Chinese Coin Sword

From Our Collection:

Chinese Coin Sword

While cataloging and storing objects, a sword composed of Chinese coins was found in Col. Andrew’s curiosity room on the third floor of the Thompson mansion. The sword, constructed from an iron rod at its core, and the coins are tightly strung together to the rod in two rows with red cords, hiding the iron rod from view. The handle, made of coins is threaded onto the iron rod through the square holes in the center. Coin swords were used as a form of talisman to ward off evil influences and bad spirits. They were commonly given to newly married couples to hang above the marriage bed for bliss and harmony. The coin sword would hang on the inside of the bed curtain to aid those who were suffering from a fever.

The coin sword from the Thompson collection is composed of coins or “wen” of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and dated to the Guangxu Emperor (also known as Dezong). The machine made, copper coins produced from 1875-1908 are from the Guangdong province of China. The red cord that fastens the coins in place has faded significantly. Col. Andrew Thompson would have hung the sword in his curiosity room as another treasure acquired from around the world. The provenance of the museum’s sword is unknown, and with further reading of the family letters, we may discover how the Thompson family came to own the Chinese coin sword talisman.

Kelly Dixon, Curatorial Intern