China Money Facts

What is the Chinese Currency?

The official Chinese currency is the Renminbi which you will also see it referred as the Yuan. What is the difference?

It is used interchangeably, but "Renminbi" is the "official" term used to refer to China's currency. It literally means "the people's currency". "Yuan" is the actual unit, and seems to be the more casual term used by every day people on the streets. Similar to the way "sterling" and "pound" are used in the U.K.

Here are some China Money facts:

  • The currency code used for the Yuan is CNY, as in the currency codes for the US Dollar USD, the British Pound GBP and the Euro EUR.

  • The currency symbol for the Yuan is ¥, as in the currency symbol for the US Dollar $, the British Pound £, and the Euro .

  • The RMB currency units are:

    • The Yuan = 1
    • The Jiao = 1/10 Yuan i.e. one Chinese dime
    • The Fen = 1/10 Jiao i.e. one Chinese cent

  • Bank notes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100, they are all different sizes and colors. In the front they all depict the portrait of Chairman Mao:

Chinese Money Bank Notes

In the back, each depicts a famous and recognized site in China:

100 Yuan Note China Money
Great Hall of the People Tiananmen Square

100 YUAN NOTE
in the back of the note is the
Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, Beijing

50 Yuan Note China Money
Potala Palace Tibet

50 YUAN NOTE
in the back of the note is the
Potala Palace in Llhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region

20 Yuan Note China Money
Li River and Karst Mountains Scenery

20 YUAN NOTE
in the back of the note is a
Scenery from the Karst Mountains and Li River of Guilin

10 Yuan Note China Money
Yangtze River Three Gorges

10 YUAN NOTE
in the back of the note is a
Scenery from the Yangtze River
Three Gorges

5 Yuan Note China Money
Tai Shan Mountain Scenery

5 YUAN NOTE
in the back of the note is
a scenery from Tai Shan Mountain

One Yuan Note China Money
West Lake in Hangzhou

1 YUAN NOTE
in the back of the note is
a scenery from the West Lake

  • The Renminbi is used in mainland China only. Hong Kong and Macau have their own currencies, the Hong Kong dollar and the Pataca respectively.

  • The People's Bank of China (PBOC) is China's central bank. Much like the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, it oversees monetary policy in China.

  • China's "Big Four" banks, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, and Bank of China are the largest banks in the world in terms of assets

  • Up until 2005 the Yuan was pegged to the US dollar. What does that mean? It means that when the US dollar fluctuated in value against other currencies, either up or down, the value of the yuan would move with it.

    The Chinese Yuan is no longer pegged and is now allowed to float within a narrow band established by the People's Bank of China. The exchange rate floats with reference to a basket of foreign currencies including the U.S. Dollar, the Euro, the Japanese Yen, Korean Won, and in a lesser degree, the British Pound, Thai Baht, Russian Ruble, Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar and Singapore Dollar.

  • Check out our section for travel to China and answers to the more common money questions:

    • Exchange Rates
    • Where to change money
    • Will my ATM card work in China?
    • Paying with Credit Cards in China, etc.
    • Mobile payments is the way to go now

    >> More on Chinese Money

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