China achieved the ability to cast very refined works of bronze early on Based on this technology, the first metallic coins, which even included "bronze" sea shells, appeared in various forms in different regions of the country during the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century ~ 771 BC), the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).Some of these first forms of money were cast in shapes which resembled tools of the time such as spades or shovels 圆钱).
The earliest man-made forms of money were actually "imitation" cowrie shells made of bone such as the example here.
This example of bone shell money has a length of 23 mm, a width of 15 mm and a weight of 2.3 grams.
The inverted "v" in the center may represent the number "six".
The horizontal line below the "six" may represent the number "one". This spade money has a length of 67.5 mm and a maximum width of 37 mm. A very distinctive and rare type of spade money is the "three hole spade" (san kong bu 三孔布).
These coins are believed to have been patterned after jade rings or, perhaps, a spinning wheel.
One additional type of bronze money from this time period consisted of small oval pieces cast in the State of Chu.
This form of money is known as "ant nose" When Qin Shi Huang unified the country in 221 BC and established the Qin Dynasty, he abolished the above-mentioned forms of money that had been circulating in the other Warring States and stipulated that the legal coinage would be a round coin with a square hole in the center weighing a half tael or .
This basic coin shape was adopted by subsequent dynasties and continued to be cast in various forms for more than 700 years.
China was among the first countries in the world to use money as documented by historical records and actual artifacts dating back 4,000 years.
By the time of the Shang Dynasty (16th ~ 11th century BC), sea shells (cowrie) were already circulating as a major form of currency.
Many visitors to this website, however, have a specific interest in these ancient Chinese coins themselves.