Hong Kong units of measurement

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Imperial units being used to weigh fruit in a stall in Hong Kong, 2008

Hong Kong has three main systems of units of measurement in current use:

In 1976 the Hong Kong Government started the conversion to the metric system, and as of 2012 measurements for government purposes, such as road signs, are almost always in metric units. However, all three systems are officially permitted for trade,[1] and in the wider society a mixture of all three systems prevails.

Length[edit]

The Chinese system's most commonly used units were 里 (li), 丈 (tseung/cheung), 尺 (tsek/chek), 寸 (tsun/chun), 分 (fen/fan) in descending scale order. These units are now rarely used in daily life, the Imperial and Metric systems being preferred.

The Imperial system's units are written with the same basic Chinese characters as the Chinese system. In order to distinguish between the units of the two systems, the units can be prefixed with "Ying" (Chinese: ) for the British Imperial system and "Wa" (Chinese: ) for the Chinese system. In writing, derived characters are often used, with an additional 口(mouth) radical to the left of the original Chinese character, for writing Imperial units. The most commonly used units are the mile or "li" (Chinese: ), the yard or "ma" (Chinese: ), the foot or "chek" (Chinese: ), and the inch or "tsun" (Chinese: ).

Weight[edit]

Chinese, Imperial and Metric weight units are all used in Hong Kong. The choice of system depends on the type of goods and their origins. Metric is used for all official purposes, for example the Post Office and Road signs.[2][3] Packaged food weights and volumes may be given using any of the three systems of units.[4]

Traditional weights are still de-facto standard in certain areas. For example, vegetables, meats, Chinese medicines are usually measured in Chinese units, while some fruits are normally measured using the Imperial system.

Precious metals (gold, silver and platinum) are traded in the Chinese system, though there is some discrepancy from other goods.

Area[edit]

The traditional measure of flat area is in square feet (Chinese: 方呎, 平方呎) of the Imperial system. Apartment or office size is generally still given in square feet. Traditionally, the measurement of agricultural plots and fields are conducted in 畝 (mau) of the Chinese system.

Volume[edit]

In Chinese system, the measurement of volume of rice is 斗 (tau) but it is replaced by packaged rice in weight. The volume of water and fuel is the litre. The gallon (加侖, ka-lun) of the Imperial system is still occasionally used.

Time[edit]

Time measurement follows the international system. Gregorian calendar is usually used, but the Chinese calendar also plays a very important role in everyday life and in telling the dates of traditional festivals.

In the following table, multiple Chinese names are listed in the order of usage frequency.

English name Chinese name Cantonese pronunciation Equivalent in other units Notes
Year (Gregorian) nin4 365 or 366 days Roughly follows a solar cycle. Historically, the Chinese refer to the return of the Sun in the winter solstice as "歲" (seui3).
Year (Chinese) nin4 12 or 13 Chinese months In Chinese years with 13 months, the 13th month is known as the intercalary month.
Month (Gregorian) yut6 28, 29, 30 or 31 days The Gregorian month lost the meaning of the lunar cycle.
Month (Chinese) yut6 29 or 30 days Roughly in sync with the lunar cycle
Day yat6 24 hours
Hour 鐘/鐘頭/小時 jung1/jung1 tau 4/siu2 si4 4 quarters or 60 minutes "鐘" also means "clock" or "bell", which usually chimes every hour.
Quarter gwat1 15 minutes "骨" is the Cantonese loanword for "quarter".
ji6 5 minutes "字" is very commonly used in colloquial speech, more so than "分鐘".
Minute 分鐘/分 fan1 jung1/fan1 60 seconds
Second miu5

Energy[edit]

The kilojoule or kilocalorie is the unit used for the measurement of energy in food.

Power[edit]

Horsepower (馬力) is still the dominant measurement for the power of cars and air-conditioning systems. The Chinese counting word 匹 (pat) is the unit to describe it in Cantonese.

References[edit]