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360, Lot: 551. Estimate $100.
Sold for $1300. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

CHINA, temp. Táng dynasty. Ān Lùshān Rebellion. Shǐ Sīmíng. AD 759-761. Æ 100 Wén (36.5mm, 19.29 g, 12h). De Yi Yuan Bao in lìshū Hànzì (clerical script) characters / Crescent above central hole. BN Chinoises II 1447-9; Hartill 14.141. VF, brown patina, light scratches on reverse. Rare.

From the J.P. Righetti Collection.

The early 8th century AD was the golden age of the Tang dynasty. Strong armies protected the northern border from barbarians and held the Anxi Protectorate in the west. At home, an efficient and effective bureaucracy governed the land, allowing art and culture to flourish. But in 755, this era of prosperity came to an abrupt end. General An Lushan, taking advantage of the poorly defended interior, captured the important city of Luoyang and declared himself emperor. Through a series of military blunders by loyalist forces, the rebel’s armies were able to seize the capital at Chang’an, forcing Emperor Xuanzong to abdicate and the Tang court to flee. Yet the usurper’s advance soon stagnated in the southern province of Henan and the country became mired in a terrible civil war.

Both the rebels and the Tang court faced a bloody and turbulent succession. An Lushan was soon murdered by his son, who was himself killed by Shi Siming. Shi Siming was finally killed by his own son. After the abdication of Xuanzong in favor of his son, Suzong, who soon become ill, the throne passed to Daizong. Casualties also ran high among the peasants and scholars - as many as 36 million lives were lost in the course of the conflict, an estimated 15% of the global population. These catastrophic losses sounded the death knell of both the Tang Empire and its culture. The scholarly class, disillusioned by the collapse of their proud central government, questioned the effectiveness of the Tang system. And in the aftermath of the rebellion, Emperor Daizong was forced to grant concessions to his powerful generals. The power of the central government was thus greatly reduced, beginning the process that fragmented Tang China into the Ten Kingdoms.