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Basic information about spending money in Beijing
Updated: 2008-07-16 17:26

For many overseas visitors, the Beijing Olympic Games offers a good opportunity not only to watch  exciting games, but also to enjoy a shopping spree, as the country is well known for its low-price, good-quality Made-in-China  products.

Yet prior to splashing out in Beijing, it is useful to know some basics about the Chinese currency yuan (or renminbi), how to change your money into yuan, related Chinese foreign exchange  policies and so on.


The renminbi (literally "people's currency") is the legal tender in the mainland of the People's Republic of China. It is issued by the People's Bank of China (PBOC, central bank). The official abbreviation is CNY, although also commonly abbreviated as "RMB".

Chinese paper money usually comes in 1 fen (rare), 2 fen (rare), 5 fen (very rare), 1 jiao, 2 jiao, 5 jiao, 1 yuan, 2 yuan, 5 yuan, 10 yuan, 20 yuan, 50 yuan and 100 yuan. One yuan is divided into 10 jiao. One jiao is divided into 10 fen, pennies in English. The largest denomination of the renminbi  is the 100 yuan note. The smallest is the 1 fen coin or note.

RMB  is issued both in notes and coins. The paper denominations include 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 yuan; 5, 2 and 1 jiao; and 5, 2 and 1 fen. The denominations of coins are 1 yuan; 5, 2 and 1 jiao; and 5, 2 and 1 fen.    

In spoken Chinese, "yuan" is often called as "kuai" and the  "jiao" as "mao". Fen-denomination RMB is rarely used, except at  supermarkets. The following are descriptions of major features of the above 1-yuan banknotes. It is easy to tell various denominations of RMB  since there are corresponding Arabic numerals printed on every  paper note or coin. 

The 1-yuan banknote has two types, the red one debuted in 1996 while the green one in 1999. The obverse of the 1996-type 1-yuan note is a portrait of two women from two minorities, and the  reverse is the Great Wall. The obverse of the 1999-type 1-yuan  note is a portrait of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong, while the reverse is the Xihu Lake in the southeastern Chinese city  Hangzhou.    

The 2-yuan banknote is in green. Its obverse is also a portrait of two women from another two minorities, and the reverse is the  South China Sea.  

The 5-yuan banknote also has two types, the brown one designed and issued in 1980 while the purple one in 1999. The obverse of  the 1980-type is a portrait of two minority people -- a Tibetan woman and a Muslim man, while the reverse is a scenic picture of  the Yangtze River, the country's longest one. The obverse of the 1999-type is a portrait of Mao Zedong and the reverse is Taishan  Maintain, a mountain in east China's Shandong province listed by the UNESCO as a world natural and cultural heritage.    

The 10-yuan banknote also has two types -- the ordinary one debuted in 1999 while the special note was issued on July 8 by the central bank to mark the Beijing Olympic Games. The obverse of the ordinary one is a portrait of Mao Zedong while its reverse is the drawing of the scenic Three Gorges. The special banknote issued on July 8 has a picture of the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, on its obverse, while its reverse features the famous ancient Greek marble statue of a discus-thrower, Discobolus.

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