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Chinese units of measurement, known in Chinese as the shìzhì ("market system"), are the traditional units of measurement of the Han Chinese. Although Chinese numerals have been decimal (base-10) since the Shang, several Chinese measures use hexadecimal (base-16). Local applications have varied, but the Chinese dynasties usually proclaimed standard measurements and recorded their predecessor's systems in their histories.

In the present day, the People's Republic of China maintains some customary units based upon the market units but standardized to round values in the metric system, for example the common jin or catty of exactly 500 g. The Chinese name for most metric units is based on that of the closest traditional unit; when confusion might arise, the word "market" (, shì) is used to specify the traditional unit and "common" or "public" (, gōng) is used for the metric value. Taiwan, like Korea, saw its traditional units standardized to Japanese values and their conversion to a metric basis, such as the Taiwanese ping of about 3.306 m2 based on the square ken. The Hong Kong SAR continues to use its traditional units, now legally defined based on a local equation with metric units. For instance, the Hong Kong catty is precisely 604.78982 g.

Note: The names ( or ) and fēn () for small units are the same for length, area, and mass; however, they refer to different kinds of measurements.

## History

People's Republic of China maintains some customary units based upon the market units but standardized to round values in the metric system, for example the common jin or catty of exactly 500 g. The Chinese name for most metric units is based on that of the closest traditional unit; when confusion might arise, the word "market" (, shì) is used to specify the traditional unit and "common" or "public" (, gōng) is used for the metric value. Taiwan, like Korea, saw its traditional units standardized to Japanese values and their conversion to a metric basis, such as the Taiwanese ping of about 3.306 m2 based on the square ken. The Hong Kong SAR continues to use its traditional units, now legally defined based on a local equation with metric units. For instance, the Hong Kong catty is precisely 604.78982 g.

Note: The names ( or ) and fēn () for small units are the same for length, area, and mass; however, they refer to different kinds of measurements.

According to the Liji, the legendary Yellow Emperor created the first measurement units. The Xiao Erya and the Kongzi Jiayu state that length units were derived from the human body. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, these human body units caused inconsistency, and Yu the Great, another legendary figure, unified the length measurements. Rulers with decimal units have been unearthed from Shang Dynasty tombs.

In the Zhou Dynasty, the king conferred nobles with powers of the state and the measurement units began to be inconsistent from state to state. After the Warring States period, Qin Shi Huang unified China, and later standardized measurement units. In the Han Dynasty, these measurements were still being used, and were documented systematically in the Book of Han.

Astronomical instruments show little change of the length of chi in the following centuries, since the calendar needed to be consistent. It was not until the introduction of decimal units in the Ming Dynasty that the traditional system was revised.

### Republican Era

On 7 January 1915, the Beiyang Government promulgated a measurement law to use not only metric system as the standard but also a set of Chinese-style measurement.[1] On 16 February 1929, the Nationalist Government adopted and promulgated The Weights and Measures Act[2] to adopt the metric system as the official standard and to limit the newer Chinese units of measurement (Chinese: 市用制; pinyin: shìyòngzhì; lit. 'market-use system') to private sales and trade in Article 11, effective on 1 January 1930.[3]

### People's Republic of China

The Government of the People's Republic of China continued using the market system along with metric system, as decreed by the State Council of the People's Republic of China on 25 June 1959, but 1 catty being 500 grams, would become divided into 10 (new) taels, instead of 16 (old) taels, to be converted from province to province, while exempting Chinese prescription drugs from the conversion to prevent errors.[4]

On 27 February 1984, the State Council of the People's Republic of China decreed the market system to remain acceptable till the end of 1990 and ordered the transition to the national legal measures by that time, but farmland measures would be exempt from this mandatory metrication until further investigation and study.[5]

### Hong Kong

In 1976 the Hong Kong Metrication Ordinance allowed a gradual replacement of the system in favor of the International System of Units (SI) metric system.[6] The Weights and Measures Ordinance defines the metric, Imperial, and Chinese units.[7] As of 2012, all three systems are legal for trade and are in widespread use.

### Macau

On 24 August 1992, Macau published Law No. 14/92/M to order that Chinese units of measurement similar to those used in Hong Kong, Imperial units, and United States customary units would be permissible for five years since the effective date of the Law, 1 January 1993, on the condition of indicating the corresponding SI values, then for three more years thereafter, Chinese, Imperial, and US units would be permissible as secondary to the SI.[8]

## Ancient Chinese units

### Length

Gilded Bronze Ruler - 1 chi = 231 mm. Western Han (206 BCE–8 CE). Hanzhong City

Traditional units of length include the chi (), bu (), and li (). The precise length of these units, and the ratios between these units, has varied over time. 1 bu has consisted of either 5 or 6 chi, while 1 li has consisted of 300 or 360 bu.

Length in meters[9]
dynasty chi bu li
= 5 chi = 6 chi = 300 bu = 360 bu
Shang 0.1675 1.0050 301.50
0.1690 1.0140 304.20
Zhou 0.1990 1.1940 358.20
Eastern Zhou 0.2200 1.3200 396.00
0.2270 1.3620 408.60
0.2310 1.3860 415.80
Qin 0.2310 1.3860 415.80[10][11]
Han 0.2310 1.3860 415.80[12] 415.80[10][11]
600 CE 0.2550 1.5300 459.00
Tang 0.2465 1.2325 369.75 443.70
0.2955 1.4775 443.25 531.90
Song 0.2700 1.3500 405.00 486.00
Northern Song 0.3080 1.5400 462.00 554.40
Ming 0.3008–0.3190 1.5040–1.5950 451.20–478.50 541.44–574.20
Qing 0.3080–0.3352 1.5400–1.6760 462.00–503.89 554.40–603.46

## Modern Chinese units

All "metric values" given in the tables are exact unless otherwise specified by the approximation sign '~'.

Certain units are also listed at List of Chinese classifiers → Measurement units.

Chinese measurement law in 1915

### Length

#### Chinese length units promulgated in 1915

Table of Chinese length units promulgated in 1915[1]
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value Imperial value <

In the Zhou Dynasty, the king conferred nobles with powers of the state and the measurement units began to be inconsistent from state to state. After the Warring States period, Qin Shi Huang unified China, and later standardized measurement units. In the Han Dynasty, these measurements were still being used, and were documented systematically in the Book of Han.

Astronomical instruments show little change of the length of chi in the following centuries, since the calendar needed to be consistent. It was not until the introduction of decimal units in the Ming Dynasty that the traditional system was revised.

On 7 January 1915, the Beiyang Government promulgated a measurement law to use not only metric system as the standard but also a set of Chinese-style measurement.[1] On 16 February 1929, the Nationalist Government adopted and promulgated The Weights and Measures Act[2] to adopt the metric system as the official standard and to limit the newer Chinese units of measurement (Chinese: 市用制; pinyin: shìyòngzhì; lit. 'market-use system') to private sales and trade in Article 11, effective on 1 January 1930.[3]

### People's Republic of China

The Government of the People's Republic of China continued using the market system along with metric system, as decreed by the State Council of the People's Republic of China on 25 June 1959, but 1 catty being 500 grams, would become divided into 10 (new) taels, instead of 16 (old) taels, to be converted from province to province, while exempting Chinese prescription drugs from the conversion to prevent errors.[4]

On 27 February 1984, the State Council of the People's Republic of China decreed the market system to remain acceptable till the end of 1990 and ordered the transition to the national legal measures by that time, but farmland measures would be exempt from this mandatory metrication until further investiga

On 27 February 1984, the State Council of the People's Republic of China decreed the market system to remain acceptable till the end of 1990 and ordered the transition to the national legal measures by that time, but farmland measures would be exempt from this mandatory metrication until further investigation and study.[5]

In 1976 the Hong Kong Metrication Ordinance allowed a gradual replacement of the system in favor of the International System of Units (SI) metric system.[6] The Weights and Measures Ordinance defines the metric, Imperial, and Chinese units.[7] As of 2012, all three systems are legal for trade and are in widespread use.

### Macau

On 24 August 1992, Macau published Law No. 14/92/M to order that Chinese units of measurement similar to those used in Hong Kong, On 24 August 1992, Macau published Law No. 14/92/M to order that Chinese units of measurement similar to those used in Hong Kong, Imperial units, and United States customary units would be permissible for five years since the effective date of the Law, 1 January 1993, on the condition of indicating the corresponding SI values, then for three more years thereafter, Chinese, Imperial, and US units would be permissible as secondary to the SI.[8]

## Ancient Chinese units

#### Chinese length units promulgated in 1915

Table of Chinese length units promulgated in 1915[1]
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value Imperial value Notes
háo 110000 32 µm 0.00126 inCertain units are also listed at List of Chinese classifiers → Measurement units.

The Chinese word for meter is ; this can take the Chinese standard SI prefixes (for "kilo-", "centi-", etc.). A kilometer, however, may also be called 公里 gōnglǐ, i.e. a metric .

In the engineering field, traditional units are rounded up to metric units. For example, the Chinese word (T) or (S) is used to express 0.01 mm.

Table of Chinese length units in engineering
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value Imperial value Notes
11000000 1 µm Authorized name: 微米
(T) or (S) 1100000 10 µm Authorized name: 忽米
háo 110000 100 µm Authorized name: 絲米 (T) or 丝米 (S)
(T) or (S) 11000 1 mm Authorized name: 毫米
fēn 公分 1100 10 mm Authorized name: 釐米(T) or 厘米(S)
cùn 公寸 110 100 mm Authorized name: 分米
chǐ 公尺 1 1 m Authorized name:

which has a different character and tone

#### Hong Kong and Macau length units

Table of Chinese length units in Hong Kong[7] and Macau[8]
English Jyutping Character Portuguese Relative value Metric value Imperial value Notes
fan fan1 condorim 1100 3.71475 mm 0.1463 in
tsun cyun3 ponto 110 37.1475 mm 1.463 in
chek cek3 côvado 1 371.475 mm 1.219 ft Hong Kong and Macau foot

These correspond to the measures listed simply as "China" in The Measures, Weights, & Moneys of All Nations [13]

### Area

#### Chinese area units promulgated in 1915

Table of Chinese area units promulgated in 1915[1]
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value Imperial value Notes
háo 11000 0.6144 m2 0.7348 sq yd Chinese milliacre
(T) or (S) 1100 6.144 m2 7.348 sq yd Chinese centiacre
fēn 110 61.44 m2 73.48 sq yd Chinese deciacre, 10 li
(T) or (S) 1 614.4 m2 734.82 sq yd Chinese acre, 10 fen, or 60 square zhang
qǐng (T) or (S) 100 6.144 ha 15.18 acre Chinese hide, 100 mǔ
Table of Chinese square units effective in 1915[1]
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value Imperial value Notes
fāng cùn 方寸 1100 10.24 cm2 1.587 sq in square cun
fāng chǐ 方尺 1 0.1024 m2 1.102 sq ft square chi
fāng zhàng 方丈 100 10.24 m2 110.2 sq ft square zhang

#### Chinese area units effective in 1930

Table of Chinese area units effective in 1930[3]
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value Imperial value Notes
háo 11000<

In the engineering field, traditional units are rounded up to metric units. For example, the Chinese word (T) or (S) is used to express 0.01 mm.

These correspond to the measures listed simply as "China" in The Measures, Weights, & Moneys of All Nations [13]

### Area

#### Chinese area units promulgated in 1915

Table of Chinese area units promulgated in 1915[1]
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value Imperial value Notes
háo 11000 0.6144 m2 0.7348 sq yd Chinese milliacre
(T) or (S) 1100 6.144 m2 7.348 sq yd Chinese centiacre
fēn 110 61.44 m2 73.48 sq yd Chinese deciacre, 10 li
(T) or (S) 1 614.4 m2 734.82 sq yd Chinese acre, 10 fen, or 60 square zhang
qǐng (T) or (S) 100 6.144 ha 15.18 acre Chinese hide, 100 mǔ
Table of Chinese square units effective in 1915[1]
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value Imperial value Notes
fāng cùn 方寸 1100 10.24 cm2 1.587 sq in square cun
fāng chǐ 方尺 1 0.1024 m2 1.102 sq ft square chi
fāng zhàng 方丈 100 10.24 m2 110.2 sq ft square zhang

#### Chinese area units effective in 1930

Table of Chinese area units effective in 1930[3]
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value Imperial value Notes
háo 11000 23 m2 7.18 sq ft Chinese milliacre
(T) or (S) 1100 6 23 m2 7.973 sq yd Chinese centiacre
fēn 市分 110 66 2

Metric and other standard length units can be squared by the addition of the prefix 平方 píngfāng. For example, a square kilometer is 平方公里 píngfāng gōnglǐ.

#### Macau area units

Table of Chinese area units in Macau[8]
Jyutping Character Portuguese Relative value Metric value Imperial value Notes
cek3 côvado 16000 0.1269 m2 1.366 sq ft
pou3 1240 3.1725 m2 34.15 sq ft
3.794 sq yd
zoeng6 braça 160 12.69 m2 136.6 sq ft
15.18 sq yd
fan1 condorim 110 76.14 m2 91.06 sq yd
mau5 (T) or (S) maz 1 761.4 m2 910.6 sq yd

### Volume

These units are used to measure cereal grains, among other things. In imperial times, the physical standard for these was the jialiang.

#### Chinese volume units promulgated in 1915

Table of Chinese volume units effective in 1915[1]
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value US value Imperial value Notes
sháo 1100 10.354688 ml 0.3501 fl oz 0.3644 fl oz
110 103.54688 ml 3.501 fl oz 3.644 fl oz
shēng 1 1.0354688 l 2.188 pt 1.822 pt
dǒu 10 10.354688 l 2.735 gal 2.278 gal
50 51.77344 l 13.68 gal 11.39 gal
dàn 100 103.54688 l 27.35 gal 22.78 gal

#### Chinese volume units effective in 1930

Table of Chinese volume units effective in 1930[3]
Pinyin Character Relative value Metric value US value Imperial value Notes
cuō 11000 1 ml 0.0338 fl oz 0.0352 fl oz millilitre
sháo 1100 10 ml 0.3381 fl oz 0.3520 fl oz centilitre
110 100 ml 3.381 fl oz 3.520 fl oz decilitre
shēng 市升 1 1 l 2.113 pt 1.760 pt litre
dǒu 市斗 10 10 l 21.13 pt
2.64 gal
17.60 pt
2.20 gal
decalitre
dàn 市石 100 100 l 26.41 gal 22.0 gal hectolitre