Cover: Obverse and reverse of two Pyu coins, silver, apparently counterfeits of coins popular in First Millennium. BC. 87.04.01 and BC. 87.04.02. Courtesy of the Center for Burma Studies, Northern Illinois University.
Cover design: Jeff Strohm, Northern Illinois University
These two Pyu coins are exemplars of the coins found in Central and Upper Burma, minted in the First Millennium under the Pyu Kingdom, c.500–800 CE.
Called Rising Sun/Srivatsa, their stamped design bears on the obverse a stylized rising sun with 12 rays separated by a dot; the whole enclosed by a solid circular line beads in the perimeter, and a raised outer rim. A horizontal line divides the coin.
On the reverse is the Srivatsa symbol, viewed by some numismatic scholars as a reference to the temple of Sri, goddess of fertility with the sun and moon above and several ancillary symbols at the sides: the swastika with a dot at each end on the left, and the bhadrapitha throne on the right, placed below a line of three dots. Srivatsa comprising combinations of triangles and sinuous lines, have been interpreted variously as micro-cosmic symbols which might be associated with either Hinduism or Buddhism.
As early as the sixth and seventh centuries CE, Chinese sources noted the Pyao (Pyu) for their silver coinage. Alternatively, they called themselves the Tircul, which was the name given to the Pyu by Arab merchants. It is thus unsurprising to have found examples of this type of rising sun coinage in following the actual trade route from important Pyu sites, but encountered also in Dvaravati (now in Thailand), up to the tip of the former Funan kingdom (now southern Cambodia and Vietnam).
However, these raise a question of authenticity: the two coins depicted here each in obverse and reverse, although quite similar to unquestioned originals found in the Pyu archaeological sites, could be fakes but were presented to us specifically to be used for educational purposes.
They thus raise the question of “ethics and authenticity” which is in part the main theme of this issue: a topic which should be also examined within the world of Art and Culture, no less than within the ambit of the Social Sciences.
—Catherine Raymond, curator, Burma Art Collection at Northern Illinois University [End Page ii]