Chinese Empire, Qing Dynasty, Guangxu, Jiangnan Province, Yuan (Dragon Dollar) 1889

During the 19th century, masses of western silver coins flowed into China. Naturally the Chinese then still used their traditional copper coins. For larger trade transactions, however, the more valuable western issues were far more comfortable. On the market they were simply put on the scales and traded for their weight, as had been done with silver in China ever since. For this reason the Chinese government in 1889 decided to issue its own silver coins. The new imperial currency was modeled after the Spanish-Mexican pesos, which were especially popular in China. After their image on the obverse, foreigners called the new Chinese silver coins dragon dollars. The Chinese themselves referred to them as yuan, after the Chinese symbol for coin.