A palhod coin.
A guhahod coin.
A kahod coin.
Money in Charya
Rather unoriginally, but also very practically, Charya theoretically has coins in three values: gold emperor's heads (palhod, plural palpal), silver priest's heads (guhahod, plural guhaha) and copper slave's heads (kahod, plural kaka). The copper kaka can be divided into two or four parts, called nadual. However, the relative values of palhod, guhahod and kahod are not settled, and some palpal are ten times as large as others; a large guhahod can be worth as much as a decent-sized palhod, and there are guhaha that are small enough that a large kahod is worth more.
That's why people often, especially in the case of gold and silver coins, use the weight as an indication of value. The relative values of gold and silver show little fluctuation, but the price of copper in gold or silver varies wildly, although there's a marked tendency to deprecate copper (no doubt because most people earn their money in copper, but all taxes are paid in silver).
One small measure (ainuyi) of gold is worth about three small measures of silver. One ainuyi of silver is worth about four thousand five hundred small measures of copper! Most copper coins weigh exactly one ainuyi, although there are larger and smaller copper coins.
The shape of the coins varies wildly, too, and although I show here an oblong palhod and a round guhahod and kahod, there are also square, triangular and oval coins. Like the shape, the purity of the coin varies, and that is important for the value. The fineness of the gold palhod is especially low, although the coins minted in Broi that are known as the imperial coins have a quite constant gold content. Imperial coins from the 1640s have a relative value of one gold coin to ninety silver coins, and one silver coin to two hundred copper coins. All imperial coins of this period are supposed to weigh exactly one small measure, which can only mean that the gold and silver is severely debased!
As can be seen from the coins shown on the left, it is not customary to show the monarch's portrait on the coin - the names 'emperor's head', 'priest's head' and 'slave's head', have an unknown origin, though contemporary wits say that the price of having a slave assassinated is one kahod, of having a priest assassinated one guhahod and of having the emperor assassinated one palhod...
What money can buy
For our convenience, let's count with ideal, Imperial coin, while not forgetting that to every recent Imperial coin there are perhaps a hundred old, dubious coins. You'll need your little set of scales, unless you're very trusting or have an exceptional feeling for weights.
For a beggar
A beggar in the streets of Broi will perhaps scrounge ten or twenty nadul together in a day. That's about enough for a meal: a bowl of spicy soup, some bread and a bit of fruit. (Fruit is plentiful in Broi because of the many orchards within the city limits.) Perhaps he can afford a bowl of cheap rice-wine and even a bed in one of the hostels.
A streetseller or a whore
A streetseller, let's say of flowers or cheap combs, will be able to sell for at least 80 nadul, at least 20 kaka, a day. For that, he will probably need about sixty customers. Murxao, the seller of apples we've already come across learning Classical Charyan, earned more since she had a very good place near the Stairways to Heaven, where all the palace officials passed on their way to the Imperial Palace.
Murxao won't see much besides kaka, except when she goes to pay the rent on her small orchard which is paid in silver: 9 guhaha every year. Luckily, she's too small a trader to pay taxes.
Murxao isn't so poor that she sees many nadul. Since she sells her wares to people working in the Imperial Palace, and not to people of her own class, she can earn about 40 kaka a day, on good days a bit more, seldom less. Thus she will earn about 1200 kaka a month, about six guhaha. One sixth she has to put aside to pay the yearly rent: seven kaka a day. The rent for her room is ten kaka, and eating and drinking will take twenty kaka a day. A small loaf of bread, enough for breakfast, and a bit left over for when you get peckish around mid-day, would cost 8 nadul. A bowl of wine that isn't immediately poisonous would come to 10 nadul.
This means that she has between four and eight kaka a day extra, to save a bit and to visit the wine-houses once a week. The fruit she can't sell herself, she can sell to other traders, or eat herself. Nowadays her savings amount to about twenty guhaha, together with the small inheritance from her parents. If she's wise, she will have converted that into silver. Otherwise, she'll have a small mountain of copper that's worth less in silver every year. Four years ago, a standard guhahod was worth 180 kaka, nowadays you'll need 200 kaka to get one guhahod.
A girl in downtown Broi, in the Chrenla'purgat or Holyvale, would earn about one hundred nadul per customer; the customer would have to pay half as much, say twenty to thirty kaka. She'd have at least three of those customers a night, so hiring a girl for the night would come to one hundred kaka, or about one half guhahod.
You can see that the poor live almost exclusively in a copper-based economy. Somewhat richer people sometimes see a little silver, too, and in a rich quarter like the Stairways to Heaven, there's a lot of silver going around. A night in the best brothel of Broi, the Andmas'andvayn will set you back two guhaha, if you choose an apprentice for the night. She (or he) will get one of those silver coins. On the best courtesan of the brothel, Columbine, you will have to spend at least a palhod. A good lunch, neatly packaged in a wooden box, will cost five to six kaka, a small jar of fine wine will cost from twelve kaka upwards. Prices for a dinner in a decent restaurant start at one guhahod.
The honoured sub-daine Pariyal Temdem Séor spent four hundred guhaha on rent for her bachelor apartment in Heaven-on-the-Mountain, while the Imperial court gives her a thousand guhaha a year for her fearless service to the emperor. The filthy rich man-about-town Denyal Yaswé spent 25.000 guhaha on his luxurious three-storied house with three inner courts. Apart from the rent, Pariyal spends about six hundred guhaha on eating, drinking, clothing and evenings out. There are other necessary expenditures for a court official: taxes, presents, small bribes, servants: about two hundred guhaha. Apart from her court salary Pariyal receives an interest of 25% on her capital of 24.000 guhaha, which she gathered in the form of loot on a tax-gathering expedition in the north-west.
People who live in Heaven-on-the-Mountain seldom see gold, only in each other's ears, nose, and navel, and around necks, ankles, wrists, arms and fingers, of course. They won't have gold in their purse. Even the rich Pariyal uses only silver. Really rich people, the noble families who held power in the ancient southern empire spend gold as if it were copper. The necklace for Princess Chazalla, the emperor's favourite concubine, was bought for 30.000 palpal. There's almost nothing more expensive than that.
About the coins
These coins have been minted during the reign of Rordal Twuindal Sedom'Chewir. To see an enlarged version of the guhahod, please use your browser's function to show the image - for the purposes of comparing the regular sizes, the image has been scaled down a little.
text and illustrations © 1999 Boudewijn Rempt