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They were first known as the Western Han, ruling from Ch'ang-an in Shansi Province.
Broken only by the brief interregnum of Wang Mang's Hsin dynasty of AD 9 to 22, the Western Han lasted until AD 25 when the capital was moved to Lo-yang (in Honan Province) and the name was changed to Eastern Han.
Some date it to 221 BC when they finished unifying China (note this unified China was much smaller than the China we know today), but the Ch'in themselves probably would have used a date of about 325 BC when Duke Hsuan Wen adopted the title of Emperor after defeating the state of Wen and withdrew Ch'in allegiance to the Zhou.
* "Duke" is the closest title we have found for the early rulers of Ch'in.
Having examined a number of Pan Liang hoards, we found most specimens within a single hoard will be of uniform diameter but the weight can vary significantly.
This had lead us to believe the coins diameter is the important factor in determining the period or issue.
The Western Han dynasty does not actually begin until Liu-peng arose the victor, declaring himself Emperor of Han in BC 202.
This is exactly 1/2 the weight of a ming style knife, and it maybe these were first introduced as a half unit of those knife coins, during the late Zhou period.
This could make the earliest issues contemporaries of the Ming-Huo Round Coin Series, but since they were cast to the heavy standard down to 180 BC, it may not be possible to differentiate between the Zhou, Ch'in and early Han dynasty issues. Most references suggest that the large Pan Liang coins were the principle coinage of the Chin Dynasty, but a problem arose; they are rather scarce, in fact they have a higher scarcity than ming knifes and square foot spades. These come in a wide variety of weights, ranging from about 9 grams to as high as 18 grams.
If they really had been the principle coinage of China for over 75 years, they should be fairly common. Examples this size are scarce and like other Pan Liang coins, the heavier specimens are most prized by collectors so sell for more, even through all were probably part of the same issue. Average (4 specimens) 6.38 grams (range 4 to 12 grams).
It seems likely the Ch'in government would have had a method of determining the mint and period of issue of any given coin, as such systems appear to have been in place on other coins for over 100 years.
No mint marks occur on these coins, but it is unreasonable to assume all were cast at a single mint.
All have the two characters "Pan" and "Liang" flanking a square hole (many minor calligraphy variations exist), and the reverse is always blank.