Chen Yuan Chang Firm's Saddle Assayed in Kunming and Its Outside

No. O-A-3                                           No. I-A-3  

Weight: 184 grams/5 taels                                              Weight: 188 grams/5+ taels

Inscriptions: 陳元昌號/公議紋銀                              Inscriptions: 陳元昌號/公議紋銀

Chen Yuan Chang Firm                                                Chen Yuan Chang Firm

Publicly Agreed Fine Silver                                          Publicly Agreed Fine Silver

Assaying chops: 公議紋銀/公議紋銀                        Assaying chops: 公議公估童看/公議公估童看      

Publicly Agreed Fine Silver                                         Publicly Agreed Public Assayer Tong Looked            


陳元昌 (Chen Yuan Chang) was one of the major assayers (for 公估牌坊錠 Public Assayers' Saddle, Type I-C; and 官公估牌坊錠 Official Public Assayers' Saddle, Type I-D) and an active silversmith in Kunming City. It is noteworthy, however, even though the piece on the left hand side was cast by Chen's firm,  it was not assayed in Kunming City as would be expected. According to its two identical assaying chops, it is a 公議牌坊錠 (Publicly Agreed Saddle, Type O-A) assayed and circulated in the outside of Kunming city. The Saddle sycee which circulated in Kunming City at the same time was 公議公估 牌坊錠 (Publicly Agreed Public Assayers' Saddle, Type I-A), which were exclusively assayed by either of the two assayers, i.e., 童福盛 (Tong Fu Shen) or 馮世有 (Feng Xi You), it is interesting that we also have one of this type cast by Chen's firm and assayed in Kunming City.

Based on the above, it is possible, but unlikely, that the two pieces were cast by a main shop and a branch, or by two branches of the same firm operating in and outside Kunming. The name of the silver shop inscribed on both of them is 陳元昌號 (Chen Yuna Chang Firm), and it would be against the practice of Yunnan silver shops if  the two shops did not differentiate themselves with unique names, even if they were affiliates.  There are two more possibilities which could explain Chen's business activities: (1) Chen's firm was simultaneously pursuing business in Kunming City, as well as in the outside the city, therefore, he sent finished products to assayers of both areas for assaying; or (2) Chen moved his shop from outside to inside Kunming City while Type I-A and Type O-A were circulated.   

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