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During the Shang (1600–1050 BC) and Zhou (1050–256 BC) dynasties of ancient China, documents were ordinarily written on bone or bamboo (on tablets or on bamboo strips sewn and rolled together into scrolls), making them very heavy, awkward, and hard to transport.

In the pre-Columbian Americas, a type of early bark paper known as amate was used as a folded writing material for codices.

The earliest sample of amate was found at Huitzilapa near the Magdalena Municipality, Jalisco, Mexico, belonging to the shaft tomb culture.

The production process may have originated from the practice of pounding and stirring rags in water, after which the matted fibres were collected on a mat.

The bark of Paper Mulberry was particularly valued and high quality paper was developed in the late Han period using the bark of tan (檀; sandalwood).

[the Chinese] do not wash themselves with water when they have done their necessities; but they only wipe themselves with paper".

During the Tang dynasty (618–907) paper was folded and sewn into square bags to preserve the flavor of tea.But thereafter the advantage swung the other way, since papyrus, which is composed of organic material not as highly processed as paper, was prone to splitting and deterioration at a much greater rate; this may be why vellum eventually came to dominate, especially in the harsher climate of Northern Europe.Paper, by contrast, gave a good, uniform writing surface that could be smoothly rolled and unrolled without damage, while remaining relatively durable.In the same period, it was written that tea was served from baskets with multi-colored paper cups and paper napkins of different size and shape.During the Song dynasty (960–1279) the government produced the world's first known paper-printed money, or banknote (see Jiaozi and Huizi).However, the discovery of specimens bearing written Chinese characters in 2006 at Fangmatan in north-east China's Gansu Province suggests that paper was in use by the ancient Chinese military more than 100 years before Cai, in 8 BC, and possibly much earlier as the map fragment found at the Fangmatan tomb site dates from the early 2nd century BC.

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