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Tael

taeler hendrix, taels
Tael /ˈteɪl/;1 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,23 albeit with slightly different metric equivalents in these two places These Chinese units of measurement are usually used in Chinese herbal medicine stores as well as gold and silver exchange

Contents

  • 1 Names and etymology
  • 2 Historical usage
    • 21 Tael currency
  • 3 Current usage
    • 31 China
    • 32 Hong Kong and Singapore
    • 33 Taiwan
    • 34 Vietnam
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Names and etymologyedit

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 English4 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 the significant 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

Historical usageedit

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 13 ozt The most common government measure was the Kuping 庫平; kùpíng; "treasury standard" tael, weighing 375 grams 121 ozt A common commercial weight, the Caoping 漕平; cáopíng; "canal shipping standard" tael weighed 367 grams 118 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

Tael currencyedit

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 375 grams, the Convention or Shanghai tael was 339 g 109 ozt, and the Haiguan 海關; hǎiguān; "customs" tael 378 grams 13334 oz; 12153 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 tael

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 6608 RMB in the mid Ming Dynastycitation needed 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

Current usageedit

The tael is still in use as a weight measurement in a number of countries though usually only in limited contexts

Chinaedit

China's standardised market tael Chinese: 市两; pinyin: shìliǎng of 3125 g was modified by the People's Republic of China in 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 Singaporeedit

The tael is a legal weight measure in Hong Kong, and is still in active use2 In Hong Kong, one tael is 37799364167 g,2 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 377994 g3

Taiwanedit

The Taiwan tael is 375 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 375 g Although the catty equal to 16 taels is still frequently used in Taiwan, the tael is only used for precious metals and medicines

Vietnamedit

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 375 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

See alsoedit

  • History of Chinese currency
  • Economic history of China

Referencesedit

  1. ^ "Tael" entry at the OED Online
  2. ^ a b c "Weights and Measures Ordinance" The Law of Hong Kong 
  3. ^ a b "Weights and Measures Act CHAPTER 349 Third Schedule" Singapore Statutes 
  4. ^ "Tahil" entry at A Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English

External linksedit

  • World Gold Council description of tael bars

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Tael


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