Tael (兩) - what is it?

Tael (兩) or tahil is one of several weight measures of the Eastern Asia. Most usually, it refers to the Chinese tael, a part of the Chinese system of weights and currency.

Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia had their own equivalents of tael- 10 mace (錢) (mace = 3,78 grams ) or  1⁄16 catty (斤) (catty is about 600 grams in Taiwan) in spite of the fact slightly difference between these two measurements. These Chinese units of measurement are usually used in the Chinese herbal medicine stores as well as gold and silver exchange.

The English word "tael" comes through Portuguese from the Malay word "tahil", meaning "weight". In China 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 Kuping which means "treasury standard" tael, weighing 37,5 grams. A common commercial weight, the Caoping which means "canal shipping standard" tael weighed 36,7 grams because of less pure silver.

China and Japan used the tael not only as a unit of weight but also as a currency.Traditional Chinese silver sycees (a type of silver or gold ingot currency used in imperial China) 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 jewelers for local exchange, and weight each ingot were highly variable. The local tael also took precedence over any central measure, so the Canton tael weighed 37,5 grams, the Convention or Shanghai tael was 33,9 g, and the Haiguan which means "customs" tael 37,8 g. 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 in 1911. Common weights were 50 tael, 10 tael, and 5 down to 1.

Nowadays, the tael is still in use as a weight measurement in a number of countries though usually only in limited contexts.The Taiwan tael is 37,5 grams and is still used in some areas. The Taiwan tael is originated from the tael of the Japanese system which was 37,5 grams. Тhe tael is only used for precious metals, medicines and tea measurement.


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