- Please note: this article is in the development process
The imagery of Chinese paper money
A guide to the imagery which appears frequently (and less so) across examples of paper money, focusing mostly on the vignettes and portraits but occasionally dealing with symbols and other features. The guide will be arranged by image type. There are still many errors and omissions among catalogs and other literature.
Sun Yat Sen
(Born Nov. 12, 1866, Cuiheng, Xiangshan (now Zhongshan), Kwangtung (Guangdong) province, China. Died: March 12, 1925, Peking (Beijing).
Known as the father of modern China, Sun was the co-founder and leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Guomindang, and was a key figure in overthrowing the corrupt and declining Qing Dynasty, ending over 2,000 years of Imperial rule. He became the provisional first President of the Republic of China, 1911-12, and later de-facto President. After the success of the revolution, he quickly fell out of power in the newly founded Republic of China, being manipulated to give the Presidency to the disastrous Yuan Shi-kai, and led successive revolutionary governments as a challenge to the warlords who controlled much of the nation as a result of Yuan's failed rule. Sun did not live to see his party consolidate its power over the country, during 1927-28. Dr Sun remains unique among 20th-century Chinese politicians for being widely revered in both mainland China and Taiwan
His appearance on money
Sun Yatsen was the most prolifically depicted leader, appearing on the majority of government notes and many provincial issues from 1921 to 1949 (and continuing to appear on the currency of Taiwan). His portrayal was almost entirely posthumous; he died in 1925. In fact only rare 1921 issues from the National Bank of China carried his portrait during Sun's lifetime.
A currency series with his portrait had been planned by the American Banknote Company somewhere during 1911-15 but this was never adopted, and was until fairly recently unknown, the surviving evidence of photographic proofs long forgotten in the ABNco archive which was auctioned some years ago.
His portraits appear on issues by:
The Central Bank of China: his was the only portrait to appear on CBC notes, dated 1923-1944, and the vast majority of notes dated 1945-1949. From 1945, some issues appear dated as 1945 and 1946 and carry the portraits of Chiang Kai Shek (often confused with Sun Yatsen), and President Lin Sen. However none of these were issued until 1948. Sun Yatsen returns to his singular depiction on CBC currency in 1949, for the final issues before the Communists triumph in October of that year.
The Bank of China: nearly all issues from 1935-1941.
The Farmers Bank of China: the 1941 series printed by De la Rue.
The Kwangtung Provincial Bank. Canton Municipal Bank. The Hainan Bank. The Sinkiang Provincial banks, from 1945. Sun's portrait also appears on notes by several small commercial banks and other minor issuers.
The Central Reserve Bank of China: the only portrait to appear on the issues of this Japanese occupation bank.
The Bank of Taiwan (provincial and 'national') Most issues of the Bank carried Sun's portrait until recently. Again, a few notes also depict Chiang Kai-shek which can cause confusion among some.
Above: four of the dozens of mostly similar examples of Sun Yatsen's portrait: (from left) The Bank of China 100 yuan of 1940, The Farmers Bank of China 5 yuan of 1941, The Central Bank of China 2500 yuan of 1945, Sinkiang (Province) Commercial & Industrial Bank 200 yuan of 1945
Born: 31 October 1887, Xikou (Chikow), Ningpo (Ningbo), China. Died: 5 April 1975, Taipei, Taiwan
Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) was an influential member of the Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang (KMT), and a close ally of Sun Yat-sen. He became the Commandant of the Kuomintang's Whampoa Military Academy, and took Sun's place as leader of the KMT when Sun died in 1925. In 1926, Chiang led the Northern Expedition to unify the country, becoming China's nominal leader. He served as Chairman of the National Military Council of the Nationalist government of the Republic of China (ROC) from 1928 to 1948. Chiang led China throughout the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which the Nationalist government's power severely weakened, but his prominence grew. Unlike Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek was socially conservative, promoting traditional Chinese culture in the New Life Movement and rejecting western democracy and the nationalist democratic socialism that Sun Yat-sen and some other members of the KMT embraced in favour of a nationalist authoritarian government.
Chiang's predecessor, Sun Yat-sen, was well-liked and respected by the Communists, but after Sun's death Chiang was not able, or more likely uninterested in maintaining good relations with them. A major split between the Nationalists and Communists occurred in 1927; and, under Chiang's leadership, the Nationalists commenced a nation-wide civil war against the Communist Party of China (CPC). After Japan invaded China in 1937, Chiang agreed to a temporary truce with the CPC. Despite some early cooperative military successes against Japan, by the time that the Japanese surrendered in 1945 neither the CPC nor the KMT trusted each other or were actively cooperating. After American-sponsored attempts to negotiate a coalition government failed in 1946, the Chinese Civil War resumed. The CPC defeated the Nationalists in 1949, forcing Chiang's government to retreat to Taiwan, where Chiang imposed martial law and persecuted people critical of his rule in a period known as the "White Terror". Chiang's government continued to declare its intention to retake mainland China. He ruled the island securely as the self-appointed President of the Republic of China and Director-General of the Kuomintang until his death in 1975.
As a result of his actions, many in Taiwan would rather forget Chiang, and his presence unlike that of Sun, has been sidelined in modern Taiwan.
His appearance on money
Chiang only appears on China's currency for the surprisingly brief period of 1948-49, a fact which can sometimes be distorted by a frequent confusion between his portrait and that of Sun Yatsen, and, by the large number of banknotes which survive bearing his portrait - a testament to the hyperinflation of the late 1940s. A further confusion is due to notes bearing Chiang's portrait printed by the American Banknote Company dated 1945, and notes dated 1946 printed by De La Rue. None of these however entered circulation until 1948 as part of currency reforms, as the New Gold Yuan. During this period only the Central Bank of China notes carried his portrait (I'm not aware of any unofficial minor commercial/provincial issues with his portrait but the possibility shouldn't be discounted). Since his death in 1975, Chiang has appeared on some of the banknotes of Taiwan (as has Sun Yatsen, again causing some confusion with the less observant).
There are various modern fake/fantasy notes with pre (and post) 1945 dates using the portrait of Chiang Kai-shek.
Above: four of the five examples mostly similar examples of Ching's portrait as used on currency: (from left) Central Bank of China 10 cents of 1946, Central Bank of China 100 yuan of 1948, Central Bank of China 50 yuan of 1948, Bank of Taiwan 1000 yuan of 1946.
Born: 16 March 1868, Shanggan Township, Minchow (Minhou) County, Fukien (Fujian), China. Died: 1 August 1943, Chongqing, China
Dr Lin Sen was Chairman (President) of the National Government of the Republic of China from 1931 until his death in 1943.
A supporter and follower of Sun Yatsen, Lin was nonetheless a member of the right-wing Shanghai based Western Hills Group. Formed in Peking (Beijing) shortly after Sun's death in 1925, they called for a party congress to expel the Communists and to declare social revolution as incompatible with the KMT's national revolution. Sun would not have approved. Despite this Lin Sen did develop respect for resisting the Japanese and for lacking corruption in his public life.
In 1931, President Chiang Kai-shek's arrest of Hu Hanmin caused an uproar within the party and military, leading Chiang to resign on December 15. Lin was appointed in his place as acting president and confirmed as president on January 1, 1932. He was chosen as a sign of personal respect and held few powers since the KMT wanted to avoid a repeat of Chiang's rule. Chiang's influence was soon virtually restored after the Battle of Shanghai (1932).
His appearance on money:
Lin Sen appears on surprisingly few notes: the 5, 20 and 100 yuan (with CKS) of the American Banknote Company printed issues for the Central Bank of China, dated 1945 but not circulated until 1948. The portrait is also found on proofs of a later currency series planned by the ABNco but never issued due to the defeat of the Kuomintang in 1949. And that's it.
Right: Lin Sen's portrait as it appears on the 100 yuan of 1945 (1948) (SCWPM 394)
Mao Tsetung (Mao Zedong)
Born: 26 December 1893, Shaoshan, Hsiang-t'an (Xiangtan), Hunan, China. Died: 9 September 1976, Peking (Beijing), China
A Chinese communist revolutionary and founder of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949. He ruled as the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from 1943 until his death in 1976.
The son of a stern and once impoverished but now wealthy farmer, Mao worked on the farm during his early teens. Later he enrolled in and dropped out of several schools. He seemed to prefer studying independently, and spent much time in Changsha's library, reading core works of classical liberalism such as Adam Smith, as well as that of western scientists and philosophers including Darwin, Mill, Rousseau, and Spencer. He eventually commenced training to be a teacher, and moved to Peking in 1919 where he became involved in political movements and parties; the Nationalist (KMT) and the newly created Communist Party.
Mao became the secretary of the Hunan branch of the Communist party and supported political alliance with the KMT during the early 1920s. Soon he was elected to the executive committees of both, and moved to Shanghai.
With the death of KMT leader Dr Sun Yatsen, everything changed. Chiang Kai-shek and the right-wing of the KMT took control, marginalising and later killing 10,000s of Communists, leading to the Chinese Civil War which lasted periodically from 1927 to 1949. The Communists established armies and clashed with KMT forces on numerous occasions. Mao established a short lived base in the mountains of Kiangsi (Jiangxi) province, captured by the KMT and retaken twice before being abandoned. Later In February 1930, Mao created the Southwest Kiangsi Provincial Soviet Government in the region under his control, based at Juikin (Ruijin). In 1931 the CCP Central Committe relocated to Kiangsi (Jiangxi) and proclaimed the Soviet Republic of China, an independent communist state which survived in some form until until 1937.
Chiang Kai-shek launched a series of campaigns to encircle the Soviet, cutting off supplies and launching attacks. Finally the CCP leadership decided to evacuate. On October 14, 1934, the Red Army broke through the KMT line on the Kiangsi (Jiangxi) Soviet's south-west corner at Xinfeng with 85,000 soldiers and 15,000 party cadres and embarked on the "Long March".
The Long March (actually a series of marches) under the eventual command of Mao and Zhou Enlai, involved a circling retreat to the west and north, reportedly traversing over 9,000 kilometres (5,600 mi) over 370 days. The route passed through some of the most difficult terrain of western China by traveling west, then north, to Shaanxi. They fought off both the KMT and an Islamic cavalry militia en-route, and were stricken by famine and disease before finally reaching the Shenshi Soviet. Only 7,000–8,000 of the original 100,000 survived.
In November 1935, Mao was named chairman of the Military Commission, effectively making him leader of the CCP. He officially became Chairman of the party in 1943.
By 1937, the invading Japanese neccessitated a fragile alliance between the Communists and the KMT, resulting in the formation of the United Front on December 25, during the Fall of Nanking (Nanking Massacre).
Following Japan's defeat in 1945, the Chinese Civil War soon resumed between the KMT and the Communists, and there had already been clashes long before this. Mao and the Communists slowly but surely defeated the KMT in successive campaigns from North East China, taking Changchun in late 1948, and with Peking, Tientsin and surrounding areas falling to Communist control by January 1949.
Mao proclaimed the establishment of The People's Republic of China from the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tian'anmen), at Peking (Beijing) on October 1, 1949. The last remaining KMT strongholds within mainland China were defeated by the end of the year, with Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist government fleeing to Taiwan.
Chairman Mao went on to rule over China for another 27 years, until his death in September 1976, a period with some successes including such as increased education, womens rights, a nearly doubled life expectancy and unifying a country in chaos for decades. However there were numerous and deadly failures including mass persecutions, famines, and the destructive chaos of the Cultural Revolution. Up to 80 million people may have died during these 27 years. He remains a highly controvertial figure both within and beyond China.
Chen Yun, a leading party official under Mao and Deng Xiaoping later stated: "Had Mao died in 1956, his achievements would have been immortal. Had he died in 1966, he would still have been a great man but flawed. But he died in 1976. Alas, what can one say?"
His appearance on money:
Mao Zedong appeared on various regional communist bank issues during the 1940s, all of which were withdrawn in 1949-50.
After this point Mao was not depicted again until long after his death, first in a group portrait on a 100 Yuan note of 1980-90. From 1999, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples Republic, he has been depicted on all issues except for a year 2000 commemorative note. Ironically, as China has become more capitalistic, the image of Mao has become more prolific. It brings to mind the theory that any form of memorial can be motivated by a subconscious desire to forget, rather than remember.
It should be noted that Mao did not want his portrait on the national (or any) currency viewing it as the 'peoples money'. This is curious especially considering that his portrait was otherwise 'everywhere' in China, in fact said to be one of the most reproduced portraits in history. Mao’s rejection of his portrait on paper money, referred first to the 1949 Resolution against eulogising the individual, and to his statement that as Chairman of the party and not head of state, it was inappropriate for him to appear on notes.
Above: examples of Mao's portrait as used on currency: (from left) Bank of Central China, 50 yuan of 1944. Tung Pei Bank of China, 500 yuan of 1947. Xuaibei Difang Ienxao, 5 Yuan of 1945. Peoples Bank of China, 100 yuan of 1999.
Zaifeng, 2nd Prince Chun
Born: 12 February 1883, Peking (Beijing), China
Died: 3 February 1951, Peking, China.
Zaifeng, Prince Chun, was a Manchu prince and regent of the late Qing dynasty, during 1908-1911. He was a son of Yixuan, the seventh son of the Daoguang Emperor, and the father of Puyi, the Last Emperor.
Prince Chun functioned as Special Ambassador following the murder of German diplomat Baron von Ketteler in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion, making a successful diplomatic mission to Berlin. He was popular with the foreign powers, and held numerous important positions at court before becoming regent in 1908. He embarked upon political reforms including the establishment of elected provincial assemblies. The Xinhai Revolution erupted during his regency and he removed himself from power. He was briefly succeeded as regent by Empress Dowager Longyu, who later signed the letter of abdication on behalf of Puyi, bringing to an end over two millenia of imperial rule.
He thereafter led a quiet life and was well respected both by the Nationalist and later Communist Parties. He administered the now powerless Imperial court until Puyi's expulsion from the Forbidden City in 1924. He opposed Puyi's later involvement with the Japanese, and the founding of the puppet state of Manchukuo, and refused his sons request to move from Peking to Changchun.
He donated his collections of art and books to Peking University in the year before his death in 1951.
His appearance on money:
Prince Chun's portrait (shown left) appears on the rare and mostly unissued 1910 series of the Ta-Ching Government Bank (SCWPM A79-A82). Many poorly printed fakes, and replicas exist.
Li Hung-chang (Li Hongzhang)
His appearance on money:
Li Hung-chang (Li Hongzhang) appears on the unissued Ta Ching Government bank series of 1909, printed by the American Banknote Company, and on notes of this series overprinted as a provisional issue of the Bank of China, circulated in 1912. His portrait is also used on unissued notes of the Pei-Yang Tientsin Bank, of c1910, printed by Bradbury & Wilkinson (London).
16 September 1859 – 6 June 1916
An important General and politician, firstly of the Qing Dynasty and later of the Republic. Yuan's career reached it's height with his successful wrangling to become the second president of the Republic of China, following Sun Yatsen; and shortly after a failed attempt to restore the Empire with himself as Emperor. This had disastrous consequences for the republic leading to the factious rise of the warlords; political, social and financial chaos.