Friday, January 16, 2009

'Import Restrictions Imposed on Certain Archaeological Material from China'

It was just announced today that U.S. State Department has decided to act on a request for import restrictions on certain archaeological materials from China.

The report, apparently published today, "Import Restrictions Imposed on Certain Archaeological Material from China" is available online and details the scope of the import restrictions and the objects that are covered. Pertinent to the primary subject of this website - numismatics - one notes that the request for import restrictions made in 2005, which included ancient Chinese coins, has been controversial and particularly opposed by American ancient coin dealers and many collectors. Ancient Chinese coins are covered in the text of the agreement:
3. Coins.

a. Zhou Media of Exchange and Tool-shaped Coins: Early media of
exchange include bronze spades, bronze knives, and cowrie shells.
During the 6th century BC, flat, simplified, and standardized cast
bronze versions of spades appear and these constitute China's first
coins. Other coin shapes appear in bronze including knives and cowrie
shells. These early coins may bear inscriptions.

b. Later, tool-shaped coins began to be replaced by disc-shaped
ones which are also cast in bronze and marked with inscriptions. These
coins have a central round or square hole.

c. Qin: In the reign of Qin Shi Huangdi (221-210 BC) the square-
holed round coins become the norm. The new Qin coin is inscribed simply
with its weight, expressed in two Chinese characters ban liang. These
are written in small seal script and are placed symmetrically to the
right and left of the central hole.

d. Han through Sui: Inscriptions become longer, and may indicate
that inscribed object is a coin, its value in relation to other coins,
or its size. Later, the period of issue, name of the mint, and numerals
representing dates may also appear on obverse or reverse. A new script,
clerical (lishu), comes into use in the Jin.

e. Tang: The clerical script becomes the norm until 959, when coins
with regular script (kaishu) also begin to be issued.