Monetary History of East Asia
Summary and Keywords
East Asian monetary systems were traditionally based on commodity monies, the most famous of which were round copper coins (Cash) with a square central hole, and silver ingots (Tael, from around 1000 ce). While issue of the former was in the hand of the state, silver bars were privately produced and controlled. The Tael nonetheless served as a unit of account also in government ledgers. China was the first nation worldwide to use paper money backed by bullion reserve (c. 1000–1500), but fiat monies were not readily accepted by markets. Gold coins were exclusively used in Japan from circa 1600. With the discovery of Mexican silver, China and Japan became part of the silver-based world economy. Japan adopted the Gold Standard in 1897 and gained access to the world’s financial markets, while China’s currency landscape, even after modernization, remained fragmented and decentralized. With a favorable exchange rate against the US$, Japan recovered after World War II. The US$ devaluation in the Plaza Accord 1985 did not stop that boom. Excessive loans induced the asset price bubble of 1987. In the “lost decade” until 2000, the Bank of Japan pursued a volatile monetary policy, so in 1998 it was necessary to induce liberalization of the banking sector. Reform in the financial sector was also begun in South Korea after the Asian Crisis of 1997. The Chinese policy of Reform and Opening in 1978 first led to inflation and then to undervaluation of the Renminbi (Yuan), which supported the unique economic growth. The currency was made convertible in 1996 and was in 2005 pegged to a basket of foreign currencies. China’s banking system remains underdeveloped and suffers from the burden of indebted state-owned enterprises. China has accumulated huge amounts of foreign exchange. The RMB might become an anchor currency of a financial regionalism.
The monetary history of East Asia is characterized by parallel currency systems in which copper coins played a significant role for everyday transactions, and silver ingots (Tael) or coins were used for large-scale payments and as a unit of account. Gold played a very subordinate role, barring Japan, where oval gold coins were introduced around 1600. All metallic currencies were treated as commodity monies, and the concept of fiat money was primarily unknown. Before full monetization of the economy, various textiles were used as a means of payment as well as units of account, in Japan and Korea also rice. Copper Cash was traditionally cast, not minted. Markets in Japan and Korea often used Chinese copper coins, but from circa 700 onward (Korea c. 990), they began producing their own. In the 12th century, paper currency was introduced in larger areas of China, and in Japan, scrip paper notes appeared locally around 1600. From the Ming period onward, silver constituted an important part of the Chinese currency system, due to the large influx (in the shape of Carolus Dollars) of American silver through globalized trade.
Modern machine-struck coinage, as well as paper money and the concept of a national bank, found their way into East Asia in the late 19th century. Japan’s monetary policy was the most progressive one in early 20th-century East Asia, marked by adoption of the Gold Standard to facilitate financial business. Military expenditure was a crucial factor for inflation in the 1930–1940s, but the ensuing new world order allowed for new monetary regimes. From the 1970s onward, the monetary markets in Japan and Korea were gradually liberalized and de-pegged from the US$. Japan was haunted by an asset price bubble in the late 1980s, and both countries were hit by the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. Having learned from these experiences, a liberal “Big Bang” policy in Japan aimed at restructuring the financial markets. Slight negative inflation is a remaining issue. The Chinese Renminbi (Yuan), convertible on the current account since 1996, was not affected by the Asian Crisis of 1997, but China faces multiple challenges such as a rudimentary banking sector, excessive accumulation of foreign exchange, or rising asset prices.
Around circa 1200 bce, cowry shells served as presents from kings to their officials. The shells themselves came from the Indian Ocean and continued to serve as a currency in most southwestern parts of China (today’s Yunnan) until circa 1650 ce (with a hiatus in the early 1st millennium ce).1 From when thereafter exactly they can be considered as a true currency is not clear.2 Objects of various copper alloys were also used to hand over “values” during the Shang (c. 1600–1046 bce) and the early Zhou (1046–221 bce) periods. The use of bronze was so widespread during the Spring and Autumn period (770–424 bce) that bronze objects were quite probably used as means of payment.3 In a next step, these objects were standardized as “coins” in the shape of knives, “spades,” circles, and “ant-nose coins.” Many of these coins bore just one character, probably indicating location of the mint. Forms and shapes varied considerably from place to place and also over time. It must be assumed that sovereign right of coinage did not belong to feudal states, but lay in the hands of individual cities. Round coins had a hole in the center to string them. The southern state of Chu had a gold currency in the shape of small irregular pieces for the purchase of luxury goods.4
Qin and Han Periods
When the kingdom of Qin unified China and standardized weights and measures, it adopted round coins (said to symbolize the sky) with a square central hole (representing earth)5 as the authoritative copper currency. The currency system of the Qin (221–206 bce) and Han (206 BCE–220 ce) periods consisted of copper coins and gold, with a nominal exchange value of one half pound (253g) of gold against 10,000 coins.6 Names of coins of copper currency were derived from the nominal weight (ban liang, half an “ounce,” c. 7.9g).7 Weight and designation continued to correspond during the Qin and beginning of the Han period. The most important copper coin was the 5-zhu coin (c. 3.3g),8 only inscribed with indication of weight, so that dating is difficult; yet it can be assumed that coins were still not as regularly issued as later on, and production was still partly in private hands. There are some phenomena indicating that the economy of the Han period was already partially monetized: official salaries were to some extent paid in money (instead of in grain, the currency of account), and taxes could also be paid in money. Gold was not given the shape of coins but used as a means of payment (e.g., to pay for release from punishment) and store of value. The character jin for “gold” does not in all cases mean “gold,” but refers to copper coins as well. Circulation of gold shrank drastically during the Eastern Han period (used for Buddhist paraphernalia, westward drain).9 Silver was also cast into ingots, but cannot be counted as full currency at that time. Various types of textiles also served as modes of payment.
The monetary system of the Tang period (618–907) at the beginning remained the same as before, with copper coins and fabric as main means of payment, and gold and silver as precious metals used as stores of value.10 In the 10th century, silver took over the full function of money (probably under the influence of Central Asian economies), while gold remained just a store of value. The exchange value among gold, silver, and copper coins might have been 1:10:100, and the relation between silver ounces and copper coins in the late Tang period might have been 1:1,000.11 Various types of fabric continued to function as money, and in some regions even various commodities did.
In the mid-7th century, fixed monthly salaries, accounted in money, were introduced instead of earlier annual salaries accounted in volumes of grain or lots of land. The weight unit zhu (1.73g, with 24 zhu = 1 liang) was given up and replaced by the unit qian (4.13g, 10 qian = 1 liang),12 which later became the common word for “money.” Coins from the Tang period onward did without indication of weight if denomination was “one,” but the reign motto became a common means to designate coins. The first and most important Tang-period coin was the Kaiyuan tongbao, production of which began in 621. It was a model coin and therefore produced throughout the whole Tang period, and it was imitated by neighboring states such as Korea and Japan, and countries in Central Asia. It also continued to circulate for centuries even after demise of the Tang dynasty.
In 742 there were one hundred mints throughout the empire.13 In the semi-autonomous Sichuan Basin, iron coins circulated. The alloy of Tang-period coins was still not standardized, yet the most common combination was 83.32 percent copper, 14.56 percent pewter, and 2.12 percent lead.14 In the same area, the earliest type of paper note (feiqian) was invented during the early 9th century.15
The Song period (960–1279) abolished the use of fabric as money and defined copper coins as the fundamental means of payment.16 During the Southern Song period, paper money became a prominent currency. In prefectures of what is today’s Sichuan, iron coins were used exclusively, and in other regions, copper and iron coins or such made of certain alloys were used concurrently. Silver took over more and more functions in government expenditure, tax payment, and accounting.17
The history of Song-period copper coins is extremely complex, even if the government attempted to create a unified currency system. Not only did the state issue a large number of different coin types with various denominations (resulting in more than 3,500 types of coins),18 but many types circulated only locally. To make things even more complex, designations of money showed a wide variety, and the same was true for the writing style of inscriptions. Strong growth of the economy necessitated tremendous increase in coin production. The Yuanfeng reign period (1078–1085) saw the highest quantity of coins ever produced in premodern China. Seventeen mints produced more than 5 million strings (with c. 1,000 coins per string) of copper coins each year, and nine other mints threw more than a million strings of iron coins on the markets annually.19 The government expanded monetary sources by the creation of bills of exchange, paper money and “cash vouchers,” the promotion of mint metal mining, opening of new mines, new technologies of copper extraction, prohibitions against using copper for private purposes, issue of large-denomination coins, acceptance of “short strings,” lowering of the copper content, and pursuing a bullionist foreign trade policy.20 In addition to that, a northern belt zone was created, in order to prevent an outflow of bronze coins to other states.
The Southern Song dynasty drastically reduced coin output, debased copper content, and lowered the exchange rate vis-à-vis silver.21 The coin makeup for the Northern Song was 65 percent copper (Cu), 25 percent lead (Pb), and 10 percent tin (Sn). For the Southern Song, copper coins were made up of 40 percent copper, 55 percent lead, and 5 percent tin. The smaller quantity of copper coins at least allowed better control over uniformity and quality standards.22
The booming economy contributed to the spreading of paper money, not least because of “coin famine.” Bills of exchange (jiaozi) became a common means of payment among long-distance traders during the early 11th century.23 The government soon adopted the jiaozi system and transformed it into an official system of paper money. Jiaozi, as later guanzi and huizi notes, had a standard appearance and bore a serial number, and the sum was filled in manually, but versions ranging from one string to ten strings were also produced.24 Standardization was possible because of high standard printing technique (use of copper plates) had already achieved at that time. Letters of exchange were marketable, and worn-out ones were replaced in three-year periods. Huizi, circulating mainly in the southeast more or less at face value, were denominated in copper coins or silver and therefore could be used to pay also smaller amounts. Notes were commonly backed by silver.25 Yet the monetary policy of the Song government was not able to further stabilize the paper currency in the war-ridden decades after 1200.26
The Yuan dynasty (1279–1368), founded by Mongols, deviated from the traditional monetary policy by attempting to impose a fiat currency in the shape of paper money.27 Kublai Khan (r. 1260–1294) replaced all earlier forms of metallic money by a limited quantity of paper notes (jiaochao, chubi, baochao, chaopiao) backed by adequate reserves of bullion. It was the predominant form of money in north China and in theory the only official acknowledged type of money. The main reason for this monetary policy was lack of bullion and particularly of copper in north China. Paper notes in small denominations thus served all market levels, and Yuan dynasty notes gradually replaced older, devalued Song notes and copper coins. Nonetheless, coins retained their function as units of account (“strings”) even with paper money, and silver continued to circulate. The impact of the inflation of the early 14th century was all the more serious because there was no way to fall back on other currencies. The government thereupon lifted the ban on the use of copper coins and from time to time even produced such coins itself.28
All in all the Yuan regime issued five types of paper money, some denominated in silk fabric, like the Zhongtong chao; some in silver, like the Zhongtong baochao; and others in copper strings.29 Denominations ranged from two coins (wen) to two strings (guan, if based on copper coins), or 1 to 10 ounces (if based on silver).
The inscriptions on Yuan paper money were in Chinese and Mongolian, the latter written in ‘Phags-pa script. In the southern regions of the Yuan Empire, commodity monies like cowry shells, salt currencies, or animals were in use.30
The Ming dynasty (1368–1644) operated with monetary instruments left by the Mongols, namely paper money, silver ingots, and copper coins, but monetary policy was not consistent. From time to time, the use of copper coins was banned and output of coins relatively low, so that silver won a distinctive position in daily life.
The founder of the Ming reduced types of paper money to a single one, with six different denominations between 100 copper coins and 1 string, the latter representing 1,000 coins, or 1 ounce of silver. For smaller sums, coins were used, or “small” paper notes (10–50 wen) issued in 1389. The one-string Daming baochao note was the largest paper note ever produced in China. The inscription on the note warned against forgery. Worn-out notes were replaced by new ones, against payment of the manufacturing cost. Fresh notes thus had in practice a higher market value than old ones, and nominal value played a minor role in daily business. After the 1430s, paper money was practically out of use, but baochao was still used as a currency of account.31 The reduced value of paper currency and lack of copper coins forced people to flee into silver currency, or to go back to barter trade.32 Forgeries were also widespread (sometimes accepted as “private casting”),33 and to make things even more difficult, coins from the Song or the Tang period were still in use.
Copper coins were issued in several denominations, from 1 to 10.34 These coins were fiat money, and nominal weight was inscribed as a legend. Mints were founded in most provinces. Each emperor had a series of new coins cast, with the then-current reign motto. Quality and alloy changed over time, as did the number of types of each coin. Yet over many decades, emperors banned the use of copper coins, thus provoking widespread forgery.35
It can be said that silver fully reached the status of currency during the mid-15th century, when the ban on its use was lifted. Production and circulation of silver money were not controlled by government, but it quickly gained an eminent position in monetary markets as a high-end currency, while mid-level transactions were carried out with paper notes and small-scale payments with copper coins. At that time the nominal exchange rate between a silver ounce and copper coins of 1:1,000 became standard. Moreover, the government preferred payment in silver under the new unified tax system because silver was intended to back the paper currency.36 Silver circulated in the shape of ingots (yinding, yuanbao) with various sizes, forms, and inscriptions, but the imprint (“chop”) of an assayer, who recorded fineness and weight, was decisive. Merchants always carried scales to determine the value of silver pieces.37 Bullion was supplied through private trade with Japan, and from the 1570s onward also from the New World, through the trade post of Manila.38
Because the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) did away with paper currency (barring a few occasions), its monetary system can be said to have been bimetallic, consisting of two types of currencies used in two separate markets, namely silver ingots (yinliang, denomination one liang or Tael, with fractions) for larger transactions and copper Cash (tongqian, zhiqian, denomination one Wen) for the retail market. The exchange rate between Tael and Cash was theoretically 1:1,000,39 but in daily life this rate fluctuated over time and in different places. One might say that until circa 1800 the exchange rate was in practice 1:7–800 but increased dramatically in the early 19th century to about 1:1,200.40 There were two mints in Beijing and one each in most provinces. The production process made forgery easy, and “private coins” were nevertheless accepted by the markets because more Cash was needed than the government was able to produce. The state had lost its sovereignty over the monetary markets.41
Qing copper coins were inscribed with the reign motto in Chinese and the name of the mint in Manchu letters. The standard weight changed over time (ranging between 0.7 and 1.4 qian, i.e., 2.6g–5.2g),42 as did the alloy. From 1806 onward coins produced in the capital mints consisted of 54 percent Cu, 43 percent Zn, and 3 percent Pb.43 The intrinsic value of these standard coins was under those conditions higher than its nominal value.
In the early Qing period, the main source for supply of mint metal was Japan, which exported high-quality copper, yet in the early 18th century, the mines of the province of Yunnan were opened, which offered an alternative to the expensive and rare Japanese copper. The southwestern supply line was cut again during the Taiping rebellion (1851–1864), and the court decided to produce coins with larger denominations (Xianfeng zhongbao, Xianfeng yuanbao), which allowed the saving of copper.44 The Taiping kingdom itself produced its own coins.
In the 1890s traditional coins were step by step replaced by modern machine-struck coins with the inscription Da-Qing tongbi, and known as tongyuan or “cents.” They were introduced in 1900 as subsidiary coins, yet there was a wide variety of local coins, most based on the model of the Guangxu yuanbao produced in Guangdong. The modern coins came without a square hole, and bore Chinese, Manchu, and English inscriptions.45 In 1905 the central government issued statutes for the production of modern coins, regulating alloy (Cu 95 percent, Zn 5 percent; or Cu 95 percent, Zn 4 percent, and Sn 1 percent) and weight,46 yet there was still no unified national currency. This type of small change was in use until the 1930s (at the time with “Republican” designs), when it was replaced by a cupro-nickel coin.
Silver was used as an official unit of account, but its production and properties were not under control of authorities. The most common shape of silver ingots (“sycee”) was the “horse’s hoof.” For smaller transactions silver crumbs were used. Depending on the purity of ingots, they were traded at differing rates. The (theoretical) purity of the standard ingot was .936.47 Closest to this was the kuping Tael of the Imperial Board of Revenue. Apart from it some locally used standards gained prominence, like the Shanghai Tael used in the foreign concessions, or the Haiguan (Hai Kwan) Tael used by the Maritime Customs Office.
With discovery of American silver mines, this metal became the most important monetary metal around the globe, also influencing the value of silver in China.48 In the mid-18th century, the most important foreign silver coin circulating in coastal provinces of China was the Spanish Carolus “Double-Pillar” Dollar, in the late 19th century the New Mexican “Eagle” Dollar. At the very beginning of the 19th century, Chinese administrators felt that more silver was going abroad than was coming in and offered various explanations for loss of value in copper Cash, such as illegal minting, the spread of private paper notes (qianpiao), or government’s neglect of copper currency. After centuries of substantial imports of silver, the monetary balance may have briefly tipped to the negative side for the Chinese—although some scholars argue that still substantial quantities of foreign coins flowed into China.49
The earliest circulating native silver coin was the Kwang-tung Dragon Dollar. Among the many new types, shapes, and versions of silver coins, the Szechuan Rupee, in circulation between 1902 and 1958, was the only coin with a portrait of a person. In 1910 the government decided to produce a unified silver currency. The coin was called Yuan (“Dollar”), had a standard weight of 24.48g, and was inscribed with characters Da-Qing yinbi.50
The first official kind of official Qing paper money, Da-Qing baochao introduced during the Xianfeng reign period (1851–1861), was denominated in copper Cash. Another type of note (Hubu guanpiao) issued by the Board of Revenue was denominated in silver Tael. Both notes, circulating in various denominations, were inscribed in Chinese characters and Manchu letters. The market, accustomed to commodity monies, rejected this fiat paper currency, but some remained in circulation until the early 20th century. On the other hand, private banks, mainly consortia from Shanxi, had a long history of issuing paper notes (piaohao) of their own, mainly used for remittance, since around 1700.51
In the last few decades of the 19th century, family-owned (qianzhuang) or joint-stock banks and merchant companies likewise issued paper money, and the same is true for the many foreign banks operating on Chinese soil, mainly in Shanghai.52 In 1895 the first notes with the denomination of Yuan were issued by the government. Design of the paper notes was inspired by the U.S. Dollar, inscribed in Chinese and English, and bills showed portraits of eminent statesmen. On the eve of the revolution in 1911, there were 5.4 million Tael of old Hubu notes, and 12.4 million new Yuan notes in circulation.53 The Imperial Bank of China was founded in 1897 (in 1912 renamed Commercial Bank of China). Concurrent circulation of government (central and provincial) and private notes was common throughout the late Qing and the Republican eras.
In the mid-18th century, several mints were founded in Eastern Turkestan (thereafter Xinjiang), where local Pul copper coins with a high copper content were produced. After conquest of Tibet, local silver coins were standardized and somewhat approximated to the Chinese model.
During early decades of the Republican period, each provincial warlord had his own copper coins struck, while old copper Cash and the younger cents were still in use. This rendered the monetary landscape of that time extremely complex. Currency was decentralized, fragmented, and resistant to the forces of centralization. The Nanjing government announced in 1936 the introduction of a new copper Fen currency in denominations 1 and ½. During the Anti-Japanese War, emergency copper coins were produced in southwest China in 1938. After the war, a new copper penny was produced in Shanghai in 1948.54 Some regions still issued old-style copper coins such as Minguo tongbao coins of Sichuan and Yunnan.55
The earliest silver coins of Republican China showed the image of President Yuan Shikai. Denominations were 1 Yuan, ½ Yuan, 2 Jiao, and 1 Jiao, the highest weight circa 26g, and alloy consisted of silver, nickel, and copper. During the decade after 1912, the government produced 180 million silver coins, thereafter nearly 600 million annually.56 From 1923 onward a new coin called the “dragon-and-phoenix coin” (Longfengbi) was created. It was abolished after 1927 and replaced by one carrying the portrait of Sun Yat-sen, which in turn gave way to a new coin in 1933, with Sun’s portrait on the obverse side and an image of two junks on the reverse side.57 At the same time, still-circulating old silver ingots were de-monetized.58
As to paper money, not only the Bank of China and the Bank of Communications issued official notes. Foreign banks brought out paper currency of their own, and each warlord financed his campaigns with junyongpiao “soldier scrip.” Estimates speak of 30,000 different issues, most of which were not backed by specie reserves.59 The bank system went through a substantial modernization in the 1920s, expressed in concentration and modern management systems.60
As the international price of silver pulled silver coins out of the market, the Bank of China was forced to introduce the Fabi “legal tender” currency (only notes), a fiat currency. Its excessive use as a fiscal instrument during the Civil War (1945–1949) resulted in hyperinflation.
Communist soviets in China issued their own coins (“Soviet Dollars”) from 1931 onward.61 Areas occupied by Japan, as well as those controlled by collaborating regimes, brought their own currencies into circulation (Dai Tō-A Sensō gunpyō, “Invasion Money”), such as the Japanese Military Yen, Manchukuo Yuan, or Yuan of the Federal Reserve Bank of China.62
People’s Republic of China
The first measure of the communist regime was to curb inflation by government control of key commodity prices and offering commodity-indexed bank deposits. The measures proved successful in March 1950.63
The People’s Bank of China, founded in 1948, that year issued a set of new Renminbi (RMB) banknotes, and aluminum coins in 1953. With the new political line of “Reform and Opening,” foreigners were allowed to pay with special currency called a Foreign Exchange Certificate, valid 1980–1994. A new series of coins (including brass and cupro-nickel coins) was introduced in 1980, another one in 1991 (when the 1-, 2-, and 5-Fen coins were abolished for some time), and the latest one in 1999. Old coins continued to circulate in many areas.
The first series of banknotes included very high denominations such as 10,000 and 50,000, but these were abolished with the introduction of a new series in 1955 (with a low range of denominations, from 1 Fen to 10 ¥). Notes issued since then show inscriptions in five national languages. A third series of banknotes circulated 1962–2000, and a fourth one added denominations 50 and 100 ¥. Valid since 1999, the current, fifth, series (with the lowest denomination 1 ¥) shows a portrait of Mao Zedong on all notes (earlier series had shown other leaders as well as peasants, workers, minority people, and various machines).
After the introduction of Reform and Opening policy, the RMB experienced an inflation of nearly 20 percent in 1988. It was met by the introduction of a subsidiary interest rate on saving deposits.64 The exchange rate against the US$ remained relatively stable at an artificially overvalued level until the 1970s (with c. 2.25 RMB/US$), when several appreciations against the Dollar were carried out. In fact, the PRC realized a dual exchange rate between 1981 and 1985, one for trade, and a higher one for nominal purposes.65 Foreign-currency swap markets were established in the early 1980s in some coastal cities. Thereafter the rate gradually rose to 5.76 RMB/US$ in 1993. The rate of the swap market and the official exchange rate were unified in 1994 at 8.7 RMB/US$, with a substantial devaluation of the currency. From 1996 onward domestic enterprises were allowed to purchase foreign currency, and the RMB became fully convertible on the current account, yet was quasi-pegged to the US$, with only slight fluctuations.66 During the 1997 Asian Crisis, China was faced with the loss of value of all East Asian currencies, which reduced the country’s competitiveness and put a high pressure of devaluation on the RMB. Problems with nonperforming state-owned enterprises and enormous amounts of bad debts of state-owned banks, resulting in deflation, were met with expansionary monetary policy.67
Pegging the RMB to the US$ made it cheaper in the early 2000s and boosted Chinese exports, bringing high amounts of foreign exchange to China. In order to reduce inflationary tendencies, the RMB was de-pegged from the US$ in 2005, revalued by 2.1 percent, and tied to a basket of foreign currencies. Current problems are the influx of “hot money,” weakness in the banking system, and accelerating asset prices while consumer prices remain relatively stable.68
Hong Kong and Macau still have their own currencies (HK$; Patacas). The RMB will overshadow the HK$ and eventually replace it as a currency traded at stock markets. An extension of the RMB to Taiwan or as part of a currency union with Japan, Korea, and Singapore is possible, and the RMB might serve as a natural future anchor for an East Asian currency basket.69 The Chiang Mai Initiative of 2010 created a currency-swap arrangement among ten Asian states with a common foreign reserves pool. This financial regionalism is believed to reduce the dependency from the US$ and the International Monetary Fund.70
A Japanese colony at the time, Taiwan used the Taiwan Yen (Taiwan yinhang quan, banknotes only; used as supplementary currency to the Japanese Yen) between 1895 and 1946. In 1946 this currency was replaced by the (Old) Taiwan Dollar (Jiu Taibi, banknotes only, from 1 to 1 million ¥), which was in turn replaced 1949 by the New Taiwan Dollar (Xin Taibi), at a rate of 40,000:1 to the old Dollar, and 1:3 to the old Republican Silver Dollar. The reason for the introduction of a new currency was imported inflation by massive capital flight from the mainland, caused by an artificially low fixed exchange rate between the mainland and Taiwan.71 Yet the New Dollar only became legal currency in 2000, and a fifth series of banknotes was issued (denominated between 100 and 2,000 NT$). Coins (presently ½ NT$ to 50 NT$) show the portrait of Sun Yat-sen. Integration of mainland and Taiwanese money markets is presently unwanted.
Money in Japan
Chinese copper coins circulating in Japan are first mentioned in 487 ce.72 The first native coins were produced in 708 ce, after large discoveries of Japanese copper deposits. Wadō kaichin coins imitated the Chinese Kaiyuan tongbao model. Silver (Taihei gempō) and gold coins (Kaigi shōhō) minted imitated Chinese coins in 760.73 New coins did not replace old ones, but circulated at a premium rate of 1:10, yet on other occasions the government withdrew and de-monetized old coins.74 The last antique native coins were produced in 958 (Kengen taihō), after which the Japanese government ceased to issue coins, while market transactions as well as tax payments were carried out via commodity monies like rice, silk, or hempen cloth.75 From the 12th century until the early 15th century, coins of Song and Ming Empires (including old coins from the Tang period) were imported and supplied markets around the capital.76 There were also private local productions, yet because of lower quality this type of currency was called “bad coins” (bitasen) or “coins without inscription” (mumonsen). They were nonetheless accepted, albeit at lower value than Chinese coins.
During the Muromachi period (c. 1336–1573), gold and silver mines were opened in Japan, contributing to growth of overseas trade with Korea and China.77 As a result of increasing economic activities, some feudal lords began in the late 16th century to mint their own gold and silver coins, first used as presents and mere curiosities.78 The regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1585–1591) finally decided to have gold and silver minted into marketable coins, gold in the shape of planchets in two sizes (ōban and koban), and silver in the shape of round coins. Gold coins did not have a legend, but had decorative stamps on the reverse side and ink inscriptions on the obverse one.
The island kingdom of Ryūkyū (Okinawa today) also used Chinese-style coins (shimasen “island coins”), but it is not clear whether they were locally produced or altered Chinese coins from the Ming period.79
Gold (obankin, kobankin, ichibubankin) and silver (chōgin) coins (produced in the Kinza and Ginza mints of the larger cities) constituted the higher echelon of the monetary market of the Edo or Tokugawa period (1603–1868), while the low-end market was satisfied with newly introduced copper coins. Official exchange rates among the circulating currencies were 1 “ounce” (ryō) of gold to 1,000 Chinese Yongle tongbao coins to 4,000 Southern Song coins to 50–60 silver momme (1 momme c. 3.7g),80 yet in practice these three currencies traded at daily and locally changing rates, like in China. Just as in China much earlier, weight measures like ryō, bu(n), and shu became denominations for coins.81
The government soon banned use of the Chinese coins, but the markets were in need of high-quality standard coins, and there was no Japanese money able to fulfill this demand. The Shogunate therefore decided to create a national copper currency, the Kan’ei tsūhō,82 introduced in 1636 and produced throughout the whole Edo period, and in later years also issued coins made of brass, refined iron, and iron.
Silver was minted in the shape of square pieces (kirigin) or oblong “bean cakes” (mameitagin) in various denominations with stamps.83 Silver coins were traded by weight.84 Widespread use of gold and silver currencies was possible because of huge imports of precious metals particularly from 1760 onward, caused by the flourishing trade with Chinese and Dutch merchants.85 Foreign traders profited from the exchange rate among silver, gold (which were both relatively cheap), and copper, and from the Japanese demand for foreign products. Copper was a key export product to China and Southeast Asia.
Government fiscal instability evoked the need for currency debasement several times, carried out under pretext of “reform.”86 During most of these currency reforms, the gold and silver coins were debased (later also copper coins), so that people began hoarding old coins, and only devalued ones were used on the market, which caused inflation.87 A regular silver token coin with a fixed value and exchange ratio to gold and copper coins was issued in 1765, the Gomomme gin, yet the market was unaccustomed to such procedures and refused to accept it. Shortage of copper coins was somewhat alleviated by huge production of iron and brass coins, as well as large coins (4 mon, weighing 4.9g)88 from 1768 onward, and again after 1860.89
Because of the harsh seclusion policy enacted from 1633 onward (only Chinese, Korean, and Dutch merchants were allowed access to Japanese trade, and only in Nagasaki), politicians were unaware of exchange rates in foreign currency systems and thus unable to prevent drain of gold. In the mid-19th century, Japan was nearly bereft of gold coins in circulation.90 Inflation was caused not just by permanent debasement of coins, but also by many local paper notes (hansatsu) issued in the feudal domains.
From the Meiji Restoration until Today
With national reunification by the Meiji Revolution in 1868, a new currency called Yen was envisaged and introduced in 1871. The government announced adopting the Gold Standard, but as East Asian markets relied on the silver standard and the Mexican Dollar still prevailed on local markets, Japan practiced a bimetallic silver/gold standard. In 1880 the semi-private Yokohama Specie Bank and in 1883 the Bank of Japan were founded. The latter issued silver (abolished in 1938) and gold coins (until 1942) as well as small denominations in cupro-nickel and brass. In 1885 new banknotes (daikokusatsu) convertible in silver (the Japanese “Dragon Dollar”) were introduced (1,000 to 10,000 ¥; currently postwar Series E from 2004 onward). In 1897, the Gold Standard was officially adopted.91 This reform brought a stable rate of exchange particularly with the British Pound and substantially facilitated borrowing from the London market as well as attracting foreign capital. Both countries profited from this measure, which permitted Japan to finance domestic industrial development, war, territorial expansion, and investment in colonial territory. During World War I, cooperation between the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England turned Japan from a debtor to a creditor country. Japan was thus a contributor to the world’s first globally coordinated program of monetary policy and was also involved in the gold rush that brought down the international monetary system in the 1920s.92 The imperialist power Japan dominated financial markets of East Asia through the Yokohama Specie Bank and created what has been called a “Yen Bloc,” a monetary union including Taiwan and Korea, and later on the occupied territories in China.93 Under the guise of common economic development, Japan thus critically transformed the monetary and financial landscape of its colonies and influenced that of China by granting loans to warlords.
Worldwide devaluation of silver decreased the purchasing power of the Yen, and it sank to 0.3 US$ in 1941. The currency was pegged to the U.S. Dollar in 1949, at a rate of 1:360. Because of low purchasing power, fractions of the Yen (Sen and Rin) were abolished in 1953. Until the 1960s the Japanese monetary market was not liberalized, and investment of foreign capital was limited. The economic miracle of postwar Japan can be explained by undervaluation of the Yen, but after 1973 it began to float freely against the US$, at that time with a rate of 1:271 ¥.94 It remained relatively weak through the 1970s until 1985, when the U.S. Dollar was devaluated in the Plaza Accord of 1985.95 As a consequence, the Yen became stronger (endaka fukyo).96 The Bank of Japan adopted an inappropriate monetary policy in the following decades, which were therefore called the “lost decade(s).” Despite evidence of growing inflationary pressures, it failed to tighten its policy in 1987–1989, which resulted in the asset price bubble (1986–1991), and likewise failed to ease policies in the early 1990s when the economy declined.97 Peaking at 80 ¥/$ in 1995, the Japanese currency dropped drastically after the Asian Crisis in 1997–1998,98 but then entered a phase of deflation, with reduced pace of economic growth, and evoked banking problems in spite of a deregulating “Big Bang” policy (1998–2001) aimed at a liberalization of the financial markets. Structural changes in the industrial sector aggravated the impact of the global Lehman Brothers Crisis of 2007–2008, yet the banking sector remained stable.
Money in Korea
The old Korean kingdoms used commodity monies like textiles and rice as currencies, and these continued to be used, mainly for tax payment. After unification of Korea by the kingdom of Koryŏ, imported Chinese coins were widely used on Korean markets. King Sŏngjong (r. 981–997) had iron coins cast in 995 that imitated Chinese models.99 The first native copper coins appeared during the Chosŏn period (1392–1910). Inspired by the success of paper money in the Southern Song Empire and under the Yuan dynasty, King T’aejong (r. 1400–1418) decreed in 1408 introduction of paper money (chŏhwa), which was intended as a substitute for copper coins.100 As paper currency was affected by inflation, a new copper currency (Chosŏn t’ongpo) was introduced in 1423, yet paper notes were abandoned only as late as the early 16th century. Thereafter, Korean coins strictly followed Chinese models, with the respective reign period in the legend. Coins were denominated in Mun and produced in twenty-four mints throughout the country. In 1888 a new coin called Won was created with an exchange rate of 1:1,000 to the traditional Mun.101
In 1892 Korea introduced a modern currency called Yang (“ounce”), divided into 10 Jeon and 100 Pun.102 Yet ten years later, the yang was already abolished and replaced by the Won,103 which circulated at an exchange rate of 1:5 to the Yang. Shortly before Japan occupied Korea (1910), a National Bank was founded. The Japanese created a new currency called Yen, circulating in the form of coins and paper money. It was legal tender in Korea until 1945 (1947 in North Korea). South Korea has since used the currency name Wŏn (1953–1962 called Hwan), and the same is true for North Korea’s currency. During the 1997 Asian crisis, the South Korean Wŏn suffered substantial devaluation, but this experience proved the background for reform of the corporate and financial sectors. The North Korean Wŏn is usually pegged to foreign monies, with anchor currencies changing.
Discussion of the Literature
Early Western scholars had to learn about peculiarities of East Asian currencies. The oldest analyses of Chinese and Japanese currencies (see Primary Sources) therefore tried to discern operating modes of gold, silver, and copper currencies on local markets and to understand currency diversity even of individual types of coins: in other words, “monetary disunion”104 in Asia. To this day the “denationalized” nature of the monetary system in Asia with various “currency circuits” and the phenomenon of “parallel bimetallism” are not fully understood.105
One of the most important research issues involves the explanation for the outflow of silver and the devaluation of copper Cash against the silver Tael in China in the 19th century. While the common saga blames the illegal opium trade for China’s monetary problems, serious scholars are convinced that the quality of copper Cash itself had considerably decreased.106
The influx of silver from the late 16th century onward substantially changed the East Asian monetary order.107 The international flows of precious metals are therefore a further, intensively researched theme.108 Studies reveal the impact of European arbitrage business109 on local economies and help to detect more details about circuits in international trade.110
As a consequence of growing interest in silver economies, the focus of research on Chinese money also shifted to the dawn of the silver age111 and that of paper money.112 A number of monetary historians point to differences in techniques of coin production between Europe and Asia.113
Another research issue is the transition from the traditional monetary systems in China, Japan, and Korea; the use of paper notes and token coins; and adoption of the Gold Standard.114 Comparisons of the monetary and financial systems of different world regions115 also show that banking and credit systems varied.116 Recent economic crises have challenged research, including the question of how to “internationalize” the RMB117 and whether regional economic unions might adopt common currencies.
Some standard literature on Asian monetary systems is up to now somewhat outdated, mainly Peng Xinwei’s (Chinese-language) volume covering the whole history of Chinese money up to 1911,118 or Frank King’s book on money in the late 19th century.119
One type of primary sources involves observations by Western diplomats and merchants in Asia, like Oskar Münsterberg’s statistics of Japan’s foreign trade,120 which include important information on trade in precious metals, or Hosea Morse, who provided much detail on the currency system of late imperial China.121 Quite a few of these observations are handbooks, like Eduard Kann’s lengthy discussion of Chinese currencies122 or Willem Vissering’s report on early coins and paper money.123 See also The Currency Problem in Modern China on the early Republican period by Wen Pin Wei,124 Frederic Lee’s study,125 and merchant guides on the whole of Eastern Asia like Pacifique Chardin’s Monnaies d’Extrême Orient,126 Stewart Lockhart’s Currency of the Farther East,127 or Eastern Exchange Currency and Finance by William F. Spalding.128
Collections and coin reproductions constitute another type of primary source. Rubbings are a traditional Chinese mode of reproducing artwork of bas-relief type. The oldest native descriptive catalogues of coins date from the Song period.129 The largest modern collection of this type on China is Zhongguo lidai huobi daxi,130 which includes coins as well as paper notes, and the most recent is Werner Burger’s monumental collection with rubbings of the complete types of Qing coins.131 Students might also consult François Thierry’s (still incomplete) multivolume project Monnaies chinoises.132 For ancient paper notes, there is a bilingual Chinese–English collection.133 Arthur Coole has initiated a series called Encyclopedia on Chinese Coins.134
Concerning Japan, students may wish to consult the multivolume collection Zuroku Nihon no kahei,135 the shorter catalogue Nihon kahei zukan,136 and primary sources Coins of Japan by Neil Gordon Munro,137 and (in German) Chōjiro Kusaka’s Das japanische Geldwesen,138 as well as the catalogue of David Hartill139 and that of Norman Jacobs.140
Links to Digital Materials
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Bryan, Steven. The Gold Standard at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: Rising Powers, Global Money, and the Age of Empire. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.Find this resource:
Burdekin, Richard C. K. China’s Monetary Challenges: Past Experiences and Future Prospects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.Find this resource:
Cheng, Linsun. Banking in Modern China: Entrepreneurs, Professional Managers, and the Development of Chinese Banks, 1897–1937. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.Find this resource:
Cho, Dongchul, and Kiseok Hong. “Currency Crisis of Korea: Internal Weakness or External Interdependence?” In Regional and Global Capital Flows: Macroeconomic Causes and Consequences. Edited by Takatoshi Ito and Anne O. Krueger, 337–373. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.Find this resource:
Flynn, Dennis O. “Comparing the Tokugawa Shogunate with Hapsburg Spain: Two Silver-Based Empires in a Global Setting.” In The Political Economy of Merchant Empires: State Power and World Trade, 1350–1750. Edited by James D. Tracy, 332–359. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1991.Find this resource:
Frost, Peter. The Bakumatsu Currency Crisis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970.Find this resource:
Horesh, Niv. “The Great Money Divergence: European and Chinese Coinage before the Age of Steam.” Zhongguo wenhua yanjiusuo xuebao/Journal of Chinese Studies 55 (2012): 103–137.Find this resource:
Horesh, Niv. Chinese Money in Global Context: Historic Junctures between 600 BCE and 2012. Stanford, CA: Stanford Economics and Finance, 2014.Find this resource:
Jones, Robert M. History and Guide to the Copper Cash Coinage of Japan. Kearney, NE: Morris, 2007.Find this resource:
Kim, Kyungsoo, and Jaewoo Lee. “Monetary Policy of the Bank of Korea during the First 60 Years.” Seoul Journal of Economics 24.4 (2011): 495–524.Find this resource:
Lin, Man-houng. China Upside Down: Currency, Society, and Ideologies, 1808–1856. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.Find this resource:
Mallaby, Sebastian, and Olin Wethington. “The Future of the Yuan: China’s Struggle to Internationalize Its Currency.” Foreign Affairs 91.1 (2012): 135–146.Find this resource:
Mehran, Hassanali, et al., eds. Monetary and Exchange System Reforms in China: An Experiment in Gradualism. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 1996.Find this resource:
Schiltz, Michael. Money Doctors from Japan: Finance, Imperialism, and the Building of the Yen Bloc, 1895–1937. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, distributed by Harvard University Press, 2012.Find this resource:
Sheng, Andrew. From Asian to Global Financial Crisis: An Asian Regulator’s View of Unfettered Finance in the 1990s and 2000s. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.Find this resource:
Shimada, Ryuto. The Intra-Asian Trade in Japanese Copper by the Dutch East India Company during the Eighteenth Century. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers, 2006.Find this resource:
Subacchi, Paola. The People’s Money: How China is Building a Global Currency. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.Find this resource:
Sugihara, Kaoru. “The Formation of an Industrialization-Oriented Monetary Order in East Asia.” In The International Order of Asia in the 1930s and 1950. Edited by Shigeru Akita and Nicholas J. White, 61–102. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010.Find this resource:
Vogel, Hans Ulrich. “Chinese Central Monetary Policy and the Yunnan Copper Mining Industry in the Early Qing (1644–1800).” PhD diss., Universität Zürich, 1983.Find this resource:
von Glahn, Richard. Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, 1000–1700. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.Find this resource:
Yang, Lien-sheng. Money and Credit in China: A Short History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952.Find this resource:
Yasukuni, Ryoichi. “Regional Versus Standardized Coinage: The Tokugawa Kan’ei Tsūhō.” International Journal of Asian Studies 7.2 (2010): 131–157.Find this resource:
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(111.) Richard von Glahn, “Re-examining the Authenticity of Song Paper Money Specimens,” Journal of Song-Yuan Studies 36 (2006): 79–106; Idem, Fountain of Fortune. M. L. Wayman, and H. Wang, “Cast Iron Coins of Song Dynasty China: A Metallurgical Study,” Historical Metallurgy 37 (2003): 6–24; and Doo Hwan Oh, and J. B. Lewis, trans. “The Silver Trade and Silver Currency in Choson Korea,” Acta Koreana 7.1 (2004): 87–114.
(112.) Angela Schottenhammer, “The Role of Metals and the Impact of the Introduction of Huizi Paper Notes in Quanzhou on the Development of Maritime trade in the Song period,” in The Emporium of the World: Maritime Quanzhou, 1000–1400, ed. idem (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 95–176; and Lien-Sheng Yang, “The Form of the Paper Note Hui-tzu of the Southern Sung Dynasty,” Journal of East Asian Numismatics 2.2 (1995): 26–30.
(113.) Michael Cowell, J. Cribb, S. G. E. Bowman, and Y. Shashoua, “The Chinese Cash: Composition and Production,” in Metallurgy in Numismatics, vol. 3, eds. Marion Archibald, Michael Cowell, and Royal Numismatic Society (London: Royal Numismatic Society, 1993), 185–198.
(114.) Yoshiki Fumio, How Japan’s Metal Mining Industries Modernized (Tokyo: United Nations University, 1980); Akinobu Kuroda, “The Collapse of the Chinese Imperial Monetary System,” in Japan, China, and the Growth of the Asian International Economy, 1850–1949, ed. Kaoru Sugihara (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 103–126; and Tsun-hung Cho, “Currency Reform in Late Ch‘ing China, 1887–1912,” Bulletin of Historical Research/Li Shih Hsüeh Pao 11 (1983): 322–378.
(115.) Scheidel, “Monetary Systems”; and Niv Horesh, “The Great Money Divergence: European and Chinese Coinage before the Age of Steam,” Zhongguo wenhua yanjiusuo xuebao/Journal of Chinese Studies 55 (2012): 103–137.
(116.) Noro Tamaki, Japanese Banking: A History 1859–1959 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); McElderry, Shanghai Old-Style Banks. Zhaojin Ji, A History of Modern Shanghai Banking: The Rise and Decline of China’s Finance Capitalism (New York: Sharpe, 2003); Niv Horesh, Shanghai’s Bund and Beyond: British Banks, Banknote Issuance, and Monetary Policy in China, 1842–1937 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009); and Wilson and Yang, “Shanxi Piaohao.”
(117.) Jean-François Di Meglio, “The Invention of a ‘Currency of the Third Type’: The Yuan’s Internationalization without Convertibility,” in China and the Global Financial Crisis: A Comparison with Europe, eds. Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Jean-François Di Meglio, and Xavier Richet (New York: Routledge, 2012), 120–136; Sebastian Mallaby and Olin Wethington, The Future of the Yuan: China’s Struggle to Internationalize Its Currency, in Foreign Affairs 91.1 (2012): 135–146; and Damian Tobin, “Introduction: The Renminbi as an International Currency: The Next Instalment of China’s Economic Reforms,” in Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies 11.2 (2013): 73–79.
(118.) Peng, Zhongguo huobi.
(119.) King, Money.
(120.) Oskar Münsterberg, Japans auswärtiger Handel von 1542 bis 1854 (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1896); and Idem, Japans Edelmetall-Handel von 1542–1854 (Stuttgart: Union Deutsche Verl.-Ges, 1895).
(121.) Hosea Ballou Morse, The Trade and Administration of the Chinese Empire (Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1907), 119–169.
(122.) Eduard Kann, The Currencies of China: An Investigation of Silver and Gold Transactions Affecting China (Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1927); and Idem, History of Minting in China (Shanghai: Numismatic Society of China, 1939).
(123.) Willem Vissering, On Chinese Currency: Coin and Paper Money (Leiden: Brill, 1877).
(124.) Wen Pin Wei, The Currency Problem in Modern China (New York: Columbia University Press, 1914).
(125.) Frederic E. Lee. Currency, Banking, and Finance in China (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1926).
(126.) Pacifique Chardin, Monnaies d’Extrême Orient: chinoises, coréennes, japonaises et annamites (Lille: Giard, 1912).
(127.) Stewart Lockhart J. H., The Currency of the Farther East (Hong Kong: Noronha, 1895) (Collection of George B. Glover, part of the National Museum of American History).
(128.) William F. Spalding, Eastern Exchange Currency and Finance, 6th ed. (London: Macmillan 1924).
(129.) Such can be found in the two-volume compendium Zhongguo gu qianbi tupu kaoshi congbian, ed. Shumu wenxian chubanshe (Beijing: Shumu wenxian chubanshe, 1992), or the two-volume book Guquanhui by Wang Guishen (ed.) (Beijing: Beijing chubanshe, 1993).
(130.) Ma Feihai, ed., Zhongguo lidai huobi daxi (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe, 2002 ff.), 10 vols. (4–6 not published yet).
(131.) Werner Burger, ed., Ch‘ing Cash, vol. 1: Ch‘ing Cash; vol. 2: Ch‘ing Cash Year Tables (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016).
(132.) François Thierry, ed., Monnaies chinoises. I, L’antiquité préimpériale: Catalogue (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1997); François Thierry and Michel Amandry, eds., Monnaies chinoises. II, Des Qin aux Cinq Dynasties: Catalogue (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2003); and François Thierry and Frédérique Duyrat, eds., Monnaies chinoises. IV, Des Liao aux Ming du Sud: Catalogue (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2014).
(133.) Neimenggu gu qianbu yanjiuhui, Zhongguo guchao tuji.
(134.) Arthur Braddan Coole, An Encyclopedia of Chinese coins (Boston: Quarterman, 1976ff.). It is up to date just covering the pre-imperial period.
(135.) Nihon Ginkō chōsakyoku, ed., Zuroku nihon no kahei, 11 vols. (Tōkyō: Tōyō Keizai Shinposha, 1972–1976]).
(136.) Gunji Isao, Nihon kahei zukan (Tōkyō: Tōyō Keizai Shinpōsha, 1981).
(137.) Neil Gordon Munro, Coins of Japan (Yokohama: Box of Curios Publishing Company, 1904).
(138.) [Johannes] Tsiôsiro Kussáka, Das japanische Geldwesen: Geschichtlich und kritisch dargestellt (Berlin: Präger, 1890).
(139.) David Hartill, Early Japanese Coins (Gamlingay: New Generation Publishing, 2011).
(140.) Jacobs and Vermeule, Japanese Coinage.
(141.) Wybrand op den Velde and David Hartill, Cast Korean Coins and Charms (Sandy, Bedfordshire: Bright Pen, ).
(142.) Won Yu Han, and Lee Kyong-hee, trans., Money: Traditional Korean Society (Seoul: Ehwa Women’s University Press, 2006) [i.e., Wŏn Yu-han, Han’guk ŭi chŏnt’ong sahoe hwap’ye (Sŏul: Ihwa Yŏja Taehakkyo Ch’ulp’anbu, 2005).]