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Hua Chien (III)

Pa Kua Charm

In China, charms are known as "Yen Sheng Ch'ien" or "Yan Sheng Zhu", other more popular names for charm are "Hua Chien" [flower coin] or "Wan Chien" [play coin]. They were used as amulet against evil and not as money, so that the Chinese collectors seldom collect them. It is very difficult to trace the history and developments of Hua Chien, but the mintage of Hua Chien began as early as the Han Dynasty. Actually, those we can see were cast during the recent 100 years. That type of coins normally bear auspicious characters on the obverse side. On the reverse side were various designs of double fish, dragon and phoenix, stars, sword, tortoise and snakes, etc. Hua Chien is only used as an ornament or an amulet to expel or keep away evil spirits and unpropitious influences and not as money.

I have placed below an item received from Mr. Rugh, Jim. I am very happy that
Mr. Rugh has written the background stories too. I agree with him that the stories about how those who got coins are very interesting, Thanks indeed.

Marks of Rareness of the Collected Currencies
Extremely Rare A ~ Very Rare B ~ Rare C ~ Not So Many D ~ Common E

I just found your wonderful web site about Chinese numismatics. Your stories about how you got coins are very interesting and the pictures are excellent.
I collect asian cash coins, but I am not an expert so I always worry about getting fakes. I think western collectors don't like cash much because of this, and also because they all look the same if you don't know the writing. To me it is more challenging and fun!
When I was in HK a few years ago, my brother-in-law took me to Mao Lo Gai (Upper Lascar Row in Hong Kong) to haggle with the hawkers. It is a great experience you don't get in the US, even if the hawkers automatically raise their prices 20 percent when they see a tall gweilo (Foreigner) coming. One old woman got mad at me - she said I better not come back or else she would charge me twice as much! I still don't know what I said that made her so mad...
I don't usually buy charms, but I found two interesting ones. One is 32mm, about 3mm thick and crudely cast. On one side are the words Fung Fa Suet Yuet in seal script, and the other side shows four couples making love. Actually it is just lumps, but my friends all see the same thing when they look at it so maybe we all have the same naughty thoughts.
The other one is 45mm, very fine cast. One side has the baat gua (Eight Trigrams) of the i ching, (The Book of Changes) and the other side has pictures of the zodiac with the name of each animal. I paid about HK$70 for it so I probably got burned, but I enjoy it - it is so beautiful.

No. 139
Wt. ?
Rareness ?
Mint Evolution and Peculiarity by Jim Rugh
The sets of three bars are called Trigrams. According to legend these trigrams were invented 4500 years ago by Fu Hsi in the earliest version of the I Ching. (Later the I Ching was expanded to include 64 Hexagrams, or groups of six bars). The long bar is the Yang or male element, and the divided bar is the Yin or female. Since there are eight possible ways of arranging them, together they are called the Pa Kua, or 8 sides, and they are put into an octagonal shape. Each trigram has its name written above it (towards the center hole). In this picture, beginning from the 3 divided bars in about the 11:00 position clockwise, they are: Kun, Tui, Chien, Kan, Ken, Chen, Sun, and Li. Note: The Li trigram on this coin is engraved incorrectly, it should actually be one broken bar in between two long bars.

This particular ordering of trigrams on this coin is called the Later Heaven arrangement, which represents the practical or mundane. There is another ordering called Early Heaven, which represents the ideal Universe. This coin would be hung inside a "yang" dwelling such as a house or office - I keep it in my car. A charm in the Early Heaven arrangement would be for "yin" dwellings such as graves, or it would be displayed outside a house to deflect harmful spirits.

Each trigram represents a compass direction. Traditionally South is placed at the top. In this case (Later Heaven) South would be Li, Southwest is Kun, etc. Each trigram also represents a family relationship based on the position of the Yin and Yang bars. For example, the 3 unbroken Yang bars of Chien represent the Father, while the 3 Yin bars of Kun are for Mother, and the single Yang bar at the bottom of Chen means Oldest Son. There is rich symbolism associated with the Pa Kua. For example each represents an element (Chen is the dragon, Sun is wood) or an attitude (Chien is creative, Kun is receptive).
The other side of this coin shows the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, one for each year. I thought the words written above each animal were their names, but my wife tells me this is not the case. The words are the names of the 12 time divisions in a day, according to the old style of telling time. She could only remember about half the names. Starting from the top clockwise, she knew Chau, ?, ?, Sun, Gei, Ng, ?, Sun, ?, Mau, ?, Ji. Maybe someone could explain this time system better.

I bought this charm in Hong Kong for HK$70 from an old man with no teeth. There was a blonde college girl next to me, looking at an ivory knife. She had me ask the old man what it was. His accent was very strong - not Cantonese, but he said something that sounded like "Jiang". I wasn't sure I understood, but I asked him if he meant Dai Bun Jeung, and waved my arm like an elephant trunk. He nodded and smiled, so I told her. Horrified, she said "Ewww" and dropped the knife. The old man laughed. I don't know what she expected.


Jim Rugh.

[Yes, Mrs. Rugh is right. The Twelve Earthly Branches, names of the 12 lunar periods and the 12 hourly shifts in a day. YKL]

More about Charms Hua Chien (I) and Hua Chien (II)

Home Page New Data Chronology Cast Coins Struck Coins Paper Money Links/Reference
Any additional comment would be much appreciated, you can send it to Y.K.Leung.

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