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Another Monetary Economy: A History of Chinese Currencies
Money is a means of exchange in any place and in any time. However money works in different ways according to the society and period since exchange occurs in a variety of patterns. The traditional monetary system of China had three characteristics not common to the rest of the world: dependency on fragmental coinage like copper cash; usage of silver not by count but by weight; and the earliest circulation of paper money. The importance of small denomination currency suggests that ordinary people often made exchanges through daily transactions in anonymous situations. The popularity of uncoined silver was in tandem with the fact that the government did not encourage frequent circulation of silver which was collected through taxation, while merchants made transactions with each other by recording sums owed in their account books and had fewer opportunities to actually move silver. Before silver took root in China official paper monies as a means of long-distance settlement complemented bulky copper coins. After the proliferation of silver, paper monies issued privately supplemented shortages of currency in local marketplaces. Modern investigations in rural China show that exchanges among peasants were more significant than exchanges between rural and urban areas. The importance of small currencies in local marketplaces was in tandem with the dependence on one-time transactions between peasants in the Chinese market economy. The Chinese dynasties succeeded in maintaining the mono-unit copper coins through two millennia. In reality only for three periods of half a century were they able to supply a significant quantity of copper coins. For most periods accumulated old coins, forged coins and non-metal devices such as grains met the demand for money locally. Under the apparent monopoly of the monetary supply by the dynasty on the surface, local currencies and local agreements on transactions mediated exchanges at the bottom. Japan, Korea and Vietnam imitated the Chinese way in establishing their own monetary systems. The popular usage of paper money in China caused a large quantity of Song coins to circulate across the China Sea until the 16th century. Responding to global silver circulation and to its contraction in the mid 17 century, East Asian countries established their own monetary systems in different ways which were closely related to their patterns of state building and their responses to the situation after opening up ports in the mid 19th century.
Speaker(s) Prof. Akinobu KURODA (黑田明伸教授)
Professor of East Asian History, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia
University of Tokyo
Date 23 Feb 2018 (Friday)
Time 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Venue Room 3401, Academic Building (Lifts 17-18)
Language English