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Transcribe: Chinese Banknotes from the Smithsonian's National Numismatic Collection

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World Languages Age Levels High School (16 to 18 years old), Post-Secondary, Adults

In this collection, the Smithsonian Transcription Center and the National Museum of American History's National Numismatic Collection invite you to help transcribe the languages recorded on historic Chinese Banknotes. This work will help ensure that researchers around the world can more easily find and use these collections. 

Collection includes: instructions on required and optional steps for transcription, translation, and transliteration; links to the Chinese Banknote transcription projects on the Smithsonian Transcription Center website; and more.

Keywords: currency, money, Chinese language, NNC, NMAH, American history, East Asian history, foreign language


The Smithsonian's National Numismatic Collection (NNC) is America's collection of monetary and transactional objects. This diverse and expansive global collection contains objects that represent every inhabited continent and span more than three thousand years of human history.

Established in the mid-19th century, several of the earliest additions to the NNC were artifacts from Japan, Korea, and China, including coins and medals gifted to President Ulysses S. Grant from Japanese Emperor Meiji (received in 1881) and the 2,025 East Asian coins, amulets, and notes from George Bunker Glover’s private collection (received in 1897). These donations were the foundation of the NNC’s East Asian holdings, which continues to grow with new acquisitions, such as the Howard F. Bowker collection in 2017.

During 2017-2018, the NNC digitized more than 8,000 of its East Asian Coins, making them publicly accessible and available for research worldwide. The NNC is now working to digitize 6,000 Chinese notes and paper transactional objects that range from the Ming Dynasty to the present day.

One of the main challenges to the digitization process is the transcription of several Asian alphabets, which would increase accessibility and searchability for the many items in this collection. Sometimes this can be done quickly, but often the process is too lengthy for NNC team members to complete while moving the project forward efficiently. In order to continue to share these objects rapidly, we need your help! 

The digitization of the East Asian coins and Chinese banknotes would not have been possible without the generous support of the the Howard F. Bowker family and Michael Chou. 

For full instructions, please see this page on the Smithsonian Transcription Center website.

Transcribe: Chinese Banknotes

Smithsonian Transcription Center


Smithsonian Transcription Center

How to Transcribe: Required Steps

Smithsonian Transcription Center

Beyond Transcription: Optional Steps

Smithsonian Transcription Center

Beyond Transcription: Optional Steps (continued)

Smithsonian Transcription Center

5000 Dollars Dollars, Chong Shing Bank, China, n.d.

National Museum of American History

Get Started!

Smithsonian Transcription Center

Glossary and Printable Instructions

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The Impact of Transcription

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Share your Experience

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Additional Resources

Smithsonian Transcription Center