Last updated
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese lượng, lạng
Korean name
Hangul 량 (N)/냥 (S)
Mongolian name
Mongolian Cyrillic лан
Mongolian script ᠯᠠᠨ
Japanese name
Hiragana りょう(hist. りゃぅ)
Malay name
Malay tahil / تهيل (Jawi)
Indonesian name
Indonesian tahil
Manchu name
Manchu script ᠵᡳᡥᠠ
Möllendorff jiha
Khmer name
Khmer តាល
Tangut name
Tangut 𗍬
Miyake transcription2lu3
Buryat name

Tael ( /ˈtl/ ), [1] also known as the tahil and by other names, can refer to any one of several weight measures used in East Asia and Southeast Asia. It usually refers to the Chinese tael, since 1959 standardized to 50 gram and a part of the Chinese system of weights and currency.


In Hong Kong and Singapore, it is equivalent to 10 mace (Chinese:; pinyin:qián) or 116 catty, [2] [3] albeit with slightly different metric equivalents in these two places. These Chinese units of measurement are usually used in Chinese herbal medicine stores as well as gold and silver exchange.


The English word tael comes through Portuguese from the Malay word tahil, meaning "weight". Early English forms of the name such as "tay" or "taes" derive from the Portuguese plural of tael, taeis.

Tahil ( /ˈtɑːhɪl/ in Singaporean English) [4] is used in Malay and English today when referring to the weight in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, where it is still used in some contexts especially related to the significant Overseas Chinese population.

In Chinese, tael is written (simplified as ) and has the Mandarin pronunciation liǎng. The phrase "half a catty, eight taels" (Chinese : 半斤八兩 ,bàn jīn, bā liǎng) is still used to mean two options are exactly equivalent, similar to the English "six of one, half-dozen of the other".

Historical usage

A Chinese silver liang (Yin Liang  / Yin Liang ) with stamps Used in Central Asia as a "Silver Hoof" ingot. Chinese Silver Liang with Stamps used in Central Asia as Silver-Hoff-Ingot.jpg
A Chinese silver liǎng (銀兩 / 银两) with stamps Used in Central Asia as a "Silver Hoof" ingot.
Japanese Edo era tael weights for balance scales, made of bronze. In descending size, 30, 20, 10, 5, 4, 3, and 2 tael weights. Hou Teng Fen Tong 1.jpg
Japanese Edo era tael weights for balance scales, made of bronze. In descending size, 30, 20, 10, 5, 4, 3, and 2 tael weights.

In China, there were many different weighting standards of tael depending on the region or type of trade. In general the silver tael weighed around 40 grams (1.3 ozt). The most common government measure was the Kuping (庫平; kùpíng; 'treasury standard') tael, weighing 37.5 grams (1.21 ozt). A common commercial weight, the Caoping (漕平; cáopíng; 'canal shipping standard') tael weighed 36.7 grams (1.18 ozt) of marginally less pure silver.

As in China, Japan and Korea used the tael (Japanese: 両; Hepburn: ryō; Korean : 량/냥; Hanja : ; RR : nyang/ryang) as both a unit of weight and, by extension, a currency.

Tael currency

Imperial China

Traditional Chinese silver sycees and other currencies of fine metals were not denominated or made by a central mint and their value was determined by their weight in taels. They were made by individual silversmiths for local exchange, and as such the shape and amount of extra detail on each ingot were highly variable; square and oval shapes were common but "boat", flower, tortoise and others are known. The tael was still used in Qing dynasty coinage as the basis of the silver currency and sycee remained in use until the end of the dynasty in 1911. Common weights were 50, 10, 5 and one tael. Before the year 1840 the government of the Qing dynasty had set the official exchange rate between silver sycees and copper-alloy cash coins was set at 1000 wén for 1 tael of silver before 1820, but after the year 1840 this official exchange rate was double to 2000 wén to 1 tael. [5]

During the reign of the Xianfeng Emperor, the government of the Qing dynasty was forced to re-introduce paper money, among the paper money it produced were the Hubu Guanpiao (戶部官票) silver notes that were denominated in taels. [6] [7]

The forced opening of China during the Qing dynasty created a number of treaty ports alongside the China's main waterways and its coastal areas, these treaty ports would fundamentally change both the monetary system of China as well as its banking system, these changes were introduced by the establishment of European and American merchant houses and later banks that would engage in the Chinese money exchange and trade finance. [8]

Between the years 1840 and 1900, 1 market tael was worth 1.38 Spanish dollars. [5]

Various Western banking companies, the largest of which were the HSBC, and later Japanese banking companies started to begin to accept deposits. They would issue banknotes which were convertible into silver; these banknotes were popularized among the Chinese public that resided in the treaty ports. [8]

An important development during this era was the establishment of the Imperial Maritime Customs Service. This agency was placed in charge of collecting transit taxes for traded goods that were shipped both in and out of the Chinese Empire, these rules and regulations were all stipulated in various trade treaties that were imposed on the Qing by the Western colonial powers. [8] Because these changes were implemented during the height of the Taiping Rebellion, the Western powers had managed to take over the complete administration of the Qing's maritime customs from the imperial Chinese governmental bureaucracy. [8]

The Imperial Maritime Customs Service developed the Haikwan tael (海關兩), this new form of measurement was an abstract unit of silver tael that would become the nationwide standard unit of account in silver for any form of Customs tax. [8] The Haikwan tael was preferred over the Kuping tael (庫平兩) by many merchants across China, this was because the units of the Kuping tael varied often to the advantage of imperial tax collectors, this form of corruption was an extra source of income for government bureaucrats at the expense of traders. [8] The Haikwan tael unit was completely uniform, it was very carefully defined, and its creation had been negotiated among the various colonial powers and the government of the Qing dynasty. [8] The Haikwan tael was on average 5% to 10% larger than the various local tael units that had existed in China, this was done as it deliberately excluded any form of extra surcharges which were embedded in the other units of the silver tael that existed as a form of intermediary income for local government tax collection, these surcharges were added to local taels as form of corruption and these taxes never reached the imperial government under the traditional fiscal regime. [8]

Near the end of the Qing dynasty, one dìng (sycee, or yuanbao) is about 50 taels. [9]

Conversion rates in imperial China

The local tael took precedence over any central measure. Thus, the Canton tael weighed 37.5 grams, the Convention or Shanghai tael was 33.9 g (1.09 ozt), and the Haiguan (海關; hǎiguān; 'customs') tael 37.8 grams (1.3334 oz; 1.2153 ozt). The conversion rates between various common taels were well known.

Republic of China

In the year 1933 the government of the Republic of China abolished the tael and completely replaced it with the yuan in a process known as the fei liang gai yuan (廢兩改元). During this time the Republican government cleared all banknotes denominated in the ancient tael currency, making all bills which used this currency unit obsolete. [10]

Purchasing power

Modern studies suggest that, on purchasing power parity basis, one tael of silver was worth about 4130  RMB (modern Chinese yuan) in the early Tang Dynasty, 2065 RMB in the late Tang Dynasty, and 660.8 RMB in the mid Ming Dynasty.[ citation needed ] Today the price of silver is about 15 4RMB/tael.[ citation needed ]


The Thai equivalent of the tael is known as the tamlueng , a term derived from Khmer. It was used as a unit of currency equal to four baht; nowadays, as a unit of weight it is fixed at 60 grams.

Current usage

The tael is still in use as a weight measurement in a number of countries though usually only in limited contexts.

Ethnic Chinese regions

Chinese mainland

China's standard market tael (Chinese:市两; pinyin:shìliǎng) of 31.25 g was modified by the People's Republic of China in 1959. The new market tael was 50 g or 110 catty (500 g) to make it compatible with metric measures. (see Chinese unit for details.) In Shanghai, silver is still traded in taels.

Some foodstuffs in China are sold in units also called "taels", but which do not necessarily weigh one tael. For cooked rice, the weight of the tael is approximated using special tael-sized ladles. Other items sold in taels include the shengjian mantou and the xiaolongbao, both small buns commonly found in Shanghai. In these cases, one tael is traditionally four and eight buns respectively.

Hong Kong and Singapore

The tael is a legal weight measure in Hong Kong, and is still in active use. [2] In Hong Kong, one tael is 37.799364167 g, [2] and in ordinance 22 of 1884 is 1+13 oz. avoir. Similar to Hong Kong, in Singapore, one tael is defined as 1+13 ounce and is approximated as 37.7994 g [3]


The Taiwan tael is 37.5 g and is still used in some contexts. The Taiwan tael is derived from the tael or ryō () of the Japanese system (equal to 10 momme) which was 37.5 g. Although the catty (equal to 16 taels) is still frequently used in Taiwan, the tael is only used for precious metals and herbal medicines.



Gold lang (Tael) of Tu Duc. Gold lang Tu Duc CdM.jpg
Gold lạng (Tael) of Tự Đức.

In French Indochina, the colonial administration fixed the tael (lạng) as 100 g, which is commonly used at food markets where many items typically weigh in the 100–900 g range. However, a different tael (called cây, lạng, or lượng) unit of 37.5 g is used for domestic transactions in gold. Real estate prices are often quoted in taels of gold rather than the local currency over concerns over monetary inflation.

See also

Related Research Articles

Chinese units of measurement Traditional system of measurement used by Han Chinese

Chinese units of measurement, known in Chinese as the shìzhì, are the traditional units of measurement of the Han Chinese. Although Chinese numerals have been decimal (base-10) since the Shang, several Chinese measures use hexadecimal (base-16). Local applications have varied, but the Chinese dynasties usually proclaimed standard measurements and recorded their predecessor's systems in their histories.

Silver standard Monetary system

The silver standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed weight of silver. Silver was far more widespread than gold as the monetary standard worldwide, from the Sumerians c. 3000 BCE until 1873. Following the discovery in the 16th century of large deposits of silver at the Cerro Rico in Potosí, Bolivia, an international silver standard came into existence in conjunction with the Spanish pieces of eight. These silver dollar coins played the role of an international trading currency for nearly four hundred years.

History of Chinese currency History of money in China

The history of Chinese currency spans more than 3000 years. Currency of some type has been used in China since the Neolithic age which can be traced back to between 3000 and 4500 years ago. Cowry shells are believed to have been the earliest form of currency used in Central China, and were used during the Neolithic period.

The yuan is the base unit of a number of former and present-day currencies in Chinese.

Catty Traditional Chinese unit of weight

The catty, kati or jin, symbol , is a traditional Chinese unit of mass used across East and Southeast Asia, notably for weighing food and other groceries in some wet markets, street markets, and shops. Related units include the picul, equal to 100 catties, and the tael, which is 116 of a catty. A stone is a former unit used in Hong Kong equal to 120 catties and a gwan (鈞) is 30 catties. Catty or kati is still used in Southeast Asia as a unit of measurement in some contexts especially by the significant Overseas Chinese populations across the region, particularly in Malaysia and Singapore.

Ban Liang

The Ban Liang was the first unified currency of the Chinese empire, introduced by the first emperor Qin Shi Huang around 210 BC. It was round with a square hole in the middle. Before that date, a variety of coins were used in China, usually in the form of blades or other implements, though round coins with square holes were used by the State of Zhou before it was extinguished by Qin in 249 BCE.

Chinese cash (currency unit)

The cash was a currency denomination used in China in imperial times. It was the chief denomination until the introduction of the yuan in the late 19th century.


A sycee or yuanbao(Chinese: t 元寶,s 元宝,pyuánbǎo, lit.'valuable treasure') was a type of gold and silver ingot currency used in imperial China from its founding under the Qin dynasty until the fall of the Qing in the 20th century. Sycee were not made by a central bank or mint but by individual goldsmiths or silversmiths for local exchange; consequently, the shape and amount of extra detail on each ingot were highly variable. Square and oval shapes were common, but boat, flower, tortoise and others are known. Their value—like the value of the various silver coins and little pieces of silver in circulation at the end of the Qing dynasty—was determined by experienced moneyhandlers (shroffs), who estimated the appropriate discount based on the purity of the silver and evaluated the weight in taels and the progressive decimal subdivisions of the tael.

A mace is a traditional Chinese measurement of weight in East Asia that was also used as a currency denomination. It is equal to 10 candareens and is 110 of a tael or approximately 3.78 grams. A troy mace is approximately 3.7429 grams. In Hong Kong, one mace is 3.779936375 grams. and in Ordinance 22 of 1884, it is 215 ounces avoirdupois. In Singapore, one mace is 3.77994 grams.

Cash or li is a traditional Chinese unit of weight.


The tiền was a currency used in Vietnam during the 19th and 20th centuries. The name is a cognate with the Chinese qián (錢), a unit of weight called "mace" in English.

, , or may refer to:

Qing dynasty coinage Historical coinage of China

Qing dynasty coinage was based on a bimetallic standard of copper and silver coinage. The Manchu-led Qing dynasty was established in 1636 and ruled over China proper from 1644 until it was overthrown by the Xinhai Revolution in 1912. The Qing dynasty saw the transformation of a traditional cash coin based cast coinage monetary system into a modern currency system with machine-struck coins, while the old traditional silver ingots would slowly be replaced by silver coins based on those of the Mexican peso. After the Qing dynasty was abolished its currency was replaced by the Chinese yuan of the Republic of China.

Paper money of the Qing dynasty

The paper money of the Qing dynasty was periodically used alongside a bimetallic coinage system of copper-alloy cash coins and silver sycees; paper money was used during different periods of Chinese history under the Qing dynasty, having acquired experiences from the prior Song, Jin, Yuan, and Ming dynasties which adopted paper money but where uncontrolled printing led to hyperinflation. During the youngest days of the Qing dynasty paper money was used but this was quickly abolished as the government sought not to repeat history for a fourth time; however, under the reign of the Xianfeng Emperor, due to several large wars and rebellions, the Qing government was forced to issue paper money again.

Da-Qing Baochao

The Da-Qing Baochao refers to a series of Qing dynasty banknotes issued under the reign of the Xianfeng Emperor issued between the years 1853 and 1859. These banknotes were all denominated in wén and were usually introduced to the general market through the salaries of soldiers and government officials.

Hubu Guanpiao

The Hubu Guanpiao is the name of two series of banknotes produced by the Qing dynasty, the first series was known as the Chaoguan (鈔官) and was introduced under the Shunzhi Emperor during the Qing conquest of the Ming dynasty but was quickly abandoned after this war ended, it was introduced amid residual ethnic Han resistance to the Manchu invaders. It was produced on a small scale, amounting to 120,000 strings of cash coins annually, and only lasted between 1651 and 1661. After the death of the Shunzhi Emperor in the year 1661, calls for resumption of banknote issuance weakened, although they never completely disappeared.

Piaohao Historical Chinese banking model

Piaohao, also known as piaozhuang (票莊), huihao (匯號), or huiduizhuang (匯兌莊), in Mandarin Chinese, or Shanxi banks (山西票號) or Shansi banks in English, were a type of bank that existed in China during the Qing dynasty until approximately 1952.

Da-Qing Jinbi

The Da-Qing Jinbi was the name of a unissued series of gold coins produced under the reign of the Guangxu Emperor. These coins were produced in the scenario that the government of the Manchu Qing dynasty would adopt the gold standard, as was common in most of the world at the time.


Daqian are large-denomination cash coins produced in the Qing dynasty starting from 1853 until 1890. Large denomination cash coins were previously used in earlier Chinese dynasties and had faced similar issues as 19th-century Daqian. The term referred to cash coins with a denomination of 4 wén or higher.


Standard cash, or regulation cash coins, is a term used during the Ming and Qing dynasties of China to refer to standard issue copper-alloy cash coins produced in imperial Chinese mints according to weight and composition standards that were fixed by the imperial government. The term was first used for Hongwu Tongbao cash coins following the abolition of large denomination versions of this cash coin series.


  1. "Tael" entry at the OED Online.
  2. 1 2 3 "Weights and Measures Ordinance". The Law of Hong Kong.
  3. 1 2 "Weights and Measures Act (CHAPTER 349) Third Schedule". Singapore Statutes. Government of Singapure. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  4. "Tahil" entry at A Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English.
  5. 1 2 Xun Yan (March 2015). "In Search of Power and Credibility - Essays on Chinese Monetary History (1851-1845)" (PDF). Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science . Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  6. Ulrich Theobald (13 April 2016). "Qing Period Paper Money". Chinaknowledge.de. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  7. John E. Sandrock (1997). "IMPERIAL CHINESE CURRENCY OF THE TAI'PING REBELLION - PART III - CH'ING DYNASTY SILVER TAEL NOTES by John E. Sandrock" (PDF). The Currency Collector. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Debin Ma (January 2012). "Money and Monetary System in China in the 19th-20th Century: An Overview. (Working Papers No. 159/12)" (PDF). Department of Economic History, London School of Economics . Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  9. Morse, H.B. (1907). "Currency in China". Journal of the North-China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Shanghai. 38: 36. The standard ingot of China weighs about 50 taels (from 49 to 54) and, formerly called ting, is now called pao (jewel, article of value, as in the inscription on the copper cash tung-pao通寶 = "current coin") and more commonly yuan-pao
  10. Ulrich Theobald (24 November 2015). "qianzhuang 錢莊, private banks". Chinaknowledge.de. Retrieved 9 August 2019.