Museum of Chinese Art and Ethnography Xaverian Missionaries - V.le S. Martino, 8 - Parma, Italy 0521-257.337

Good Luck Charms


Gourd shape Charm, brass
Gourd shape Charm, brass
"Great Peace in the Kingdom"

Among the thousands of Chinese coins that the Xaverians have collected in the early decades of the 1900, there were Annamites, Japanese and Korean coins, which circulated in China at that time. But there were other coins, which came to be classified as "amulets."

The “Bonardi Red” collection contained 46 of these “good-luck charms”, and the “Bonardi Blue” cointaned other 71. And still another 74 appeared in the “Rossi-Scalzi Collection”, while a few others were confused among the coins.

In total, over 200 “amulets,” counting duplicates and non-readable pieces. It’s a modest, but extremely interesting collection. In a highly refined Chinese culture, which loves allusions, symbols, legends and references of popular belief, these pieces are full of charm and allow a glimpse at the insecurities, idiosyncrasies, expectations, beliefs and the search for meaning in the heart of the Chinese people.

The almost universal spread of similar objects is known to all, and China is no exception. Chinese evoke historical figures, plants, animals and stars to keep away spirits and harmful creatures, and hope and wish for happiness, success, career, wealth etc... These charms make use of references and literary stories, of legendary figures, of homophonic words, of symbols and other. It is a fantastic world that is worth discovering.

There is another feature that distinguishes the vast universe of Chinese charms: most of them belong to the same semantic and morphological paradigm of the coins. Which means: as the coins are by their very nature a true form of power in the context of worldly affairs, the amulets coins instead, can enjoy powers to control the hostile forces that do not belong to this world, and allow us to buy luck and success, which are not completely under total human control. Is it not true that money can buy everything? Even heavenly gods and goods?