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The development of Chinese accountingand bookkeeping before 1850:insights from the Tŏng Tài Shēngbusiness account books (1798-1850)

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  • Yuan, Weipeng
  • Macve, Richard
  • Ma, Debin

Abstract

Claims have repeatedly been made for the importance of double-entry bookkeeping (‘DEB’) for capitalism’s development in the West, so it is valuable to explore the book-keeping and accounting practices of economically successful organizations elsewhere. Our paper reports our exploration into the original account books contained in the archive of Tŏng Tài Shēng (‘TTS’), a substantial Chinese ‘grocery / merchant-banking’ business whose surviving books span a period from the late 18th century to the middle of the 19th century. The TTS archive is the most complete and integrated surviving merchant archive from before China’s forced opening to the West in the mid-19th century. Our findings about its accounting processes and records (of which we give illustrations) shed critical light on the nature of indigenous Chinese bookkeeping and business organization and on the larger questions about Chinese commercial culture and the path of its development, for comparison with those about the West. We find no evidence in the surviving account books of TTS to support previous arguments in the literature that at this period Chinese accounting practice for successful businesses (must have) had its own 'Chinese double entry bookkeeping' ('CDEB') comparable to Western DEB.

Suggested Citation

  • Yuan, Weipeng & Macve, Richard & Ma, Debin, 2017. "The development of Chinese accountingand bookkeeping before 1850:insights from the Tŏng Tài Shēngbusiness account books (1798-1850)," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 68321, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:68321
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Chinese accounting archives of late Qīng era; Chinese business history; Sūzhōu măzì; double-entry bookkeeping (DEB);
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • M40 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - General

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