The rise and fall of paper money in Yuan China, 1260–1368

Hanhui Guan, Nuno Palma, Meng Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following the Mongol invasion of China, the Yuan (1260–1368) dynasty was the first political regime in history able to deploy paper money as the sole legal tender. Drawing on a new dataset on money issues, imperial grants, and prices, we show that a silver standard initially consolidated the Chinese currency market. However, persistent fiscal pressures eventually compelled rulers to ease the monetary standard, and a fiat standard was adopted, leading to inflation levels which doubled the price level in less than a decade. We show that military pressure generated fiscal demands which led to over-issuance, and we reject the role of excessive imperial grants in triggering the over-issue of money.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomic History Review
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2024


  • Paper money
  • silver standard
  • fiat money
  • Yuan China


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