What does Chinese money look like

Chinese currency: from mussels to renminbi

The Chinese currency has a very long history. People have been using mussels as money since the Neolithic Age. Different forms of currency have been used over time. Nowadays the currency is in China Renminbi.


The earliest form of Chinese money were Shellfish. Money shells were later bronzed. During the time of the rival states (770-221 BC) different forms of money were used by the different states: knife-shaped, spade-shaped and ant-nose-shaped.


When the first emperor of China, Qin Shihuang, China in 221 BC. United, were round coins with a square hole in the middle and this form of currency was used until around 1890. This is the form of currency in the popular imagination of the nation, and depictions of it are seen as symbols of wealth and prosperity in modern times.

Silver bars

For higher-level transactions, Silver bars used. These bars are similar in shape to the classic origami boat that children love to fold out of paper, and it can be seen on souvenir stalls as the item held aloft in some depictions of the Buddha, a symbol of wealth.

Paper money

Paper money is an invention of Song dynasty in China in the 11th century AD, nearly 20 centuries after the earliest known use of metal coins.

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), however, the merchants began to deposit these heavy coin chains with a trustworthy agent who recorded on a piece of paper how much money the merchant had deposited. The paper, a kind of promissory note, could then be exchanged for goods, and the seller could go to the agent and redeem the note for the coin chains. As trade along the Silk Road was renewed, this made the transport of goods much easier. However, these privately produced promissory notes were still not real paper currency.

The earliest paper currency in the world was made Jiaozi (Chinese: 交 子) called that in the early North Song Dynasty (960-1127) appeared. Due to the great development of merchandise management, the increase in trade and the high demand for the currency, wholesalers need a currency that can be transported easily and quickly. As a result, paper money emerged. It was first issued in 1023 by 16 merchant princes in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. This paper currency was a piece of paper printed with houses, trees, men and numbers.

Chinese money today

The official currency in China is the Renminbi (RMB or CNY) or "Ren-min-bi (人民币)" in Chinese. The basic unit is the yuan (also called "kuai"), which corresponds to 10 jiao (or "mao"), which in turn is divided into 10 fen. Paper money comes in 1.2, 5, 10, 50, and 100 yuan notes. Paper Jiao comes in denominations of 1, 2, and 5. There are also 1 and 2 Fen notes, but these are rarely used as they have no purchasing power. 1 yuan, 1, and 5 jiao, and 1, 2, and 5 fen coins are common even in larger cities. More about Renminbi.

Cashless payment and digital currency of China

In China it is common to shop with smartphones and pay with QR codes. The use of cash is declining. China is fast becoming one of the most cashless societies in the world, driven by the rise of dominant fintech platforms like Tencent's WeChat Pay and Alibaba's Alipay. In many cities in China, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stop and pay a taxi, shop for groceries, or even pay a bill in a restaurant without access to a mobile wallet.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) presents digital currency: the digital yuan will be the first fully functional digital central bank currency. China has already started real-world tests for the digital currency in some cities, including Shenzhen, Chengdu and Suzhou. The digital yuan could increase competition in China's mobile payments market.