Hidden Treasure: Ancient Chinese Banknote From Ming Dynasty Found Inside Chinese Sculpture

First Posted: Dec 02, 2016 02:09 AM EST

An ancient bank note from the Ming Dynasty of Imperial China was found inside an antique wooden sculpture prepared for auction, according to a recent report.

Live Science reported that Australian art experts found the crumpled banknote inside the head of a sculpture called "Louhan" -- a Chinese Buddhism religious character. Based on the Chinese characters and seals printed in black and red, the banknote dates back to the third year of reign of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang (1371). Also, it is considered as a "Great Ming Treasure Note."

The banknote has a value of "one guan." This means that is is equivalent to 1,000 Chinese copper coins or 1 ounce (28 grams) of pure silver. It also contained a warning for counterfeiters that they will be decapitated as punishment for the crime.

The note was discovered by Paul Sumner, chief executive of Mossgreen's Auctions in Melbourne, Australia. According to Sumner, the money may have been given as a religious offering by the time the sculpture was 30 to 50 years old. The sculpture may have stood inside a family or public temple during the time the banknote was inserted.

This high-value banknote is an extraordinary find, Sumner added. It is because they had just found small offerings such as rice grains, semiprecious stones and inscriptions on paper inside the bases of antique Chinese figurines before this.

"These figures were created for veneration and for spiritual use, sometimes in temples and sometimes in homes," Sumner explained. "It may have been part of a larger figure, and because of its size, [we can conclude that] it probably stood in a temple."

The wooden "Louhan" sculpture along with the ancient banknote, which is among the Raphy Star Collection, will be available for auction amounting up to AU$45,000 or US$34,000 on Dec. 11 in Sydney, Australia.

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