700-year-old Trademark Unearthed

Chinese archaeologists announced recently that they have found the earliest paper package commercial in the world.

The two pieces of wrapping paper, dating back to about 700 years ago, found in an ancient tomb in Yuanling County in central China's Hunan Province, are presumed to be the earliest paper package ads, much older than similar ads in the west.

"That means China was the first country in the world to use paper advertisements and the first to use trade marks on commodities," said Cao Yannong, a researcher for the China Cultural Relics Association.

When they were unearthed, the two pieces of wrapping paper of the same size were folded and put together in a trousseaux case, as funerary objects for the tomb's owners, a couple in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

According to the folds and the red powder remains on the paper, archaeologists presume that they were used to wrap pigment of oil paint.

These two pieces of quadrate paper, 33.5 centimeters in length, 25.5 centimeter in width, are made from the barks of mulberry. Elaborate black patterns, such as the forms of lotuses and clouds, are decorated on the paper.

There are 70 Chinese characters on the top right of the paper which describe the variety, quality and characteristics of the commodity, and the address of the store is also printed on the paper. Those are quite similar features to modern ads.

Some of the sentences are especially similar to modern ads. For example "Compared with other oil paints, the tint of our product is unique," which would attract consumers' attention.

A red mark on the paper was probably an anti-fake mark, said Cao, adding that another mark in the shape of a floral basket on the paper might be the trade mark.

The preconditions for paper package ads, paper-making and printing, appeared in China much earlier than the west. In China, paper-making can be traced back to AD 105, when Ts'ai Lun first created a sheet of paper; as to printing, in 9th century China already had wood block printing.

While in the west, paper was taken to Europe in the 12th century, and the invention of typography by Gutenberg was in about 15th century. Oral advertisements were more popular until the invention of the printing press in 1450.

According to Cao, these two pieces of wrapping paper, blending packaging, an advertisement and a trade mark together, had some of the major characters of modern package commercials.

The appearance of paper package ads was accompanied with prosperous commercial trading at that time. It also showed that ancient Chinese people had a better awareness of advertisements than other regions in the world, said Cao.

However, their archaeological significance was not fully realized, when the two pieces of paper were unearthed from the couple's tomb in 1985.

Well-preserved clothing, silk, paper currency circulated during the reign of Kublai Khan in the Yuan Dynasty, and some gold and silver goods were also found in the tomb.

Experts say the history of Chinese ads can be traced back to as ancient times as the Han Dynasty (BC206-220AD). In the bronze mirrors made at that time, there were inscriptions for publicizing the commodity. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), ads in various forms appeared.

However, modern ads didn't appear in China until 19th century, and the real thriving of this practice had to wait until 1978, when China carried on its economic reform and adopted a policy of opening to the outside world.

(Xinhua News Agency 07/24/2001)

In This Series



Web Link

Copyright 2001 China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-68326688