I recently found out that the English translation of Peng Xinwei’s monumental work A Monetary History of China is now available free online. The work covers Chinese monetary history from ancient times through the end of the monarchy in 1911. Peng Xinwei was a scholar turned banker who was one of the victims of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The Chinese version of the book is from 1965. Edward Kaplan translated the book into English, an impressive feat of scholarship in its own right, and had it published in two volumes in 1994. I wrote a review of the book here.
There have of course been other notable books on Chinese monetary history since. Those that have caught my attention include Richard von Glahn’s Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, 1000-1700 and Jin Xu’s recently translated Empire of Silver: A New Monetary History of China. I have not seen a good history of the last century-plus of the Chinese monetary system, though there are books on subperiods and topics. For mainland Chinese scholars, the topic is fraught with difficulty, because under the first few decades of Communist rule, the monetary system was among the institutions that hindered China from experiencing the rapid and widespread economic growth enjoyed by Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan.