The Chinese currency at that time was in a state of quite remarkable chaos and muddle. The currency used for the majority of transactions was then the copper cash (i.e. a copper coin with a square hole in the middle to permit stringing). The minting of cash had been a Government monopoly for over two thousand years; there was no system of free coinage and the value of the cash had never been fixed in terms of copper. So, although nominally the value of all cash was the same, by the nineteenth century there were in existence innumerable types which differed from one another in weight and fineness. There was also a large quantity of counterfeit coins. The cash circulated in the form of tiao (i.e, a certain number of cash strung together on a cord), and commodity prices were normally quoted in tiao or fractions thereof. But the tiao themselves varied in the number and type of cash of which they were composed, and a high

proportion of commercial transactions consequently required the services of money-changers.