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photduang (พดด้วง)

Thai. A former currency in Siam, which –due to its specific shape is known as bullet money. In Thai, the word duang means ‘caterpillar’, and refers to the fact that its shape seen from the side somehow resembles a curling caterpillar. During the Ayutthaya Period, the photduang was the main form of currency in trade transactions, whereas cowry shells (bia) and clay tokens or gambling chips (pih) where used for minor purchases. Bullet money has been used for over 500 years, until it was abandoned in 1904, in the reign of King Rama V. On the upper surface a state seal was pressed onto it and on the sides it showed the seal of the reigning king (fig.). As reigns changed, these seals were altered, making it is possible today to trace bullet money to the periods it was in use (fig.). State seals in the Ayutthaya Period typically were in the form of a wheel or another kind of circular figure suggestive of the dharmachakra, whereas the royal seal could be anything from the form of a Sang, i.e. the conch of victory, to that of a more frequently used lotus bud, and sometimes decorated with other objects, such as crossed swords, kranok motifs, etc. In the Rattanakosin Period, the state seal is classically in the form of a disc or a similar circular figure reminiscent of the chakra, a symbol of the Chakri dynasty, and the royal seals are akin the royal emblems of the relevant kings, from Rama I to Rama V (fig.). See also POSTAGE STAMP.