CULTURE

Gold Byzantine coins found in royal graves strengthen Greek-Chinese friendship, cooperation

A substantial find of 6th-8th century gold Byzantine coins in China has naturally sparked great interest both in China and Greece. They are an addition to the growing friendship and cooperation between Beijing and Athens in view of the 2008 Olympic Games and cultural events connected with Greek Cultural Year in China. The gold Byzantine coins and their numerous Chinese copies were found in royal tombs and had been placed over the mouth of the deceased or near the head. The copies raise questions, since the counterfeiting of coins was strictly prohibited throughout China on pain of death. In the Middle Ages, the Chinese saw Byzantium as a place of prosperity, and there is evidence of this in many old Chinese ceramics and illustrations that employ Byzantine elements. Archaeologist Lin Ying of Sun Yat-Sen University in Hong Kong will study the Byzantine items found in China for a new book, she said on a visit with Liang Yequiang, the Athens correspondent for the Xinhua News Agency. China’s ambassador to Athens, Tian Xuejun, and his wife have shown great interest in Lin’s research and are assisting her. The discovery of the coins has also inspired writer and historian Katerina Agrafioti, biographer of Herod Atticus and Dora Stratou, to collect details linking Byzantium and China via the Silk Road. Professor Lin is a regular visitor to Athens. Visiting the Numismatic Museum to inspect the coins, she was given a guided tour by museum director Despina Evgenidou, who noted that the discovery of the coins opened «interesting prospects in relations between Byzantium and China which must be examined in depth.» And Dimitra Tsangari, curator of Alpha Bank’s coin collection, told Vorres Museum director Ion Vorres, «We Greek archaeologists will do everything we can to help the research of our Chinese colleagues.»