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Weights & Currency



There were several different units and standards of weights throughout Chinese History, but the below list is the major units weights used during the Han Dynasty.

1 Jin = 16 Liang

1 Liang = 24 Zhu

1 Zhu = 10 Lei

Lei = 10 seeds of millet

Coin values were based on their weight; the more a coin weighted, the more it was worth.  Many coins were labeled with the amount that they weighed on them (some symbols are unidentified).  This caused the constant threat of counterfeiting because a person could simply label a coin with a higher value than it was worth or chip off some of the weight and pass that coin off the marked value.

This is the approximate conversion into the current metric system:
1 Jin = approximately 250 grams.
1 Liang = approximately 15.5 grams.
1 Zhu = approximately 0.64-0.65 grams
(the definition of this unit was 10 millet seeds, so the actual weight will vary).

Jin
The word Jin has three meanings: ax, spade coin and a weight measure.  This gives a clear meaning about how weight and value were considered on and the same.

Liang
The work Liang means two it could be 2 times 12 Zhu equals 1 Liang.  The word for carriage was Liang  because there were two wheels.

Zhu
The Zhu was made up of 10 Lei.  This is much closer to the current base 10 metric system than the other units (Liang and Jin).  The Zhu was replaced by the Qian in 621 CE during the Tang Dynasty.

Money

Bei
The Bei was the unit name for cowry shells (similar to the dollar).  Shells, as in other countries, were used as money before metallic coins were invented.  It is know that a string of Cowry shell was also used, but the name for these strings is unknown.

     Han dynasty coin
       Han Dynasty coin

During the Han Dynasty, the government tried to standardize the way coins were made.  Visit http://users.cybercity.dk/~dsl60734/casting/Casting_of_coins_in_Han.html to learn more about the casting of coins.
To see samples of how much ancient Han dynasty coins are worth today, visit http://www.seaeaglecoin.com/han.html.  Notice that this web site is not a conversion of how much the coins would be presently worth, but how much they sell for today to a collector.

For more information on Han Dynasty weights and coins, visit http://larsbo.homepage.dk/weights.html.  This site is the source of information for this web page.