AskDefine | Define tael

Dictionary Definition

tael n : a unit of weight used in east Asia approximately equal to 1.3 ounces

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of several units of measure used in China and elsewhere in eastern Asia, approximately 40 grams.
  2. Any of several monetary units equal to the equivalent weight in silver.

See also

Extensive Definition

Tael can refer to any one of several weight measures of the Far East. Most commonly, it refers to the Chinese tael (, liǎng in Mandarin Chinese), a part of the Chinese system of weights and currency . 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. The most common government measure was the Kùpíng (庫平 "treasury") tael, weighing 1.2 Troy ounces (37.3 g). A common commercial weight, the Cáopíng (漕平) tael weighed 1.18 Troy ounces (36.7 g) of marginally less pure silver.

Tael currency

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 37.5g, the Convention or Shanghai tael was 33.9 g (1.09 oz troy), and the Customs or Hǎiguān (海關) tael 37.8 g (defined as 11⁄3 oz avoirdupois, about 1.22 oz troy). 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. Common weights were 50 tael, 10 tael, and 5 down to 1.

Historical value

Modern studies suggest that, on purchasing power parity basis, one tael of silver was worth about 4130 modern Chinese yuan in the early Tang Dynasty, 2065 in the late Tang Dynasty, and 660.8 in the mid Ming Dynasty.

Modern usage

The tael is still in use as a weight measurement. In the People's Republic of China, it is equivalent to 50g since the country has gone metric (see Chinese unit for details). In Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia it is equivalent to 10 mace (qián 錢) or catty. The names liang and leung are also used in English to refer to the tael.
In Chinese, the phrase "half a catty is 8 tael" ("半斤八两"), 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 said today.
tael in German: Tael
tael in French: Tael
tael in Italian: Tael
tael in Japanese: 両
tael in Malay (macrolanguage): Tahil
tael in Dutch: Tael
tael in Norwegian: Tael
tael in Polish: Tael
tael in Russian: Лян (мера веса)
tael in Swedish: Tael
tael in Contenese: 両
tael in Chinese: 两
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