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Paper money - China got ahead of Europe about 600 years

Paper money - China got ahead of Europe about 600 years


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First paper money was introduced in medieval China in the late 10th century during the rule of the Song dynasty (960-1279). A sophisticated system of production, issue and withdrawal was gradually developed to an admirable perfection achieved during the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1260-1368). Neither was protection against counterfeiting omitted.

Chinese paper money printed on a dark blue-gray paper made from mulberry bark had a very large size (34x20 cm in the most frequently preserved 1 guan note from 1380´s). The notes appearance was very uniform and almost did not change over several centuries.

At that time a sophisticated system of denominations met everyday demands. It included, with some variation, denominations of 10, 30, 40, 50, 60, 100, 200, 300, 500 wen (copper coins) and 1, 2 and 5 guans (1 guan = 1,000 copper coins). From this aspect, Chinese paper money anticipated the development of European currency systems by almost 600 years.

The Chinese medieval paper money system suffered from severe inflation waves and went through several profound monetary reforms. The largest inflation was caused by the war at the end of 14th century during the period of the Ming dynasty. Owing to general disorder, paper money circulation was stopped in early 17th century at the decline of the Ming dynasty period and reintroduced only in the mid 19th century.

From the economical and law points of view, most of the Chinese paper money was rather state notes than banknotes. However, real banknotes fully covered by gold or even convertible for gold appeared among them for very short periods.

Source: The Security Features Guide

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