Sunday, June 5, 2011

Smallest Chinese characters seek prosperity

Chinese bond issued by the Provincial Government of Kwang-Tung
Double-click image to enlarge

Early Kwang-Tung government needed funds for prosperity
During the imperial Qing dynasty, 1644-1912, the city of Canton emerged as one of the of the world's great trading ports under the Thirteen Factories. With the formation of the Republic of China in 1912, the Qing dynasty came to an end. 
At the end of 1912, the Provincial Government of Kwang-Tung, today's Guangdong province, issued an 8% prize bearing loan of 10 million dollars for the development of local industries. The proceeds of the loan were to be utilised only for schemes which will likely create wealth, such as
  • the remodelling of the city of Canton, presently named Guangzhou
  • the reclamation of the Kupper Island, and
  • the improvement and expansion of the industrial enterprises taken in hand by the Kwang-Tung Government 

The bonds were issued in 3 classes : 
  • whole bonds, with a value of 10 Dollars
  • 2 half bonds, with a value of 5 Dollars each
  • 5 1/5th of a bonds, with a value of 2 Dollars each 

The first prize was a prize of 30,000 Dollars. The Dollar mentioned, is presumably the local Silver Dollar. The bond shown here belongs to the last class of 2 Dollars. The reverse clearly states " .. 1/5 Whole Bond to draw 1/5 Whole Prize .. "

The rear of the certificate is made up in English (double-click for details).

A small certificate issued. 
Of course there is a lot to tell about the historical context of this bond. But actually, I was charmed by its dimensions. Small is actually an understatement :
  • size of the full sheet, including the coupons: 25 cm x 14 cm
  • size of the actual bond, measured along the green borders: 6.5 cm x 14 cm.
  • height of the tiniest Chinese characters : 1 millimeter

Details from the front (left) and the rear (right).
Chinese characters : height 1 mm
English letters : height 0.5 mm 

European or American bond certificates, issued for funding improvement works and economic development are usual much larger and use far more larger and excessive fonts for the purpose. That's why at first sight this bond looks unusual. However, most local Chinese loan issues of that period are small in size and sober in implementation. And is there not a saying Less is More

Do you know of smaller bonds ?

Antique bond certificate from China issued by Provincial Government of Kwang-Tung

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