The renminbi or RMB for short is the currency that China has used since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Since 1949, the People’s Bank of China has issued five sets of currency.

The renminbi is divided into sub units known as Yuan or kuai. Yuan means round object, getting its name from the round silver and gold coins that were used for transactions prior to the development of paper money. These silver coins arrived from European merchants in the 16th century who bought porcelain and silk from China. The word kuai literally translates to the word piece and would be analogous to the word buck in the United States.

Yuan and kuai are the commonly used terms when purchasing something in China. Consumers would always refer to the price in terms of yuan or kuai and not mention RMB. For example, a bottle of water would cost you 2 yuan or kuai not 2 Renminbi.

The word Yuan is also used to denote other countries currency as well. In China, the US dollar is known as the Meiyuan (Meiguo = American), the Japanese yen is known as the Riyuan (Riguo =Japan) and the Euro is known as the Ouyuan (Ouzhou = Europe). If you come across the abbreviation CYN in a financial transaction, this is how the International Standards Organization denotes the Chinese Yuan.

One yuan is divided into 10 jiao. Jiaos can then be further subdivided into another class known as fen. One jiao is worth 10 fen. (1 Yuan = 10 jiao = 100 fen).

If you ever decide to visit China, you should first exchange your country’s currency to USD, EURO, AUD or other international currencies. Once you arrive in China, you can exchange currency at airport or hotel. But in a local bank you will likely to enjoy a more favorable rate. Just remember you need to present your passport in order to make the transaction.

Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan own its currency. The Hong Kong dollar serves as the currency in Hong Kong, Macau uses the Pataca as its currency and the New Taiwan Dollar is used in Taiwan. with the development of Chinese economy, RMB is becoming gradually acceptable especially in Hong Kong and Macau.

For the real-time exchange rate, you may check Bank of China’s exchange rate at

Below are images of the different denominations of RMB, from 100 yuan to one fen.

chinese currency