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Ship-shaped silver ingot, casted with three Chinese characters

Tags: currency | silver | Song dynasty

The shapes of silver ingots in the Song dynasty do not have a particular style. They can be long and flat, kidney shaped, or boat shaped. Of these, kidney shaped was the most popular style, and probably became the primary shape of silver ingots after the Song Dynasty. This silver ingot that you are looking at now, is in the shape of a boat, with both ends folding up at a seventyfive degree outward angle. On the bottom of the silver ingot three characters are inscribed in intaglio. The characters are: “Liu Da Ji.” This boat shaped silver ingot is in the style of the Song dynasty. This style is very rare and therefore very precious. Silver ingot was first used during the Han dynasty, primarily as a way to store wealth. For silver ingots, the weight equals its value, unlike, for instance, coins, which have a face value unrelated to their weight or size. It was not used for general market transactions.
After the Song dynasty, due to war leading the devaluation of copper currency and paper notes, silver became the currency for large transactions, which caused the value of silver to soar rapidly. It was not until the South Song period that the political situation was stabilized, allowing the the value of the silver to gradually return to normal. However, generally, the transactions among the common people did not require silver, so silver was not the major currency in circulation then. After the middle of the Ming dynasty, the government regulated local taxes, requiring that taxes should be paid with silver. From then on, silver became the main currency in circulation. 

National Museum of History