The Chinese Number Conversion Perl module used above to convert between Chinese character numbers and Arabic numbers is available for download.
While China has for many uses adopted the
Arabic numeral system familiar around the world, it also still uses
its native Chinese character number system. The Chinese system is
also a base-10 system, but has important differences in the way the
numbers are represented. Chinese has characters for numbers 0 through
9, as seen above. In addition to the character shown above for zero,
a simple circle is also used. Pronunciation for the characters uses
the standard Romanization scheme in China called "pinyin". The number at
the end of the pinyin indicates the tone.
Eleven in Chinese is "ten one". Twelve is
"ten two", and so on. Twenty is "Two ten", twenty-one is "two ten
one" (2*10 + 1), and so on up to 99. One-hundred is "one hundred".
One-hundred and one is "one hundred zero one". One hundred and eleven
is "one hundred one ten one". Notice that for eleven alone, you only
need "ten one" and not "one ten one", but when used in a larger number
(such as 111), you must add the extra "one". One thousand and above
is done in a similar fashion, where you say how many thousands you
have, then how many hundreds, tens, and ones. An exception to this is
for zeroes. When a zero occurs in the number (except at the end), you
need to say "zero", but only once for two or more consecutive zeroes.
So one-thousand and one would be "one thousand zero one", where zero
stands in for the hundreds and tens places. Try different numbers in
the converter above to practice and check on other numbers.
What is different from American English is
that when you get to ten-thousand, Chinese has its own word (wan4),
unlike English where you must use a compound of ten and thousand.
Only after ten thousand does Chinese start using compounds itself.
One-hundred thousand is "one ten wan4" (where wan4 is the Chinese word
for ten-thousand that English lacks). Chinese goes on like this until
100 million (yi4), where it introduces a new character. This happens
every four decimal places, unlike American English where it happens
every three decimal places (thousand, million, billion, trillion,
etc. are all separated by three decimal places).
Regular Chinese characters for numbers use
relatively few strokes. The characters for one, two, and three are
just one, two and three parallel horizontal strokes, respectively. To
prevent fraud when writing checks and other cases where fraud is
possible, Chinese also uses a series of more complex characters for
the numbers. It is easy to change a "one" into a "two" in regular
characters, but with the formal complex characters, this is
impossible. See above for a listing of the equivalent formal
As in English, one can also abbreviate a
number by just listing the digits with the tens, hundreds, thousands,
etc. omitted (as the web counter below does).
When talking about amounts, sometimes a
variant of two is used in the hundred-million, ten-thousand, thousand,
or hundreds place: (liang3). It is
never used in the tens place. Sometimes when used as an amount it can
also replace two alone.
Shorthand characters also exist for twenty
and thirty and are often used in newspapers, especially in dates.
These are (nian4) for twenty and
(sa4) for thirty.
To express fractions and percents, Chinese
uses the denominator followed by the two characters (fen1
zhi1, "parts of"), followed by the numerator. So two-thirds would be
"three fen1zhi1 two". In the case of percents, you would say "hundred
fen1zhi1 amount", e.g. the way to say 63% is "hundred fen1zhi1 six ten
three". When used in percents, just say hundred and not "one hundred".
The decimal point is expressed with the character