The Yuan (CYN): Converter, Exchange Rates and History
| Examples of Chinese Currency Notes
| 100 Yuan Note - Front
||100 Yuan Note - Back|
| 50 Yuan Note - Front
|| 50 Yuan Note - Back|
| 20 Yaun Note - Front
|| 20 Yuan Note - Back|
| 10 Yuan Note - Front
|| 10 Yuan Note - Back|
| 5 Yuan Note - Front
|| 5 Yuan Note - Back|
The Renminbi (RMB) is the official currency of the People's Republic of China (PRC). In Chinese, "Renminbi" means people's money and is issued by the People's Bank of China - the country's official monetary authority. It is used as the legal tender throughout the country except for Hong Kong and Macau, Chinas two Special Administrative Regions (SAR). The Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) and Macau Pataca (MOP or P) are the official currencies used in these two regions. Although the Renminbi (RMB) is not the legal currency in either of the two SAR's, it is sometimes accepted.
The Renminbi is also called the Chinese Yuan, which is where the official abbreviation CNY (¥) is derived. It is circulated as Yuan, Jiao, and Fen, which functions in the same way as dollars, cents, and pennies. One Yuan is equal to ten Jiao, while one Jiao is equal to ten Fen. In Cantonese, spoken in Hong Kong, Jiao and Fen are also called ho and sin respectively. In Chinese, Yuan literally means round, which was adopted from the shape of the coins. Coins are available as one Yuan, five Jiao, and one Jiao. Bank notes come in ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥20, ¥50, ¥100 denominations of different sizes and colours. In spoken Chinese, the Yuan is often referred to as the "kuai" and the Jiao as the "mao".
History of the Chinese Currency
The history of Chinese coinage can be traced back to the Zhang Dynasty (1500 -1045 B.C.) when the Cowrie shell was accepted as a form of currency. The Chinese regarded the Cowrie shell as an origin of the divine and was often worn as an amulet to protect against evil.
Shells made of bone, stone, wood, lead, and copper have also been found, confirming that Cowrie shells were in fact an accepted currency in ancient times. It's believed this was the first use of 'money' in Chinese history.
Excavation of the Fuhao Tombs - near the city of Anyang in the province of Henan (show link to map) - revealed what is thought to be the world's first metal coins dating back to before 900 BCE. These coins were bronze or iron copies of cowry shells and became known as bronze shells.
During the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770 BC - 256 BC) Cowrie shells were, for the most part, replaced by bronze or bone imitations carved in the shape of shells. This continued until the Yuan (1271-1368 AD) and Ming Dynasties (1368-1644 AD) in certain parts of Yunnan Province.
During the Warring States Period (480 BCE to 221BCE), bronze was extensively used in the manufacture of weapons. It was also during this time that bronze Cowrie shells evolved into shapes resembling everyday farming tools.
The Bubi, for example, was a coin fashioned like an ancient implement similar to a spade used for digging. Another, the Dao or knife money was a coin similar to the shape of a knife and at one time was equal to about 5 000 bronze coins. Once considered one of the most beautiful coins of ancient China, the Dao was also worn as a charm.
In 221 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huang unified China by conquering all the other "warring states". He declared the standardization of various important measurements including the monetary system. Instead of the Cowrie shells and "money tools", a unified monetary system will be used. This new monetary system would be a two-tier system composed of the shang bi, a higher form of currency made of gold, and xia bi, the lower form of currency made of bronze. These coins were round with a square hole in the center; a design used until the 20th century.
The low value of a single xia bi encouraged people to string them together - using the hole in the center- making them collectively more practical and valuable as a trading currency.
By the 9th century, the invention of paper lead to the introduction of paper money, which in time replaced the heavy and inconvenient coin.
The Song Dynasty (960-1279AD) was the first to introduce different types of paper money. By the 12th century, notes became the main form of currency in China. However, it was Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368AD) who introduced the Chao, which became the world's first Fiat currency - money declared by the government as legal tender. Unfortunately, the Yuan government attempted to float their currency without the backing of silver or gold and this led to persistent inflation problems right up to the end of the Yuan Dynasty's rule.
In the late Middle-Ages (Late Imperial China period), the currency system was again revised. This time it was linked to both silver and copper with 1 teal equaling 10 mace, which equaled 100 candareens, which was made up of 1000 li. The revision also saw the minting of copper coins called wens.
Between 1914 and 1935, silver coins were introduced. However, during the late 1930's, the ever-rising price of silver alerted the Chinese authorities to a possible collapse of their currency. As a result, several reforms were introduced resulting in the present day currency system.
The Chinese Currency Today
The Renminbi made its first appearance as a bank note only (no coins) in December of 1948, nearly a year before the Communist takeover of China. Its circulation was limited to the regions under communist control and it replaced all other forms of currency in use at the time.
Following the official takeover of China in October 1948, the new Chinese Communist Party government made it a priority to control the hyperinflation they inherited from the previous Kuomintang administration. This was finally achieved in 1955, which lead to the re-evaluation of the Chinese currency. The new Yuan was valued at 10 000 to 1 (one new Yuan was worth 10 000 of its predecessors). The revaluation of the currency coincided with the introduction of the second edition of the Renminbi in 1955. The third series of the currency was issued in April of 1962 using multicolored notes and modern printing techniques.
Up until 1978, the Chinese economy was operated as a command economy with strict foreign controls and unrealistic exchange rates when compared to Western currencies. With the opening up of the economy in 1978 a dual track currency system was introduced. This policy allowed the domestic use of the Renminbi only, while all foreigners were forced to use foreign exchange certificates. The unrealistic exchange rates encouraged a strong black market in currency transactions. However, in the late 1980's to early 1990's - following the government shift to market-driven economics - the dual track system was abolished and the currency was set at realistic exchange rates.
In 1987, a fourth series of currency notes was issued using updated printing techniques like magnetic and fluorescent inks and watermark security features. The fifth and the latest series of bank notes, issued in 1999, depict Chairman Mao Zedong on the face of each note.
Recently, on July 8, 2008, a special limited edition of the 10 Yuan note was issued to celebrate the Beijing Olympics. These notes did not remain in use for long as they became a collector's item and disappeared from circulation. The only coins in use today are the largest 1 Yuan, the brass 5 Jiao and the 1 Jiao made from aluminum.
All currency is issued by China's Central Bank, the People's Bank of China (PBOC). Different sizes and colors make it easy to identify the various denominations of the Yuan note. They range in size from the smallest ¥1 to the largest ¥100. The one and five Yuan notes are the same width at 63mm/2.48", as are the slightly wider ¥10, ¥20 and ¥50 notes at 70mm/2.76". The ¥100 is the widest of them all at 77mm/3.03". Length wise the ¥1 is the shortest at 130mm and as each note increases in value, its length increases by 5mm/0.196" ending with the longest ¥100 note at 155mm/6.10".
The notes can also be identified by their colour patterns and pictures. On the face of every note, a portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong appears on the right hand side. The value of the note is displayed slightly left of centre and also in the right hand corner. A different flower is printed under each banknote's value. The rear side of each note shows a different scenic or historical site. The notes value appears in all corners except in the right bottom.
- 1 Yuan - Olive green with a pale orange accent. The back features the Xihu
Lake in the city of Hangzhou.
- 5 Yuan - Main color is purple with some tan, blue and feint pink detail. The
reverse of this note shows the Taishin Mountain - a UNESCO heritage site - in China's eastern Shandong Province.
- 10 Yuan - Blue with gray-green and pink bleeding into each other in a
center band. The reverse shows the Three Gorges, a scenic area along the Yangtze River.
- 20 Yuan - Orange and brown with accents of turquoise and pink. The back
shows the Lijiang River near the city of Guilin in Southern China.
- 50 Yuan - Forest green with a hint of purple. The Potala Palace - once
the residence of the Dalai Lama - in Lhasa, Tibet can be found on the back.
- 100 Yuan - It is mostly red with some yellow, orange and blue. The reverse
side displays the Great Hall of the People found in the Western side of Tiananmen Square.