The yuan (or renminbi) has the currency of China since 1949, and the People’s Bank of China is responsible for issuing coins and banknotes. 

Origins and history

The first objects used as currency in China were sea shells, which triggered the start of a barter system. Later on, bronze coins would be created as substitutes for those objects. The reason to mint coins in this material was that China had already been using it for a long time.

The growth of trade and the development of markets lead to the surface of several kinds of currencies such as fabrics (bu bi), knives (dao bin), shells carved in bronze (daiming tongbei) and round coins (huan qian), dating back to the era prior to the Qin dynasty. These are the result of the rapid development that the market economy was experiencing, which explains why currencies were based on shapes, instruments and tools used at that time. Those also varied according to the region and city. 

On the other hand, during the Han dynasty, when the trading activity was very intense, there was a period of time when people were allowed to mint their own coins, leading to the very serious issue of counterfeiting and the appearance of poorer quality ones. 

Today, the currency of legal tender is the yuan or renminbi, which appeared with the foundation of the People’s Bank of China, and was issued for the first time short before the triumph of the revolutionaries in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. One of the first tasks of the new government was to end the hyperinflation that had taken place in China in the final years of the Kuomintang era.

After going through several stages, the People’s Bank of China started issuing the third version of this coin in 1962.

The fourth series of the yuan came with the application of the policy of reforms and opening-up, the development of the urban and rural market economy and the increase of retail sales in social goods. This fourth version brought about certain upgrades and breakthroughs in the design, style and printing technique.

Current Chinese yuan banknotes and coins  

The basic unit of this currency is the yuan, which in Chinese is represented by the symbol «元». A yuan is divided into 10 Chinese jiǎo: 角. A jiǎo is subdivided into 10 fēn: 分.

Today, banknotes in denominations of 1, 2 and 5 jiǎo, and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 yuan are in circulation.

Billetes del yuan chino

Regarding coins, denominations of 1, 2 and 5 fēn, 1 and 5 jiǎo, and 1 yuan are in use.


Interesting facts about the Chinese yuan:

  • The symbol that represents the yuan (¥) is the same used for the yen, although the pronunciation is different.
  • The word jiǎo means «horn», while máo means «hair and feathers»
  • In China is as common to find prices with the symbol ¥ preceding the number as it is to find the character 元 following it. The abbreviation RMB is also used when the symbol ¥ is not available.





Date of creation:



People’s Bank of China 

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