This section is from the book "Chinese Currency And Banking", by Srinivas R. Wagel. Also available from Amazon: Chinese currency and banking.
The history of banking in this country is lost in the mist of obscurity of the past. The system of banking is very ancient; the use of bills of exchange is as old as the art of printing in China and the needs of this great Empire led to the riches of the trading class. Italian merchants learned in China the art of book-keeping, as combined with banking. China was several centuries ahead of Europe in the art of banking. Probably, as Edkins says, China had as much to do with the origin of the European bills of exchange as of that of printing books in Europe. When money had to be transferred in this country from any place to the capital, bankers were ready to see that it was safely conveyed. Before the age of silver currency in the Tang dynasty the Hwei P'ieau came into use as a bill of credit. Under the Wu Tai and Sung dynasties the general use of printed books was attended by that of blank forms among traders. The shop-keeper sent with goods bought from him the Fa P'iau, containing an invoice or list of goods supplied to the customer. A boat-master arriving at his destination with freight took with him to the trader a Ti Hwo-tan. There was also the Tsang Kwo-tan, the manifest or cargo certificate giving a detail of all the goods brought by that vessel. The merchant or his assistants, who took the goods away, had with them the Hie Tsai-tan or delivery order.