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A silver Phi Long coin of 1 tien issued under the Minh Mang Emperor in 1833. Philong Minh Mang CdM.jpg
A silver Phi Long coin of 1 tiền issued under the Minh Mạng Emperor in 1833.

The term tiền (Hán tự: ) is used to refer to various currency-related concepts used in Vietnamese history. The name is a cognate with the Chinese qián (錢), a unit of weight called "mace" in English. It can refer to a unit of weight used in precious metal coinages as well as the number of cash coins in a string. The name was also used for different awards, both Chinese-style and Western-style awards given in Vietnam throughout different times of its history.


The word tiền is also the Vietnamese word for the concept of money in general.

Cash coins

In cash coins the term tiền could be used to refer to sub-strings of 10 cash coins in a string of 100~600. [1] Though the quality of cash coins was also important for counting a tiền, in 1945 a tiền of tiền gián included 36 cash coins, while a tiền of tiền quý included 60 cash coins. [lower-alpha 1] [2]

Precious metal coinages

In the early 19th century, silver and gold bars were traded as currency in imperial Vietnam with values of up to 10 tiền (approximately 40 grams, or 1 tael). Bars of 1 tiền weighed between 3 and 4 grams. [3] During this time, silver and gold coins were minted (using Vietnamese characters and design, but of types resembling either Chinese cash or Western coins) with denominations of up to 10 tiền being minted.

During the Minh Mạng period (1820–1841) dragons on silver tiền coins were often depicted facing dexter (to the right), while during the Thiệu Trị period (1841–1847) and later these coins depicted dragons guardant (facing forwards). [4]

In the year Minh Mệnh 14 (1833) the Phi Long dragon coins were depreciated by increasing the amounts of copper and zinc that were in them lowering their silver content. [5]

These coins continued to be minted in varying quantities into the 20th century in French Indochina, although circulating alongside the French Indochinese piastre.

Tiền decorations

The Tiền was also a name of decorations given by the government of the Nguyễn dynasty until 1945, like in Imperial China these coins came in the form of presentation coins, but after French colonisation the Tiền was also awarded as European-style medals called the Sapèque d'Honneur ("Cash coin of Honour"). [6]

Tiền presentation coin decorations came in multiple classes and were known as Đồng Tiền (銅錢, "Copper money"), Ngân Tiền (銀錢, "Silver money"), and Kim Tiền (金錢, "Gold money"). [6] The Sapèque d'Honneur medal was further subdivided into the Sapèque d'Argent (made of silver) and the Sapèque d'Or (made of gold). [6]

These decorations generally took the shape of silver or gold cash coins as well as other coinages issued by the Nguyễn dynasty, but would often have more elaborate designs and (often) different inscriptions. [6]

See also


  1. The terms tiền gián and tiền quý were used to refer to different types of cash coins based on different quality and alloys between the 16th and 20th centuries.

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  1. Ministry of the Colonies (1894). Note sur la circulation monétaire et les moyens d'échange dans les colonies françaises et pays de protectorat, d'après les documents officiels recueillis par l'administration des colonies (in French). The government of France . Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  2. "Sử Việt, đọc vài quyển Chương IV "Tiền bạc, văn chương và lịch sử"". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
  3. ED. TODA. (1882) ANNAM and its minor currency. Retrieved: 23 July 2017.
  4. De Rode Leeuw - Armorial of Vietnam by Hubert de Vries. Retrieved: 19 August 2021.
  5. Ths. Hoàng Nguyệt (Thạc sĩ Hoàng Nguyệt) (1 April 2016). "Triều Nguyễn với chính sách đúc và lưu thông tiền tệ. - 06:21 AM 01/04/2016. - Nói về sự phát triển tiền tệ dưới triều Nguyễn, có thể khẳng định đây là một triều đại tiền tệ phát triển rất phong phú. Ngoài những đồng tiền căn bản là tiền đồng và tiền kẽm, còn có cả vàng, bạc dùng trong lưu thông" (in Vietnamese). Trung tâm Lưu trữ quốc gia I (National Archives Nr. 1, Hanoi) - Cục Văn thư và Lưu trữ nhà nước (State Records And Archives Management Department Of Việt Nam). Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Gillingham, Harrold E. (Harrold Edgar), 1864-1954 (1928). "Notes on the decorations and medals of the French colonies and protectorates". American Numismatic Society . Retrieved 20 March 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)