Why Does An Automobile Appear On A Chinese Coin?

China, China: Kweichow. Auto Dollar Year 17 (1928),...
China.Kweichow.Auto Dollar.YR17.
China has initiated many "first",even to picturing an automobile on a coin.This silver piece was struck in 1928 and is known as the automobile dollar,since it is silver dollar or crown size.

The striking of this unusual pieces was ordered by Government Chow Hsi-Ch'en (Si-keng) following the completion of the first motor roads in Kweichow,a province in the Republic of China.

The coin first came to the attention of the general public through the following story,datelined Shanghai,that appeared in a December,1933,issue of the New York Herald Tribune:

China, China: Kweichow. Auto Dollar Year 17 (1928),...
China.Kweichow.Auto Dollar.YR17.
Chinese superstition attributes the violent death of general Chow Si-keng,Governor of Kweichow province from 1926 to 1929,to the minting of Kweichow silver dollar bearing the design of an automobile.Kweichow Province has no railways,and until Chow's administration had few motor highways.General Chow was an enthusiastic exponent of road building and a few months after his assumption of office compelled the virtual rebuilding of Kweiyang,the province capital,by arbitrarily widening all the city streets and constructing an extensive system of automobile highways.

To popularize road building,the Kweichow chief executive ordered the minting of a provincial silver dollar stamped on one side with the picture of an automobile.The coin had a standard silver content and was equivalent to the Chinese yuan.But the general's passion for rapid communication was destined to be the indirect cause of his death.During a campaign against a military rival,General Li Shao-yen,the provincial chairman was riding in a motor car at the head of his troops.Too far ahead of his forces,the general's car was surrounded by an enemy advance guard and he was slain.

Chinese soothsayers,who attribute the death of the Chinese general to the minting of the "automobile dollar",have a different explanation  of the executive's purpose in designing the new coin.They charge that the province chairman wished to have his own profile printed on the face of a new dollar in emulation of Yuan Shih-kai and Sun Yet-sen.Official modesty,however,forbade such a procedure,so the chief executive is said to heve hit upon the clever subterfuge.General Chow gave instructions to design a new dollar featuring a motor car in bas-relief.That the implication might be unmistakable,the vegetation below the car were so arranged that they formed the characters "Si-chen",the personal name of Chow Si-keng.

It is said that the soothsayers predicted that the provincial chairman would die a violent death in a motor car accident as punishment for his pride and ostentation.General Chow's death was a misfortune to the province because at that time he was engaged in constructing two important truck-line motor roads.

Truth or fiction,it makes for wonderful conjecture.



  1. Hi Dickson,
    Surprisingly, not all rare coins are great coins.
    But all great coins are rare coins with extraordinary tales.
    Probably thats the main reason which makes them so desirable like the 1933 double eagle.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this great story, Dickson :)

  2. neat!
    thanks for sharing this story.

  3. Hi dp,
    Welcome to visit my Blog!
    Hope to see your comments more often in order to better my Blog!