August 12, 2013
From 1927 to 1929, a Chinese warlord by the name of Zhou Xicheng ordered the production of a special commemorative coin to celebrate the construction of the Kweichow Provincial Highway, which he had recently built within his province. Like any good warlord, he also insisted that the coin feature an image of his beloved automobile and who else but Zhou Xicheng. After reading this story, you will realize why he probably should have thought twice before desiring to place himself on the coin.
In the 1920s it was almost impossible to travel long distances in China at any decent speed as there were very few roads. Automobiles were also still new, expensive and reserved mostly for the wealthy. Xicheng, as a prosperous warlord, was one of the few who could afford a car. But what use was having a nice car if you lacked the proper roads on which to travel? Our friend Xicheng decided to build a highway which would allow him and his troops to travel much more quickly throughout the province. The highway was named the Kweichow Provincial Highway and, after spending a long time and a lot of money to build it, the warlord could now travel at faster speeds and longer distances across his land. In a sense, he must have felt like he was the king of the world.
Xicheng wanted to celebrate the completion of the highway by having his likeness placed on what is now known as the 1928 Auto Dollar coin. However, his personal advisors strongly urged him not to, as they predicted that if he had his own image on a coin, he would be killed. The warlord finally gave in on not having his image placed on the 1928 Auto Dollar coin. However, he didn't completely give up on the notion of having his legacy on the coin and he still ordered to have his personal car designed on the coin. Surprisingly, he also had his name Zhou Xicheng secretly inscribed within the coin's design.
In order to view his name on the coin it takes some effort and it is necessary to focus on the side of the coin where you can see the car. Under the car's design there are blades of grass representing the brush and grass scenery near the highway that he constructed. If the coin is rotated 90 degrees to the right, Chinese characters with his name Zhou Xicheng can be seen inscribed within the grass blades, also known as the secret mark of Xicheng.
So ultimately, the warlord had his own coin struck, with his own car's image on it and also bearing his name. On the following year it is said that the warlord Zhou Xicheng was driving his automobile on the road that he constructed. He then sped up and left his troops at a distance behind him. Shockingly, he was ambushed by rebel enemy troops and, while trying to escape, he ran out of his car and was left dead on the grass on the side of the road. Were his advisors right by warning him not to put his name or legacy on a coin or was it mere coincidence?
We will never know but one thing is for certain - the story behind the warlord who created this 1928 Auto Dollar makes this coin much more exciting.