Written on February 21, 2011 • Last edit: April 27, 2011
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Flag of China
China is the largest country in Asia. It has the world's biggest population.

The Chinese Empire was flourishing when the Qing took power in 1644. This Manchu dynasty declined after the mid-19th century while getting strong pressure from United Kingdom, United States, Japan and France. When Empress Cixi died in 1908, the republicans took over and proclaimed the Republic of China in 1912. The Communist Party of China led by Mao Zedong fought the Republic and, ultimately, the Republican leader Chiang Kai-shek moved to Taiwan. The People's Republic of China was proclaimed in 1949.

Map of China


Except for a few trials with paper money, China kept the same monetary system from the Empire creation in 3rd century BC until 1889. This system was based on two metals: copper or bronze coins on one hand, called "cash", and on the other hand, silver coins or bullions, called "sycee", the weight of which made the value.

Cash were most often coins cast with copper, bronze or brass. They were round and holed. The holes allowed to string them by 100 or 1000. Holes were square in order to fix and trim them after casting.

Sycee usually weighted 1 liang (or tael), that is 36 grams. One tael is split in several units:
1 tael = 10 mace = 100 candareens = 1000 li.

The yuan is brought in 1889, at par with the Mexican peso which was largely used in the region. It was worth a silver weight of 7 mace and 2 candareens. The yuan sub-units are as follow: 1 yuan (元) = 10 jiao (角) = 100 fen (分) = 1000 cash (文). During the Japanese occupation, several coins appeared, called yen. The yuan renminbi ("people's money" in Chinese) was created in 1949. It is split in 10 jiao or 100 fen.

Chinese and Manchu Languages

Chinese glossary

Chinese string Transcription Translation
中华人民共和国 Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo People's Republic of China
中国人民银行 Zhongguo Renmin Yinhang People's Bank of China
國民華中 Zhonghuá Mínguó Republic of China
元 ou 圓 Yuan Yuan, dollar
Jiao 1/10th yuan
Fen 1/100th yuan
Cash 1/1000th yuan
Nián Year
寶通 Tongbao Money

Chinese figures

Arabic numeral 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 100 1000 10000
Simple form
Financial form
Transcription yi èr san wu liù qi ba jiu shí bai qian wàn
12 : 二十
45 : 五十四

Decipher a cash

Cash usually show only 2 pieces of information: On one side the emperor's name (two Chinese signs, vertically printed) and the "money" mark in Chinese (寶通, tongbao). On the other side, the mint mark in Manchu writing.

Emperor Transcription Reigning Dates
順治 Shùnzhì 1643-1661
康熙 Kangxi 1661-1722
雍正 Yongzhèng 1722-1735
乾隆 Qiánlóng 1735-1796
嘉慶 Jiaqìng 1796-1820
道光 Dàoguang 1820-1850
咸豐 Xiánfeng 1850-1861
同治 Tóngzhì 1861-1875
光緒 Guangxù 1875-1908
宣統 Xuantong 1908-1924

Manchu writes top to bottom and columns read left to right. Below chart lists the mint marks. Manchu names are printed horizontally here. You need to flip your head to the left for correct reading.
Mint Transcription City Province
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠴᡳᠣᠸᠠᠨ Boo Ciowan BeijingBeijing
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠶᡠᠸᠠᠨ Boo Yuwan BeijingBeijing
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠠᠨ Boo An ? Anhui
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠵᡝ Boo Je Hangzhou Zhejiang
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡷᡳ Boo Jy Baoding Hebei
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡬᡳ Boo Gi ?
Hebei (1851-1861)
Jilin (afterward)
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠵᡳᠶᡝᠨ Boo Jiyen Tianjin Tianjin
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡩᡝ Boo De Chengde Hebei
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡶᡠᠩ Boo Fung Shenyang (Fengtian) Liaoning
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡶᡠ Boo Fu Fuzhou Fujian
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡥᠣ Boo Ho Kaifeng Henan
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠨᠠᠨ Boo Nan Changsha Hunan
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡠ Boo U Wuchang Hubei
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡤᡠᠩ Boo Gung Kunshan Jiangsu
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠴᠠᠩ Boo Chang Nanchang Jiangxi
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠰᡠ Boo Su Suzhou Jiangsu
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡤᡠᡳ Boo Gui Kuelin Jiangxi
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡤᡠᠸᠠᠩ Boo Guwang Canton Canton
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡤᡳᠶᠠᠨ Boo Giyan Guiyang Guizhou
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠵᡳᠨ Boo Jin Taiyuan Shanxi
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠵᡳ Boo Ji Jinan Shandong
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠴᡠᠸᠠᠨ Boo Cuwan Chengdu Sichuan
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠰᠠᠨ Boo San Xi'an Shaanxi
ᠠᡴᠰᡠ Aksu Aksu Xinjiang
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠶᡳ Boo Yi Ili Xinjiang
ᡴᠠᠰᡥᡤᠠᡵ Kashgar Kashgar Xinjiang
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡩᡳ Boo Di Ürümqi Xinjiang
ᡠᠰᡥᡳ Ushi ? Xinjiang
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡨᠠᡳ Boo Tai Taiwan
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠶᠣᠨᠨ Boo Yonn Kunming Yunnan
ᠪᠣᠣ ᡩᠣᠩ Boo Dong ? Yunnan
ᠪᠣᠣ ᠵᡳᠩ Boo Jing ? Hubei
Avers Revers
This coin was minted during emperor Guangxù reign (光緒), that is years 1875-1908. The mint name is Boo Guwang (ᠪᠣᠣ ᡤᡠᠸᠠᠩ) in Guangzhou.


In the Republic days (1912-1949), date was measured from the Republic's start as follow: 年XXX國民華中. That is year (年) XXX of the Republic of China (國民華中). Add 1911 in order to convert to the Gregorian calendar.
Example: 年四十二國民華中 means "year 24 of the Republic of China", or 1935 by the Gregorian calendar.

National Symbols

Coat of arms of the People's Republic of China

This coat of arms was approved on September 20, 1950. It shows on many coins since 1955. It displays Tiananmen Gate (literally Gate of heavenly peace), the entrance gate of the Forbidden City from the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Above this gate are the five stars found on the national flag. The largest star represents the Communist Party of China, while the four smaller stars represent the four social classes as defined in Maoism. The outer circle contains sheaves of wheat and the inner sheaves of rice symbolizing agriculture. At the center of the bottom portion of the border is a cog-wheel that represents the industrial workers.

(Map and pictures provided by Wikipedia)