Updated: Nov 13, 2021
This large Chinese coin has identified to be a Guāng Xù Yuán Bǎo. These machine-struck coins were issued during the late-Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), from 1900-1906. Machine-struck coins were well received for their consistent size, weight, and copper content. Something lacking in traditional Chinese coinage and great appreciated by coastal traders.
Guangxu Yuanbao (光緒元寶) were provincially issued and were circulated simultaneously with the imperial government's own Da-Qing Tongbi (大清銅幣) coins. In an effort to establish a modern national currency system. The term Guangxu Yuanbao was also used by some silver coinage, issued during this era.
The coin is made of copper, with a weight of 7.52 g. Its dimensions are 28 mm (1.10 in ) and 1.9 mm (0.075) thick. Making it slighter smaller and lighter, than a US Half Dollar. The rim is a plain smooth-edged design. (To pay tribute to its imperial artwork, this coin will be reviewed reverse first.)
The reverse is in English and depicts a dragon guarding a "pearl", representing Qi (气) energy. This symbolism has great cultural importance. Being that "Qi" represents the creative force of the universe. In addition to the pearl representing the moon, which the dragon consumes and disgorges. Thus symbolically alluding to the waxing and waning of the moon.
The dragon is separated from the English text, by a beaded ring. English was chosen, as the coin's issuer Guangdong providence, had a large British colonial presence. The Angelized name "Lwang-Tung" is used, rather than the modern name Guangdong. The text is separated by a pair floral symbols. The inner rim features small rounded serrations.
The observe is covered in numerous Hanzi characters, neatly divided into easy to read sections. At the center is some Manchu script, it reads "ᠪᠣᠣ ᡤᡠᠸᠠᠩ". Translated as "Boo-guwang", referencing the coin's mint in Guangdong providence.
Surrounding the mint mark, are the characters 光 (Guāng), 緒 (Xù),元 (Yuán), 寶 (Bǎo). Translated as "Currency of (Emperor) Guangxu". Notable the characters are read from top-bottom and right-left. Rather than some cash coins, which are read from top-bottom and left-right. A beaded ring divides the center characters, from a ring of secondary characters.
Above are the characters "造省東廣", translated as "Province of Guangdong". The lower characters reads, "文 (Wén),十(Shí), 錢 (Qián),制 (Zhì),當 (Dāng), 元 (Yuán), 每 (Měi)". It can be roughly translated as "Valued (at) 10 Cash currency, in Yuan. The lower and upper text is divided by a pair floral symbols.
The Chinese dragon (long, 龙) is a representation of yang. The negative force in the Daoism, better known as yīnyáng ("bright-black"/"positive-negative").
Dragons symbolize the Chinese Emperor, when represented with 5 claws. Five being associated with the five blessing. Notably this coin's dragon appears to have only 4 four claws.
As a counter to the dragon's (Emperor) yang, the Empress yin is represented by the Fènghuáng (鳳凰). A mythical bird with some passing similarities to a western phoenix.
Fènghuáng are occasionally confused with the similar Vermillion Bird. Which appear in the coinage of neighbor cultures, such as this Taishō-era 50 Sen.