Contracts on the Silk Road

This model contract, also called an exemplar, is evidence of the use of contract templates on the Silk Road in the nineteenth century.

May 15, 2017
Exemplar contract from the Silk Road
In this model contract, or exemplar, from the nineteenth century, the character si 厶 (“blank to be filled in”) indicates a place in which the scribe should insert characters. The first instance appears on the first line, seven characters down, after a red punctuation mark, which reads “blank-to-be-filled-in last-name given-name] Model contracts, or exemplars, were in use in the nineteenth century.

“During the Tang dynasty (618-907), people from multiple countries encountered each other in the different oases along the Silk Road. Even though they did not speak the same language, and their homelands had different legal traditions, they sometimes did business together and recorded the terms of their agreements. As a result, surviving contracts shed considerable light on international finance in this early period.”

This case study includes rare images from Yale University Library’s database of over 11,000 images of major sites in the Silk Road region. 

- From Yale School of Management Case Study #13-019, “Contracts on the Silk Road.”