Money in the Empire - An overview
The Empire is at heart an agrarian economy, based upon a unit known as the "cormu". One cormu is defined as the amount of rice a man can harvest in one day, and has proved to be a fairly flexible measurement over the course of history. This is partly due to changing agricultural practices, and partly due to exaggerated claims made by unscrupulous Magister Administrators concerning the productivity of their governed areas.
The value of other grains is measured against the cormu, according to a sacred list set down by the Divine Minister for Green Abundance, the Immortal in charge of agriculture (working in his department are such supernatural figures as the Thousand Rice Sisters and the bull-like fertility god Dorvisha). The sacred nature of the list has meant that new types of crops not mentioned on the list cannot be sold in the Empire.
The cormu is not a very convenient measure for everyday use, however, especially due to its unreliable nature, so the coinage known as Yen was introduced. Original yen were semi-precious stones of various colours, used to represent fractions or multiples of cormu. Later, glass was introduced as a representative currency without intrinsic value. Secret magical methods were used to colour the glass and to engrave markings inside the coins themselves. The Guild of Glassblowers, who guarded this secret, gained considerable importance by doing so. Criminal organisations, like the Black River Society, put a great deal of time and effort into discovering the secrets of glass coinage (by theft, bribery, extortion and kidnap), and the Glassblowers spend a great deal of time and effort staying one step ahead of the forgers.
The Empire suffers terrible inflation due to its unstable economic base. When the Anhui provinces broke away, many of them already minted their own yen, and the Merchant's League moved to a jade standard instead of the cormu, which proved far more reliable. As well as Imperial Yen, there are Llazan, Tibrafes-Kronlordan, Nirhmasan and Oksan Yen. Most places within the Merchant's League or former Imperial sphere will accept any of these, although Imperial Yen are considered weak compared to the Llazan Yen.
The Salsham'ai use wooden tokens within their own lands. Some Moa-Ruaki have been known to use shells and shark's teeth as currency, although they tend to barter. Fon makes no coinage of its own but, like its eclectic attitude to language, will happily make use of that of other countries. Vaartan nobility and priests use coins of silver and gold (known as "Ryub"). Out amongst the islands one can find people who use the teeth, claws and ears of dangerous animals as coin - the more dangerous the animal the greater the value. A wise Merchant's League member will carry with him a wide collection of currencies.