Silver in the History of Chinese Currency


Date:2019-04-26 ~ 2019-07-28
Venue:No. 3 Exhibition Hall

       In the history of China the casting and use of silver can trace back to the Eastern Zhou period (770-256 BCE).Ting, known as the earliest form of silver currency, came into being in the mid-Tang dynasty (618-907) while silver ingots began to play a significant role in the political and economic activities in the Song dynasty (960-1297). Since the mid-Ming dynasty (1368-1644) silver had functioned as a predominant currency and the silver standard monetary system was fully established during the Ming and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties. Silver has a profound influence on the history of Chinese currency and social economy.
   The European Age of Exploration witnessed the opening of global maritime trade. A steady and huge drain of silver flooded into China in exchange for local products and greatly met the demand in its currency market. The ample supply of silver promoted the growth of handicraft industry and export trade. As a result, the economy bloomed in some important industrial and financial cities as well as coastal cities in the Ming and Qing dynasties. The advent of the Chinese Silver Era demonstrated the prosperity of maritime economy in which silver had historically been linked to trades across the regions and beyond the oceans.
   In the mid-Qing dynasty, especially after the Opium Wars, there was massive efflux of silver out of China. The circulation of foreign banknotes forced the Qing government to create a national bank to issue its own banknotes but this did not make China shift from a silver standard to a more advanced monetary system. There had been a complicate situation in which traditional silver ingots, new silver dollars, copper coins and banknotes coexisting in the market until a new currency known as fabi or legal tender eventually came into use.
   Although the development of silver as a Chinese currency was influenced and constrained by the global factors, it objectively stimulated China’s domestic economy, social advance and reinforced the connections with the world. This current exhibition aims to display silver in various monetary forms to reveal a vivid picture of silver in the history of Chinese currency and its vital position in linking China with the global world.
   The exhibition is launched mainly based on the Shanghai Museum's collection. We're deeply indebted to China's Finance and Taxation Museum, the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute, National Center of Underwater Cultural Heritage and Guangdong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology for remarkable loans to make this exhibition possible and bring a special experience for all visitors.