Who Are On The Chinese Money Of All Time?
Who Are On The Chinese Money Of All Time?

Chinese currency is a hot topic these days for many reasons. Not only does it define the state of one of the world's biggest economic superpowers, but it is also central to one of the most debated issues involving China today—its perceived mercantilist policy of artificial undervaluation of its currency against the U.S. dollar to give its exports an unfair price advantage.

Chinese money comes by two names: the Chinese Yuan (CNY) and the people's renminbi (RMB). The distinction is subtle: while the renminbi is the official currency of China, the yuan is the principal unit of account for that currency.

The history of the Chinese Yuan / Renminbi

When talking about China, we are referring to one of the world’s oldest and richest cultures which trace back thousands of years ago. The country was one of the pioneers to create currency in order to replace barter. Thus, its currency history is something that has a long interesting timeline enriched with curious facts that definitely worth a deeper look.

The first objects used as currency by the Chinese were seashells. From these shells, China developed its barter system, introduced a wide variety of objects that could be used as money (fabrics and knives, for instance), and, later on, bronze coins would be created as substitutes for those objects.

The currency called Yuan was introduced in 1889, influenced by the Spanish currency “peso”. By that time, the peso was widespread in South East Asia because of the Spanish presence in Guan and Philippines. Then, in 1903, the government started issuing other coins in the Yuan currency system. These were brass 1 cash, copper coins in the denominations of 2, 5, 10 and 20 and silver coins in 1, 2, and 5 cash.

The modern Yuan (CNY) which is also called Renminbi (RMB) appeared with the foundation of the People’s Bank of China, being issued in 1949. The translation of Renminbi is “people’s currency” and new stages of the Yuan came afterwards, like in 1962 when a third version of the coin was issued.

Finally, the fourth series of the Yuan took place between 1987 and 1997, accompanying China’s rapid development. The increase of retail sales in both, rural and urban areas, and the opening-up policy adopted by the country fostered the application of reforms that positively impacted the currency. Thus, certain upgrades and breakthroughs in the design, style and printing technique happened to the Renminbi.

Current Chinese yuan banknotes and coins

The basic unit of this currency is the yuan, which in Chinese is represented by the symbol «元». A yuan is divided into 10 Chinese jiǎo: 角. A jiǎo is subdivided into 10 fēn: 分.

Today, banknotes in denominations of 1, 2, and 5 jiǎo, and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 yuan are in circulation.

Regarding coins, denominations of 1, 2 and 5 fēn, 1 and 5 jiǎo, and 1 yuan are in use.

Who are on Chinese banknotes?

Aside from its practical value, money is made distinctive by the culture in which it rises and evolves. Chinese money is no different, with the bank notes proudly displaying the face of Mao Zedong as a testament to China's recent history.

Below is the fifth series of banknotes, commissioned in 1999, with the head of Mao Zedong on the front, and the fourth series of jiao notes. The 2 jiao note is now seldom seen.

100 Yuan (Reverse Image: The Great Hall of the People, Beijing)

Photo: shoptienthegioi
Photo: shoptienthegioi

The 100-yuan banknote has two types -- one in gray blue which debuted in 1990 while the other in red which was first released in 1999. The 1990-type note has a portrait of four former Chinese leaders, namely Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi and ZhuDe, on its obverse while its reverse is the Jinggangshan Mountain in South China. Very few of the 1990-type 100-yuan paper notes are currently circulated in China.

The obverse of the 1999-type 100-yuan notes is a portrait of Mao Zedong while a picture of the Great Hall of the People is printed on the reverse.

50 Yuan (Reverse Image: The Potala Palace, Lhasa)

Photo: alamy
Photo: alamy

The 50-yuan banknote has two types -- one in yellow and pink debuted in 1990 while the other in green was issued in 1999. The former type has a portrait of an intellectual, a farmer and a worker on its obverse while its reverse features the Hukou Waterfall on the Yellow River. The 1999-type banknote is currently much more widely circulated. Its obverse is a portrait of Mao Zedong and its reverse is the landmark Potala Palace in Lhasa.

20 Yuan (Reverse Image: The Li River, Guilin)

Photo: inkythuatso
Photo: inkythuatso

The 20-yuan banknote, which debuted in 1999, has a portrait of Mao Zedong and its reverse features a drawing of the scenic Lijiang River in South China.

10 Yuan (Reverse Image: The Yangtze Three Gorges, Central China)

Photo: tienvabac
Photo: tienvabac

The 10-yuan banknote also has two types -- the ordinary one debuted in 1999 while the special note was issued on July 8 by the central bank to mark the Beijing Olympic Games. The obverse of the ordinary one is a portrait of Mao Zedong while its reverse is the drawing of the scenic Three Gorges. The special banknote issued on July 8 has a picture of the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, on its obverse, while its reverse features the famous ancient Greek marble statue of a discus-thrower, Discobolus, portraits of athletes, and the Arabic numeral "2008".

5 Yuan (Reverse Image: Mount Tai, Shandong Province)

Photo: ebay
Photo: ebay

The 5-yuan banknote also has two types, the brown one designed and issued in 1980 and the purple one in 1999. The obverse of the 1980-type is a portrait of two minority people -- a Tibetan woman and a Muslim man, while the reverse is a scenic picture of the Yangtze River, the country's longest one. The obverse of the 1999-type is a portrait of Mao Zedong and the reverse is Taishan Maintain, a mountain in east China's Shandong province listed by UNESCO as a world natural and cultural heritage.

1 Yuan (Reverse Image: “Three Ponds Reflecting the Moon”, West Lake, Hangzhou)

Photo: Google site
Photo: Google site

The green-colored banknote of ¥1 Yuan has the portrait of Mao Zedong on the front side, along with an orchid flower. The backside of the 1 Renminbi note shows a view of the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, in West Lake, Hangzhou.

5 Jiao and 1 Jiao (Front: Emblem of the PRC, Reverse Images: Chinese Minority Faces)

Photo: traiphieuchinhphu
Photo: traiphieuchinhphu

One yuan is divided into 10 jiao. One jiao is divided into 10 fen, pennies in English. The largest denomination of the renminbi is the 100 yuan note. The smallest is the 1 fen coin or note. RMB is issued both in notes and coins. The paper denominations include100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 yuan; 5, 2 and 1 jiao; and 5, 2 and 1 fen. The denominations of coins are 1 yuan; 5, 2 and 1 jiao; and 5,2 and 1 fen.

Who are on Chinese Coins?

Photo: ebay
Photo: ebay

1 Yuan (Reverse Image: Chrysanthemum)

5 Jiao (Reverse Image: Lotus)

1 Jiao (Reverse Image: Orchid)

Facts you (probably) did not know about Chinese money

1. The first bronze pieces that were used in China as currency, around the 7th-6th centuries BC, were spade-shaped coins.

2. The first round coin appeared during the 5-4th century BC. The coinage in China then underwent a transition in means of payment, and a new shape of coins was cast in the form of a round disc with a hole in the center. The holed disc remained the basic shape of Chinese coins until the 20th century.

3. Originally, the value of the coin was equal to its weight. However, from the 2nd century BC, the actual content of the coin was reduced, and the central hole was enlarged. From then on, a difference between the face value and the actual value of the metal became common.

4. The first occurrence of inflation in China was in the 2nd century BC, due to the massive recruitment of workers building the Great Wall, and a series of wars.

5. Due to the low value of a single coin, it was customary to form a string of 1000 coins into a purchasing unit.

6. The ancient Chinese currency was a means of exchange and a measure of value alone. In other words, the purpose of the Chinese currency was not to store value, hence why it remained low in value for centuries. The Chinese believed that currency had to circulate in the social structure as blood flows in the human body.

7. The first time paper money was used was in China in the 9th century.

8. When Marco Polo arrived in China in the 13th century, he was impressed by the use of paper money. He described this amazing innovation in his journey records: “All these pieces of paper are issued with as much solemnity and authority as if they were of pure gold or silver”. When he returned to Italy, people did not believe his stories about paper money in China. The West started printing banknotes centuries later.

9. The Chinese invented a method to detect forgeries. They hid secret marks on the bills and enforced strict regulations. Forgers were punished by the death penalty, while the informer received a reward in addition to the property of the criminal.

10. In Chinese tradition, it is customary to make offerings in honor of one’s ancestors. One of these offerings is burning “Hell banknotes”, a tribute to the King of Hell that is meant to ensure that the spirits are treated well in the afterlife. Since the 19th century, millions of these paper notes have been burnt every year in celebration of the Chinese New Year festival.

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