The Renminbi is the official currency
of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Renminbi is legal tender in mainland China, but not in Hong Kong or Macau. It is issued by the People’s Bank of China
, the monetary authority of the People’s Republic of China.
The primary unit of renminbi is the yuán. One yuan is subdivided into 10 jiǎo, which in turn is subdivided into 10 fēn. Renminbi banknotes are available in denominations from 1 jiao to 100 yuan. Coins are used infrequently compared to banknotes and have values from 1 fen to 1 yuan.
Through most of its history, the value of the renminbi was pegged to the U.S. dollar
. Initially, the exchange rate
was unrealistically high. As China pursued its gradual transition from central planning to a free market economy, and increased its participation in foreign trade, the renminbi was devalued to increase the competitiveness of Chinese industry. It has been claimed that the current official exchange rate is lower than the value of the renminbi by purchasing power parity.
Since 2005, the renminbi exchange rate has been allowed to float in a narrow margin around a fixed base rate determined with reference to a basket of world currencies. The Chinese government has announced that it will gradually increase the flexibility of the exchange rate. China has initiated various pilot projects to „internationalize” the RMB in the hope of it becoming a reserve currency over the long-term.
Summary information about renminbi
- ISO 4217 Code:
- Currency sign:
- 0.01 renminbi, 0.02 renminbi, 0.05 renminbi, 0.1 renminbi, 0.5 renminbi, 1 renminbi
- 0.1 renminbi, 0.2 renminbi, 0.5 renminbi, 1 renminbi, 5 renminbi, 10 renminbi, 20 renminbi, 50 renminbi, 100 renminbi
- Central bank:
- People’s Bank of China
A variety of currencies circulated in China during the Republic of China (ROC) era, most of which were denominated in the unit „yuán”. Each was distinguished by a currency name, such as the fabi („legal tender”), the „gold yuan”, and the „silver yuan”. The word yuan in Chinese literally means round, after the shape of the coins. The Korean and Japanese currency units, won and yen respectively, are cognates of the yuan and have the same Chinese character (hanja/kanji) representation, but in different forms, also meaning round in Korean and Japanese. However, they do not share the same names for the subdivisions.
As the Communist Party of China took control of ever larger territories in the latter part of the Chinese Civil War, its People’s Bank of China began in 1948 to issue a unified currency for use in Communist-controlled territories. Also denominated in yuan, this currency was identified by different names, including „People’s Bank of China banknotes” (from November 1948), „New Currency” (from December 1948), „People’s Bank of China notes”/„People’s Notes” (from January 1949) and finally „People’s Currency” or „renminbi” (from June 1949).
The yuan was introduced in 1889 at par with the Mexican peso
, a silver coin deriving from the Spanish dollar which circulated widely in South East Asia since the 17th century due to Spanish presence in the region, namely Philippines and Guam. It was subdivided into 1000 cash, 100 cents or fen, and 10 jiǎo. It replaced copper cash and various silver ingots called sycees. The sycees were denominated in tael. The yuan was valued at 0.72 tael.
Banknotes were issued in yuan denominations from the 1890s by several local and private banks, along with the Imperial Bank of China and the „Hu Pu Bank” (later the „Ta-Ch’ing Government Bank”), established by the Imperial government. During the Imperial period, banknotes were issued in denominations of 1, 2 and 5 jiǎo, 1, 2, 5, 10, 50 and 100 yuan, although banknotes below 1 yuan were uncommon.
The earliest issues were silver coins produced at the Guangdong (Canton) mint in denominations of 5 cents, 1, 2 and 5 jiǎo and 1 yuan. Other regional mints were opened in the 1890s producing similar silver coins along with copper coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 cash.
The central government began issuing its own coins in the yuan currency system in 1903. These were brass 1 cash, copper 2, 5, 10 and 20 cash, and silver 1, 2 and 5 jiǎo and 1 yuan. After the revolution, although the designs changed, the sizes and metals used in the coinage remained mostly unchanged until the 1930s. From 1936, the central government issued nickel (later cupronickel) 5, 10 and 20 fen and ½ yuan coins. Aluminum 1 and 5 fen pieces were issued in 1940.
The earliest issues were silver coins produced at the Kwangtung mint. Other regional mints were opened in the 1890s. The central government began issuing its own coins in the yuan currency system in 1903. Banknotes were issued in yuan denominations from the 1890s by several local and private banks, along with banks established by the Imperial government.
In 1917, the warlord in control of Manchuria, Zhang Zuolin, introduced a new currency, known as the Fengtien yuan or dollar, for use in the Three Eastern Provinces. It was valued at 1.2 yuan in the earlier (and still circulating) „small money” banknotes and was initially set equal to the Japanese yen
. It maintained its value (at times being worth a little more than the yen) until 1925, when Zhang Zuolin’s military involvement in the rest of China lead to an increase in banknote production and a fall in the currency’s value. The currency lost most of its value in 1928 as a consequence of the disturbance following Zhang Zuolin’s assassination. The Fengtien yuan was only issued in banknote form, with 1, 5 and 10 yuan banknotes issued in 1917, followed by 50 and 100 yuan banknotes in 1924. The last banknotes were issued in 1928.
After the revolution, a great many local, national and foreign banks issued currency. Although the provincial coinages mostly ended in the 1920s, the provincial banks continued issuing banknotes until 1949, including Communist issues from 1930. Most of the banknotes issued for use throughout the country bore the words „National Currency”, as did some of the provincial banks. The remaining provincial banknotes bore the words „Local Currency”. These circulated at varying exchange rates to the national currency issues.
During the 1930s, several new currencies came into being in China due to the activities of the invading Japanese. The pre-existing, national currency yuan came to be associated only with the Nationalist, Kuomintang government. In 1935, the Kuomintang Government enacted currency reforms to limit currency issuance to four major government controlled banks: the Bank of China, Central Bank of China, Bank of Communications and later the Farmers Bank of China. The circulation of silver yuan coins was prohibited and private ownership of silver was banned. The banknotes issued in its place were known as fǎbì or „Legal Tender”. A new series of base metal coins began production in 1936 following the reforms.
Between 1930 and 1948, banknotes were also issued by the Central Bank of China denominated in customs gold units. These circulated as normal currency in the 1940s alongside the yuan.
The Japanese occupiers issued coins and banknotes denominated in li (1/1000 of a yuan), fen, jiao and yuan. Issuers included a variety of banks, including the Central Reserve Bank of China (for the puppet government in Nanking) and the Federal Reserve Bank of China (for the puppet government in Beijing). The Japanese decreed the exchange rates between the various banks’ issues and those of the Nationalists but the banknotes circulated with varying degrees of acceptance among the Chinese population. Between 1932 and 1945, the puppet state of Manchukuo issued its own yuan.
The Japanese established two collaborationist regimes during their occupation in China. In the north, the „Provisional Government of the Republic of China” based in Beijing established the Federal Reserve Bank of China.
In the aftermath of the Second World War and during the civil war which followed, Nationalist China suffered from hyperinflation, leading to the introduction of a new currency in 1948, the gold yuan.
The number of banks issuing paper money increased after the revolution. Significant national issuers included the „Commercial Bank of China” (the former Imperial Bank), the „Bank of China” (the former Ta-Ch’ing Government Bank), the „Bank of Communications”, the „Ningpo Commercial Bank”, the „Central Bank of China” and the „Farmers Bank of China”. Of these, only the Central Bank of China issued banknotes beyond 1943. An exceptionally large number of banknotes were issued during the Republican era (1911–1949) by provincial banks (both Nationalist and Communist).
After the revolution, in addition to the denominations already in circulation, „small money” banknotes proliferated, with 1, 2 and 5 cent denominations appearing. Many banknotes were issued denominated in English in cash (wén).
In the 1940s, larger denominations of banknotes appeared due to the high inflation. 500 yuan banknotes were introduced in 1941, followed by 1000 and 2000 yuan in 1942, 2500 and 5000 yuan in 1945 and 10,000 yuan in 1947.
Banknotes of the first yuan suffered from hyperinflation following the Second World War and were replaced in August 1948 by banknotes denominated in gold yuan, worth 3 million old yuan. There was no link between the gold yuan and gold metal or coins and this yuan also suffered from hyperinflation.
In 1948, the Central Bank of China issued banknotes (some dated 1945 and 1946) in denominations of 1, 2 and 5 jiao, 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 yuan. In 1949, higher denominations of 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000, 50,000, 100,000, 500,000, 1,000,000 and 5,000,000 yuan were issued.
In July 1949, the Nationalist Government introduced the silver yuan, which was initially worth 500 million gold yuan. It circulated for a few months on the mainland before the end of the civil war. This silver yuan remained the de jure
official currency of the Republic government in Taiwan until 2000.
The Central Bank of China issued banknotes in denominations of 1 and 5 fen, 1, 2 and 5 jiao, 1, 5 and 10 yuan.
In 1955, aluminum 1, 2 and 5 fen coins were introduced. In 1980, brass 1, 2, and 5 jiao and cupro-nickel 1 yuan coins were added, although the 1 and 2 jiao were only produced until 1981, with the last 5 jiao and 1 yuan issued in 1985. In 1991, a new coinage was introduced, consisting of an aluminum 1 jiao, brass 5 jiao and nickel-clad-steel 1 yuan. Issuance of the 1 and 2 fen coins ceased in 1991, with that of the 5 fen halting a year later. The small coins were still made for annual mint sets, and from the beginning of 2005 again for general circulation. New designs of the 1 and 5 jiao and 1 yuan were introduced in between 1999 and 2002.
The use of coins varies from place to place. For example, coins are more often used for values less or equal to 1 yuan in Shanghai and Shenzhen but banknotes of the lower value are more often used than coins in Beijing and Xi’an. Coins are used far less than banknotes in China today. Use of coins in self-service ticket vending machines at metro stations may have contributed to the relatively frequent use of coins in Shanghai.
On December 1, 1948, the newly founded People’s Bank of China introduced banknotes in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1000 yuan. Bankotes for 200, 500, 5000 and 10,000 yuan followed in 1949, with 50,000 yuan banknotes added in 1950. A total of 62 different designs were issued. The banknotes were officially withdrawn on various dates between April 1 and May 10, 1955.
These first renminbi banknotes were printed with the words „People’s Bank of China”, „Republic of China”, and the denomination, written in Chinese characters by Dong Biwu. The name „renminbi” was first recorded as an official name in June 1949. After work began in 1950 to design the second series of the renminbi, the previous series were retroactively dubbed the „first series of the renminbi”.
In 1955, banknotes (dated 1953), were introduced in denominations of 1, 2 and 5 fen, 1, 2 and 5 jiao, and 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 yuan. Except for the three fen denominations and the 3 yuan, banknotes in these denominations continue to circulate, with 50 and 100 yuan banknotes added in 1980 and 20 yuan banknotes added in or after 1999.
The denomination of each banknote is printed in Chinese. The numbers themselves are printed in financial Chinese numeral characters, as well as Arabic numerals. The denomination and the words „People’s Bank of China” are also printed in Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur and Zhuang on the back of each banknote. The right front of the banknote has a tactile representation of the denomination in Chinese braille starting from the fourth series.
The second series of renminbi banknotes (the first having been issued for the previous currency) was introduced on 1 March 1955. Each note has the words „People’s Bank of China” as well as the denomination in the Uyghur, Tibetan, Mongolian and Zhuang languages on the back, which has since appeared in each series of renminbi notes. The denominations available in banknotes were 0.01 renminbi, 0.02 renminbi, 0.05 renminbi, 0.1 renminbi, 0.2 renminbi, 0.5 renminbi, 1 renminbi, 2 renminbi, 3 renminbi, 5 renminbi and 10 renminbi.
The third series of renminbi banknotes was introduced on April 15, 1962. For the next two decades, the second and third series banknotes were used concurrently. The denominations were of 0.1 renminbi, 0.2 renminbi, 0.5 renminbi, 1 renminbi, 2 renminbi, 5 renminbi and 10 renminbi. The third series was phased out during the 1990s and then was recalled completely on July 1, 2000.
The fourth series was introduced between 1987 and 1997, although the banknotes were dated 1980, 1990, or 1996. They are still legal tender. Banknotes are available in denominations of 0.1 renminbi, 0.2 renminbi, 0.5 renminbi, 1 renminbi, 2 renminbi, 5 renminbi, 10 renminbi, 50 renminbi and 100 renminbi.
In 1999, a new series of renminbi banknotes and coins was progressively introduced. The fifth series consists of banknotes for 1 renminbi, 5 renminbi, 10 renminbi, 20 renminbi, 50 renminbi and 100 renminbi. Significantly, the fifth series uses the portrait of Mao Zedong on all banknotes, in place of the various leaders and workers which had been featured previously.
In 1999, a commemorative red 50 renminbi note was issued in honor of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. This note features Mao Zedong on the front and various animals on the back.
An orange polymer note, and so far, China’s only polymer note, commemorating the new millennium was issued in 2000 with a face value of 100 renminbi. This features a dragon on the obverse and the reverse has a sundial.
For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a green 10 renminbi note was issued featuring the Bird’s Nest on the front with the back showing a classical Olympic discus thrower and various other athletes.
CNY banknotes pictures gallery
|Banknote of 0.1 renminbi has dimensions 115×52 mm and main colors are grullo, shadow, pastel brown, beaver, vanilla and khaki. The issue date of 0.1 renminbi banknote was September 22, 1988.|
Obverse side of the 0.1 renminbi is showing portraits of Gaoshan and Man nationalities.
Reverse side of the 0.1 renminbi is showing the national emblem and national pattern.
|Banknote of 0.2 renminbi has dimensions 120×55 mm and main colors are ash grey, light gray, platinum and gainsboro. The issue date of 0.2 renminbi banknote was May 10, 1988.|
Obverse side of the 0.2 renminbi is showing portraits of Buyi and Korean nationalities.
Reverse side of the 0.2 renminbi is showing the national emblem and national pattern.
|Banknote of 0.5 renminbi has dimensions 125×58 mm and main colors are plum, thistle, lilac, pastel purple and wild blue yonder. The issue date of 0.2 renminbi banknote was April 27, 1987.|
Obverse side of the 0.5 renminbi is showing portraits of Miao and Zhuang nationalities.
Reverse side of the 0.5 renminbi is showing the national emblem and national pattern.
|Banknote of 1 renminbi has dimensions 130×63 mm and main colors are dim gray, dark gray, grullo, manatee and wild blue yonder. The issue date of 0.2 renminbi banknote was July 30, 2004.|
Obverse side of the 1 renminbi is showing the portrait of Mao Zedong and an orchid flower.
Reverse side of the 1 renminbi is showing three Pools Mirroring the Moon at West Lake.
|Banknote of 5 renminbi has dimensions 135×63 mm and main colors are cadet grey, trolley grey, eggplant, manatee and platinum. The issue date of 0.2 renminbi banknote was November 18, 2002.|
Obverse side of the 5 renminbi is showing the portrait of Mao Zedong and a narcissus flower.
Reverse side of the 5 renminbi is showing the Mount Tai.
|Banknote of 10 renminbi has dimensions 140×70 mm and main colors are gainsboro, cadet grey, grullo and outer space. The issue date of 0.2 renminbi banknote was September 1, 2001.|
Obverse side of the 10 renminbi is showing the portrait of Mao Zedong and a rose flower.
Reverse side of the 10 renminbi is showing three Gorges of the Yangtze River.
|Banknote of 20 renminbi has dimensions 145×70 mm and main colors are light apricot, desert sand, bistre, dark sienna and khaki. The issue date of 0.2 renminbi banknote was October 16, 2000.|
Obverse side of the 20 renminbi is showing the portrait of Mao Zedong and a lotus flower.
Reverse side of the 20 renminbi is showing a scenery of Guilin.
|Banknote of 50 renminbi has dimensions 150×70 mm and main colors are xanadu, pastel blue, cambridge blue, dim gray and feldgrau. The issue date of 0.2 renminbi banknote was September 1, 2001.|
Obverse side of the 50 renminbi is showing the portrait of Mao Zedong and a chrysanthemum flower.
Reverse side of the 50 renminbi is showing the Potala Palace.
|Banknote of 100 renminbi has dimensions 155×77 mm and main colors are light carmine pink, vermilion, candy pink and persian red. The issue date of 0.2 renminbi banknote was October 1, 1999.|
Obverse side of the 100 renminbi is showing the portrait of Mao Zedong and a prunus mume flower.
Reverse side of the 100 renminbi is showing the Great Hall of the People.
- About People’s Bank of China:
- People’s Bank of China
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- Security and design features of CNY banknotes:
- CNY banknotes
- CNY currency on Wikipedia:
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- Commemorative coins:
- Commemorative Coins