word "peace" (taiping 太
平) in the inscription
on coins produced for everyday circulation in China has a
very long history.
Presented below are several examples of such "peace" coins
as well as a number of Chinese charms which include the
word "peace" in their inscriptions.
The first use of the term peace (taiping 太
平) in the inscription
(legend) of a Chinese coin was on the example shown here.
There is some controversy, however, as to where and when
this coin was actually cast.
Some references state that the coin was cast during the
end of the Eastern
Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) and the beginning of the Three Kingdoms
Other references say the coin was cast in
Kong reign (300 AD) of Emperor Hui of the Jin Dynasty
(265-316 AD) at the order of Zhao Xin, the governor of
Yizhou prefecture after he captured Chengdu (Sichuan
Province) and established his regime with the "year-title"
of Tai Ping.
Most recent sources now conclude that the coin was issued
by the Kingdom of Shu (221-265 AD) during the Three
Kingdoms period. This is based on archaelogical
discoveries in 1980 of a coin mold and in 1955 of a large
cache of these coins in a tomb near Chengdu in Sichuan
Province where the Kingdom of Shu previously
existed. The tomb was dated to 227 AD which means
that these coins were cast sometime before that date.
The inscription (legend) on the
coin is tai ping bai qian
(太平百钱) which translates as "Taiping
(Great Peace) One Hundred Cash", and the coin was worth the
equivalent of 100 cash coins in circulation at that time.
The reverse side of the coin is most
unusual in that it has many wavy
lines and dots.
The wavy lines are generally believed to represent water waves
and the dot at the top and bottom represent stars.
Even though this was the legal form of currency of the time,
the fancy calligraphy and the use of symbols more closely
resemble that of charms and amulets.
There are those who believe that this coinage may actually be
associated with the wudoumi
Taoists. Zhang Daoling (also known as Zhang
Ling, "Ancestral Celestial Master" and "Celestial Master
Zhang") established the first organized Daoist (Taoist)
religious sect, known as the "Five Bushels of Rice" ("Five Pecks of Rice" or Wudou Mi Dao 五斗米道), in
this same area of Sichuan Province.
(If you have further interest, a charm depicting Zhang Daoling
meeting Laozi can be seen at Daoist (Taoist)
This coin has a diameter of 26 mm and a
weight is 6.0 grams.
The next use of peace on circulated
currency was by Emperor
Tai Zong of the Song
Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD) cast during the years of his
Tai Ping Xing Guo reign (976 - 989 AD).
At the left is an example of this Song Dynasty coin.
The obverse has the characters Tai Ping Tong Bao (太
平通宝) with the word for peace
inscribed above and below the hole. The reverse of
this coin is flat with no inscription.
This coin has a diameter of 24.8 mm and weighs 4 grams.
The use of
the characters for peace (Tai Ping 太
平) were next seen on
officially cast coins during the reign of Emperor Si
Zong of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD).
The coin at the left is an example which
first appeared in the year 1628 AD. Emperor Si Zong's
coinage had the characters Chong
Zhen Tong Bao (崇祯通宝) on the obverse side.
The reverse side of the coin has the word peace with the character
above and the character Ping
(平) below the central
This coin has a diameter of 26.2 mm and weighs 3.1 grams.
The characters for peace were also used on the
"unofficial" coinage of a large-scale peasant uprising
(1850 -1864 AD) during the Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty referred
to as the Taiping Rebellion. Hong Xiu Quan (洪秀全)
established the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace (太
down, Hong Xiu Quan and his rebel army controlled a good
portion of southern China with a population of about 30
million. His troops were called "holy troops" and
his coins were called "holy coins".
Peace Coins of the Taiping
The coin at the left is an example of this rebel
coinage. The obverse side has the characters for Tai Ping (peace)
above and below the square hole with the characters Tian Guo (天国),
meaning "heavenly kingdom", to the right and left.
The reverse side of the coin has the characters shengbao (圣宝),
meaning "holy coin", on the right and left.
This coin has a diameter of 24.6 mm and weighs 3.3 grams.
Peace has always been a state of affairs
desired by the people throughout China's long and
frequently unpeaceful history. Therefore, it would
not be surprising that charms, which were not currency but
nevertheless were used daily by the common Chinese, would
have this wish for peace inscribed on them.
The expression tian xia
tai ping (天
下太平) first appeared in the ancient Chinese encyclopedic
text Lüshi Chunqiu (吕氏春秋),
known in English as Mister
Lü's Spring and Autumn Annals,
which was compiled about 239 BC. The text reads tian xia tai ping wan wu an
下太平万物安宁) which means
"when there is peace under heaven, all things are tranquil
During the Tang (618-907 AD) and Song
(960-1279 AD) dynasties, it was quite common to see a
similar sentiment expressed on duilian (对联) which are parallel
sentences or antithetical couplets written on scrolls and
hung on doors during holidays and festivals. The
expression was shang
tian yan hao shi xia jie bao ping an (上天言好事下界保平安)
which requested Zaojun (灶君),
the "Stove God", to "ascend to heaven and report
good things and then descend to earth and protect the
peace and tranquility".
The expression tian xia
tai ping (天下太平) is frequently found on Chinese
charms beginning in the Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty (1644 - 1911
AD). The inscription may be translated as "peace
under heaven", "peace and tranquility under heaven" or "an
empire at peace".
The following are several examples of tian xia tai ping
This is a fairly large specimen with the characters tian xia tai ping
There is a picture of a crab between each of
the characters. What is the connection between peace
and crabs? The Chinese word for crab (蟹) shares the
same pronunciation (xie)
as the Chinese word for harmony (协). Therefore, the hidden
meaning of the crab symbol reinforces the desire for
For additional information on the Chinese use of pictures
to substitute for words please see Chinese Charms -- Hidden
Meaning of Symbols.
This is the reverse side of the charm showing the twelve
animals representing the twelve Earthly Branches.
The meaning is discussed in detail at Ancient Chinese Zodiac Charms.
Surrounding the square hole are four tree peony or mudan (牡
丹) flowers. The peony symbolizes longevity, loyalty,
happiness and eternal beauty. For more information on
the fabled history of the peony please see Ancient Chinese Open-Work Charms.
The charm has a diameter of 51 mm.
is a very unusual Chinese peace charm.
The obverse and reverse sides of the charm are the same but
that is not its most unusual feature.
The inscription is also the standard tian xia tai ping
meaning "peace under heaven".
What makes it unusual is the top portion which is an
The bat is a rebus or
"visual pun" because the Chinese word for "bat" (fu 蝠) has the
same pronunciation as the word for "good fortune" (fu 福).
Also, the Chinese word for "upside-down" (dao 倒) has the
same pronunciation as the word for "to arrive" (dao 到).
Saying "the bat is upside-down" (fu dao 蝠倒) sounds the same as
saying "good fortune has arrived" (fu dao 福到
This charm therefore represents the wish for both peace
and good fortune.
The charm has a length of 41.8 mm, a width of 28 mm and a
weight of 9.9 grams.
This is a very attractive charm with Tian Xia Tai Ping written
in the same orientation as the charm above. However,
the characters are written in seal script.
The diameter is 26.5 mm and the weight is 5.2 grams.
The reverse side of the charm displays four figures.
Some experts say that the four figures are playing
drums. Others say that they are brandishing weapons.
Additional research is required.
This is another example of a tian xia tai ping "peace" charm.
The diameter is 26.3 mm and the weight is 4.1 grams.
The reverse side of the charm has the inscription bi xie ying rui
(辟邪迎瑞) which means "ward off evil influences and receive
This charm can also be seen as an example of an eight
character charm at Charms with
The peace charm at the left is an example of a Chinese peace
charm made of silver.
Because of the tarnish, it is a little difficult to see but
the inscription is tian xia
tai ping (天下太平) meaning
"peace under heaven".
The reverse side of the silver peace charm depicts a flower
design, possibly the lotus.
This charm has a diameter of 45 mm and a weight of 5.8 grams.
Return to Ancient Chinese Charms and