700-Year-Old Chinese Bank Note Comes with Stark Warning for Forgerers

Rare banknote auction

Rare Ming Dynasty and a banknote hidden within the cavity of a 13th Century Chinese Sculpture are to be auctioned in London.

The pair of artefacts are now in London and viewing is possible on Thursday 6th November at The Beaumont Hotel.

The crumpled banknote was found inside the head of a large, Chinese wooden sculpture of a Luohan which is to be offered at auction by Mossgreen as part of The Raphy Star Collection of Important Asian Art on December 11th in Sydney.

The sculpture and the banknote will be sold together as one lot. The value of the note alone is approximately AUD $3,000-5,000 but it will be sold as the one lot so the overall value is AUD$40,000-60,000.

At the time of writing this converts into £1,845-£3,076 and £24,611-£36,917 according to rates provided by a competitive currency provider on Monday 31st October.

Banknote for auction

Arts specialist Ray Tregaskis, Head of Asian Art at Mossgreen said:

“It was a thrilling moment. While it was not unusual for consecration items such as semi-precious stones or scrolls to be left within the base or on the back of a sculpture, the discovery of this rare Ming Dynasty banknote is an exciting one and importantly, it verifies the date of the sculpture.”

Luohan is a Chinese word used to describe those who have completed the four stages of Enlightenment and reached the state of Nirvana.

The facial features in this image of Luohan are superbly defined, and it wears a wise, serene expression.

Chinese sculpture auction

The banknote found inside the sculpture is stamped with three official red seals and dated the third year of the Ming Dynasty, the Hong Wu period (1368-1398).

The note is inscribed "Da Ming Tong Xing Bao Chao", "Yi Guan" and the lower section is inscribed, “Authorized by the Department of Finance, this bank note has the same function of coins, those who use counterfeit bank note will be beheaded, the whistle-blower will be rewarded 250 Liang silvers plus all the properties of the criminal. The third year of Hong Wu period.”

The Ming Dynasty ruled their empire for almost 300 years, during a prosperous time which saw increased trade and industry with Europe.

Raphy Star is a collector who over thirty years has formed a diverse collection of Asian art.

On selling the banknote Star says:

”I’m a collector. The thrill is in the chase. I have been lucky enough to enjoy these pieces for many years but it is time for me to change direction. Life is about chapters, and it is time for a new one in mine. I hope that others will get as much enjoyment out of these pieces as I have.”