Chinese numerals are characters for writing
numbers in
Chinese. Today, speakers of Chinese use
three
numeral systems:the ubiquitous
system of
Arabic numerals, along
with two ancient Chinese numeral systems.
One such system is the
Suzhou
numerals or
huama system. It has gradually been
supplanted by the Arabic system in writing numbers.
It is the only
surviving variation of the rod numeral
system; this system has been popular only in Chinese markets, such
as those in Hong
Kong before the 1990s.
The other Chinese numeral system is the
written numbers system. It is still in use when
writing numbers in long form, such as on cheques to hinder forgery.
This character system is roughly analogous to spelling out a number
in English text. The Chinese character system can be classified as
part of the language, but it still counts as a number system. Most
people in China now use the Arabic system for convenience.
Individual
Chinese characters in
this article link to their dictionary entries.
Written numbers
The Chinese character numeral system consists of the
Chinese characters used by the
Chinese written language to write
spoken numerals. Similarly to spelledout numbers in English (e.g.,
"one thousand nine hundred fortyfive"), it is not an independent
system
per se. Since it reflects spoken language, it does
not use the positional system as is done in Arabic numerals, in the
same way that spelling out numbers in English does not.
Characters used to represent numbers
Standard numbers
There are characters representing the numbers zero through nine,
and other characters representing larger numbers such as tens,
hundreds, thousands and so on. There are two sets of characters for
Chinese numerals: one for everyday writing and one for use in
commercial or financial contexts known as
dàxiě (大寫 in
traditional Chinese, 大写 in
simplified Chinese). The latter arose
because the characters used for writing numerals are geometrically
simple, so simply using those numerals cannot prevent forgeries in
the same way spelling numbers out in English would. A forger could
easily change everyday characters
三十 (30) to
五千 (5000) by adding just a few
strokes. That would not be possible when writing using the
financial characters
叁拾 (30)
and
伍仟 (5000).
T denotes Traditional,
S denotes
Simplified.
Financial 
Normal 
Value 
Pīnyīn 
Notes 
零 
〇 
0 
líng 
〇 is a common informal way to represent zero, but the
traditional 零 is more often used in schools. 
壹 
一 
1 
yī 
also 弌 (obsolete financial), can
be easily manipulated into 弍 (two) or 弎 (three). 
貳 (T) or
贰 (S)

二 
2 
èr 
also 弍 (obsolete financial), can
be easily manipulated into 弌 (one) or 弎 (three).
also 兩 (T) or 两 (S), see Characters with regional
usage section.

叄 (T) or
叁 (S)

三 
3 
sān 
also 弎 (obsolete financial), can
be easily manipulated into 弌 (one) or 弍 (two).
also 參(T) or 参(S) sān.

肆 
四 
4 
sì 

伍 
五 
5 
wǔ 

陸 (T) or
陆 (S)

六 
6 
liù 

柒 
七 
7 
qī 

捌 
八 
8 
bā 

玖 
九 
9 
jiǔ 

拾 
十 
10 
shí 
Although some people use 什 as
financial, it is not ideal because it can be easily manipulated
into 伍 or 仟. 
佰 
百 
100 
bǎi 

仟 
千 
1,000 
qiān 
萬 
萬 (T) or
万 (S)

10^{4} 
wàn 
Chinese numbers group by tenthousands
see Reading and
transcribing numbers section below.

億 
億 (T) or
亿 (S)

10^{8} 
yì 
See large numbers section
below. 
Characters with regional usage
Financial 
Normal 
Value 
Pinyin (Mandarin) 
Standard alternative 
Notes 

幺 
1 
yāo 
一 
Literally means "the smallest". It is used in Mandarin to unambiguously pronounce "#1" in
series of digits (such as phone numbers and ID numbers), because
one (一) rhymes with seven (七). It is never used in counting or
reading values. In Taiwan, it is only
used by soldiers, police, and emergency
services. This usage is not observed in Cantonese except
for 十三么 (a special winning hand) in Mahjong. 

兩(T) or 两(S) 
2 
liǎng 
二 
A very common alternative way of saying "two". Its usage varies
from dialect to dialect, even person to person. For example "2222"
can read as "二千二百二十二", "兩千二百二十二" or even "兩千兩百二十二" in Mandarin. See
Reading and
transcribing numbers section below. 

呀 
10 
yā 
十 
In Cantonese speech, when 十 is used
in the middle of a number, preceded by a multiplier and followed by
a ones digit, 十 becomes 呀 (aa^{6}), e.g. 六呀三, 63. This
usage is not observed in Mandarin. 

念 or 廿 
20 
niàn 
二十 
The written form is still used to refer to dates, especially
Chinese calendar dates.
Spoken form is still used in various dialects of Chinese.
See Reading and
transcribing numbers section below.
In Cantonese, 廿 (jaa^{6}) must
be followed by another digit 19 (e.g.
廿三, 23), or in a phrase like 廿幾 ("twentysomething"); it is not
used by itself to mean 20.
卄 is a rare variant.


卅 
30 
sà 
三十 
The written form is still used to abbreviate date references in
Chinese. For example, May 30
Movement (五卅運動).
Spoken form is still used in various dialects of Chinese.
See Reading and
transcribing numbers section below.


卌 
40 
xì 
四十 
Spoken form is still used in various dialects of Chinese,
albeit very rare. 

皕 
200 
bì 
二百 
Very rarely used, one common example is the literature
《皕宋樓》. 
Large numbers
Similar to the
long and short
scales in the west, for numeral characters greater than
萬 (wàn), there have been four systems
in ancient and modern usage:
Character (T) 
億 
兆 
京 
垓 
秭 
穰 
溝 
澗 
正 
載 
Factor of increase 
Character (S) 
亿 
兆 
京 
垓 
秭 
穰 
沟 
涧 
正 
载 
Pinyin 
yì 
zhào 
jīng 
gāi 
zǐ 
ráng 
gōu 
jiàn 
zhēng 
zài 
Alternative 


經/经 

杼 
壤 





1 
10^{5} 
10^{6} 
10^{7} 
10^{8} 
10^{9} 
10^{10} 
10^{11} 
10^{12} 
10^{13} 
10^{14} 
Each numeral is 10 (十 shí) times the previous. 
2 
10^{8} 
10^{12} 
10^{16} 
10^{20} 
10^{24} 
10^{28} 
10^{32} 
10^{36} 
10^{40} 
10^{44} 
Each numeral is 10,000 (萬 wàn) times the previous. 
3 
10^{8} 
10^{16} 
10^{24} 
10^{32} 
10^{40} 
10^{48} 
10^{56} 
10^{64} 
10^{72} 
10^{80} 
Each numeral is 10^{8} (萬萬 wànwàn) times the
previous. 
4 
10^{8} 
10^{16} 
10^{32} 
10^{64} 
10^{128} 
10^{256} 
10^{512} 
10^{1024} 
10^{2048} 
10^{4096} 
Each numeral is the square of
the previous. 
In modern Chinese, only the second system is used in expressing
numbers. Although there is some dispute on the value of 兆 zhào, the
usage (representing 10
^{12}) is still consistent through
Chinese communities, as well as
Japan,
Korea.
One example of ambiguity is 兆 (zhào), which traditionally means
10
^{12} but is also used for 10
^{6} in information
technology in recent years (esp. in mainland China).
To avoid problems
arising from the ambiguity, the PRC government
never uses this character in official documents, but uses 万亿
(wànyì) instead. (the ROC government in
Taiwan uses 兆 (zhào) to mean 10^{12} in official
documents.)
Numbers from Buddhism
The numerals beyond 載 zài come from
Buddhist texts in
Sanskrit, but these "Buddhist numerals" have become
"ancient usage".
Character (T) 
Character (S) 
Pinyin 
Value 
Notes 
極 
极 
jí 
10^{48} 

恆河沙 
恒河沙 
héng hé shā 
10^{52} 
Literally means "Sands of the Ganges", a metaphor
used in number of Buddhist texts to
convey a quantity equal to the number of grains of sand in the
Ganges river. 
阿僧祇 
ā sēng qí 
10^{56} 
From Sanskrit Asaṃkhyeya 
那由他 
nà yóu tā 
10^{60} 
From Sanskrit Nayuta 
不可思議 
不可思议 
bùkě sīyì 
10^{64} 
Literally translated as "unfathomable" or "unthinkable". 
無量 
无量 
wú liàng 
10^{68} 
Literally translated "without limit" 
大數 
大数 
dà shù 
10^{72} 
Literally translated "big number" 
Small numbers
The following are characters used to denote small
order of magnitude in Chinese
historically. With the introduction of SI units, some of them have
been incorporated as SI prefixes, while the rest have fallen into
disuse.
Character (T) 
Character (S) 
Pinyin 
Value 
Notes 
漠 
mò 
10^{−12} 
(Ancient Chinese)
皮 corresponds to the SI prefix pico. 
渺 
miǎo 
10^{−11} 
(Ancient Chinese) 
埃 
āi 
10^{−10} 
(Ancient Chinese) 
塵 
尘 
chén 
10^{−9} 
(Ancient Chinese)
奈 (T) or 纳 (S) corresponds to the SI prefix nano. 
沙 
shā 
10^{−8} 
(Ancient Chinese) 
纖 
纤 
qiān 
10^{−7} 
(Ancient Chinese) 
微 
wēi 
10^{−6} 
still in use, corresponds to the SI
prefix micro. 
忽 
hū 
10^{−5} 
(Ancient Chinese) 
絲 
丝 
sī 
10^{−4} 
(Ancient Chinese) 
毫 
háo 
10^{−3} 
also 毛.
still in use, corresponds to the SI
prefix milli. 
厘 
lí 
1/100 
also 釐.
still in use, corresponds to the SI
prefix centi. 
分 
fēn 
1/10 
still in use, corresponds to the SI
prefix deci. 
SI prefixes
The translations for the
SI prefixes in
earlier days were different from those used today. The larger (兆,
京, 垓, 秭, 穰), and smaller Chinese numerals (微, 纖, 沙, 塵, 渺) were
defined as translations for the SI prefixes. For instance, 京 jīng
was defined as
giga, and 纖 xiān was defined as
nano. This resulted in the creation of more values for
each numeral.
By the time of "early translation", a dispute had arisen over the
value of 兆 . The government of the PRC used
a part of this
translation, and defined
兆 zhào as
the translation for the SI prefix
mega
(10
^{6}). (Perhaps the government was not aware of the
common usage of 兆, and thus did not consider an alternative single
Chinese character, such as
巨, to
represent
mega.) Because of this, the translation has
caused much confusion.
In addition, Taiwanese defined 百萬 as the translation for
mega. This translation is widely used in official
documents, academic communities, informational industries, etc.
However, the civil broadcasting industries sometimes use
兆赫 to represent "
megahertz".
Today,
both the governments of the People's Republic of China (Mainland China,
Hong
Kong and Macau) and
Republic of
China (Taiwan) use phonetic transliterations for the SI
prefixes. However, the governments have each chosen
different Chinese characters for certain prefixes. The following
table lists the two different standards together with the early
translation.
Reading and transcribing numbers
Whole numbers
Multipledigit numbers are constructed using a multiplicative
principle; first the digit itself (from 1 to 9), then the place
(such as 10 or 100); then the next digit.
In Mandarin, the multiplier
兩 (liǎng)
is used rather than
二 (èr) for all
numbers greater than 200 with the "2" numeral. Use of both 兩
(liǎng) or 二 (èr) are acceptable for the number 200.(NOTE, 二 is not
appropriate in the common usage of 250, namely 二百五十.) When writing
in the Cantonese dialect, 二 (yi
^{6}) is used to represent
the "2" numeral for all numbers. In the southern Min dialect of
Chaozhou (Teochew), 兩 (no
^{6}) is used to represent the "2"
numeral in all numbers from 200 onwards. Thus:
Number 
Structure 
Characters 
Mandarin 
Cantonese 
Chaozhou 
Shanghainese 
60 
[6] [10] 
六十 
六十 
六十 
六十 
20 
[2] [10] or [20] 
二十 
二十 or 廿 
二十 
廿 
200 
[2] (èr) or (liǎng) [100] 
二百 or 兩百 
二百 or 兩百 
兩百 
兩百 
2000 
[2] (liǎng) [1000] 
二千 or 兩千 
二千 or 兩千 
兩千 
兩千 
45 
[4] [10] [5] 
四十五 
四十五 or 卌五 
四十五 
四十五 
2,362 
[2] [1,000] [3] [100] [6] [10] [2] 
兩千三百六十二 
二千三百六十二 
兩千三百六十二 
兩千三百六十二 
For the numbers 11 through 19, the leading "one" (一) is usually
omitted. In some dialects, like Shanghainese, when there are only
two significant digits in the number, the leading "one" and the
trailing zeroes are omitted. Sometimes, the one before "ten" in the
middle of a number, such as 213, is omitted. Thus:
Number 
Strict Putonghua 
Colloquial or dialect usage 
Structure 
Characters 
Structure 
Characters 
14 
[10] [4] 
十四 


12000 
[1] [10000] [2] [1000] 
一萬兩千 
[1] [10000] [2] or
[10000] [2]

一萬二 or 萬二 
114 
[1] [100] [1] [10] [4] 
一百一十四 
[1] [100] [10] [4] 
一百十四 
1158 
[1] [1000] [1] [100] [5] [10] [8] 
一千一百五十八 
See note 1 below 
Notes:
 Nothing is ever omitted in large and more complicated numbers
such as this.
In certain older texts like the
Protestant Bible or in
poetic usage, numbers such as 114 may be
written as [100]
[10] [4] (百十四).
For numbers larger than a
myriad, the same
grouping system used in English applies, except in groups of four
places (myriads) rather than in groups of three (thousands). Hence
it is more convenient to think of numbers here as in groups of
four, thus 1,234,567,890 is regrouped here as 12,3456,7890. Larger
than a myriad, each number is therefore four zeroes longer than the
one before it, thus 10000 × wàn (萬) = yì (億). If one of the numbers
is between 10 and 19, the leading "one" is omitted as per the above
point. Hence (numbers in parentheses indicate that the number has
been written as one number rather than expanded):
Number 
Structure 
Characters 
12,345,678,902,345
(12,3456,7890,2345)

(12) [1,0000,0000,0000] (3456) [1,0000,0000] (7890) [1,0000]
(2345) 
十二兆三千四百五十六億七千八百九十萬兩千三百四十五 
Interior zeroes before the unit position (as in 1002) must be spelt
explicitly. The reason for this is that trailing zeroes (as in
1200) are often omitted as shorthand, so ambiguity occurs. One zero
is sufficient to resolve the ambiguity. Where the zero is before a
digit other than the units digit, the explicit zero is not
ambiguous and is therefore optional, but preferred. Thus:
Number 
Structure 
Characters 
205 
[2] [100] [0] [5] 
二百〇五 
100,004
(10,0004)

[10] [10,000] [0] [4] 
十萬〇四 
10,050,026
(1005,0026)

(1005) [10,000] (26) or
(1005) [10,000] (026)

一千〇五萬〇二十六 or
一千〇五萬二十六

Fractional values
To construct a fraction, the
denominator
is written first, followed by
分之 ("parts of") and then the
numerator. This is the opposite of how
fractions are read in English, which is numerator first. Each half
of the fraction is written the same as a whole number.
Mixed numbers are
written with the wholenumber part first, followed by
又 ("and"), then the fractional part.
Fraction 
Structure 
Characters 
^{2}/_{3} 
[3] [parts of] [2] 
三分之二 
^{15}/_{32} 
[3] [10] [2] [parts of] [10] [5] 
三十二分之十五 
^{1}/_{3000} 
[3] [1000] [parts of] [1] 
三千分之一 
3 ^{5}/_{6} 
[3] [and] [6] [parts of] [5] 
三又六分之五 
Percentages are constructed similarly, using 百 (100) as the
denominator. The 一 (one) before 百 is omitted.
Percentage 
Structure 
Characters 
25% 
[100] [parts of] [2] [10] [5] 
百分之二十五 
110% 
[100] [parts of] [1] [100] [1] [10] 
百分之一百一十 
Decimal numbers are constructed by first writing the whole number
part, then inserting a point ( ), and finally the decimal
expression. The decimal expression is written using only the digits
for 0 to 9, without multiplicative words.
Decimal expression 
Structure 
Characters 
16.98 
[10] [6] [point] [9] [8] 
十六點九八 
12345.6789 
[1] [10000] [2] [1000] [3] [100] [4] [10] [5] [point] [6] [7]
[8] [9] 
一萬兩千三百四十五點六七八九 
75.4025 
[7] [10] [5] [point] [4] [0] [2] [5] 
七十五點四〇二五 
0.1 
[0] [point] [1] 
〇點一 
Ordinal numbers
Ordinal numbers are formed by adding
第 ("sequence") before the number.
Ordinal 
Structure 
Characters 
1st 
[sequence] [1] 
第一 
2nd 
[sequence] [2] 
第二 
82nd 
[sequence] [8] [10] [2] 
第八十二 
Negative numbers
Negative numbers are formed by adding fù ( ) before the number.
Number 
Structure 
Characters 
1158 
[negative] [1] [1000] [1] [100] [5] [10] [8] 
負一千一百五十八 
3 ^{5}/_{6} 
[negative] [3] [and] [6] [parts of] [5] 
負三又六分之五 
75.4025 
[negative] [7] [10] [5] [point] [4] [0] [2] [5] 
負七十五點四〇二五 
Suzhou numerals
In the same way that
Roman numerals
were standard in ancient and medieval Europe for mathematics and
commerce, the Chinese formerly used the
rod numerals, which is a positional system.
The Suzhou numerals ( ) system is a variation of the
Southern Song rod numerals. Nowadays, the
huāmǎ system is only used for displaying prices in Chinese
markets or on traditional handwritten invoices.
Hand gestures
There is a common method of using of one hand to signify the
numbers one to ten. While the five digits on one hand can express
the numbers one to five, six to ten have special signs that can be
used in commerce or daytoday communication.
Cultural influences
During
Ming and Qing dynasties (when Arabic numerals were first
introduced into China), some Chinese mathematicians used Chinese
numeral characters as positional system digits. After Qing
dynasty, both the Chinese numeral characters and the Suzhou
numerals were replaced by Arabic numerals in mathematical
writings.
Traditional Chinese numeric characters are
also used in Japan and Korea. In
vertical text (that is, read top to bottom), using characters for
numbers is the norm, while in horizontal text, Arabic numerals are
most common. Chinese numeric characters are also used in much the
same formal or decorative fashion that Roman numerals are in
Western cultures. Chinese numerals may appear together with Arabic
numbers on the same sign or document.
See also
References
External links