Accepted Paper:

Chinese Money Matters – so why does it have such a low profile?  

Author:

Helen Wang (British Museum)

Paper short abstract:

There are tens of thousands of Chinese coins, banknotes, coin-shaped amulets, hell money and other money-related objects in East Asian collections outside of Asia. Why are they so neglected? In this paper, I will open up the subject, and highlight the potential of these collections.

Paper long abstract:

There are tens of thousands of pieces of Chinese money (coins, banknotes, coin-shaped amulets, hell money and other money-related objects) in East Asian collections outside of Asia. Why are they so neglected?

In the first part of my presentation, I will consider the locations and provenances of the collections, the status of the collectors, and the level of expertise currently available to study them. When East Asian money is part of a collection of world money, the East Asian money tends to be overshadowed by its European, American and Middle Eastern counterparts. Similarly, when East Asian money is part of a collection of East Asian material culture, the collection is usually noted as an “art” collection or an “ethnographic” collection, with the result that the East Asian money is overshadowed again. In other words, collections of East Asian money are largely neglected by the communities of experts who are responsible for looking after them. Too often, the East Asian money remains untouched, uncatalogued, unknown, and unconsidered.

And yet, their potential is enormous! In the second part of my paper, I will give examples of recent detailed studies and projects concerning East Asian money. I will also show how a very simple knowledge of Chinese coins can empower museum-visitors who have no prior knowledge of East Asia or East Asian languages.

Panel P006
Museums of Asian Arts outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities