Once upon a time I was big into Chinese currency. Not so much as a speculator, but as one of the people who bought old banknotes from people who were selling them all over China and Taiwan. I even did a post about it, and published a version of it. I still have a lot of the old stuff around and use it in classes, but there is one question that has always eluded me.
A number of the people selling me old banknotes had a story about the Japanese occupation notes, and while it took several forms, the basic gist of it was that one of the Japanese occupation governments issued a note with Confucius giving an obscene gesture to some sort of symbol of Japan. The artist who slipped this in was supposedly executed, although of course that would be a small price to pay for pulling off something like that.
Confucius does indeed turn up on a lot of puppet banknotes, which is not surprising, since he fits in well with the whole Pan-Asian Kingly Way (王道) ideology. Is the story true? Well there is some evidence. Here is a standard Confucius, who turns up on a lot of puppet notes. As you can see, his hands on most of the notes are in that standard Confucius mudra,
But, as you can see on this note, he is sometimes different.
What I would like to know is First, does anyone know if this is an actual obscene gesture that he is making with his hands? Second, does anyone have a source for the story about the engraver slipping this in that is better than my source “some guys who sell banknotes told me this”?