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Pyu coinage

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Not to be confused with Pya.
Pyu coinage

Pyu coins

Official users


Years circulated

5th century9th century


⅛ unit (possible), ¼ unit, ½ unit, 1.4 unit, full unit

Pyu struck silver coins from around the 5th century to the 9th century. Over a span of about four centuries, the coins changed in design numerous times.


A passage from the Man Shu, which was compiled during the mid-800s, recorded that the "Piao country uses silver coinage". An expanded version of this appears in the Xin Tang Shu of the 11th century. It states that the Pyu had taken gold and silver and morphed the metal into a coin, and that the coins were similar in appearance to a half-moon. According to records, the coins were called either dengqietuo or zudantuo. Currently, it is uncertain why the Pyu would have two names for the same currency, unless one of the words referred to the full currency while the other represented the currency subunit. The mention of a gold Pyu coinage induces problems, mainly because no Pyu coinage composed of gold has been discovered. Possibly, this gold reference was added by the copyist.


Bhadrapiṭha-Śrīvatsa coin

A "nine-beaded" coin.

Earlier coins from the Pyu city-states, designated as Bhadrapiṭha/Śrīvatsa coinage, have been found in many of the earlier city-states. These coins featured a conch and a srivatsa, a symbol of good luck. One type of these coins occur in different denominations and sizes. The ¼ unit of this type reached 17 to 18 mm in diameter and 1.9 to 2.1 grams in mass, being the smallest of the coins. The ½ unit reached 23 to 24 mm in diameter and weiged from 4.7 to 5.5 grams. Finally, the full unit measured 26 to 27 mm in diameter, with a mass of 10.1 to 11.3 grams. On another variety of the coin, the conch was replaced by nine beads in vertical rows. Also, there was a moon, vajra, and simplified conch on the reverse. The denominations of this coin were 1.4 units (17 to 18 mm diameter; 2 to 2.8 g), ½ unit (20 to 22 mm diameter; 4.1 to 5 g), and 1 unit (30 to 34 mm diameter; 9.9 to 10.6 g). The third type was different from the other two classes, displaying a srivatsa with an obelisk in its center. To the left of the srivatsa was a trident and to the right was a wavy conch. These coins come in denominations of ¼ unit (19 to 20 mm diameter; 2.5 to 2.8 grams) and 1 unit (33 to 35 mm diameter; 8.1 to 10.1 g). It is believed that this type was modeled after coins of the Mon from Thaton. Pyu's usage of the third class coins is disputed, due to them having a strange distribution and composition.

The most widespread of coins, however, were the "Rising Sun" coins, which are believed to have originated in Myanmar. Specimens found here are often associated to the Pyu or Mon. Most of these coins weighed about 9.2 to 9.4 grams and had a diameter of 30 to 33 millimeters. The obverse featured a Rising Sun motif, while the reverse showed a Srivatsa and a throne as well as a swastika on either side of the coin. Smaller coins weighing from 2.2 to 2.3 grams have been discovered, which may have equaled a quarter unit, and some even smaller, which were possibly the equivalent to an eighth of a unit.

Many coins had a small hole punched in them to possibly be used as amulets for trade. After Pyu's disestablishment, coins were not again issued by the Kingdoms of Burma until the 18th century.

See alsoEdit


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