Page:Inside Canton.djvu/198

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197
INSIDE CANTON.

moneys coined in China, as all the world knows, are small round coins, made of copper and zinc, with a square hole in the middle. This copper medium, called sapecs by Europeans, and tsien by the Celestials, has only a nominal value, each coin being worth about a half-centime. They are cast, and not struck. In former times, the tsien were not always of the same shape. Certain dynasties took strange fancies, and issued money in the shape of knives, clocks, tortoises! One very curious fact is, that the moulds of the ancient moneys wore really much better graven than those of modern times, and especially of the most modern; this, too, although coiners of base money have multiplied, and the right policy of the Government would have been to make imitation more difficut by increasing the excellence of the mint manufacture. Of all the coins shown us by Pan-se-Chen, the most original was one bearing the device—"Money may circulate, but it all comes back to the Emperor at last!" Some outspoken Emperor had caused this inscription to be graven upon the tsien. This facetious sovereign had fallen upon the well-known sentiment of some Béranger or other:—

"Pauvres moutons, ah! vous avez beau faire;"

but the reader probably knows the second line of this not too consolatory couplet.[1]

  1. Few English readers, "probably," have that felicity; but it must be some strongly-worded, popular version of the Sic vos non vobis, we suppose.—T.