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About the Currency
Housing & Finance
Cheat Sheet

• 10 fen (分) is 1 jiao (角)
• 10 jiao is 1 yuan (元), the base unit
• yuan is commonly called kuai (块)
• jiao is commonly called mao (毛)
• 10 is shí (十)
• 100 is bǎi (百)
• 1000 is qiān (千)
• 10000 is wàn (万)

The official currency of the People's Republic of China is the renminbi (人民币 "People's Money"), often abbreviated RMB. The base unit of this currency is the
 yuan (元), international currency code CNY. All prices in China are given in yuan, usually
either as ¥ or 元.

The yuan is pegged around ¥7.2-7.3 to the US dollar as of mid January 2008. The official subdivisions of the yuan are the jiao (角), at 10 jiao to the yuan, and the fen (分) at 10 fen
to the jiao. A coin worth ¥0.10 will thus say 壹角 ("1 jiao"), not "10 fen", on it. But in colloquial Mandarin, nobody ever speaks of yuan; the standard term is kuai (块), and the
jiao is also dubbed the mao (毛) instead. The fen remains the same, so a price like ¥3,75 would thus be read as "3 kuai 7 mao 5 fen" (although the trailing unit is usually omitted).

When dealing with numbers, note that for example "wu bai san", literally "five hundred three", means
530 or "five hundred three tens", with the trailing unit dropped. The number 503 would be read as "wu bai ling san", literally "five hundred zero three". Similarly
"yi qian ba", literally "one thousand eight", means 1800. When using larger numbers, keep in mind
that Chinese has a word for ten thousand, wàn (万), and thus for example 50000 becomes "wu wan", not "wu shi qian".

A lot of Chinese currency will be in the form of bills
— even small change. As a general rule, bills are preferred in the north and coins in the south. Even the jiao, at just one tenth of a yuan, exists as both
a bill (the smallest) and two different coins. Conversely, one yuan exists both as a coin and as
two different bills. You should be prepared to recognize and handle either version.

Counterfeiting is a major problem, especially of ¥50, and ¥100 bills, though even fake
¥10 bills exist. When you buy currency at a bank, ask the teller to check for counterfeit
bills. Examine all bills you receive as change.

The following are indicators of a possible counterfeit bill: Sharp-edged watermark, No metal strip, Smooth paper, Flat smooth ink, Reflective number on bottom-left of a ¥50 or ¥100
bill is the wrong color, or the color of the reflective number doesn't change when you tilt the bill. The following are indicators of a real bill: Blurry-edged watermark, Metal strip, Rough
paper, Raised ink, Reflective number on bottom-left of a ¥50 or ¥100 bill is the correct
color, and the color of the reflective number changes when you tilt the bill. Note that old style bills do not have a metal strip or the bottom-left reflective number. Counterfeits often have very (too) bright and luminous colours.
 

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