The Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford has an exhibit curated by Dr Lyce Jankowski which opened in the Money Gallery on April 25th, 2017. At my request, Lyce kindly forwarded the following text and images. Thank you!
The display presents the tradition of coin collection in China. The earliest known Chinese coin collector was Li Shouli (672–741), Prince of Bin. His collection was discovered in Hejiacun in Shaanxi. It was buried by his heirs after his death, probably in the face of the advance of An Lushan's troops to Chang'an in 756. The collection contained Chinese, ancient and contemporary currencies, Japanese currencies, a Sassanian coin and an imitation of a Byzantine coin.
Coin collecting developed mainly in China during the Song dynasty (960–1279). This passion originated in the imperial court's enthusiasm for the past and antiquities. Coins are scholarly antiques par excellence: their appreciation requires a certain cultural background, because they are above all historical objects. They are direct witnesses to history. For scholars, the study of ancient inscriptions is key to understanding the past, and coins contribute to it.
Your readers may be interested to know that the earliest numismatic book in China is the Qianzhi and dates back to the 6th century AD. But the earliest extent coin catalogue dates back to the 12th century, it is the Quanzhi written by Hong Zun (1120-1174) - a 1874 reprint of this book is included in the display. Books in China were printed using woodblocks, which does not give accurate illustrations. To produce an accurate image of coins and of their inscriptions Chinese scholars used to do their own rubbings. After apposing his seal on his rubbing, a collector would send it to his friends as a scholarly gift.
The display presents coins with inscriptions in different calligraphic styles, including the slender gold style, invented by the Emperor Huizong (AD 1100-1126) himself (see Chong Ning tongbao coin with Emperor's calligraphy).
The highlight of the display is a coin cabinet in red lacquer and silk. This cabinet belonged to a Japanese numismatist, Kutsuki Masatuna (1750–1802). Kutsuki Masatsuna 朽木 昌綱, daimyo of Fukushiyama in Tanba province collected around 10,000 coins during his lifetime (18th c Japan). He not only collected all Japanese coins that had been issued in Japan since the 7th century (both official or unofficial), he also selected foreign coins from China, Korea and Vietnam which made up the bulk of Japan’s currencies from the 10th to 16th centuries. He authored a dozen of books on East Asian numismatics. He also wrote the first book in Japan devoted to non East Asian coins, the Seiyō senpu 西洋銭譜 [Account of Western Coins] in 1787. He was indeed able to acquire foreign coins through his contacts with Dutch people. Both in quantity and quality, his entire collection was exceptional. Luckily, part of this collection is now at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK.
For more information on the display and on the East Asian coin collection at the Ashmolean, see
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