An Unique Type--Jiangsu Boat with Engraved Inscriptions
Left: Jiangsu 50 Tael with Engraved Inscriptions
Right: Record of the 9 Official Silver Shops of Jiangsu Province
During the late Ming and early Ching Dynasty, silversminths responded to the growing demand for silver from the markets by streamlining their silver casting process to shorten production time; one of the measures they took was to inscribe their sycee by stamping. Engraving, which had been customarily used for inscription by the smiths, was no longer continued as it was considered too costly and time-consuming.
A noteworthy exception to the move to inscribe by stamping is a group of Jiangsu 50 tael boats. Throughout the Ching Dynasty, a number of counties in Jiangsu insisted in inscribing their sycee by engraving, and lining the inscriptions in a circle near the rims of the sycee. The inscribed characters were written in excellent calligraphy showing that the writer was skillful and well-educated. This form of inscription was markedly different from the typical Ching sycee, which was inscribed using stamps with the characters arranged linearly.
All the engraved Jiangsu sycee we have found are 50 tael boats. They also share another similarity-- the inscriptions of all of them carry the names of two persons. According to the research of the author, the two persons were an official smith of a county and an assayer of Jiangsu Province. Obviously, those sycee were all tax silver submitted from counties to Jiangsu Province.
According to an old catalogue, estimated to have been hand-written during the years of Tong Ze (1862-1874) and Kuang Hsu (1875-1908) by a silver shop "Jiu Yuan Tzai" in Gin Chang Zhong City of Jiangsu Province on the subject of various sycee circulating, the tax silver casting business in the province was monopolized by 9 official silver shops. Each of them was severally responsible for the business of the counties as recorded (and as illustrated above). It is believed that the engraved inscriptions were part of the identification system of their monopoly business.
The Jiangsu boat shown above was cast by Ni Der Shen- one of the 9 official silver shops.
Two Jiangsu Rounds cast by Chien Tien Feng (Jsu5/1) and Chen Hen Shen (Jsu5/5), respectively- were another two of the 9 official silver shops.
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