It is well known that jiaozi, world's earliest paper money, originated in China some 800 years ago. But latest research indicate that Jews assisted ancient Chinese in doing this.
Jiaozi, also named jiaochao, appeared in China in 1154 during the reign of the Jin regime (1115-1234).
It was believed in the past that Jin regime hired coining workers of Song (960-1279), Jin's preceding dynasty, to make the paper notes.
But Qiu Shiyu, researcher of the Harbin Academy of Sciences and expert of Jin history, concluded that Jews used to take part in the work of designing jiaozi, based on his study of a copper printing plate left behind from the Jin regime.
Made of coarse jute paper, jiaozi was too hard to be preserved and not a piece of such paper has been discovered so far. The copper printing plate used during the Zhenyou period (1213- 1217) of the Jin dynasty is kept in the Museum of the Chinese History now, has become the only proof to tell the identity of jiaozi.
Qiu said that the brim area along the four sides of the plate presents a typical pattern of fanye, which only belongs to the Jewish nation. The pattern has more or less influenced the design of many nations' paper notes.
Historical materials say that a group of Jewish people came to China for trading in the middle of the 10th century. Most of them reached what is known today as Kaifeng in Henan Province, the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and the most prosperous business metropolis at that time.
After the Nuzhen people set up the Jin kingdom in the middle of the 12th century, they took the Jews back to their capital city of Shangjing, which today is the city of Acheng in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
Nuzhen people were deeply impressed by Jew's business talent.
The group of Jewish people not only printed jiaozi for China, but also helped Jin to recoin the sycee that had been prevailing in China for several thousand years into silver coins named baohuo and made them the legal tender.
It was more surprising that a special association appeared later on to manage the currency circulation, adjust the rate of exchange between sycee and copper coins or paper notes. This might be considered the rudiment banking system, according to Qiu.
Jewish people had important roles in the governmental departments in the businesses of taxation, financing and trading, according to Qiu's study, which revealed that "they were possibly omnipotent people," said Qiu.
Jews enjoyed great honor for their talent and hard work. During the reign of Jin Shizong (1161-1189), the central government established a synagogue for them, which was China's earliest church of its kind.
Jewish people perfectly preserved their own custom though they used to travel across the world. But the group of Jews that came to China some 800 years ago seemed to be assimilated into Chinese tradition, for none of their descendants has been found in China, said Qiu.
(People's Daily 12/15/2000)