Chinese Banknote

500 year old Chinese banknote

This is a Yorkshire World Collections object, one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.

Ida Elizabeth Lyon was born in 1866 in Market Weighton, the daughter of William Lyon, a grocer, and his wife Mary Green. Amazingly, in 1888, aged only 22, Ida was allowed to travel to China, to teach at a missionary school for girls. The school, in the town of Hankow, in Hubei Province, was also where Ida met her husband George Miles, himself a missionary. They married in 1891. It was only after George died in 1921 that Ida returned to England, bringing with her an incredible wealth of history!

Ida brought back a collection of costumes and photographs that give us an unmatched insight into both her life as a missionary and the lives of ordinary Chinese people at the time. This 'bank note' (pictured above) is made of a soft, fibrous material, printed on both sides in blue ink. It's from the Ming Dynasty, which controlled China between 1368-1644. The image on the bank note shows a string of a thousand coins, equal to the denomination of the note. We are told the writing gives instructions on how to use the note, finishing with a threat to punish forgers!

Young person's response to this object:

It's interesting how the Ming Dynasty were using paper money long before Western countries adopted it. Sofia Hussain

Discussion Ideas:

  • The time that Ida Miles went to China was a time of great contrasts - of missionaries and Opium Wars. Opium was prescribed frequently in Victorian times. Do some research on My Learning to find out what Opium was used for.
  • Find out what you can about the Opium Wars.
  • Find out more through the links below about the history of money.
  • What do you think the life of a missionary was like in China? What do you think missionaries actually did and how difficult would their jobs have been?
  • What do you think was different about the lives of the young people Ida taught in China compared to some in England at that time? Look carefully at the photo of Ida and her students and compare it with this other photo on My Learning.
  • How do you think China is thought of today in terms of banking? Does China have any part to play in averting a global recession? Do some independent research, using the links below.

Document icon Learning article provided by: East Riding Museums | 
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