This coin type was very long-lasting indeed: from the 3rd century BC to the 20th century AD, it was basically left unchanged. In Europe, those Chinese coins with their square wholes in the middle were called Cash; the Chinese called them "ch'ien." The word might derive from "ch'üan" or "tsüan," meaning "round coin." Ch'ien coins never show any images, but four characters. Two are related to the value of the coin – on the piece shown here, the value is given with 1000 cash. The two other characters indicate the mint period, i.e. the reign name for the era of the issuing emperor. The name of the ruling emperor was never mentioned as it was considered sacred. Our coin refers to the epoch of "Hsien Feng," the reign of Emperor Xianfeng (temple name Wenzong, 1851-1861).