Ancient 2,000-year-old grain invoices found in China

(ORDO NEWS) — Three narrow bamboo planks found in excavations in central China’s Hunan province have been identified as invoices for storing grain, shedding light on China’s official food management practices some 2,000 years ago, Xinhua news agency reported Sept. 14.

The tablets found at the Tuzishan relic excavation site in Yiyang City date from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) and were made by the granary in triplicate for three batches.

Each of the tablets is 24.7 cm long, 1.1 cm wide and 0.5 cm deep. They display information such as the name of the owner, the weight and type of grain stored, the names of the granary worker and the caretaker who witnessed the transfer process, as well as the date of transmission.

Excavation team leader Zhang Chunlong said the planks are the oldest triplicate forms ever found in China, indicating that grain management in Yiyang was well regulated at the time.

“Ancient receipts are of a similar nature to modern invoices, which can also be used as accounting records for reconciliation and management,” said Chen Ming, associate professor of accounting at Hunan University.

After a series of conservation processes, the peeled bamboo boards were archived for future research and exhibitions.

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