DescriptionThe earliest known origins of the abacus reach back in time to the Salamis Tablet, a Babylonian counting frame from about 300 BC. Such frames were used by merchants, often just line or sticks in the sand with pebbles used to mark the quantities. It is useful to note that the abacus is not a calculator per se, but a way to keep track of intermediate results while performing calculations in one’s head.
The Chinese abacus (also called “Suan Pan” 算盘) was known by at least 190 AD, as it is described in a book from that year. This particular abacus, of high quality with silver inlays, is from Rishengchang Piaohao, the first draft bank in China, and was first used during the Qing Dynasty in 1825. At its peak in the nineteenth century, this bank had branches in major cities across China and processed nearly half of Chinese domestic capital flows.