User:Neonumbers/Chinese numerals

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Constructing numbers[edit]

Multiple-digit numbers are constructed using a multiplicative principle; first the digit itself (from 1 to 9), then the place (such as 10 or 100); then the next digit. For numbers with 2 greater than 200, the multiplier 两 (liǎng) rather than 二 (èr) is used. Thus:

Number Structure Characters
60 [6] [10] 六十
200 [2] (èr) [100] 二百
2000 [2] (liǎng) [1000] 两千
45 [4] [10] [5] 四十五
2,362 [2] [1,000] [3] [100] [6] [10] [2] 两千三百六十二

For the numbers 11 through 19, the leading "one" (一) is omitted. In some dialects, when there are only two significant digits in the number, the leading "one" and the trailing zeroes are omitted – but this is grammatically incorrect. Sometimes, the one before "ten" in the middle of a number, such as 213, is omitted; this too is grammatically incorrect. Thus:

Number Correct Incorrect but common
Structure Characters Structure Characters
14 [10] [4] 十四    
12000 [1] [10000] [2] [1000] 一万二千 [1] [10000] [2] or
[10000] [2]
一万二 or
万二
114 [1] [100] [1] [10] [4] 一百一十四 [1] [100] [10] [4] 一百十四
1158 [1] [1000] [1] [100] [5] [10] [8] 一千一百五十八 (nothing is ever omitted in large numbers such as this)

In certain older texts like the Protestant Bible or in poetic usage, numbers such as 114 may be written as [100] [10] [4] (百十四).

For numbers larger than a myriad, the same grouping system used in English applies, except in groups of four places (myriads) rather than in groups of three (thousands). Hence it is more convenient to think of numbers here as in groups of four, thus 1,234,567,890 is regrouped here as 12,3456,7890. Larger than a myriad, each number is therefore four zeroes longer than the one before it, thus 10000 × wàn (万) = yì (亿), 10000 × yì (亿) = zhào (兆). If one of the numbers is between 10 and 19, the leading "one" is omitted as per the above point. Hence (numbers in parentheses indicate that the number has been written as one number rather than expanded):

Number Structure Characters
12,345,678,902,345
(12,3456,7890,2345)
(12) [1,0000,0000,0000] (3456) [1,0000,0000] (7890) [1,0000] (1234) 十二三千四百五十六七十八百九十两千三百四十五

Interior zeroes before the unit position (as in 1002) must be spelt explicitly. The reason for this is that trailing zeroes (as in 1200) are often omitted as shorthand, so ambiguity occurs. One zero is sufficient to resolve the ambiguity. Where the zero is before a digit otehr than the units digit, the explicit zero is not ambiguous and is therefore optional, but preferred. Thus:

Number Structure Characters
205 [2] [100] [0] [5] 二百〇五
100,004
(10,0004)
[10] [1,0000] [0] [4] 十万〇四
10,050,026
(1005,0026)
(1005) [1,0000] (26) or
(1005) [1,0000] (026)
一千〇五万〇二十六 or
一千〇五万二十六
300,020,090
(3,0002,0090)

Large number systems[edit]

For numeral characters greater than 万 (wàn), there have been four systems in ancient and modern usage:

System 亿 (yì) 兆 (zhào) 京 (jīng) 垓 (gāi) 秭 (zǐ) 穰 (ráng) Factor of increase
1 105 106 107 108 109 1010 Each numeral is 10 (十 shí) times the previous.
2 108 1012 1016 1020 1024 1028 Each numeral is 10,000 (万 wàn) times the previous.
3 108 1016 1024 1032 1040 1048 Each numeral is 108 (亿 yì) times the previous.
4 108 1016 1032 1064 10128 10256 Each numeral is the square of the previous.

Modern Chinese use only the second system. This usage is consistent throughout all Chinese communities. However, most people do not recognize numerals beyond 兆 (zhào) (1012) and dictionary definitions may not be consistent.

SI prefixes[edit]

The definition of 兆 (zhào) = 106 survived in the translation for the SI prefix mega, since there will be no single numeral for that value otherwise. There was also an attempt to use the larger, rarer numerals (京 jāng etc.) to translate the larger SI prefixes (giga etc.), further complicating such systems. The current national standard of the People's Republic of China, however, uses the phonetic transliterations 吉 (jí) for giga, 太 (tài) for tera, 拍 (pāi) for peta and 艾 (ài) for exa instead.