Site Meter Streets of Shanghai / Money
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Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 1 month ago




Two kinds of money are used in Shanghai and the treaty ports. Firstly, there is the native Chinese currency of taels and cash. Then there are dollars and cents, introduced by foreigners.



The tael is the currency of commerce – it is used in large transactions, in auctions, buying and selling land, reckoning salaries and so on. In fact, the tael is not a coin but a weight of silver, worth about 2s. 6d. in English money. The tael is divided into 10 mace, 1 mace equalling 10 candereens or tael cents. Having said all this, the average traveller will not have much cause for contact with tales, nor with cash, the traditional Chinese copper coins with a square hole in the centre. There are about 1,100 cash to the tael.



A string of cash can be handy when going into the hinterlands of the country, for example on an upriver boat excursion, as there are many places thereabouts where the natives have no knowledge of any other currency.



The most widely accepted coin in Shanghai and the treaty ports is the Mexican dollar. There are 100 cents to the dollar, which come in coin denominations of 20, 10 and 5 cents. Other dollars, such as those from Singapore or Hong Kong, can be used, but will general suffer from an unfavourable exchange rate in comparison to local dollars. The Chinese will accept Hong Kong 5 cent pieces but will generally not 10 and 20 cent pieces.




All the major banks issue notes for one, five, ten dollars and upwards. These notes are generally the most convenient way to carry money – the Mexican dollar coin weighs about an ounce, so carrying a lot of them is uncomfortable.




It is worth keeping an eye out for coin tampering. The Chinese have an ingenious method of cutting off the face of a dollar, filling it with base metal and soldering the face on again. One can generally tell by the ring of the coin. Small coins are often the subject of outright forgery. By and large it is better not to have more small change than necessary. And, if when you pay a rickshaw coolie 20 cents, he returns is saying “brass”, the chances are he is right and it is best to give him another. The majority of dollars in circulation bear the ‘chop’ or mark of some business firm on them. This is suppose to mark the genuineness.




It is useful to know that the tael is, roughly, worth one third more than the dollar. Rates of exchange are published in the morning papers, though exchange tables may also be purchased.




Silver coins in circulation at Shanghai and other treaty ports and their approximate worth in Sterling (early 20s)–


Mexican dollar 1s. 9d. to 1s. 11d.

20 cent piece 4d.

10 cent piece 2d.

5 cent piece 1d.


A tael of silver is worth about 2s. 6d., while there are about 800 cash to a dollar.


These approximations are very approximate, since the value of the Shanghai dollar fluctuates wildly.

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