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___ Yuanbao, Sycee, Ingot, Good Luck Coins

Yuanbao (Sycee), Ingot, Good Luck Coins are symbols of prosperity and wealth.
Yuanbao (traditional Chinese: 元寶; simplified Chinese: 元宝; pinyin: yuánbǎo).


The most common shape of a yuanbao is boat shaped, elliptic, oval, with a circular or oval little 'bump' in the middle.

A yuanbao is a small metal ingot that was used in ancient China as money. Being made out of silver or gold, the value was determined by weight in taels, which is a weight measurement, part of the Chinese system of weights and currency (see also: baht).

Yuanbaos were made by individual silversmiths for local exchange. Hence, the shape and amount of each yuanbao/ ingot were highly variable.

The amount of each yuanbao/ ingot was detailed on its bottom, while the most common shapes were oval or square, but "boat", flower, tortoise and others shapes were known as well.

Today- except for the fact that the Chinese currency is still called ‘yuan’ and ‘yuan’ translates to ‘round’- as in the shape of a coin- imitation yuanbaos are a symbol of prosperity, income and /or wealth, frequently seen as design or decoration on items in connection with Chinese New Year.

An ingot is a mass of metal, cast into a size and shape such as a bar, plate, or sheet, suitable for further processing.
It also refers to a mould in which metal is to be cast. Gold, silver, and steel, particularly, are cast into ingots for further processing.
As for the term, a gold bar would be the same as an gold ingot.

Shaped pieces of metal, so called ‘ant nose’ or ‘ghost head’, are supposed to have been the first kind of ‘money’ in ancient China, followed by the ‘bu- spade’ or ‘square-rectangularly footed spade’ form.
A round shaped coin with a squared hole in the middle is more commonly known as ancient Chinese coin. It is supposed to have come into ‘circulation’ during the end of the Zhou dynasty and the beginning of the Han dynasty.
People passed a rope through the holes to tie coins into strings. These strings were usually in groups of 100 coins (called diao) or 1000 coins (called guan).
Naturally, coins are a symbol of prosperity. According to Feng Shui, gifting someone three coins tied with a red ribbon represents sharing wealth and luck.

See also: Five Elements (metal is one of the Five Elements)

yuanbao, ingots
Sycee/Yuanbao ingots
Photo © Valeska Gehrmann

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