An Overview of Qing Dynasty Sinkiang's Milled Miscal Coinage and Ration Silver "Xiang Yin"


This post will focus on introducing the later issued machine struck and milled coinage of Sinkiang, that is, the silver miscals with the coiled, Imperial dragon design. We will consider the dates of 1905-1910 (note, some sources, generally Western, consider 1905 as the mintage year, while others, generally Chinese, consider 1910) for these particular issues. Specifically, we will use five specimens from my personal collection, all the same general catalog designation of Y 6.0 and Lin and Ma 820. However, as we shall soon see, through my specially prepared presentation for Part 6, there are some minute and some noticeable differences between each of my Y 6.0 pieces. However, before we dive into the variety analysis, and even more appropriately, subvariety analysis of this Ration Silver coin, it is important to cover, in a rather cursory manner, the history of Qing Sinkiang, the numismatic history of milled silver as a whole, and eventually narrowing our sights to Ration Silver or xiang yin designated by Krause as Y6.0 to .11 (12 cataloged varieties). Finally, we will talk specifically on Y6.0 and how each of them can be described differently, and ultimately, my conclusions that out of my 5 pieces, all designated Y6.0 and Lin and Ma 820, there are 3 different types of dragons. In my presentation, I will analyze with 8 characteristics or focal points.

Part 1: Historical Overview

Sinkiang, or Xinjiang in the modern pronunciation of Pinyin, is currently an autonomous region in western China. We will take the historical view, considering my coins are obsolete and over 100 years old. Sinkiang was officially created as a Chinese province during the later stages of the Qing Dynasty. Specifically, during the Qing reconquest of Sinkiang from 1876-1877, the victorious Chinese Zuo Zongtang defeated Yaqub Beg, the Uzbek adventurer who based his capital in Kashgar (Kashi). General Tso (dish namesake) brought his Hunan Xiang Army and conquered Kashgaria and ultimately defeated Beg’s Yettishar, a short lived Sunni Turkish State. Then, years later the Qing recovered the Gulja region of Sinkiang through the Treaty of St. Petersburg in 1881, avoiding a regional war between Tsarist Russia and a newly modernized Chinese army during the Tongzhi Restoration and the Self-Strengthening Movement. Hence, during the 7th Year of Emperor Kwang Hsu---or 1881---Xinjiang was converted into a province or “sheng” of the Qing Dynasty, and was called a province during those final years of the Qing Dynasty and into the Republican Era (Min Guo). With the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, Xinjiang as it was now called via the Pinyin pronunciation, was turned into a Special Autonomous region as it is now today. Geographically and historically, the area was divided into two regions, north and south of the Tianshan mountains, a view that was debated and considered during the late 19th century. In present day geography, Sinkiang is surrounded by the Karakoram, Kunlun, and Tian Shan mountains and spans over 1.6 million kilometers and is the 8th largest country subdivision in the world. Lastly, some other historical names for Sinkiang---and commonly found in older Western published coin catalogs, include Chinese Turkestan, East Turkestan, and East Turkistan. 

Part 2: Sinkiang’s Machine Struck Silver Coinage

Sinkiang during the Qing Dynasty had “eight imperial mints, only three of which were in operation toward the end of the reign of Emperor Kuang Hsu” (Krause). Many made the copper Red Cash or Hongqian, which has the denominations of 10 cash or higher. These were holed coins that were cast and were unique to the Sinkiang region, and struck continuously for much of the Qing Dynasty (e.g., from the Qianlong to Guang Xu Emperors). In regards to silver coinage, they were---Kasghar, Aksu, and Tihwa (Urumchi) that would strike consistently with a machine press. There are many varieties and designs of these silver Miscals/Maces, and in this first post, we will briefly discuss the various progression of silver coins and types of Sinkiang silver miscals during the Qing---and not the following Republican era. I will be aided by the book, “Xinjiang Numismatics.”

In the book, the author broadly defines three different areas of milled (and not hand struck) silver coins. The distinction here is important because technically, silver coins circulated during the Hotan Habibulla and the tangas of Yaqub Beg before being adopted by the Qing Chinese with the ½ Miscals (5 Fen) series of the 1870s. These are silver, but hand struck/hammered and not machine pressed/milled. Nevertheless, in 1889, the region issued a “dragon silver coin” or “long yang/龙洋'” struck by an indigenous press. This is a very scarce coin that can be considered a pattern or a special new design for the region, an imitation of the other provinces who would soon adopt dragons as their designs! Then, the author notes the “mid-period” of 1892-1907, which are “serial coins struck and stamped by indigenous machines” and the “rim… indented … reverse stamped with a decorative pattern in Arabesque style” (88). The first series came from Kashgar, and subsequent ones from Aksu and Tihwa (Urumchi). An example is a 3 Miscal I posted a while back from 1902--- the obverse is in Chinese and the reverse is beautifully written in Arabic and surrounded by a wreath. In other words, it is a fact that these middle period coins do not have a dragon on it and instead, have a standard design of two languages---Chinese and Arabic. Thus, it was with this seemingly simple system that there are so many varieties in dates for instance, as many diemakers---many illiterate and could not understand Chinese---would recut dies in error, scramble numbers for the Hejira calendar (AH), or just scratch a number or design element out (and not replace it). This middle period will be discussed in depth later with another batch of Sinkiang on the way. 

The third and final period that the author notes is called the “Late Xinjiang Silver Coins” which spanned from 1905-1910. Coins here were struck by indigenous machines in Kashgar with indentured rims (e.g., angular elements incused inside) and “the designs on the obverse and reverse were both copies of those on the ‘longyang’ produced by other provinces” though they were unique as there was a Uygur legend on the obverse (94). They are divided into two types, “Guang Xu Yuan Bao” and the “Da Qing Ying Bi,” the latter which I posted a 1909 5 Miscal a month back. 

Part 3: What is Rational Silver?

Segueing off of the previous paragraph, where I utilized “Xinjiang Numismatics” to elucidate three distinct periods of SILVER milled Sinkiang miscal coinage, I forgot to mention one particular “subseries” from the “late third era of 1905-1910. Also, remember to associate this late “third era” to dragons, as they don the reverse of all these silver miscals. 

So this post asks, “What is Ration Silver?,” as it shows one such example.Ration silver is a rather rough translation of XIANG YIN or 饷银 and basically means SOLDIER’S PAY from the Qing Government. The author writes how “Xinjiang, a border province of China, was garrisoned with lots of troops at the time” and specifically, as I mentioned before, the soldiers were Zuo Zongtang’s Xiang Army from Hunan Province (100). These were the predominant soldiers who crushed Yaqub Beg in 1877 and consolidated Sinkiang for the Qing. The coins were even scaled into the Xiang Ping (湘平) scale as a testament to the Xiang Army’s presence. The ration silver was done in 5, 4, 2, and 1 Miscals. There was even Ration Gold in 1 and 2 Mace!

This coin shown below (Specimen A) is a beautiful example of a Ration Silver in 5 Miscals, in a solid EF condition with remaining luster on the dragon side. The scales, which are inherently shallow struck as Sinkiang’s presses were weak and powered by water, is highly evident like the scales of armor. Moreover, there are three noticeable die breaks on the obverse, which emphasize the endless varieties and possibilities of Sinkiang coinage. The dragon is beautiful and its forehead still retains its delicate scales!. The obverse is toned or tarnished quite heavily and it is not corrosion of sorts (no pitting or surface damage when looking with a loupe). Golden toning on the rims throughout for a piece that is hard and desirable in higher grades. 

Krause Y 6.0 (clouds horizontal), Lin and Ma 820. XJN 414.

Part 4: Ration Silver Dragon Miscals

Ration silver was present during the late stages of the Qing Dynasty (1905-1910), along with the early years of the Republic (see my very first Sinkiang, certified by NGC). They were minted at Kashgar for the 5 Miscals only during the Imperial Era (refer to Hsuan Tung era Ration Silver) while the Tihwa Mint (Urumqi) produced the plentiful types and varieties in 1 Tael (Sar), 1 Miscal, 2 Miscal, 4 Miscal, and 5 Miscal. This coin pictured here is a 5 Miscal coin from 1905, the standard variety of the 饷银五钱 that was the first iteration of the Ration Silver series, made at the Tihwa Mint. The author of “Xinjiang Numismatics” graphically shows us the transition of this particular type (with many varieties) to the ones from Hsuan Tung (1909-1911)---made at the Kashgar Mint and its mint name is directly mentioned such as “Ka Shi.” 

This ration silver coin type is quite common and was minted, according to Krause, in 1905 (undated). Its catalog number is Y6.0 which means that there are other varieties. We can look at the varieties for the obverse and reverse. For the obverse, my type is blank; but, there are other types where there is a herringbone dot, dot, rosette (dif. sizes), cross, etc. The reverse is also equally rich with varieties, where there is the uncircled dragon (my type), circled dragon, and the presence of bats (VERY scarce and desirable), and elongated rosettes. In fact, with these seemingly endless varieties, Krause lists this Y6.0 type from .0 to .11. If you look in Chinese publications and even go into minor details like the dragon type, tail end, and the CLOUDS, there are some noticeable differences. Also, there are varieties based on the placement of the Turki legend---some are rotated, placed on the other side, etc! I will do more research as I am highly interested in this! 

My coin (Specimen B) shown below is a VF+ with a soft obverse strike and has a dragon with scales evident on a large part of its body and its forehead. Dot denticles are sharp on both sides. Some circulation wear and patina on both sides. Soft obverse strike that is inconsistent with the rest of the coin, quite possible as Sinkiang’s coin presses were not advanced or powerful, comparatively. 

Variety? CLOUD IS ANGLED UP! Y 6.0; LM 820. 

Part 5: The Krause Y 6.0-.11 Coin and General Varieties

This dragon 5 Miscals from the ration silver “xiang yin” series is designated as Y 6.0 by Krause. It was struck in 1905 at the Tihwa (Urumchi) Mint and is undated. I will focus on the rather general Krause varieties of this type, and will aim to discuss the following questions: un/circled? centers? bats? flanking elements?

This third coin (Specimen C) from my collection is just the same Y 6.0 I posted days before. It can be classified by the following: uncircled dragon, blank center (w/o dots, cross, flower, rosette, etc), no bats, and no flanking elements. When looking at the coin, we see that 6.0 is uncircled, meaning there is no circle around the dragon. Instead, it is free and unbounded. Also, the obverse’s center is no mark, and lastly, the dragon side is quite simple with no bats or Uyghur Script or the flanking rosettes. In other words, we can consider this coin (and the ones before it) as the “basic” or most simple variety. 

.1--circled; w/o rosettes 

.2--large flanking rosettes

.3--dot in center (some have herringbone dot) w/o flanking rosettes

.4--cross in center

.5--large rosette center; depressed in center. 

.6--small flanking rosettes, 8 petaled rosette center (raised)

.7--1 BAT (SCARCE!) above uncircled dragon

.8--Turki legend around dragon (SCARCEST!) 

.9--Fantasy? w/ Sugarei; 4 bats surrounding

.10--w/o Sugarei. 4 bats. 

.11--Turki legend rotated; 1 Bat above. 

LM writes more, giving pictures for a RARE 4 Bats surrounding an uncircled dragon (many clouds).

Lastly, my Chinese catalog provides more variety analysis, including the DRAGON’s FACE and the size of the 饷银五钱. All in all, there are many---with new ones to find and some that honestly, can be a mixture of two varieties that Krause would have attributed to. Just got to find more, I guess! ;)

Part 6: My Y 6.0 Variety Analysis and Personal Observations with Supplementary Presentation

After looking at specimens A-E (x5) of the same generic Krause cataloged Y 6.0, I would like to personally analyze the possible varieties or in this case, subvarieties of this type. This might be useful to some because we may be able to find some new attributions and characteristics that are unique to each coin, and that we can elaborate on the existing and general findings of Krause. I believe that with my existing pieces, having this (sub)variety analysis allows everyone to learn more about the following theme: that Sinkiang is such a unique region, where dies were repurposed and recut. In other words, quality standards and consistency can be arguably more varying than other provinces, say Kwangtung or the Central Mint. 

In simple terms, each specimen is different and unique, and that it was a fun and fascinating process to examine each coin in such scrutiny.

This will conclude the 6 part series on Sinkiang Ration Silvers---of merely one general type! Just imagine the tons of varieties present with all the other general varieties like a circled dragon or dragon with bats. Moreover, there was a rather “shortcoming” of my research in this part 6, which is that I did not consider the obverse of XIANG YIN WU QIAN. Upon a cursory glance, they all look the same. I guess? LOL! And lastly, ration silver as a whole would appear during the reign of the last Emperor of China, Hsuan Tung (1909-1911) or Puyi. Hope this numismatic research was helpful to all! :D I will aim to have more of these in depth Sinkiang numismatic research in the future---especially during my summer vacation! 

Supplementary Presentation: (Google Slides)

For reference, I have put Specimen D and Specimen E below.

Conclusions on Five Specimen Analysis

Here are some observations I noticed after analyzing my five pieces. I will concisely write them here. 
  1. Specimen A and Specimen C can be considered the same subvariety, while Specimen B, D, E can each be considered their own subvariety. 
  2. The dragon's face is an strong and easy indicator of different subvarieties. Refer to the images below. 
  3. Likewise, the positions, distance, and angle of the clouds (check the images below) in certain focal points like the top of the dragon's forehead can be an indicator of the coin's subvariety
  4. Lastly, consider the eyeballs and fireballs of each piece. 
All in all, looking back at Krause’s Y6.0 designation for these 5 pieces, we can clearly see that there are so many nuances that ultimately creates these subvarieties!

Specimen A
Specimen B
Specimen C
Specimen D

Specimen E