The Renminbi (RMB), often referred to as the yuan, is the official currency of the People's Republic of China. Managed by the People's Bank of China (PBOC), the national authority responsible for its design, printing, and issuance, the Renminbi has been in circulation for over 50 years.
The basic unit of Renminbi is the yuan, with smaller units being the jiao and the fen. One yuan equals ten jiao, and one jiao equals ten fen. Over the years, China has issued five series of Renminbi, establishing a variety of currencies including paper money, metal coins, ordinary commemorative coins, and precious metal commemorative coins. The first three series of Renminbi have been phased out of circulation, leaving the fourth and fifth series, issued by the PBOC since 1987 and 1999 respectively, in circulation today.
The Fifth Series of Renminbi
The latest edition of Renminbi banknotes, also known as the Fifth Series of Renminbi, introduced on October 1, 1999, includes eight denominations: 1 jiao, 5 jiao, 1 yuan, 5 yuan, 10 yuan, 20 yuan, 50 yuan, and 100 yuan. Both paper notes and coins were issued for the 1 jiao, 5 jiao, and 1 yuan denominations. This series introduced the 20 yuan note and discontinued the 2 yuan note, optimizing the structure of currency denominations.
Incorporating traditional Chinese printing techniques with advanced global currency design technology, the fifth series of Renminbi boasts improved anti-counterfeiting features and modern currency handling. Each denomination features a portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong from the early years of the People's Republic on the obverse, with unique traditional Chinese floral patterns in the backdrop. The reverse side showcases representative images with national characteristics, reflecting China's rich history and magnificent landscapes, and promoting the great Chinese national culture.
Key Features Compared to the Previous Four Series of Renminbi
In simple terms, compared to the previous four series, the Fifth Series of Renminbi not only demonstrates significant changes in design but also marks important strides in security and technology. These changes reflect both a deep respect for the tradition of Chinese currency design and a robust integration of modern technology. Here are the key features of these changes:
Large Portraits, Watermarks, and Numbers: This series features enlarged portraits of Chairman Mao Zedong, large watermarks, and oversized numbers, enhancing security against counterfeiting. These elements also showcase the skill in hand-engraved portraiture, a traditional craft in currency design.
Break from Traditional Borders: Unlike its predecessors, the Fifth Series abandons the distinct border design for an open layout, allowing a more spacious arrangement. This change facilitates the integration of advanced security measures.
Backside Design for Security and Tradition: The reverse side of the notes includes intricate patterns and borders, which are not only aesthetically pleasing but also serve as anti-counterfeiting measures. They maintain the traditional stylistic elements of Chinese currency while adding security.
Enhanced Machine Readability: The series is designed for improved machine readability, essential for modern automated currency handling and sorting systems. This feature enables more efficient and secure processing of banknotes.
Front Design: Floral Motifs
The front design of each denomination in the Fifth Series of Renminbi beautifully integrates floral motifs, each flower carefully chosen for its cultural significance and symbolism in Chinese tradition. These designs not only add aesthetic value to the currency but also carry deep cultural meanings, reflecting the profound connection between nature and the Chinese way of life. Let's explore these floral motifs across the various denominations:
1 Yuan: Orchid
The Orchid, one of the "Four Gentlemen" in traditional Chinese culture, graces the one yuan note. Known for its graceful posture and lingering fragrance, the orchid symbolizes the qualities of a scholar and the refined elegance of the Chinese nation.
5 Yuan: Narcissus
The five yuan note features the Narcissus, a flower beloved by the Chinese people for its beautiful leaves and upright stance. The sight of a narcissus in bloom is a common sight in Chinese homes during the Lunar New Year, its golden and white petals symbolizing good luck and wealth for the coming year.
10 Yuan: Rose
The ten yuan note features the Rose, often referred to as the "queen" of flowers. Originating in China and later spread to Europe, the rose has made significant contributions to the world's economy and society. It returns to its homeland on this banknote, demonstrating its global fame.
20 Yuan: Lotus
The twenty yuan note adorns the Lotus, a flower known for its purity and nobility, and the quintessential summertime bloom. While Europeans mistakenly believed the lotus originated from India, it was actually introduced from China to India, where it flourished in Buddhist culture and later had a profound impact on Chinese history.
50 Yuan: Chrysanthemum
The fifty yuan note is embellished with the Chrysanthemum, a flower that symbolizes the strength to withstand adversity. Known as the "Autumn Herald" and one of the "Four Gentlemen", this flower is celebrated for its regal demeanor. The chrysanthemum is also associated with longevity in Chinese culture and has a calming effect when brewed into tea.
100 Yuan: Plum Blossom
The one hundred yuan note showcases the Plum Blossom, a flower known for its resilience in the face of adversity. Representing the spirit of the Chinese people, the plum blossom, with its delightful scent and striking appearance, is a popular fruit amongst the locals.
Back Design: Iconic Landscapes
1 Yuan: Three Pools Mirroring the Moon
The back of the one yuan note features the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, one of the Ten Scenic Spots in West Lake, Hangzhou.
5 Yuan: Mount Tai
The backside of the five yuan note depicts Mount Tai, one of the most famous mountains in China, symbolizing peace and tranquility.
10 Yuan: Kui Gate
The ten yuan note portrays the Kui Gate, the western entrance to the Qutang Gorge, one of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River.
20 Yuan: Guilin Landscape
The twenty yuan note presents the exquisite landscape of Guilin, renowned for its unique karst topography and the saying "Guilin's scenery is the best under heaven".
50 Yuan: Potala Palace
The back of the fifty yuan note depicts the Potala Palace, a magnificent palace in Lhasa, Tibet, and the winter palace of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century.
100 Yuan: The Great Hall of the People
The back of the one hundred yuan note exhibits the Great Hall of the People, one of the most iconic buildings in Beijing and the meeting place of the National People's Congress.
In conclusion, the Fifth Series of Renminbi banknotes elegantly encapsulates the natural beauty and cultural heritage of China, creating not just a means of transaction, but a canvas of national pride and identity.
Further Reading: New Edition Of Renminbi Coins