Tael (/ˈteɪl/; simplified Chinese: 两; traditional Chinese: 兩;
pinyin: liǎng) or tahil can refer to any one of several weight
measures of the Far East. Most commonly, it refers to the Chinese
tael, a part of the Chinese system of weights and currency.
In Taiwan, Hong Kong, and
Southeast Asia it is equivalent to 10 mace
(Chinese: 錢; pinyin: qián) or 1⁄16 catty, albeit with
slightly different metric equivalents in these two places. These
Chinese units of measurement
Chinese units of measurement are usually used in Chinese herbal
medicine stores as well as gold and silver exchange.
1 Names and etymology
2 Historical usage
3 Current usage
Hong Kong and Singapore
4 See also
6 External links
Names and etymology
The English word tael comes through Portuguese from the Malay word
tahil, meaning "weight". Early English forms of the name such as "tay"
or "taes" derive from the Portuguese plural of tael, taeis.
Tahil (/ˈtɑːhɪl/ in Singaporean English) is used in Malay and
English today when referring to the weight in Malaysia, Singapore, and
Brunei where it is still used in some contexts especially related to
Overseas Chinese population.
In Chinese, tael is written 兩 (simplified Chinese: 两) and has the
Mandarin Chinese pronunciation in pinyin: liǎng. In Chinese and
Vietnamese, the phrase "half a catty, eight taels" (Chinese:
半斤八兩; Vietnamese:kẻ tám lạng người nửa cân),
meaning two different presentations of the same thing (similar to the
English phrase "Six of one and half-a-dozen of the other"), is still
often used today.
Japanese Edo era tael weights for balance scales, made of bronze. In
descending size, 30, 20, 10, 5, 4, 3, and 2 tael weights.
In China, there were many different weighting standards of tael
depending on the region or type of trade. In general the silver tael
weighed around 40 grams (1.3 ozt). The most common government
measure was the Kuping (庫平; kùpíng; "treasury standard") tael,
weighing 37.5 grams (1.21 ozt). A common commercial weight, the
Caoping (漕平; cáopíng; "canal shipping standard") tael weighed
36.7 grams (1.18 ozt) of marginally less pure silver.
As in China,
Japan used the tael (Japanese: 両, Hepburn: ryō) as
both a unit of weight and, by extension, a currency.
Traditional Chinese silver sycees and other currencies of fine metals
were not denominated or made by a central mint and their value was
determined by their weight in taels. They were made by individual
silversmiths for local exchange, and as such the shape and amount of
extra detail on each ingot were highly variable; square and oval
shapes were common but "boat", flower, tortoise and others are known.
The local tael also took precedence over any central measure, so the
Canton tael weighed 37.5 grams, the Convention or
Shanghai tael was
33.9 g (1.09 ozt), and the Haiguan (海關; hǎiguān; "customs")
tael 37.8 grams (1.3334 oz; 1.2153 ozt). The conversion
rates between various common taels were well known. The tael was still
the basis of the silver currency and sycee remained in use until the
end of the
Qing Dynasty in 1911. Common weights were 50, 10, 5 and one
Modern studies suggest that, on purchasing power parity basis, one
tael of silver was worth about 4130 RMB (modern Chinese yuan) in
the early Tang Dynasty, 2065 RMB in the late Tang Dynasty, and
660.8 RMB in the mid Ming Dynasty. Today the
price of silver is about 元154RMB/tael.
The Thai equivalent of the tael is known as the tamlueng, a term
derived from Khmer. It was used as a unit of currency equal to four
baht, and as a unit of weight is now standardised at 60 grams.
The tael is still in use as a weight measurement in a number of
countries though usually only in limited contexts.
China's standardised market tael (Chinese: 市两; pinyin: shìliǎng)
of 31.25 g was modified by the People's Republic of
1959. The new market tael was 50 g or 1⁄10 catty
(500 g) to make it compatible with metric measures. (see Chinese
unit for details.) In Shanghai, silver is still traded in taels.
Some foodstuffs in
China are sold in units also called "taels", but
which do not necessarily weigh one tael. For cooked rice, the weight
of the tael is approximated using special tael-sized ladles. Other
items sold in taels include the shengjian mantou and the xiaolongbao,
both small buns commonly found in Shanghai. In these cases, one tael
is traditionally four and eight buns respectively.
Hong Kong and Singapore
The tael is a legal weight measure in Hong Kong, and is still in
active use. In Hong Kong, one tael is 37.799364167 g, and in
ordinance 22 of 1884 is 1 1⁄3 oz. avoir. Similar to Hong
Kong, in Singapore, one tael is defined as 1 1⁄3 ounce and
is approximated as 37.7994 g
Taiwan tael is 37.5 g and is still used in some contexts. The
Taiwan tael is derived from the tael or ryō (両) of the Japanese
system (equal to 10 momme) which was 37.5 g. Although the catty
(equal to 16 taels) is still frequently used in Taiwan, the tael
is only used for precious metals and medicines.
Gold lạng (Tael) of Tự Đức
In French Indochina, the colonial administration standardised the tael
(lạng) as 100 g, which is commonly used at food markets where
many items typically weigh in the 100–900 g range. However, a
different tael (called cây, lạng, or lượng) unit of 37.5 g
is used for domestic transactions in gold. Real estate prices are
often quoted in taels of gold rather than the local currency over
concerns over monetary inflation.
History of Chinese currency
Economic history of China
^ "Tael" entry at the OED Online.
^ a b c "Weights and Measures Ordinance". The Law of Hong Kong.
^ a b "Weights and Measures Act (CHAPTER 349) Third Schedule".
^ "Tahil" entry at A Dictionary of Singlish and
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sycee.
World Gold Council description of tael bars
Currencies of China
History of Chinese currency
Ancient Chinese coinage
Zhou dynasty coinage
Liao dynasty coinage
Southern Song dynasty coinage
Western Xia coinage
Jin dynasty coinage (1115–1234)
Da Qi coinage
Yuan dynasty coinage
Ming dynasty coinage
Qing dynasty coinage
Historically independent territories
Historical money of Tibet
Ancient and medieval
Customs gold unit
Special administrative regions
Hong Kong dollar