Chinese Empire, String of 100 Ch'ien

China's coinage system was based on "worthless" materials: the cash coins that the Chinese emperors had issued over more than 2000 years had been cast from bronze. The purchasing power of one such coin was small. Except for small every-day-businesses – a cup of tea or a bowl of rice at the street vendor on the corner – cash coins were strung up in chaines of 100, 500 and 1000 coins.