The first attempt to establish a mint with proper organization and machinery was made at Canton in 1887, although it was not intended to be a part of a national currency system. The Canton mint was purely a provincial undertaking for the convenience of trade and was founded by the famous Chang Chih-tung, when viceroy of the two Kwangs. The reasons for the founding of this mint were rather extraordinary. After the country became settled after the Taiping Rebellion, the condition of the cash currency was very unsatisfactory because of the stoppage of the coinage of cash. When after a few years of peace commerce revived, the demand for cash coins increased; in Peking, for instance, ten-cash pieces had depreciated to about two cash and such demand caused a good deal of disturbance in the market. There was, moreover, the added trouble due to the depreciation of silver after 1873 - such fall enhancing the silver value of the cash. The result was that debased and counterfeit coins appeared in large numbers in all parts of the country while coins of proper weight and good quality were scarce. Conditions were growing worse year after year until in 1887 the Empress Dowager issued the following edict in response to a memorial of the Board of Revenue:
"All provinces along the Yangtsze and the Sea Board are required to convert a portion of their remittances to Peking into cash and send this cash to Tientsin, there to be stored up in readiness for use in Peking; also that the provinces which are required by law to convert cash should one and all be called upon to commence operations without delay with a view to a gradual restoration to the old basis."
Most of the officials were neither willing nor able to comply with the order of the edict; the viceroys and governors complained that the initial outlay for the establishment of a mint was too much for the locality. The Government at Peking was at its wits end as to what step to take; by an edict the depreciated ten-cash currency in Peking was given a fixed legal value of two cash - which was the market value in 1887. The only exception was the steps taken by Chang Chih-tung who ordered the machinery for a mint in 1887. Chang's ambition was to bring about a national currency; he proposed the unit of a dollar, slightly heavier than the Mexican, in order to make the new coin easily popular. He proposed that the coins thus issued should be receivable in all payments of public dues; he also suggested that a million dollars should be struck and introduced experimentally - a further five millions to be issued later on. If the experiment proved a success he proposed to have the central mint at Tientsin to coin national dollars, and stated that an issue of ten million dollars a year for several years would bring about the introduction of a national currency in the easiest manner possible.