Paper Money

Chinese tractor driver immortalized on 1-yuan note dies

A Chinese icon, Liang Jun, the country’s first female tractor driver and the subject of the People’s Republic of China’s 1-yuan note from the 1960s to 1996, died at the age of 90 on Jan. 14.

She is portrayed on one of the most popular bank note designs ever issued by the People’s Republic of China, a 1-yuan note dated 1960, on which she is seen enthusiastically and happily driving a tractor. The often ignored but attractive back design is of a shepherd on horseback tending a flock grazing in the mountains.

The note was withdrawn from circulation in 1996. Although all are dated 1960, the first ones were not printed until 1962. The notes are available in nice condition for prices starting at around $30.

Liang’s obituary by the BBC called her one of the first and best known model workers, whose smiling image on the note was meant as an inspiration for other workers. In 1948, when a school in her rural village offered a course to train tractor drivers, she was the only woman among its 70 students.

Her story became a subject in textbooks and the inspiration for the legions of female tractor drivers who followed in her tire tracks. She took advantage of her fame to become an engineer and politician. She retired in 1990 as chief engineer of the Harbin municipal bureau of agricultural machines.

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