly the Hanzi character for chrysanthemum also represents the number "nine" (九) due to the fact that they look similar.
  10. ^ The fingered citron is also known as "Buddha's Hand".
  11. ^ In the world of Chinese charms, amulets, and talismans clouds are sometimes referred to as "auspicious clouds" (祥雲, xiáng yún).
  12. ^ Further reading Crane in Chinese mythology.
  13. ^ Deer are one of the most commonly seen animals on Chinese numismatic charms, amulets, and talismans.
  14. ^ When a dragon has five fingers it represents an Emperor, a dragon with only four fingers represents a King.
  15. ^ When a Chinese dragon is conjoined with a Chinese phoenix they symbolise a married couple.
  16. ^ "Eight Precious Things" and the "Eight Auspicious Treasures".
  17. ^ Also in Hinduism and Jainism.
  18. ^ Alternatively known as the "Five Happinesses" or "Five Good Fortunes".
  19. ^ The five poisons are alternatively referred to as the "Five Poisonous Creatures", this term refers to five poisonous creatures which usually include snakes, scorpions, centipedes, toads and spiders. In some variations lizards replace spiders. The "three-legged toad" is often seen as one of the five poisons.
  20. ^ This is even more so the case if the dragon in this context represents the Emperor of China.
  21. ^ They are alternatively known as the Four Heraldic Animals, the Four Directional Animals, or the Four Symbols (四象).
  22. ^ They are alternatively known as the Four Plants of Virtue.
  23. ^ Images of bamboo and a plum together symbolise friendship.
  24. ^ Alternatively known as the glossy ganoderma.
  25. ^ Due to this myth the city of Guangzhou has also adopted the nicknames "the City of Goats" (羊城), "Sheaves of Rice City" (穗城), and "the City of Five Goats" (五羊城).
  26. ^ Alternatively referred to in English the Star of Literature.
  27. ^ He is alternatively known as the "God of Luck" or the "God of Good Fortune and Blessings".
  28. ^ The Chinese God of Longevity is alternatively known as "Shou Lao" (壽老), the "Old Immortal of the South Pole" (南極仙翁), and the "Longevity Star" (壽星).
  29. ^ He is alternatively known as "the God of Rank and Emolument", and "the God of High Ranking Office".
  30. ^ They are alternatively known as "the Gods of Unity and Harmony", "the Laughing Twins", and "the Gods of Mirth" in the English language.
  31. ^ If a magpie is shown upside down this has the same connotations as an upside down bat described above. The same goes for two magpies like two bats are used as in "a pair of magpies" (喜喜) or "a pair of bats" (蝠蝠).
  32. ^ alternatively she is referred to as the "weaving girl".
  33. ^ Written in Chinese as "七夕", in the English language this festival is also known as "the sisters festival" or "the Double Seven".
  34. ^ Sometimes a monkey is shown riding a deer.
  35. ^ The Hanzi character "仙" could be translated as "immortal", this is a reference to the water goddess of the Xiang River (Chinese: 水仙; pinyin: shuǐ xiān), or the "goddess standing above the waves" (lingbo xianzi).
  36. ^ Known as "shrimp" in American English.
  37. ^ Could also be represented as a goat or ram.
  38. ^ Sycees are alternatively known as "saddle sycees", "silver sycees", and "drum-shaped sycees".
  39. ^ Also known as the "supreme ultimate symbol".
  40. ^ The "Ten Symbols of Longevity" are alternatively known as the "Ten Longevities" (十壽) in Chinese mythology.
  41. ^ They are alternatively known as "the Three Plenties".
  42. ^ Sometimes depicted as a leopard.
  43. ^ Alternatively referred to as the "treasure basin" in the English language.
  44. ^ These twelve symbols are alternatively called as the "Twelve Symbols of Imperial Authority" or the "Twelve Imperial Symbols" (十二章紋) in the English language.

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]