KAIYUANTONGBAO is the first currency since the establishment of the Tang Dynasty which was one of the most prosperous periods of time in ancient China and this currency is also regarded as the longest currency in use. It is tiny and simple(around 2.4-2.5 cm) but really exquisite in workmanship. And basically, it follows the coin form of the Qin Dynasty – the round coin with square holes, which is an extremely common form in Chinese currency history. As the name of this coin, on the front of the coin, it is engraved with four characters – “KAIYUANTONGBAO”. Additionally, one special point must be mentioned here: These four characters were written by Ouyang Xun, one of the greatest calligraphers in the early Tang Dynasty. He was famous for his KAISHU works and was given the title of master of KAISHU.
Before the Tang Dynasty, in around Qin and Sui Dynasties, ZHUANSHU and XIAOZHUAN were mainly used to cast metal currency. While with the great development of KAISHU and LISHU in the early Tang Dynasty, they started to occupy the most portion in font usage at that time. Additionally, calligrapher had a much higher social status than before. People referred to them as honorific artists and in some dynasties emperor even provided them with a high position in the administrative system. Because of this, the study of calligraphy was gradually paid attention to by the public in the Tang Dynasty. So we can see Ouyang Xun’s calligraphy is used on this kind of coins.
Another significant typeface that mainly developed in the Tang Dynasty is LISHU. LISHU is a script evolved from the ZHUANSHU. While what is the concrete difference between LISHU and ZHUANSHU? Firstly, in terms of the form, ZHUANSHU still retains some symbols of the ancient pictographic character, while LISHU takes it a step further by destroying the structure of the pictographic characters and construct a new system of strokes. Secondly, LISHU is much wider than ZHUANSHU with the basic characteristics of transverse longer than vertical.