This is a short summary of one of the articles from Webzine SILKROADIA VOL.4 NO.1. For more specialized information, please download our Webzine and read "Paper Civilization by Region on the Silk Roads" written by USSUN-HUFS Research&Study Team.
The invention of paper in China hugely influenced the spread of the ability of reading and writing. For example, it dramatically lowered the prices of books, leading to their greater availability. The scribes of the government now had thousands of pages of paper supplied for record keeping, documentation, and writing. Moreover, by the combination of a writing brush, an ink stick, and paper, for 2000 years, painting and writing have played a role as the most important art forms in China.
In addition to writing books and letters, paper has been used since the Han Dynasty to create topographic maps and military maps. They used symbols and color-coding for local features on a fairly accurate scale and represented specific areas as magnified. In addition, it was used as a wrapping paper for sensitive items such as drugs. Very significantly, it was widely used as a wrapping paper for tea. Paper also was used to make hats and even armor, and thin paper was used for windows, paper screens, sheets, curtains, clothes, and money. Banknotes (paper money) appeared first in the Tang Dynasty. The innovation started with merchants using paper documents. This way of using paper documents was especially preferred by the sellers who traded teas. In the case of the precious gold or silver traders, they were very wary of being in danger while transporting their precious goods. For this reason, they preferred leaving a record on paper in receipts and trade documents. Marco Polo, the merchant of Venice, mentioned paper money in the 13th century in his reports of his journey.
The monetary value of a bill was recognized as if it were made of pure gold and silver through a process by which several executives appointed to each chairman registered their names and signed them. When this was done regularly, the chief executive printed the scarlet royal seal that was entrusted to him on the paper so that the pattern continues to be stamped.
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