Talk:Chinese numerals

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Separate info on Unicode representation into separate section?[edit]

For someone like me who wants to know about how numbers are written in Mandarin Chinese, the information about how they are represented in Unicode is really irrelevant. Could the statements like "such-and-such was an error which was corrected in the next version of the standard" be separated out into a different section? How numbers are represented in a language and how that language then is represented in a computerized form are two different subjects - related enough to be in the same article, yes, but not mixed together, I think. Evan Donovan 03:11, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

The numeral 2 (liang and er) (两 and 二)[edit]

The translations for numbers such as 1,200 can be both yi qian liang bai (一千兩百) or yi qian er bai (一千二百). Although this is addressed in the article, too many veriations exist in various dialects as to render the simple rules stated rather inadaquate. Maybe the way to do this is to remove all instances of 2 in the examples of forming Chinese numbers except in the instances where we are illustrating the liang (兩) versus er (二) idea? --Sjschen 19:13, 9 December 2005 (UTC)

Alternatively, this point can be noted somewhere early on the page, and the entire page refers to Standard Mandarin (and maybe Standard Cantonese). After all, you wouldn't want to include every dialect here... Neonumbers 02:57, 10 December 2005 (UTC)

I cannot speak for other dialects. However, in Mandarin and Cantonese, the use of liang and er are very well defined and they are consistent across the two dialects. Perhaps the same rule applies to all Chinese dialects too. The description in the article is pretty accurate regarding its general use. You may be able to find some exceptions, but you should keep those as what they are: exceptions, not the rule. The word liang is used only when the number is used as a counter (e.g. 兩個人). The word er is used as a number or an ordinal (e.g. 二號, 第二) and in certain situations, used in the sense of double, couple or duet etc. (e.g 二人世界, 二重奏). However, you seldom see these two words used interchangably because they are not the same. For example, you'll never see 二個人, 兩號, 第兩. The only situation these two are interchangable is when they are used in the sense of double, duet with the same meaning as 雙. e.g. 雙人世界, 兩人世界, 二人世界 etc. Kowloonese 22:22, 12 December 2005 (UTC)
In Taiwanese, the rules specified don't work. >200 and 2 all use 兩 (Min: Neng) while 20 and 12 use 二 (Min:li). This makes me wonder if differing rules exist out there for different Chinese dialects, which is why I brought up the idea of eleminating 2s from examples in the article while creating a better section to deal with the issue. --Sjschen 00:41, 13 December 2005 (UTC)
I tend to think of liang as a word meaning "pair", as such it is not a number. The english equivalent would be discussion of the word "pair" or "dozen" in a wikipedia article about numbers, inappropriate in my opinion. Kotika98 (talk) 05:45, 21 March 2013 (UTC)


Though the name HangZhou numerals implies they originate from HangZhou, China, these numerals are not used in HangZhou anymore. I asked a 30 year old lady who grew up in HangZhou, she had not seen these numerals in her life. Her mother recognizes what they are. However, she had not seen them in use during her 40 years in Hangzhou. She remembered seeing these numerals in Malaysia over 50 years ago.

Several of my friends from Taiwan, who are in the 40s, had not seen these numerals ever.

On the other hand, the Chinese herbal doctor I used in San Jose, CA wrote me a herbal prescription using these Hangzhou numerals. It is evident that these numerals are still in use in some Cantonese communities in the US. But with just a small sample, it is hard to determine how extinct it has become.

Kowloonese 11:05, 29 Jul 2003 (UTC)

The Unicode standard corrected the name to SuZhou numerals since the above question was posted. That explains a lot. Kowloonese 03:23, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)

I have removed the question that asks whether the system for writing Suzhou numerals in Hong Kong is the same. It is indeed the same. I've also added a vertical example.

I remember that the digits 6–8 also gets rotated when a string of such digits are written. But I don't have my math textbook from primary school any more :-( Can anyone check? - Gniw 05:09, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)


got a problem. In my dictionary, it says "Zhao4" is
  • 1 million
  • 1 trillion (ancient use)
maybe someone should make a note there. --FallingInLoveWithPitoc 06:36, 25 Oct 2003 (UTC)
Is a "trillion" according to the long scale or short scale? 12:58, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

According to Unicode standard zhao means trillion in Japan and Taiwan, it means a million in China. It also means trillion in Hong Kong. --Anon2

After some research, I have found this to be the current situation: all Chinese communities defines zhao4 兆 as 10^12 when it is used in writing numbers. In Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, it means 10^6 when used as an SI prefix, e.g. zhao4he 兆赫 = megahertz. That convention came from the fact that in ancient China there were three systems to define number words larger than 10^4: yi4 億, zhao4 兆, jing1 京, gai1 垓, zi3 秭...
  1. 10^5 10^6 10^7 10^8 10^9 ...
  2. 10^8 10^12 10^16 10^20 10^24 ...
  3. 10^8 10^16 10^32 10^64 10^128 ...
The second system became the standard. The first system survived in the translation for mega because Chinese otherwise lack a monosyllabic word for one million.
In Taiwan, however, zhao4 still means 10^12 when used as an SI prefix. So zhao4he 兆赫 = terahertz. The megahertz is called bai3wan4he4 百萬赫.
That should explain all the confusions. Dictionaries and Unicode standard may show inconsistencies because they may not be looking at the whole picture when they seek definitions of individual characters. I have already made major changes to the main text to resolve the values of all numerals > 10^4. I will continue to make some more minor changes to make it clearer.
Felix Wan 2004-07-08 02:30 (UTC)

About those big numbers, I found something a little bit different. The second one among those three ancient systems should be close, but different from, the modern way.

《數術記遺》(東漢徐岳) :「黃帝為法,數有十等,及其用也,乃有三焉,十等者, 億、兆、京、垓、秭、穰、溝、澗、正、載。三等者,謂上中下也。其下數者,十十變 之,若言十萬為億,十億為兆,十兆為京。中數者、萬萬變之,若言萬萬為億、萬萬億 為兆、萬萬兆為京。上數者數窮則變,若言萬萬曰億,億億曰兆,兆兆曰京也。下數淺 短,計事則不盡,上數宏廓,世不可用,故其傳業惟以中數耳。」 [1][2]

So technically, it goes up like 10^8, 10^16, 10^24, 10^32, 10^40, 10^48 etc. --Liuyao 01:52, 21 Nov 2004 (UTC)

You are right. Recently, I have also noticed that there exist two conflicting sources, one saying that "萬萬為億、萬萬億為兆、萬萬兆為京", the other saying that "萬萬為億、萬億為兆、萬兆為京", which is the modern way. I am going to include the other ancient way in the main text. By the way, welcome to Wikipedia. You may be interested in the Wikipedia:China-related topics notice board. -- Felix Wan 10:08, 2004 Nov 21 (UTC)


Aren't hao2 and li2 reverse? --Anon3

I suggest someone with good Chinese language backgroud to research deeply into this topic. When China turned to the SI metric system, such as milligram, centimeter, millimeter etc., they use hao and li as a qualifying adjective in front of the unit. For example, centimeter is called li mi and millimeter is called hao mi etc. However, I really doubt if those who picked these translations really researched into the original usage of hao and li in Chinese measuring units. If I remembered correctly from the books I studied a few decades ago. Hao and li are unit for weight, not quantifiers. When used as weighing unit, li was 10x hao. However, when used in a SI quantifier, hao is 10x li. Hence, I speculate those who made up the translations did it arbituarily with no knowledge of the traditional usage of these two characters. Of course, all language evolves based on contempory usage, so even a misusge will turn into standard.
If you look up an old Chinese dictionary, you may find hao & li very interesting because they have different value depending on context. Li = One thousandth of a Chinese 尺 foot. Li = One hundredth of a 畝 [mu3]. Li = One thousandth of a 兩 [liang3] or tael. Li = (Rate of interest) one tenth of one percent (i.e. one thousandth of a unit). Hao = a centigram in weight or one-hundredth of a centimeter in length.
You will see a consistency if you look closer. The reason that li2 = 1/1000 of 尺 foot was because there is a unit name for 1/10 foot: cun4 寸. fen1 = 1/10 cun4, li2 = 1/100 cun4, hao2 = 1/1000 cun4,... Similarly, qian2 錢 = 1/10 liang3, fen1 = 1/10 qian2, li2 = 1/100 qian2, hao2 = 1/1000 qian2,... For small units of measure beyond the named units, the order is always fen1, li2, hao2, si1, hu1, wei1 for 1/10, 1/100, 1/1000, 1/10000, 1/100000, 1/1000000.
Felix Wan 2004-06-26 02:32 (UTC)
For measurement of land area, mu3 畝 is already the smallest named unit, so fen1 = 1/10 mu3, li2 = 1/100 mu3, hao2 = 1/1000 mu3,...
For a centigram and 1/100 of a centimeter, actually the old translation was gong1hao2 公毫. When SI was first introduced to China, the people translated them by adding the prefix gong1, meaning public, to the traditional units. So, kilogram = gong1jin1, hectogram = gong1liang3, decagram = gong1qian2, gram = gong1fen1, decigram = gong1li2, centigram = gong1hao2. Similarly, meter = gong1chi3, decimeter = gong1cun4, centimeter = gong1fen1, millimeter = gong1li2, and 1/100 of a centimeter is naturally gonghao2.
For interest rates, there is some complication. If we are talking about annual rates, 1 fen1 = 10% of the principal, 1 li2 = 1%, 1 hao2 = 0.1%, although in modern Chinese, we usually use li2 exclusively. For monthly rates, 1 fen1 = 1% per month, i.e. 12% per year for simple interest. 1 li2 = 0.1%. For daily rates, 1 fen1 = 0.1% per day, i.e. about 3.65% per year for simple interest. 1 li2 = 0.01%.
In conclusion, although li2 and hao2 have many meanings depending on the situation, the order is consistent within each single system: fen1 = 10 li2, li2 = 10 hao2.
Felix Wan 2004-07-08 03:12 (UTC)
Another example is zhao discussed in the section above. PRC defined zhao differently from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. I am wondering if this kind of screw-ups happened during the Cultural Revolution which was an era when knowledgable scholars went to jail and uneducated ideots took over adminstrations and standards committees.
See my explanation under zhao4. (I have moved my old answer, dated 2004-06-26, to where it should belong, and made some changes.)
Felix Wan 2004-07-08 02:30 (UTC)
Did you know that "an apron" used to be "a napron"? Of course current usage wins. But it would be an interesting fact to mention in dictionary or encycopedia to help future scholar to understand the switch over and why.
Kowloonese 05:33, 24 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Numeral 9[edit]

I reverted a change regarding the Su Zhou numeral 9.

Many web browsers are displaying the wrong glyph for this character, hence what you are looking at on this page may be wrong, don't trust the display.

  • 9 is a dot on top of a variant of the 〤 (4) symbol
  • (〩 U+3029) is a character with two brush strokes which writes in the stroke order similar to "jiu3 (久 U+4E45)" by combining the first two strokes.
  • 夂 & 夊 are characters with 3 brush strokes.
  • 攵 & 文 each has 4 brush strokes

The bottom line is that all the above are not the same though they all look similar. When the browsers show the wrong glyph, it just make these characters more confusing.

Kowloonese 03:21, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)


From the article (emphasis mine):

However, when more than two digits are involved, the abbreviation usually does not take place except in Japanese. For example, 114 is read as '1' '100' '1' '10' '4', and definitely not '100' '10' '4'. Although '1' '100' '10' '4' is marginally acceptable, it is not common.

I wonder what language you are refering to? 114 in Mandarin Chinese is universally spoken as yi1 bai3 shi2 si4. As a speaker of Chinese, I find the allegation that it should be read as yi1 bai3 yi1 shi2 si4 quite strange, as I have never heard yi1 shi2, ever. This is because shi2 is grammatically not considered a measure word, where as higher units are. Therefore you always say yi1 bai3, but never just bai3. The exception to this is the use of er2 rather than liang3 with bai3 and higher, reflecting their shared status as numerals. liang3 bai3 is said, but it's sort of slang. One would never write it. But shi2 is different; it is never preceded by yi1.

It is not true to say shi2 is not a measure word, shi2 and bai3 are used the same way grammetically. e.g. yi1 shi2, er2 shi2 or shi2, er2 shi2 are acceptable. Kowloonese 19:14, 20 May 2004 (UTC)

Someone ought to change this information, because it's wrong. --Anon

Your dialect of Mandarin is not universal. I didn't write your quoted statement, but it is true that Taiwanese Mandarin certainly says yibai-yi-shisi for 114, in fact, I never heard of yibai-shisi. Maybe it's a Mainlander feature or whereever you're raised. Either way, that paragraph should be modified. It is confusing. --Menchi 11:36, 20 May 2004 (UTC)

We say "yi1bai3-yi1shi2si4" not "yi1bai3-shi2si4". the latter one sounds weird. And in Cantonese, when saying 1XX, it's acceptable to omit the yi1, especial when it comes to 1X0 (except the case of 100). --θαλαμηγός (talk) 18:30, May 20, 2004 (UTC)

Isn't it what the article say? yi1bai3-shi2si4 is marginally acceptable, but not common. Though the mainlander said the opposite. Cantonese and Taiwanese Mandarin preserved many traditional usage of the ancient Chinese language while the Mainlander has introduced many variations probably as side effects of the simplication done decades ago. Every language evolves over time. This is just one example that it went to two extremes. The mainlander never heard of yi1bai3-yi1shi2si4 while Cantonese and Taiwanese never heard of yi1bai3-shi2si4. I am no authority in this kind of stuff. Change the sentence as you see fit. But be neutral to present both extremes. Kowloonese 19:27, 20 May 2004 (UTC)
Hi, I'm the anon poster, sorry about the confusion. It's true that I speak mainland Chinese and am not very familiar with Taiwanese differences. I also do not speak Cantonese or Minnanhua so I can't exactly comment on those. However, in the Beijing dialect, we omit the yi1 in front of shi2. While it certainly true that many non-Mandarin dialects are more conservative (closer to classical Chinese), Mandarin is the language of Beijing. Consider that in largely Cantonese speaking areas, spoken Mandarin is probably more likely to use some Cantonese grammatical features; similarly for places where Minnanhua is common (Taiwan). I currently live in Shanghai and the locals here certainly allow their Shanghainese habits to influence their spoken Mandarin.
The fact that Beijing dialect is "standard" Mandarin doesn't change the fact that many people do not speak it that way. And actually, even Beijing Mandarin isn't really standard, I guess. Hebei Mandarin would probably be closer. But my point is that I'm not trying to argue that I'm right simply because I speak a Beijing dialect. Especially since this article is about Chinese numerals, and so any Chinese dialect's habits are equally valid. I think that in this light, we should mention both usages. It would also be good if we could get some sort of authoritative answer on the usage in Taiwan, and find out whether the use of yi1 shi2 is current because that's how it's said in Taiwanese, or whether some antiquated form of Mandarin used it too. Very interesting. Actually I have some Taiwanese coworkers, maybe I'll ask them too. I know that there are a lot of differences between Mainland mandarin and Taiwanese mandarin that have been officialized; for example I hear Taiwanese pronounce 法 as fa4 a lot, which sounds strange to me (in Beijing and the surrounding countryside we say fa3). What's interesting about that is that I've been told Taiwanese dictionaries actually list fa4 as the pronunciation of this character, indicating that the government actually considers it to be the correct pronunciation. So in light of yi1 shi2, is it a similar situation?
Sorry to barge in here and claim it was wrong when really, I guess, Mandarin varies quite a bit! I'll pop by again tomorrow and see what you all think :)
The whole paragraph is about where the yi1 is commonly omitted and not. Yi1 shi2 is not common, but yi1 bai3 yi1 shi2 and shi2 is. The leading yi1 sometimes is omitted, however the second yi1 in yi1 bai2 yi1 shi2 is not leading. Kowloonese 08:03, 21 May 2004 (UTC)
I realize this. However, the fact still remains that in the Mandarin spoken in Beijing and in the surrounding area, which is presumably "standard", one does not say yi1 bai3 yi1 shi2 si4. I believe (though I am not sure) that the use of yi1 bai3 yi1 shi2 si4 in Hong Kong & Taiwan is most likely due to the influence of the Cantonese and Taiwanese dialects. But I do not know this for sure. The fact remains that the yi1 is ommitted in Beijing, on which both the official mandarin in Taiwan and the official mandarin on the mainland are based. While I am certainly willing to believe that the Taiwanese usage differs, I do not think you can make a reasonable case for the Taiwanese usage being the "correct" one, if only because the vast majority of Mandarin speakers are on the Mainland, versus Taiwan's relatively small population.
Anyway, mark what you want, but remember that China's 1.3 billion Mandarin speakers are likely to disagree with you on this point.
You may be able to make a reasonable argument that the usage you describe was current in Ancient Chinese, as evidenced by the relatively conservative nature of Cantonese and Taiwanese.

Oh, My! you Beijingese would say "yi1bai3-shi2si4"?? surprised to know that! i never say in that way when i am speaking in Mandarin. i always say "yi1bai3-yi1shi2si4" in Mandarin. "yi1" is always not omitted when in the middle of the number. :O --θαλαμηγός (talk) 18:00, May 27, 2004 (UTC)

Paper or Plastic? He got a point though. Mainlanders outnumber traditional Chinese and all language evolves according to popular usage. Since traditional Chinese is a minority and its written and usage will be forgotten over time. Blame it on Mao. Kowloonese 22:27, 27 May 2004 (UTC)

I'm totally confused. I consider myself as a native Beijing dialect speaker, and yibai<YI>shisi is definitely what we say in Beijing at least. I'm pretty sure that it is officialized in math textbook for elementary school that I used (in 1990s). To emphasize my point, we say yibai-YI-shisi, for sure, 100%. -Liuyao

The traditional Chinese was not confused. Both the wikipedians from Taiwan and Hong Kong claimed that we do "yi bai yi shi si" in Traditional Chinese. Now two mainlanders disagreed on how mainlanders do it. Since social values and even culture in the mainland has changed so much away from original Chinese traditions due to the Cultural Revolution and communism, the traditional ways are not the Chinese ways anymore because the tradition keepers are now the minority. It would be interesting to start an article list the Chinese traditions that are only maintained by non-mainlanders. Kowloonese 08:07, 18 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Hi, I'm the original Anon poster that caused the confusion. I know this is quite late, but I'd like to retract what I said regarding the pronunciation of 114. Although I currently live in the PRC, I spent a great portion of my youth abroad, and I apparently inherited a somewhat grammatically incorrect speech style in this respect. Sorry about the confusion. *loses face*

That having been said, of course, omitting the yi1 in front of the shi2 is unfortunately quite common, which is one of the reasons that I was able to keep on saying in without anyone noticing. In particular, my Shanghainese coworkers (whose Mandarin I would not describe as standard by a long shot) seem to ommit the yi1 as well. At the time I confered with one of them (a graduate of Beijing People's University, no less) and she didn't seem to think that yishi was standard. But then she majored in History....

Anyway, sorry again. It was immature of me to be so insistant. We bilinguals are wacky -- we can't speak any language properly :)

// Ryan:

1) hehe, "1.3 billion Mandarin speakers" eh? Are you a real 幹部 or just an admirer? Seriously though, is this a real statistic or just another myth of Chinese supernationalism? I mean, no offence, but despite the fact that Mandarin is the official language, I am hard pressed to believe that even half of Mainlanders are fluent. I mean, back in the States we have a pretty good educational system, and a good deal of money, and I sometimes wonder what my fellow country-people are saying. I'm really curious about this, and I hope my snide remarks don't turn anyone off. Something about being in the crosshair of 700 missiles makes one a little sarcastic . . . 2)As a one year Taiwan resident, all I've ever heard here is "yi bai yi shi si," or more like "yi bai yi si si," but the folks here take pride in the accent and I take pride in having adopted it. Moreover, all this talk of "officialness" is really wasted thought; language can't be controlled like that. 3)And finally, with regard to traditional characters, I would be careful about so blithely predicting their downfall. Firstly, reunification is by no means guaranteed. Secondly, the dual existence of simplified and more formal, complicated characters has existed for much longer than the modern period, from what I can tell. In fact, many of the so called "simplified" characters are not new at all and many had been in popular use but not formalized. Finally, one cannot overlook the aesthetic element here. Many people, myself included, find simplified characters useful yet rather ugly. They're great for taking notes, but even some Mainland companies and websites I've seen prefer to use the traditional for thier logos. //

Well put, but please sign (use ~~~~ to do it, it will automatically be replaced) :) Sjschen 21:30, 13 December 2005 (UTC)

Notes section format[edit]

Some people might disagree with me, but I think that the notes section after the table (starts "Leading '1' can sometimes be...") would be easier to read if the Chinese was put in characters and pinyin with tone marks, e.g. 十shí, rather than the notation it is in now (shi2). At the moment it looks a little bit cramped and a little bit hard to follow.

I'm tempted to include the first point, so 一百一十四 rather than '1' '100' '1' '10' '4', but my opinion on that part is probably influenced by my small but sufficient-for-this knowledge of Chinese. Even so, I think 1-100-1-10-4 or something like that would work better (and if that doesn't help, a friendly reminder that the manual of style asks for double quotes to assist the search engine).

Or, maybe, it would work better to write the rules first and then provide several examples after that, rather than have one example for every rule. Thus

--Rule 1                                  --Rule 1
--Rule 2                                    Example 1
--Rule 3              rather than         --Rule 2
--Examples                                  Example 2
  Example 1                               --Rule 2
  Example 2                                 Example 3
  Example 3

On the other hand, maybe it just needs more white space. This is just a format thing though. I'll check back in a few days to see if anyone's said anything. Neonumbers 13:10, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I did most of those. So it is only fair for me to present the reasons why I did it that way. I didn't use 一百一十四 because that require the readers to read the Chinese text. For people who don't care to read the Chinese text or install the Chinese fonts, they would be happy with a collection of rectangles, then the sentence will not make any sense when you cannot tell one rectangle from another. I didn't use shi, bai etc. because that also requires the users to remember shi means ten, bai means hundred. Such linguistic knowledge is not required when we only need to present the structure of the Chinese number, not the pronunciation. A few paragraphs down, we talked about how a Chinese number is read out loud, we used yi, wan, qian, bai, shi etc. in the illustration. I chose between '1' '100' '1' '10' '4' verses '1' hundred '1' ten '4' because I tried to map one numeral character to one numerical value instead of multiple English words. So I used '100' and not 'hundred' to represent 百 and so forth. The reason for doing so is more obvious when you need to mention "ten thousand" as one numeral (万) or "one hundred ten-thousand" as three numerals (一百万). Regarding the examples, I think the rearrangement will make it even harder to read because you don't know which rule is applied in which example. Kowloonese 00:56, Apr 21, 2005 (UTC)
That's all fair enough.
How about using tone marks on the pinyin? My personal view is that using numbers instead makes it look messy, and tone marks are more out-of-the-way for those that are just reading for structure (though I know there are some homophones when you disregard tone). The other thing I don't like is the single quotes - I'm tempted (only tempted) to say that square brackets, say, would work better (thus [1] [100] [1] [10] [4]). Maybe it's because the single quotes on either side are identical - I can't lay a finger on exactly what. Anyway, for those that *do* have Chinese fonts, the Chinese characters could be written also, but whether they are or not it is of course imperative that the [1] [100] (or '1' '100') form is there. For lone numbers (like in "...the basic numeral '10' and...") maybe the quotes can be omitted altogether or written as words.
I agree that going all rules, all examples would make a life difficult when I think about it but it's not easy to read as it is now - so there has to be a way to make it so. Maybe going all rules, all examples for one point, then for the next point? I'll think about it.
I'm going to change some of the wording, but I won't change too much. It'll mostly be minor changes (like the deletion of the part about Japanese, as this an article about Chinese), but also a part about following zeroes in the leading ones point and, for the examples thing, I won't rearrange it but I'll try em dashes (" — ") and see how it looks. Neonumbers 12:37, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Oh, and a point about the 114 debate earlier - saying yi bai shi si *is* grammatically incorrect, but then so is wan qi for 17000, and they're both common in some places, so isn't it worth giving them equal status? Neonumbers 12:41, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Actually I'm going to re-write that part on a subpage that will exist some time from now when I get round to it: User:Neonumbers/Chinese numerals. It'll be order of points mostly, I think perhaps for a layman they'd be a bit hard to follow given the order. Neonumbers 12:54, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I've put my changes into the article. Neonumbers 13:16, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Table simplification=[edit]

I simplified the table, sacrificing a lot of the information in it which was either self-explanatory (e.g. 1012 is a trillion) or irrelevant (i.e. parts that aren't strictly about Chinese, e.g. myriad). I also tried to narrow the first three columns to make it look better (:-)) and more followable. I don't think I took anything too important out (some things I reworded and I moved one thing to a table footnote. Please don't move this back into the table; it's too long - if it must be somewhere else, put it somewhere apart from inside the table.) Neonumbers 13:16, 25 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Chinese numerals is/n't a numeral system[edit]

There is one thing that bugs me about this article: Someone wrote a sentence saying it "shouldn't be considered a numeral system", yet is in the series "Numeral systems". Surely it must be one or the other. I don't know if the Chinese ever used these numbers as numerals or not, so I'm not going to make a claim as to whether it is or isn't - but surely, it can't be both a numeral system *and* not a numeral system. Right? Neonumbers 10:50, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The SuZhou numerals are definitely a numeral system. However, the written numbers are questionable. When you spell out "Three Thousands" in English or 三千 in Chinese, it is a number for sure, but is it a numeral? Kowloonese 02:14, 5 November 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, this article is just about how to write out numbers in Chinese words, even including regional usages. If you think that this article belongs in the Numeral systems, then we should also equivalently include an article called "French numerals", which lists "un, deux, trois, ...", and another called "Spanish numerals" with "uno, dos, tres, ...", all with regional usages too. If you think that is ridiculous, then you shouldn't have this article on words for Chinese numbers either. The other "numeral systems" that are on Wikipedia are all about systems that are distinct from the regular words, but the numerals here aren't -- they are just about regular Chinese words. This belongs in a dictionary, not Wikipedia. -- (talk) 21:40, 2 February 2010 (UTC)
The article "Latin numerals"(i.e. numbers written using the latin alphabet - one/hundred/six trillion etc.) is a valid article. It is presenting the way in which numbers are used in the language. In certain languages, it will be using a well defined set of symbols, but in other languages, such as Chinese and English, the difference between a number and a word/character is less well defined. Charlesisbozo (talk) 12:37, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
It's correct that there is no distinct system for writing Chinese numbers. In general the system used for writing out numbers such as phone numbers and prices is the same as used for transcribing number words. But there is still a lot more to it than that (otherwise this article would be very short). E.g
  • The "financial" or 大寫 characters, used only when writing (but said the same).
  • Special "number words" like 幺, 廿. They are dictionary words but it's good to have an article that collects them and discusses usage
  • Similar for large numbers, small numbers, such as the various scales for large numbers
  • More generally how the characters are used
So although there's not a separate system of symbols, distinct from the words, there are many things that are distinct and unique worth having an article on. Maybe the article would be better titled "Chinese numbers", but that would then make it more difficult to find from other "... numerals" articles, and it might be confused with e.g. Numbers in Chinese culture. But in terms of content the article covers the subject fairly well.--JohnBlackburnewordsdeeds 22:01, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

7=guai3, etc.[edit]

In Taiwan ham radio, we use the military names for 0,1,2,7,and sometimes 9. Add a table. Also I swear 釐米 is different than 公釐. Mention it. say if Arabic numbers were ever written backwards. --User:Jidanni 2006-04-16

How does "極" come??[edit]

I've checked a few Japanese website (Unicode version):
and used excite translation:
discovered that "極" does not come from Buddhist texts. However, the sites do not explain the origin of "極" clearly.
Now, I ask everybody, is there any relevant information about "極"?? 07:14, 22 June 2006 (UTC)
You may be misunderstood, "極" is indeed came from Buddhist texts. QQ 13:39, 29 May 2007 (UTC)

but 零(0) is more commonly used, especially in schools.[edit]

HaHa.It's suposed to mean that if your teacher gives you a 0 he has to write 零.Because i don't see for what practical reason you'll prefer a much more complicated symbol.-- 01:19, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

This is simply because they do not know how to input the Chinese 〇 in computer and some old computer don't support this character, it is usually wrongly written as Arabic 0.--刻意(Kèyì) 11:50, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

0 In Ancient China[edit]

Did the Chinese numeral system ever develop a concept of zero independently to the Hindu-Arabic numeral system? Or did they only get the concept of zero when they discovered the hindu-arabic system? Zachorious 10:49, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

I have written on the Chinese zero at ja:漢数字#〇、零. According to the sources I have cited, the concept of zero already appeared in The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, but the character 〇 appeared much later than the first introduction of the Indian zero to China in 718 by Gautama Siddha. - TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 04:52, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

Tally numerals[edit]

Should this article also include tally numerals (i.e. the forms of the numbers 1-5 that use progressive strokes of 正)? Rod (A. Smith) 20:55, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

Good idea. I suppose that when those are pronounced (infrequently, I would think), they are spoken just like the usual 1 - 5 numerals, though maybe using 兩. But I have never heard that. Dratman (talk) 01:47, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

other dialects[edit]

I can't see why the list only includes cantonese but not other chinese dialects which have completely different pronunciation. Is this some sort of cantonese bigotry? Please add other dialects like shanghainese or sichuanese to the list in order to be comprehensive. --Small potato 19:53, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

It would probably be best to remove pronunciation entirely and just link the numerals to the corresponding English Wiktionary entries so interested readers can click through. Rod (A. Smith) 18:50, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

"Buddhist numerals" in large section[edit]

In the "large numerals" section, notice the comment:

The numerals beyond 載 jí come from Buddhist texts in Sanskrit, but these "Buddhist numerals" have become "ancient usage".

Then try to see what that sentence refers to. In the table, there is no entry for "jí". The character (載) matches the one called "zài", but since it is the largest one in the table, there are no "numerals beyond" to which the sentence could be referring.

Can someone help work this out? Robert Munafo (talk) 05:50, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

Suzhou numerals[edit]

I think Suzhou numerals should have its own article. Chinese number gestures got its own article, so Suzhou numerals being more historically significant should get its own article. --Voidvector (talk) 18:53, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

I support splitting the Suzhou numerals section to its own article. The subject of the section diverges from the main subject of the article just enough to warrant a separate article. – jaksmata 19:08, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

An OR comment on "Buddhist large numbers" and "Small numbers"[edit]

This is original research and so can't be included in the article, but I couldn't help but point out that the Buddhist mathematicians who concluded that there were 1052 "grains of sand in the Ganges river" were so far off base that even with the craziest estimates of parameters they must have been lousy at arithmetic to think this was remotely plausible. In fact even if a grain of sand is only 10 microns across (which is more of a very fine silt than sand), 1052 such grains would weigh around 1034 kilograms, which is not only vastly larger than the mass of the entire Earth, it is more than a thousand times larger than the mass of the entire solar system. So like the Maya, they seem to have been OK at using a positional system to generate stupendously large numerals, but had little actual understanding of the size of these numbers in context.

By the way, can anyone explain why these large numbers go up by factors of 104? Based on Indian tradition (e.g. the lakh) I would have thought (or rather, wildly guessed) powers of 102 more likely in a Buddhist text. (I note, as pure speculation, that if someone has gotten this factor wrong and it is actually factors of 102, or in other words each of these large numbers has effectively been squared, then the "grains of sand in the Ganges river" number actually works out quite close to a reasonable estimate, so perhaps the ancient Buddhists weren't quite so bad at maths, just their translators were!)

Finally, what on earth can the "Ancient" Chinese have wanted with a prefix that meant 10-12? Not even the most foamy-mouthed nationalist can pretend that anyone prior to the twentieth century could measure anything with sufficient precision to make such a prefix meaningful. Which I guess leads one to wonder, how confident are we, and what references are there to support, the claim that in "Ancient" times it had precisely this meaning? I emphasise "precisely" -- after all, the SI prefixes "micro" and "nano" are Ancient Greek, but to the Ancient Greeks they just meant "small" and "dwarf", they didn't have precise metrological meanings. (And what is meant by "Ancient"? Normally in Chinese history, that means prior to the Qing, which began in 221 BCE. But the oldest known mathematical treatise in Chinese is the Suàn shù shū, which is no older than 202 BCE.) -- (talk) 05:35, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

The only one of your questions I can answer is why they go up by factors of 104: In American English, we use names for numbers incrementing by 103, namely, ones, thousands, millions, billions, etc. In contrast, Chinese counting increments similarly, but by 104. Their named numbers would be, ones, myriads 萬 (1,0000), myriad myriads 億 (1,0000,0000), etc.
My knowledge of the subject is too limited to answer your other questions. – jaksmata 13:40, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
As for 10−12: maybe it was just for fun, playing with numbers, and like the Mayans' usage, it didn't have anything to do with the real world? Double sharp (talk) 03:49, 28 September 2015 (UTC)

Actually I think somebody was joking with this section haha. You'll have to know Chinese to notice, but the words for 1060 and above are silly. "那由他" sounds like a pun on "哪有他" which is a slang way of saying, "pffft, that doesn't exist". "不可思意" does means unimaginable, but in the sense like, "Did you know your neighbor is Brad Pitt?" "不可思意!(That's unimaginable!)" "无量" is like "无穷" which means infinity. And "大数" is just funny because 大 = big and 数 = number, so it's a literal term that I've never heard anybody use in China. The juxtaposition of "infinity" and then "big number" is the punch line because it calls to mind an image of young scholars sitting around, and having run out of legitimate ideas, decided to make crap up to screw with future generations. My guess is that this table was copied from an online joke off of a Chinese website. -- (talk) 03:35, 24 April 2010 (UTC)

A large number of these phrases that are commonly used today originate from Buddhism. Today, although 不可思意 is used in everyday speech during events such as "holy shit, I just saw a ten-foot crocodile!" "really? 不可思意!", they do have their alternate uses. (Note to other editors: WP:NOTCENSORED; my words not to be refactored by anyone) For example, back in antiquity, 萬 meant scorpion, and not ten thousand. Also, I'm assuming you haven't studied Buddhism before. The Japanese use the same numbering system (那由他 = 1060) as well, but phrases such as 那由他 and 不可思議 aren't even used in everyday Japanese speech (as figures of speech like in Chinese). I think you should assume good faith on behalf of other editors; else, prove me wrong. -- 李博杰  | Talk contribs email 10:41, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
Additionally, there is much more than the handful provided on the English Wikipedia article. Refer to w:zh:中文数字#大數系統 for a more detailed list. The numbers come from the Avatamsaka Sutra (w:zh:華嚴經). There are also articles on the Chinese Wikipedia about w:zh:那由他 and w:zh:阿僧祇, as well as relevant English Wiktionary entries. Korean numerals also lists the same numbers. -- 李博杰  | Talk contribs email 10:54, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
I noticed that (I've been curious about these Chinese numerals). But the given magnitudes go up double-exponentially... (appear to be based on the formula 107 x 2n) where do these few that go up like myriad powers come from? mike4ty4 (talk) 09:59, 7 September 2010 (UTC)
Dunno, but the very same myriad-power words appear in Japanese in the Jinkōki (though it makes 1068 無量大数, as opposed to Chinese 1068 無量, 1072 大數). Double sharp (talk) 03:47, 28 September 2015 (UTC)

Chinese dialects[edit]

Currently the article seems to be centred along describing the numerals based on how they are pronounced in Standard Mandarin (i.e. all figures have their readings given in Pinyin). If I were to create a new section regarding the pronounciation of Chinese numbers in other dialects, would I be met with support or opposition? If favourable, I can start on it. -- 李博杰  | Talk contribs email 10:37, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

Looking at it I'm not sure it's needed for all dialects, as for most of them I think the interest is quite small and would be better served by the pages for the dialects themselves. The one exception is Cantonese, which is heard at least as often as Mandarin outside of China. But rather than a new section it could be added to the existing tables, for example by adding an additional column next to the the Pinyin one. This is close to the usage in other articles where Pinyin and Cantonese Romanisation are often both given after Chinese names.--JohnBlackburnewordsdeeds 11:21, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
We could use the table(s) at w:zh:中文数字#对周边国家的影响 and w:ja:漢数字#字 as a rough guide; but I'm afraid that doing it in such a manner may take up too much space and/or make it look cluttered. Keep in mind that we'll need an extra column for English explanations (one more column than on the ZH and JA Wikipedias). I was just thinking of listing the big five: Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, Min and Hakka; the Chinese Wikipedia has a bopomofo column, but I don't think that's necessary on the EN Wiki (it's for people from Taiwan who can't read Hanyu Pinyin).
I was initially thinking of making a table in a new section that could be collapsed and hidden with the { {hidden begin}} and { {hidden end}} tags, in a similar format to List of numbers in various languages (but with more than just 0-10; as a minimum should include 百, 千, 万 and 亿; also, it would be more preferable if the numbers went down vertically). -- 李博杰  | Talk contribs email 11:39, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

Military numerals[edit]

Taken from w:ja:漢数字. Apparently they are also used in aviation and railways within China, not only in the military. If someone can confirm its validity, that would be wonderful.

通常 軍隊
0 〇 (líng) 洞 (dòng)
1 幺 (yāo) 幺 (yāo)
2 二 (èr) 两 (liǎng)
3 三 (sān) 三 (sān)
4 四 (sì) 刀 (dāo)
5 五 (wǔ) 五 (wǔ)
6 六 (liù) 六 (liù)
7 七 (qī) 拐 (guǎi)
8 八 (bā) 八 (bā)
9 九 (jiǔ) 勾 (gōu)

Regards, -- 李博杰  | Talk contribs email 12:09, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

Please clarify why this is a number system and not direct translation?[edit]

Resolved: Apparently this has been resolved, as the word "number system" is now gone. — Sebastian 21:33, 28 October 2015 (UTC)

"The Chinese character system can be classified as part of the language, but it still counts as a number system." <- Could somebody elaborate on this claim? --Frozenport (talk) 07:22, 25 November 2010 (UTC)

Great article[edit]

I just want to comment that this is a marvelous article. I cannot imagine finding this wealth of detail anywhere else. The article could be expanded and published as a very nice little book, but it is so much easier and more practical to find it all right here in Wikipedia. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Dratman (talkcontribs) January 13, 2012‎

Court Dialect (Mandarin), Cantonese, and Fujian (Hokkien) pronounciations of numbers[edit]

The Middle Kingdom: A Survey of The... Chinese Empire and Its ..., Volume 1 By Samuel Wells Williams

Rajmaan (talk) 14:57, 15 October 2014 (UTC)