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Author Topic:   Chinese dish with sycee
Patrick Vyvyan

Posts: 640
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 11-03-2004 10:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Patrick Vyvyan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

This little dish (diameter 9cm)was a curiosity for me. At first I thought something had broken off the centre, until I discovered the boat-shaped object is in fact a sycee - a silver ingot used in China as money from the 18th century until the 1930s. Since then sycee have been made as good luck symbols for fortune and prosperity.

So, these are my doubts: is this a replica sycee or an old example which has been reused? If old, how old? Does anyone recognize the character on top of the sycee? Is this piece a souvenir for foreign tourists to use, for example, as an ashtray, or does it have a purpose in its own right? Can anyone comment on the marks on the base, and/or suggest date or place of manufacture etc?

Many thanks!

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Scott Martin
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Posts: 10654
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 11-03-2004 11:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Maybe it is a rest for chop sticks?

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Patrick Vyvyan

Posts: 640
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 11-07-2004 11:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Patrick Vyvyan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Scott. I like your suggestion; it seems plausible, and it will certainly make my next Chinese take-away a lot more exotic!

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Posts: 1487
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 11-08-2004 12:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My guess is it is an ashtray made for the tourist trade with an imitation sycee.

I have a very modest collection of Chinese bronze cash (those coins with the square holes) from the Qin through Sung dynasties and have never gotten into sycee collecting because they tend to be relatively recent (mid 1700s to the first third of the 1900s) and they are pretty pricey since most of them are quite large and contain a heck of a lot of silver. Sycee collecting also bleeds over into silver ingot collecting which can get really pricey given that these tend to be older and can have artistic values in addtion to the rarity values. The artistic values come from the concentric surface patterns caused by the way the molten silver cooled which are unique on each one.

The sycee in this tray is a boat variety - sycee are classified according to their overall shapes.

Most of the decent reference books on sycee are in Chinese, but there is one good one in English, albeit a bit pricey at around 95 to 100 pounds: A Catalogue of Sycee in the British Museum - Chinese Silver Currency Ingots c. 1750-1933 by Joe Cribb, 1992, ISB# 0-7141-0873-1

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