Wooden Chinese figure hiding rare Ming Dynasty banknote

A rare paper banknote was discovered by art experts in Australia while examining an antique wooden sculpture that was being prepared for auction. The banknote is dated to the third year of the reign of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty – 1371 AD.

The wooden religious figure and Ming Dynasty banknote (by Mossgreen Auctions via Live Science)
The wooden religious figure and Ming Dynasty banknote (by Mossgreen Auctions via Live Science)

The wooden sculpture of the head of a “luohan,” a religious figure from Chinese Buddhism, that may once have stood in a family or public temple, was hiding a 645-year-old banknote. Specialists spotted the note wedged inside the hollow head of the sculpture as he inspected the artefact in preparation for an auction in Sydney next month. It was folded up into a little 2.5 centimetres fold. The find is not in very good condition, with all those folds and after hundreds of years with some degree of exposure to the elements. According to the experts very few of these Ming Dynasty banknotes have survived to present day. Chinese characters and official seals printed in red and black ink declare that the note is a “Great Ming Treasure Note” with a value of “one guan” — depicted as 10 “strings” of Chinese copper coins. One guan was equivalent to 1,000 copper coins, or 1 ounce (28 grams) of pure silver. It also includes a dire warning to counterfeiters that they will be punished with decapitation, and offers a large reward to anyone who informs on such criminals. It’s thought the money may have been hidden as a religious offering when the sculpture was already 30 to 50 years old. The louhan sculpture and banknote will be sold together, as a single lot, with an estimated value of up to 45000 Australian dollars (34000 US dollars).

(after Mossgreen Auctions and Live Science)

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