Coins of the Hồ Dynasty   胡朝  1400 - 1407 AD
Thanh Nguyen and Thieu Nguyen

In 1400 AD, Lê Quý Ly proclaimed himself king. He adopted his Chinese ancestral name of Hồ and ruled under the reign title of Thánh Nguyên. After ruling for one year, he followed Trần dynasty tradition and handed power to his son, Hồ Hán Thương. Although Hồ Hán Thương's reign is recorded as Thiệu Thành, 紹成, it has been suggested that  he  issued coins with the legend Thiệu Nguyên Thông Bảo. The means of the two legends fit the the father and son pair, Thánh Nguyên means divine leader or awakening and Thiệu means to follow the way of one's father or elders.  The character Thiệu is also used for the second reign title of other Vietnamese and Chinese dynasties. The two coins also have the same calligraphic style again linking them together.

first image
             Thánh Nguyên Thông Bảo  聖元通寶 Thiệu Nguyên Thông Bảo  紹元通寶         


First listings in Mirua Gosen

One of the early references to show these coins is Mirua Gosen's 3 volume work (Japan, 1966)

Volume I assigns Thánh Nguyên Thông Bảo to the Hồ Dynasty.

Volume II. assigns both Thánh Nguyên and Thiệu Nguyên to the same calligraphic group of coins.

Left, page from Gosen's Volume II on calligraphic styles. Below, enlarged rubbings from Gosen. Note that the Thiệu Nguyên is
a slightly smaller size.

Three Varieties of Thiệu Nguyên Thông Bảo

There are now three types of Thiệu Nguyên Thông Bảo coins that can be assigned to the Hồ Dynasty .

Type 1. Appears to be the closest match to the only known Thánh Nguyên coins. (coin courtesy of CTG, Vietnam)
Type 2. A coin with the same calligraphic style but different variety from type 1, with full size rim like Thánh Nguyên. (Barker 26.1)
Type 3. A different style that has several less regular varieties. Reportedly a more recent find. (Barker  26.3, 26.4, 26.5) 

It is possible that all these coins were not made at the same time. The book "Historical Cash Coins of Vietnam", (Barker) suggests the larger type 1 and 2 coins
may have been made 30 - 40 years later during the early part of the Later Le Dynasty because they match the manufacturing style of that time. (See below)


Type III
Thiệu Nguyên 

A third type of Thiệu Nguyên Thông Bảo coins was reportedly discovered recently in a coin hoard that included Tran Dynasty coins. There are several varieties of the type 3 coins. All are slightly smaller and have less uniform calligraphy and workmanship than type 1 and 2 coins.In particular, the character Thiệuis not well balanced with the rest of the coin's characters.

Natural Patina

A close look at both coins show very natural mixed green-blue-red patinas made of Malachite, Azurite, and Cuprite. The nodular, bumpy green Malachite seen on both coins grows very slowly, only in air by diffusion of carbon dioxide and moisture. Both coins  also show imprints from contact  with other coins during burial. Such patinas rule out more recent origin of the coins.

Thánh Nguyên Thông Bảo  聖元通寶

Comparison: Thiệu Nguyên Thông Bảo  紹元通寶  with Dai Bao Thong Bao from the same period.


Thiệu Nguyên Thông Bảo  紹元通寶 - compared to Chinese Song dynasty coin Yuan Feng Tong Pao

Origin of coins

Coin flans and manufacture styles can help determine the origin of some coins, particularly in Vietnam. The type 2 Thiệu Nguyên coin is compared below with two coins of the early part of the Later Lê Dynasty (1434-1453) left, a common Thiệu Bình Thông Bảo and right, Thái Hòa Thông Bảo. All three coin flans and reverse patterns show very strong similarities, and are different from most other periods in Vietnam. 

One unproven theory is that the cruder type 3 coins were manufactured during the short lived Hồ Dynasty and the larger, well-designed Thánh Nguyên and Thiệu Nguyên coins were made about 30 to 40 years later when the Later Lê began large scale manufacture of rather good quality coins. It is not clear why this would be done but Vietnam has many such numismatic questions.

Comparison: Left: Thiệu Bình Thông Bảo, 紹平通寶. Center: Thiệu Nguyên type 2. Right: Thái Hòa Thông Bảo, 太和通寶