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Silver Spade Coin
The silver spade coin (kong-shou-bu, lit. “hollow-headed bu coin”), 10.5 centimetres long, 6 centimetres wide and 134.1 grams heavy, is a silver coin of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) unearthed in Fugou County, Henan Province in 1974.
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Name:Bae HyeunJun
About the Writer: Bae HyeunJun, male, a native from Seoul, Republic of Korea, is now a PhD candidate of 2012 at the School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University. His main research interest is in archaeology of the Shang and Zhou dynasties.
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In August 1974, the whole of two bronzes rusted together was discovered at Gucheng Village, Fugou County, Henan Province. The upper piece was a bronze ding (cauldron with legs) where eighteen silver coins were contained; the lower piece was a bronze pot where there were 392 gold coins. All the silver coins in the bronze ding are spade coins. Some are “hollow-headed” (kong-shou-bu) and the others are “solid-headed” (shi-shou-bu). By length, they can be classified into three types: short, medium and long. The silver spade coin in question is a short hollow-headed one. The spade, rectangular in shape, flat-shouldered and flat-footed, has a hollow oval handle holder. On each of the two shoulders, there is a pointed projection, which is the feeder head of the mould (Fig.1 and Fig.2). When the “head” or handle holder of the spade coin was moulded, the cold-partition technique must have been employed, because there are two air holes in the coin.

Fig.1 Back of the silver spade coin
Fig.2 Silver spade coin viewed from above

The shape and design had originated from the “hollow-headed” curved-footed bronze spade coin casted by the states in the Central Plain region such as Zhou, Jin and Zheng while retaining the flat foot and inscription-free surface of Chu coins. This proves that in Chu not only gold yuan (pellets) and bronze shells (bei) were used, but spade coins were minted as well. The discovery of this silver “hollow-headed” spade coin has provided an important material piece of evidence for studies on the use of rare metal coins and Chu’s monetary system and system of measurements.

An overview of the history of the bronze spade coin shows that the earlier the spade coin is, the closer in shape it is to the actual spade. Archaeological findings have proved that hollow-headed spade coins were earlier than solid-headed ones. In terms of size, short spade coins gradually evolved into medium ones, and eventually to long ones. In the meantime, the “head” or handle holder gradually shortened. This “hollow-headed” silver spade coin can date back to a time before the late Spring and Autumn Period, no later than the mid Spring and Autumn Period [1].