A Recent Excavation of a Sycee Hoard from the Southern Sung Dynasty
A rumor about a huge hoard of sycee from the Sung Dynasty excavated in
Nanjing of Jiangsu Province in early 2004 was circulated among Chinese sycee
collectors, and soon among collectors in Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere. This
excavation was apparently not officially approved by the Chinese government,
and in order not to be caught, the people who excavated the sycee deliberately
kept low profile; as a result, it was difficult to get the relevant information
about the excavation.
I was not able to confirm the truth of the rumor until seeing some of the reported Sung specimens showcased at shops in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and even in the catalogues of major auctions in Beijing and Hong Kong over the past two months. Obviously, many of those excavated Sung sycee have been sold to bona fide collectors through different channels, and it has become difficult for the Chinese government to reclaim these pieces.
According to my observation, almost all the excavated Sung pieces are from the Southern Sung. Similar to other surviving specimens from that period, most of them were cast by a smith or silver shop in the capital Ling-An (Now, Hangzhou), and on their surface, there are stamps, such as, " 京銷鋌銀 "(Lump Silver Cast in the Capital City (Hangzhou)) , or " 霸北街西 "(West of Ba Bei Street (Address of the silver shop where was in the Capital City )) pressed .... However, some of the excavated Sung pieces carry additional inscriptions, either by engraving or stamping, and they are an interesting source of further researches. Some of the additional inscriptions I have found are:
Place names: " 廣東 "(Kuangtung, 廣南東路 ), " 廣州 "(Canton Prefecture), " 惠州 "(Huei District, in Kuangtung), " 封州 "(Feng District, also in Kuangtung), "鎮江"(Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province)" 光州 "(Guang District, Honan Province), " 相國寺 "(Premier's Temple, in Kai Feng Prefecture, Honan Province), "建康州"(Jienkang District, now Nanjing), "肇慶府" (Zhao Ching Prefecture, in Kuangtung), "循州" (Shunzhou District, in Kuangtung), "梅州" (Meizhou District, in Kuangtung), "南安" (Nan An County, in Fujien)...
Official bodies: " 廣東運司 "(an abbreviation of "Transportation Commission in Kungtung", 廣東轉運司 ), " 鈔鋪 "(Shop of Salt Licenses), "廣州經制庫銀", "廣南市舶司", " 軍資庫 "(Treasury of Military Funds), ...
Accounts of Taxes: " 鈔價 "(Payment of Salt license), " 綱銀 "(Submitted Tax Silver), " 大禮銀 "(Offering Silver for the Grand Ceremony), "聖節銀"," 上供銀 " (Submittal Silver to the Emperor) ...
Date: "嘉泰三年 "(The 3rd Year of Jia Tai, 1203 A.D.), " 嘉定二年 "(The 2nd Year of Jia Ding, 1209 A.D. )," 紹定二年 "(The 2nd Year of Shao Ding, 1230 A.D), "淳祐七年"(The 7th Year of Chun Yo, 1247 A.D).....
Silver Fineness: " 真花銀 "(Genuine Flowery Silver), " 上花銀 "(High-Class Flowery Silver), " 滲銀 "(Penetration Silver- One of the quality silver ingots in the Southern Sung Dynasty )...
The sycee hoard is comprised of many tax silver submitted by the Kuangtung, Jiangsu and Honan governments in the Southern Sung around the late 12th and the early 13th century . Without any doubt, if it had been conducted as an official archeological excavation with associated research, it would be the most important known excavation of the Southern Sung sycee.
The largest previously known excavation of Southern Sung sycee was in Xi Sai Mt., Huang Shi County, Hubei Province ( 湖北黃石縣西塞山 ) in 1955. There were 255 speimens unearthered and 155 of them were inscribed. According to the rumors we heard, there were more than 300 pieces of various weights found in Nanjing earlier this year, most of them were regular inscribed ones except for a few dozens which carry additional inscriptions mentioned above. Other than silver sycee, there were also around 100 pieces of gold ingots of the Southern Sung weighing from 1 to 50 taels excavated in the same hoard.
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