An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

piao 票, slip notes

Jan 27, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Slip notes (piao 票) were short notices in official communication used during the Ming 明 (1368-1644) and Qing 清 (1644-1911) periods, mainly for local purposes, and as a kind of certificate for officials entrusted with special duties. In the early Qing period, slip notes were also used as documents for everyday orders. Typical examples of special orders were military notes (bingpiao 兵票), urgent notes (huopiao 火票) or dispatch notes (chaipiao 差票). They imitated the much more formal express orders (paiwen 牌文), not just in purpose, but also in the formalities, like the printed inscription xianpai 憲牌 or xinpai 信牌, or the name of the issuing unit. However, slip notes were not sealed and did not bear a "number" (bianhao 編號). From the mid-Qing period on, slip notes were replaced by formal letters (zhawen 札文).

The expression slip (piao 票) was also used for certain documents of internal communication in the central government, for instance, for draft notes (piaoqian 票簽, piaoni 票擬) of the Grand Secretariat (neige 內閣) on incoming memorials to the throne. During the late Ming period, so-called "brush-wielding" chief eunuchs of the Directorate of Ceremonial (silijian bingbi taijian 司禮監秉筆太監) used to draft the imperial answer, while the Qing dynasty used academicians or grand academicians (daxueshi 大學士) in the Document Registry (piaoqianchu 票簽處) of the Grand Secretariat. After the introduction of the State Council (junjichu 軍機處), the responsibility for the preparation of imperials rescripts was laid into the hands of this institution.

These notes were drafts for imperial answers (pida 批答) to requests or petitions in memorials. These draft notes had a defined format of 7 × 4 inches (cun), and were had often Chinese (right) and Manchu versions (left). The endorsed answer was during the Ming period therefore called piaozhi 票旨, tiaozhi 條旨 or diaozhi 調旨.

Liu Yunguo 劉運國, Liang Shipeng 梁式朋, eds. (1992). Gongwen da cidian 公文大辭典 (Beijing: Dianzi keji daxue chubanshe), 364.
Lü Zongli 呂宗力, ed. (1994). Zhongguo lidai guanzhi da cidian 中國歷代官制大辭典 (Beijing: Beijing chubanshe), 734.
Wang Zhibin 王志彬, ed. (2002). Xinbian gongwen yuyong cidian 新編公文語用詞典 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 316.
Zhang Wode 張我德 (1993). "Guanfu wanglai wenshu 官府往來文書", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Tushuguanxue qingbaoxue dang'anxue 圖書館學·情報學·檔案學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 144.