About this object

History of use

Standard Daoist paraphernalia with multiple functions. According to Prof. Qin Dashu of the Archaeology Dept. at Beijing University, some of these zodiac coins were placed in burials to replace the earlier practice of placing zodiac figurines, a popular practice after the Song Dynasty (personal communication with Li Min, 2001). Tsai Yangwe (1973: 442-443) argues that they were used in Daoist ritual context to represent the star constellation that corresponds to someone's fate. The Ming and Qing popular believes have it that personal misfortunes were the result of their fate zodiac being overshadowed by negative forces. To turn their fortune around , the individual would invite Daoist religious practitioners to intervene by performing a secret ritual, at night, on his behalf. The zodiac charm coin would be placed on the altar to represent the star constellation corresponding to the individual. After the ritual, the charm would be kept securely by the individual concerned as a protective amulet. Items of the same design are still being produced and distributed in contemporary China as tourist souvenirs but may be used in a private, religious context as well.

Physical description

Hanger shape on top of coin, hole in top, characters and pictorial designs on both sides; hanger at top, leaf pattern inside, eight trigrams and corresponding Chinese characters around central yin-yang design on obverse; hanger top with leaf motive, twelve animals of the zodiac and corresponding characters on reverse.