The use of paper money in China can be traced back to the 10th century, when the world’s first state-issued paper currency was created by the Chinese government during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). This new form of money was known as “jiaozi” and was issued by the Chinese Central Bank.
Jiaozi were initially made from small pieces of cloth with images printed on them, which then had a seal placed over the image to denote that it was an official government currency. These early paper notes were developed from the earlier practice of trading salt, grain and tea as forms of money.
The move to create paper currency was driven largely by technological advances in printing that enabled large quantities of notes to be created quickly, helping to boost the economy and make trade easier. The introduction of paper money also allowed the Chinese government to introduce taxation, something that was not possible with salt, grain and tea.
The notes initially circulated sporadically and only in certain parts of China, with the paper money taking a few centuries to spread to all parts of the country and become an accepted form of currency. For example, it was not until the 13th century that merchants in the cities of Hangzhou and Yangzhou began to accept paper money as a legitimate form of payment.
The jiaozi became increasingly popular during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, with more and more Chinese governments issuing their own versions of paper money. It was also during this period that paper money began to be widely used across the country and became the standard form of currency for large transactions.
When Marco Polo visited China during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), he described the currency of China at the time as being made from “paper money as thin as parchment”.
By the 19th century, paper money had become an established part of Chinese culture and was widely accepted throughout the country. It continued to be used until 1949, when the Communist Party of China replaced it with a new yuan currency.
Today, paper money is still occasionally used in China, although it is now mainly found in museums and other tourist attractions as a reminder of the country’s long history with paper currency. The jiaozi remains an important symbol of the Chinese economy, and its introduction marked a major step forward in the development of money as we know it today.