The official Chinese currency, ren min bi means "the peoples' money". It has been used since the communist takeover in 1949, and as of current standing one US dollar can get 8.3 RMB. Right now, the banking system of China is rather closed, it is extremely difficult to obtain RMB overseas, bringing large amounts of RMB out of China is not recommended, for not many banks accept RMB exchanges. It makes it very annoying travelling into China, for you are forced right at the airport to exchange money, always at the atrocious bank rates.

Like American money, one RMB can be divided into 100 fen, or cents. 10 cents make 1 jiao, or a dime. A simple system. 1 RMB notes have fallen into disuse, given the uselessless of a single RMB in China these days. Coins go up to 1 RMB. The notes are not too bad looking, certainly better than the bland green American monies.

  • 10 RMB - As a tribute to the minorities of China, the 10 RMB note is emblazoned with a picture of a couple of Western Muslim minorities. An interesting green with nice decorations.
  • 50 RMB - The proletariat gets the 50 RMB note. The three main professions: service, agriculture and army gets representation. Not a bad looking note, a nice golden color.
  • 100 RMB - Mao, Zhou Enlai, and a couple other communist grand-daddies. The dullest of all Chinese banknotes.

The relatively small 100 RMB note is annoying, for any major transaction sans credit card requires huge stacks of these bills. Not as bad as the throwaway money of 1920's Germany, but getting close.

The RMB is also one of the most widely forged money in the world, next to the American money, because it doesn't use much special technology to protect it (wonder paper, watermarks, and the like). One must be on the constant lookout in China for forgeries, as they will get you in a world of trouble. They are as easily detected as running a finger over the note, forgeries are printed on plain office paper, with a very different texture than regular banknotes.

Renminbi is the pinyin Romanization of the Chinese name for the money of the PRC -- literally, "people's money". It is technically a mass noun and should only be used to refer to money in the aggregate.

However, both Chinese people (when not speaking Chinese) and Westerners commonly refer to "20 RMB" or "1500 RMB". The correct name of the unit, corresponding to dollar or ruble, when pronounced in putonghua, is yuan .

In ordinary use, Chinese people speak of kuai. This is actually the measure word for flat rectangular things. You will rarely hear anyone say Gei wo yi yuan (= "Give me one ...") but you will always hear Gei wo yi kuai.

Bankers and money changers usually use the term CNY.

The correct way to write the unit of currency is, of course, with a Chinese character: 元.

See a more detailed discussion of Chinese currency.

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