Yuan shih kai coin


1912 -1949

The Republic of China began in 1911 with a mutiny of soldiers in Hubei province and quickly spread into open revolution. A retired former viceroy, Yuan Shikai (Yüan Shih-k'ai ), was made Prime Minister and agreed an armistice with the rebels who had set up a provisional government in Nanjing (Nanking ), under the terms of which the boy emperor Xuan Tong (Hsüan T'ung ) was forced to abdicate in February 1912. The arch-revolutionary, Dr. Sun Yat-sen. who had returned from abroad to become the first president of the new republic, resigned in favour of Yuan Shikai, with a prominent rebel, Li Yuanhong (Li Yüan-hung ) becoming vice-president.

Yuan Shikai quickly came into conflict with the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) who had won a large majority in the Chinese National Assembly. In 1914 Yuan dismissed the KMT members and dissolved the Assembly, effectively ruling the country as a dictator. In 1916 he attempted to set himself up as Emperor with the throne name of Hong Xian (Hung-hsien ) but was thwarted in his ambition by the secession of Yunnan Province and an army rebellion. He died shortly afterwards. Li Yuanhong succeeded to the presidency and was immediately faced with dissension from his Prime Minister and an attempt to restore the monarchy. Though this was defeated, further rivalries led to a split between the southern and northern provinces. The country quickly degenerated into anarchy, with rival army factions taking over control of large areas under various warlords.

Meanwhile, the Kuomintang had been successfully reorganised by Dr Sun Yat-sen, who had established a power base in Guangdong province. Under his influence Communists were encouraged to join the KMT, which enabled the foundation of a military academy with help from Soviet Russia. Chiang Kai-shek. a protegé of Sun Yat-sen, became the academy's first commandant and quickly rose to eventual leadership of the KMT. By 1926 the KMT's National Revolution Army had secured Guangdong and begun to move north, capturing first Nanjing and Shanghai, then finally Beijing (Peking ) in 1928. Although the warlords still remained in control of parts of the country (some until 1949) China was finally reunified. Nanjing became the new capital.

Their success was not to last for long. In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria and managed to occupy the whole of the country within five months. Xuan Tong, the former emperor of China who had abdicated in 1912, was smuggled out of Tianjin (Tientsin ) and set up by the Japanese as a puppet emperor with the name of Kang De. the province being renamed Manchukuo. The KMT split with the Communists led to a war in which the Communists were forced to retreat northwards in what became known as the "Long March ", during which Mao Zedong came to prominence.

In 1937 Japan invaded northern China, capturing Beijing and Tianjin. Within months both Shanghai and Nanjing had fallen to the Japanese advance and the Nationalists were forced to retreat into Sichuan province, setting up a capital in Chongqing (Chungking ). Thereafter the war stagnated. The chief beneficiaries were the Communists, who gained much support with their guerrilla tactics against the Japanese. The Chinese Nationalists, deprived of their main sources of revenue, and having lost most of their army, air force and arsenals, were sustained by financial help as well as munitions from abroad, mainly the USA, Soviet Russia, Great Britain and France. When war broke out in 1939, this aid gradually dried up, until the Japanese entered the war on the side of Germany after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Faced by shortages of raw materials and rampant inflation, the Nationalists resorted to printing money, to the extent that 63% of its expenditure was met in this way.

Because of difficulties in supplying Free China, most of which came through northern Burma, the effectiveness of the Nationalist's army declined and virtually collapsed when the Japanese renewed their attacks in 1944. This led to a crisis between Chiang Kai-shek and the Americans who were his main supporters at a time when the general population was beginning to lose faith in the government. By contrast, the Communist armies were growing in strength and supported by the vast majority of the population in the areas in which they operated.

When the Pacific war ended in August 1945, both the Nationalists and the Communists raced to take over territories formerly held by the Japanese. Of prime importance, because of its predominance of heavy industries, was Manchuria, which had been invaded and captured by Russia in the final phase of the war and handed over to the Communists. Despite attempts at a peace settlement, conflict grew between the two adversaries. The Communists began extending their power over much of the north. Any chance of peace was thwarted by conservatives within the KMT and the commanders of the Nationalist armies, who thought they could win a decisive victory. The USA, disillusioned with Nationalist intransigence, withdrew support and embargoed any further arms shipments.

Although initially the Nationalists were successful in their, by now, open civil war against the Communists, the tide gradually turned and during 1947 and 1948 the Communists were able to inflict a series of stunning defeats on the Nationalists. They were finally driven out of Manchuria, where their foothold had never been substantial, and Communist armies gradually overran the south. Chiang Kai-shek was forced to abandon China and withdrew to Taiwan. taking the country's gold reserves, air force and navy with him. The Communists, now in control of the mainland, set up the People's Republic of China.

Coinage of the Republic of China

At first sight the coinage of the Republic of China until 1936 is extremely confusing. This was because of the large number of conflicting authorities issuing coins and the lack of an overall theme until the Nationalists gained control in 1927. Despite this several phases of coinage can be identified, consisting of:

The Early Republic

Yuan Shikai and the Hong Xian era

The Warlords

Reformed Coinage of 1936

Japanese Occupied Areas 1937-1945

Last Coinage


In the first year of the Republic, several provinces, among them Sichuan (Szechuan ), Yunnan. Fujian (Fukien ) and Hunan. minted coins independently, with their own designs.

Sichuan produced a standard design for all coins, consisting of the Chinese character for Han in a central circle, supposedly to signify that the Chinese Han people had taken back control of their country from the Manchu Qing dynasty, surrounded by eighteen small circles representing the provinces of China. This was used on silver dollars, half-dollars (5 jiao) and 20 cents (1 jiao), together with brass coins of 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10 wen (cash ). A small number of other designs on the bronze coinage also date from this period.

Sichuan Province 10 cash dated the second year of the Republic (1913)

In Yunnan. obverses of the Qing emperor Guang Xu. who died in 1908, were combined with a coiled dragon design within a centre circle and no legend. Both dollars, half-dollars and twenty cents coins were produced with this interim design.

Guangdong (Kwangtung ) Province minted 20 cent coins in the first three years of the Republic, the denomination being shown in English with western numerals. A similar 1 cent coin was issued first in copper, then in brass from year 3 onwards. These designs continued in later years and were extended to other denominations.

Hunan and Jiangxi (Kiangsi ) both issued 10 cash coins dated 1912 with a design of a nine-pointed star, with the name of the province and the value in English.

20 cash coin of Hunan Province minted in 1919

The first silver dollars of the Chinese Republic were minted at Nanjing during 1912 and bore the portrait of Dr Sun Yat-sen, together with the legend THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA in English and in Chinese. Similar coins were issued the same year with the portrait of Li Yuandong in military uniform with and without a cap and minted at Wuchang.


After Yuan Shikai had obtained complete control, new regulations were promulgated under which 280 million older silver coins were recalled and a new series issued bearing the portrait of Yuan Shikai himself. The dollar, known colloquially as the "Fatman Dollar", became the most widely circulated coin in China. Each bears the date reckoned from 1911 as the start of the Republic. The dies were prepared at the Tianjin General Mint and distributed to the provinces. As these dies became worn they were re-engraved, leading to many small local variations of design. It is said that over 300 million of these coins were issued. These coins survived his death in 1916 and were still being minted until 1922 or maybe later. The same design was used on an initial issue, all dated year 3 (1914) of half-dollars, 20 cents and 10 cents coins (the denomination marked in Chinese characters as 2,5 or 10 such coins to dollar). The portrait of Yuan Shikai appeared after his death on gold coins weighing circa 15.4 gm valued at 20 dollars and those of circa 7.7 gm valued at 10 dollars, dated year 8 (1919).

Silver dollar portraying Yuan Shikai, dated year 9 (1920)

Much rarer are the dollars of 1916, at the

time when Yuan Shikai attempted to set himself up as emperor with the throne name of Hong Xian. These bear the facing portrait of Yuan, wearing a decorated military uniform and a high plumed hat. Hunan Province minted bronze 10 cash coins with the legend "THE FIRST YEAR OF HUNG SHUAN"

Yunnan Half-dollar with the portrait of Tang Jiyao

When Tang Jiyao (T'ang Ch'i-chao ), Governor-General of Yunnan Province, rebelled against Yuan Shikai he issued dollars and half-dollars, together with a 50 cash coin in bronze weighing circa 25 gm, each showing a facing portrait of himself. In addition he minted gold coins bearing his portrait that weighed circa 8.5 gm and a smaller denomination weighing circa 4.6 gm. Effectively he was the first of the many warlords that took control of large areas of the country as central authority disintegrated.

Tianjin mint one cent ("100 of these to one dollar") minted in year 5 (1916)


After the death of Yuan Shikai, the new Republican government tried to maintain control of the coinage and bring some cohesiveness. In 1922 they abolished the Yuan Shikai dollar and replaced it with a design bearing a phoenix and dragon design which many Chinese objected to because of its Imperial overtones. Collectors often erroneously associate these coins with the marriage of the former Emperor, Xuan Tong. but were minted over a period of four years before being discontinued in favour of a new Sun Yat-sen dollar.

In parallel with dollars intended for general circulation, a number of coins were struck to commemorate important events. Among them were those marking the elevation of Ni Sichong (Hsu Shih-cheng ) as military governor of Anhui Province in 1920, the promulgation of the Hunan Provincial Constitution in 1922, Cao Kun (Ts'ao K'un ) becoming president of China in 1923 and the completion of the provincial highway in Guizhou (Kweichow ) province (the so-called "Automobile dollar"). The warlord Duan Qirui (Tuan Chi-jui ) issued dollars bearing his portrait to commemorate his entry into Beijing in 1924 and the abolition of the presidency, assuming the role of chief executive, and Zhang Zuolin (Chang Tso-lin ), who already controlled most of Manchuria, did the same when he captured Beijing.

The Republic were most successful and achieved the greatest standardisation with the production of the 20 and 10 cash coins from 1920 onwards, marked with their value and THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA. The design bore the crossed flags of the Republic and the striped flag of the army. These were also minted in the provinces under the control of the various warlords.

Republic of China general issue 10 cash (undated)

Guangdong province pursued an independent line of silver coins with English value marks until at least 1924, when it came under the control of the Kuomintang.

Kwangtung 20 cents (two jiao) dated year 10 (1921)

Fujian and Yunnan also produced their own series of coins, the latter at least until 1932.

Yunnan half dollar year 21 (1932)

Manchuria one fen year 18 (1929)


The coinage of the Nationalist Government until 1936 basically continued that in existence, bronze or brass 20 and 10 cash coins, with semi-independent small silver coinages in Fujian. Guangdong and Yunnan .

Guangdong 2 jiao with portrait of Sun Yat-sen, dated year 18 (1929)

The death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925 and his burial in a specially built mausoleum was marked in 1927 by the issue of dollars resembling those of 1912 but marked "MEMENTO" and others with a facing portrait. A similar design was used on a 20 cent coin. Fujian province also issued 20 cents coins in 1928, with the value shown in star design, and a reverse showing the tomb of the Republican Martyrs of 1911.

After the unification of China in 1929, the Nationalists issued silver dollars with Sun Yat-sen's portrait on the obverse and a reverse showing a Chinese junk sailing right. Beforehand a number of patterns were commissioned from Japan, Italy, Austria, the USA and Britain. These are easily distinguished from those issued as currency because the junk is shown sailing to the left. In 1932 the KMT Ministry of Finance announced that the Sun Yat-sen dollar was now the official currency and brought out a new design which showed birds flying over the junk and, more ominously, a rising sun on the right. The coins were unpopular because they seemed to offer support for the Japanese, so the KMT was quickly forced to change the design, omitting both the birds and the rising sun.

Sun Yat-sen "Junk" dollar dated year 23 (1934)

Most of those found nowadays are restrikes made in USA in 1949

Rising inflation led the KMT eventually to forbid the circulation of silver dollars in 1935 in favour of a paper currency. The reckless issue of paper money by the Nationalists during the war with Japan triggered off massive inflation and silver dollars were freely traded again because of the lack of public confidence in other money. When the Communists took over in 1949 all silver dollars were recalled and formed no part of the currency during the People's Republic.


Between 1931 and 1934 the Chinese Communists set up Soviet governments which produced coins for circulation in the areas under their control and to facilitate trade with Nationalist areas. Among them were the Hunan-Jiangxi, the Central, the Hubei-Henan-Anhui and Sichuan-Shaanxi Soviets and that of Fujian and Zhejiang. These are easily distinguished by the use of the hammer and sickle emblem and the use of legends (in Chinese characters) which translate to the Communist slogan "Workers of the World Unite". Another interesting feature is the use of Christian era year dates, some in Chinese numbers (which need to be read from right to left). On coins from 1934 the figure four is retrograde.

In bronze coins 1 fen, 5 fen, 200 and 500 wen (i.e. 20 and 50 fen) were produced; in silver 2 jiao (20 fen) and one dollar. The abandonment of silver coinage by the Kuomintang under their Fa Bi reforms of 1935 forced the Soviets to do likewise.


Manchukuo coins for the puppet emperor Kang De (Kang Te ), formerly the boy emperor of China Xuan Tung, were issued from 1932 to 1945. Coins of 1932-1934 are marked Da Ding (Ta T'ing ) as the throne name Kang Te was not adopted until 1934 and used thereafter.

They consisted of only three denominations, 5 li (cash) and 1 fen in bronze, 5 fen in cupro-nickel (where 10 li = 1 fen, 10 fen = 1 jiao). The lower denomination ceased being minted in 1939 and the metal for the other two coins was changed to aluminium, the 1 fen in 1939, the 5 fen in 1940. In 1945 the 1 fen coin was produced in both a red and a brown fibre.

Manchukuo one fen, Kang Te era, Year 2 (1935)


As part of their Fa Bi (Legal tender) reforms of 1936 the Nationalist Government introduced a series of small denomination coins at a new mint set up in Shanghai, in nickel or cupro-nickel and copper, which continued to be minted until 1942-1943. The cupro-nickel coins except for the smallest denomination, the 5 fen, had the portrait of Sun Yat-sen on the obverse and a representation of an ancient spade coin (pu ) on the reverse together with the value in Chinese characters. The copper coins had an obverse design of the Chinese national sun emblem, also with a pu reverse and the denomination.

The initial series comprised 20 fen, 10 fen, 5 fen in cupro-nickel and a one fen and half fen in copper. The half fen coin was discontinued after the first issue, but a small brass 2 fen coin was added in 1939 and a half dollar (50 fen) cupro-nickel in 1941. The 1 fen coin was changed to a smaller brass coin in 1939 and then to an aluminium coin in 1940. The 5 fen also became an aluminium coin during the same year. The weight of the 10 fen coin was reduced in 1940 and when the 20 fen coin was minted again in 1942 it was also at a reduced weight.

Reformed coinage half dollar dated year 31 (1942) with

portrait of Sun Yat-sen and ancient "pu" coin

Aluminium 5 fen dated year 29 (1940)


Coins were produced in the Japanese controlled areas of East Hopei in 1937 (5 Li, 1 fen, 5 fen, 1 jiao), Meng Chiang in Northern China during 1938 (a copper coin of 5 jiao) and by the Provisional Government of China centred on Beijing. Coins of the latter consisted of 1 fen, 5 fen and 1 jiao, all aluminium and dated between 1941 and 1943.

Category: Kai

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