Ying Yuan

Ying Yuan (Chinese: ; pinyin: yǐng yuán) were stamped blocks of gold bullion. This was an early form of currency that could be considered a precursor to gold coins.[1][self-published source] They were issued by the ancient Chinese state of Chu during the Warring States period between the 400s and late 200s BCE.[1]


Because these gold blocks are inscribed with Chinese characters they are variously known as yin zi jin (Chinese: 印子金; pinyin: yìn zǐ jīn), jin ban (Chinese: 金版; pinyin: jīn bǎn), or gui bi (traditional Chinese: 龜幣; simplified Chinese: 龟币; pinyin: guī bì).[2]

History and overview

The oldest ones known are from about the 5th or 6th century BCE.[1] They consist of sheets of gold 3-5mm thick, of various sizes, with inscriptions consisting of square or round stamps in which there are one or two characters.[1] They have been unearthed in various locations south of the Yellow River indicating that they were products of the State of Chu.[1] One of the characters in their inscription is often a monetary unit or weight which is normally read as yuan (Chinese: ; pinyin: yuán).[1] Pieces are of a very variable size and thickness, and the stamps appear to be a device to validate the whole block, rather than a guide to enable it to be broken up into unit pieces.[1]

Some ying yuan contain the Chinese characters ying yuan (郢爰).[2]

Another inscription that is sometimes found on these ancient gold blocks is chen yuan (陳爰).[2]

Some specimens have been reported in copper, lead, or clay.[1] It is probable that these were funeral money, not circulating currency, as they are found in tombs, but the gold ones are not.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hartill, David (September 22, 2005). Cast Chinese Coins. Trafford Publishing. p. 79. ISBN 978-1412054669.
  2. ^ a b c "Chinese Burial Money". Gary Ashkenazy / גארי אשכנזי (Primaltrek – a journey through Chinese culture). 20 March 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2020.