Large Ban-liang cash, Empress Lu Zhi (195-180 BC), early W. Han, China (G/F 13.10)

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Two large Chinese characters Ban Liang ("Half an ounce"), outer rim / Flat, no rims. 33mm, 6.77 grams. Gratzer/Fishman "The Early Round Coins of China" #13.10.

Empress Lu, born Lu Zhi (241–180 BC), was a brutal and fascinating figure of the early Han period. She was the empress-consort of Emperor Gaozu, the founder and first ruler of the Han Dynasty, becoming the first woman named Empress of China (as Empress Gao of Han). After the death of Emperor Gaozu in 195 BC, she was honoured with the title of an Empress Dowager and later as Grand Empress Dowager during the short reigns of her son Emperor Hui (195-188 BC) and her grandsons Liu Gong (Emperor Qianshao (188-184 BC)) and Liu Hong (Emperor Houshao (184-180 BC)). A strong, cruel and domineering figure, Lü Zhi stood by her husband side, assisting and advising him during the civil war. Following his death, she was given the title of an Empress Dowager by her son, Emperor Hui. As Empress Dowager, she dominated her Imperial son and grandsons, and was the main figure of the Chinese political scene for fifteen years following the death of her husband in 195 BC. She died at the age of 61 in 180 BC and was interred in her husband’s massive tomb in Changling in Shaanxi.

The coins circulating before 186 BC were the officially allowed privately cast elm-seed Ban Liangs, which were extremely light and variable in weight and appearance, and were probably causing economic problems. To improve the coinage, Empress Lu forbade private casting of coins in 186 BC, and ordered the government to cast the new heavy coins.

A Chinese ounce (liang) weighs about 16 grams. The earliest Qin dynasty "Ban Liangs" weighed half that much - 8 grams, but the Western Han pieces, like this one, weighed much less. 

This coin is unconditionally guaranteed to be authentic


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