Bank of China Limited (BOC) SSE: 601988 SEHK: 3988 (simplified Chinese: 中国银行; traditional Chinese: 中國銀行; pinyin: Zhōngguó Yínháng; often abbreviated as 中銀 or 中行) is one of the big four state-owned commercial banks of the People's Republic of China. It was founded in 1912 by the Government of the Republic of China, to replace the Government Bank of Imperial China. It is the oldest bank in China. From its establishment until 1942, it issued banknotes on behalf of the Government of the Republic of China along with the Big Four banks of the period: the Central Bank of China, Farmers Bank of China and Bank of Communications. Although it initially functioned as the Chinese central bank, in 1948 the People's Bank of China replaced it in that role. Subsequently, BOC became a purely commercial bank.