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Chinese Works : Banknote

Chinese Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Paper currency first appeared in China during the 7th century, and was in wide circulation in the 11th century, 500 years before its first use in Europe.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Chinese currency traditionally circulated in the form of round copper cash with a square hole in the centre through which a string could be passed to hold large amounts together. Paper currency had its origin in promissary notes issued to avoid the necessity of carrying around heavy 'strings of cash', and an image of such strings appears on the banknote shown here.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>By the twelfth century the central government had realised the benefits of banknotes for purposes of tax collection and financial administration. The printing and issuance of a national paper currency by the central government was begun in the late thirteenth century, and accounts of it reached Europe through the writings of Marco Polo and others.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The banknote shown here, printed on mulberry paper from a cast metal plate, was first issued in 1380. The denomination of the banknote (one thousand cash) is shown by a picture of ten strings of copper cash (10 x 100 = 1000), flanked by a text in seal script which reads: 'Great Ming Paper Currency; Circulating Throughout the World'. The text underneath threatens forgers with decapitation and promises that anyone denouncing or apprehending forgers will receive a reward of 25 ounces of silver as well as the property of the miscreant.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This item was included in the Library’s 600th anniversary exhibition <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''><i>Lines of Thought: Discoveries that changed the world</i></a>.</p>

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