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The 1 RMB notes has the Chinese word "壹圆". In spoken Chinese, I hear many native speakers say "一块钱" instead of "壹圆钱"。In written Chinese, I have seen "一元钱" more than "壹圆钱".

My questions:

  1. In spoken Chinese, is it correct to say "壹圆钱" instead of "一块钱"?
  2. In formal writings in Chinese, should we write "壹圆钱" (or "一圆钱") instead of "一元钱" (or "一块钱")?
  3. What on earth is the difference among "壹圆钱", "一元钱", "一圆钱" and "一块钱"?
  • Linguee Dictionary: more banker’s anti-fraud numerals: eight —捌 hundred —佰 thousand —仟 six —陆 three —参 two —贰 seven —柒 ten —拾 five —伍 nine —玖 four —肆 – user6065 Jan 15 at 16:47
  • @user6065, thanks! How about the difference between “元” and "圆" then? – Zuriel Jan 15 at 16:58
  • 圆 unit of Chinese currency (Yuan),also (more commonly, outside financial circles) written 元, colloquially 块 – user6065 Jan 15 at 18:51
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To begin with, there is one thing called 大写 (daxie, “upper case”), in contrast to 小写 (xiaoxie, “lower case”).

小写:一二三四五六七八九十百千 - 元

大写:壹贰叁肆伍陆柒捌玖拾佰仟 - 圆

Daxie numbers are only used in finance in order to protect against falsification, because they contain too many strokes to modify. For example, 一 can be easily modified to 二 or 十, but 壹 cannot be modified. Therefore, daxie numbers are usually seen on invoices, receipts, cheques, promissory notes, etc, in order to protect against falsification.

Invoices with money written in *daxie*

The tamper-proof technique daxie has been used for over a thousand years since the Tang dynasty, invented by the empress regnant Wu Zetian (武则天), and enforced by the emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (朱元璋). It has been tested for so long time as the best practice of tamper resistance. Therefore, daxie numbers finally became the tradition of finance, and are now printed on cash.

However, when we write it down, we still use xiaoxie, like 一元钱, unless we are really writing financial documents, such as receipts and cheques. Daxie numbers are regarded as the specific jargons that should be strictly limited in financial area.


一块钱 is the colloquial term of 一元钱, because in the past the money was only made of metal.

Colloquial: 块 毛 分

Formal: 元 角 分

壹圆 is only used on invoices and receipts, and printed on cash.

  • In this picture of the invoice, why is 元 used instead of 圆? – Zuriel Jan 21 at 13:16
  • @Zuriel It is a common practice in finance to use daxie for numbers, but 元/圆 is OK anyway. Actually 元 and 圆 are not etymologically the same, 元 is originally used as a money unit like dollar or pound, while 圆 (圓) means "circle", with the extended meaning "coin", and therefore 圆 sometimes replaces 元 for its similar meaning and the same pronunciation. 圆 has much more strokes than 元 and therefore is usually (but not officially) regarded as the daxie of 元. – Victor Jan 21 at 13:42
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definition of

  1. 量词,用于银币或纸币,等于“圆”:一~钱。

It is all about history. Chinese culture normally call the coin 钱币. 银圆 (silver coin) only appear during Qing dynasty. During the late Qing dynasty era, China goods export cause it to absorb most of the world silver production to make silver coins. Since the coins weight around 26 grams, people start using synonym it with silver nugget 银块 (check out Qing dynasty coinage), and people start calling the heavier round silver coin as 洋钿. Later, during transition to republic, silver coins is still made, so people continue to say 一块大洋, 两块大洋。

Currently, 一块钱 is commonly used in both speaking and writing. Sometime Chinese will omit the noun 钱. Thus, it is fine to say 一块两块; 一元两元。

Although it is grammatically correct to say 一元钱, but most people simply omit the noun 钱。

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一块钱 -- colloquial, similar to "a buck".
一元钱 -- somewhat formal, but also used in daily life, similar to "a dollar".
壹圆 -- most formal, only used in bank systems, similar to "one dollar". Note that bank systems always use "capitalised" numbers (壹贰叁 instead of 一二三) to avoid confusion and potential unauthorised modification.
For your questions:
1. No. Although their pronunciations are the same, we don't mean to use capitalised numbers, even for making subtitles for videos.
2. Depends on situation. As I said before, 壹圆 is only used in bank systems, and other uses may consider inappropriate.
3. We never use "一圆钱". For the other three, I have explained before.

  • 壹圆 is not only for bank systems, but also on invoices or receipts. – Victor Jan 18 at 4:41
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1 、“一块钱 = 一元钱=壹圆钱 ” They have no difference in meaning and grammar。

2、“一块钱 and 一元钱” ,They're simplified characters.

壹圆钱 ,It's a traditional character. It is used to write the amount of a cheque, etc.

  • Thank you! I thought "圆" is also considered simplified Chinese. For example, we do not simplify “圆圈” to "元圈"。If when used as a unit of RMB it is simplified as “一”, why does the mainland government still print "壹圆" as it is promoting simplified Chinese? – Zuriel Jan 15 at 16:56
  • @Zuriel 圆 is simplified from 圓, which means "circle", with the extended meaning "coin". – Victor Jan 21 at 13:37
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  1. In spoken Chinese, you would not hear the difference. So basically the same thing.
  2. For daily communications, we use "一元钱". The "壹圆" would be used in formal documents, which is usually referred as "大写金额". Such complicated characters could somehow prevent the unauthorized changes. E.g. say you borrowed 1 RMB from someone, and you guys wrote down the IOU in Chinese. If you used the regular characters "一元", then it is easy to manipulate by adding one stroke to altered the number to "十元". Instead the "大写金额" ["capitalized amount"] would be hard to obliterate, say, 壹 to 拾 [1 to 10]. This is useful few decades ago.
  3. Basically 壹圆 = 一元, while 一圆 and 壹元 are generally not adopted in formal circumstances. 一块 is usually used in oral Chinese instead of 一元. One similar thing: American would say "300 bucks" informally instead of "300 dollars".
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An example would make it easier to understand. 一块钱 is similar to "buck" when we mean "dollar". 一元钱 is for "dollar". 壹圆钱 is because they don't want to use simplified characters on an official type of money, and is similar to when we say "United States Dollar" or "American Dollar". It is the official name of it, but people don't say it often.

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