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China Tea Brick Money

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CHINA, Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó (People’s Republic of China). 1949-pres. Tea Brick (185mm wide by 234 tall, 1088.6 g). Made by the Yangloadong Brick Tea Factory was a common form of commodity based money used in international exchanmge illustrating it was distinct from trusting government as was the case with Chinese coins. Here the design displays an ornate arch flanked by trees; five stars above; below, Zhongguo Chaye Gongsi/ Yanglaodong Zhuancha Chang Zhizao (China National Tea Corporation/ Made by the Yanglaodong Brick Tea Factory) in Hànzì characters / Sixteen segments. Mitchener 4144; Opitz p. 338-40.

From the late 19th to the mid 20th century, tea was commonly pressed into bricks for trade in Russia and Tibet., where they frequently functioned as currency. The quality of this tea varied from pure ground leaves for the best bricks and dust, stems, and soot for the lesser brands. These bricks, proved to be so important to the Tibetan economy that, in the build up to the Chinese invasion of the country in 1950, the Communist government purchased all of the available tea bricks, severely disrupting Tibetan monetary exchange.