Flying cash

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Flying cash (飛錢) is a type of paper negotiable instrument used during China's Tang dynasty invented by merchants but adopted by the state. Its name came from their ability to transfer cash across vast distances without physically transporting it.[1] It is a precursor to true banknotes which appeared during the Song dynasty.

According to the New Book of Tang, in the year 804, merchants were using flying cash.[2][3] Between 805 and 820 there was a shortage of copper cash coins which proved to be a hindrance for daily business transactions in the Tang dynasty. The creation of the flying cash happened after a tax reform that allowed for the partial acceptance of taxes in money, which had increased the demand for currency which scared the government that merchants would remove cash coins from the capital to circulate so they ordered the local governments to set up monetary systems based on silk, other fabrics, and daily items akin to barter which hampered long-distance trade in the Tang dynasty and harmed the national economy. The people that had the largest benefit from the introduction of flying cash were tea merchants and these merchant helped improve the trade between the capital and the regions.

Originally the government of the Tang dynasty was less than receptive to the idea of bills of exchange and had attempted banning them on multiple occasions, but in 812 flying cash were officially accepted as a valid means of exchange. After the government had accepted these bills the supervision of flying cash was handled by the Ministry of Revenue (戶部), the Tax Bureau (度支司), and the Salt Monopoly Bureau (鹽錢司). The state began printing their own notes. Flying cash would remain in use until the early period of the Song dynasty.[4]


Flying cash was never originally meant to be used as legal tender and, therefore, their circulation was limited. However, since they could be exchanged for hard currency at the capital with an exchange fee of 100 wén per 1000 wén, they were traded amongst merchants as if they were currency. It was not until the Song dynasty and subsequent Jin occupation that paper money was officially established as a legal tender. Eventually, the Song Dynasty began to issue more notes to pay its bills- a practice that ultimately contributed to runaway inflation.[5] The use of paper money spread westward through Mongol traders and, by 1661, European countries were printing paper currency.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yang, Lien-sheng (1971). Money and Credit in China (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 51–52. ISBN 0-674-58300-0.
  2. ^ Inner Mongolian Numismatic Research Institute (1992). A Compilation of Pictures of Chinese Ancient Paper Money (Bilingual ed.). Beijing: The China Finance Publishing House. p. 3. ISBN 7-5049-0861-4.
  3. ^ Ouyang, Xiu. "New Book of Tang". Chinese Notes. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  4. ^ "feiqian 飛錢, bills of exchange". 2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald - - An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art. 10 May 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  5. ^ Pollard, Elizabeth (2015). Worlds Together Worlds Apart. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 352. ISBN 978-0-393-92207-3.


  • Kang Guohong (康國宏) (1997). "Feiqian (飛錢)", in Men Kui (門巋), Zhang Yanqin (張燕瑾), ed. Zhonghua guocui da cidian (中華國粹大辭典) (Xianggang: Guoji wenhua chuban gongsi), 104. (in Chinese)
  • Yao Enquan (姚恩權) (1993). "Feiqian (飛錢)", in Shi Quanchang 石泉長, ed. Zhonghua baike yaolan (中華百科要覽) (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 85. (in Chinese)
  • Zhou Fazeng (周發增), Chen Longtao (陳隆濤), Qi Jixiang (齊吉祥), ed. (1998). Zhongguo gudai zhengzhi zhidu shi cidian (中國古代政治制度史辭典) (Beijing: Shoudu shifan daxue chubanshe), 362. (in Chinese)