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Tai Ping Silver Tael or Amulet - China

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Registered: August 2005
Location: Arizona USA
Posts: 2,362
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This is a hand-engraved Tai Ping silver amulet, or charm, made sometime after 1864. Obverse characters are 'Tian Guo' [ 天 国 - vertical] while the two reverse characters are 'Sheng Bao' [聖 宝 - horizontal w/ abbreviated 'Bao']. These scarce amulets, with a manufacturing technique similar to the official 1/2 & 1/4 Tael pieces of the TaiPings, may have been made by the same Tai Ping engravers that had been employed by the Tai Ping. Bruce Smith speculated that these men went to Fukien after the rebellion and continued their skills there making amulets (Daniel K.E. Ching sale, 1991 Lot # 575). Check out my similar piece at: [ link ]
I've finally found two references with this EXACT type piece shown in a B/W photos. The photo for both references appears to be the same. The first reference is the bible for Tai'Ping coins both real, presentation and fake. This coin appears in Ma & Ma's "Encyclopedia of Qing Dynasty Tai'Ping Rebellion Coins" [ by Ma Dingxiang, 1994; Shanghai People's Publication House; page 105, Ref # T225]. Here the weight is given as 5.64 g and .95 mm thick, the diameter is ~28 mm.
For those fortunate enough to have the book by Dong Wenchao entitled "An Overview of China's Gold & Silver Coins of Past Ages - the Gold and Silver Coins and Medals of Modern China" [pub. by China Finance Publishing House and Economic Information & Agency]: this coin type appears in the section on Silver Coins Minted by ...The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. On page 805, Plate # 1404 this exact style of hand engraved piece is shown, characters & arrangement, field stippling, edge, and hole shape are the same. The plate photo is ~28 mm and the rarity is given as 4 stars, or extremely rare, unfortunately the weight or other details is not stated in Wenchao. This piece is also ~28 mm and weighs 5.46 g., the thickness is a scrape under 1 mm.
A mention of hand engraved coins by the Small Sword Society [PL21-4] is made by Helen Wang in her excellent work entitled "Chinese Secret Society Coins" - you can VIEW and DOWNLOAD at this: [ link ]
Numista has an entry and photo at this: [ link ]

There is some reason to speculate that these Tai Ping silver presentation pieces were made while their forces occupied Ningbo in 1861. Since 1842, when Ningbo was declared one of five Chinese cities set up to trade with the West, there would have been a collection of artisans available in this ancient and prosperous city. With the western trade came an influx of silver, the likes of which had never been available in China before. In 1861, the forces of the Taiping Kingdom took the city relatively unopposed as the defending garrison and all Ningbo residents fled except for the Jews and Persians; they held the town for six months. Traditionally, the Chinese were masters at casting bronze with no prominent tradition of engraving silver. So several factors come together possibly to explain the manufacture of this type of hand engraved silver presentation coin. 1) the Tai Ping occupation, 2) access to foreign traders, 3) access to plentiful silver, 4) availability of artisans, especially those familiar stone seal engraving.
· Date: October 29, 2017 · Views: 395 · Filesize: 143.4kb · Dimensions: 900 x 450 ·
Keywords: China - Tai Ping Hand engraved 1/4 tael?
Denomination: 1/8th Tael (maybe)
Reference #: Ma&Ma #T225
Date/Mintmark: N/A (1850's - 1860's)
Condition: AU
Weight: 5.46 g.; 28mm
Metal: silver
Additional Categories: Tai Ping Rebellion


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