Coins in China were not used in the ordinary sense as circulating currency. Their appearance, selection of material as well as relations between different means of monetary circulation were governed mostly by ideological considerations. Copper was the main coin-making material throughout most of the history of China. It was regarded with respect as the only material whose value was constant and did not depend on market fluctuations as in the case of precious stones.
The shape of the coins was already established in the third century BC: they were usually round with holes in the center, which were of round or square shapes. The legend on the front side consisted of four signs: the first two, as a rule, contained the motto of the ruling family, and the other two came from one of the coin’s names, for example «a walking treasure», «a heavy treasure», etc. Coins were beaded on a string and a bunch of coins was used as a monetary unit. Bunches could be bigger or smaller containing from 500 to 1000 pieces. Since the weight of one coin was 3.5 grams, one bunch would normally weigh from 1.5 to 3 kilos.
The coins were also used as sacred objects — amulets, talismans and bearers of the forces of good. The image of the dragon displayed on the order is also deeply symbolic: the dragon played a great role in Chinese life. Dragons were worshipped as deities of rivers and lakes, and as patrons of regions and homes. They also personified the emperor’s power.