Contemporary Banknotes of China (Part 2)

In the last part of this article, I have given you a walkthrough on the fourth series of the renminbi banknotes, which are currently still used in China. In this section, I will thus be giving you another walkthrough, this time on the fifth series of the renminbi banknotes.

Up to the time when this article was written, the fifth series of the renminbi is the latest series of the Chinese currency being used in China. Introduction of the fifth series commenced in 1999 and has been ongoing up to the present time. It is currently the dominant and most common series being used by the people of China, although the fourth series is still considered legal tender.

As I’ve mentioned in the earlier part of this article, all banknotes of China have the phrase “People’s Bank of China” (Zhongguo Renmin Yinhang) inscribed on them in Mandarin Chinese, Romanized Mandarin Chinese, Mongol, Tibetan, Uighur and Zhuang. This, of course, does not exclude the fifth series of the renminbi banknotes.

This is the 1 yuan, or ¥1 banknote. On the obverse side, one can see the face of the renowned leader of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976), who was also the first President of the People’s Republic of China. An orchid motif is also visible at the centre of the banknote.

Mao Zedong, also known as Chairman Mao (毛主席, máo zhŭxí), is highly regarded by many Chinese as one of the greatest national hero and leader in modern Chinese history. Many Chinese, especially members of the ruling Communist Party of China, revere Chairman Mao as a talented military strategist, political mastermind and farsighted revolutionary capable of bringing tremendous progress to the Chinese society as a whole. Nevertheless, he is also one of the world’s most controversial leaders, in which critics assert that his application of Marxist communist theories in his reign had caused immense suffering and even a high death toll amongst the people of China, making him comparable to a dictator.

On the reverse side, one can see an image of the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon at West Lake (西湖, xīhú) in the city of Hangzhou (杭州, hángzhōu), Zhejiang Province (浙江省, zhèjiāng shĕng). West Lake is famed not only for its scenic landscape, but also for its great cultural and historical values due to the existence of numerous ancient landmarks and engraved tablets in the vicinity.

Amongst them is the well-known Three Pools Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月, sān tán yìn yuè). These “three pools” actually refer to three gourd-shaped stupas which appear to be floating on the surface of the lake. Beautiful as its name sounds, the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon does produce a magical fairy-tale-like effect when night time sets in. When candles are lit in the stupas, the candlelight reflects on the lake’s surface, creating moon-like images which contrast perfectly with the bright moon in the sky. This amazing scenery is especially more enchanting on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the moon is assumed to be at its roundest and brightest.

A beautiful view of the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon contrasting the bright round moon in the sky

This is the 5 yuan, or ¥5 banknote. The obverse side portrays an image of Mao Zedong similar to that on the 1 yuan banknote. At the centre of the banknote, a motif of a narcissus flower is also portrayed.

The reverse side displays an image of Mount Tai (泰山, tàishān), which stands majestically at the north of Tai’an city (泰安, tài ān) in Shandong Province (山东省, shāndōng shĕng). Mount Tai is said to be the most sacred and revered of the Five Sacred Mountains of Taoism. On the summit of the mountain, one can see, inscribed on a large rock, the Chinese characters proclaiming that the mountain is the most respected of the Five Sacred Mountains of Taoism (五岳独尊, wŭyuè dúzūn). In imperial times, Mount Tai has been the principal site for ancient Chinese worship and pilgrimage, whereby numerous emperors from various dynasties frequently made visits there to offer sacrifices and to pay homage to Heaven and Earth. In fact, Mount Tai has also been an ultimate source of inspiration for many Chinese scholars, artists and poets in imperial times, including Confucius (孔夫子, kŏng fūzĭ) and the well-known Chinese poet Du Fu (杜甫, dùfŭ).

Inscription on a large rock proclaiming in Mandarin Chinese that Mount Tai is the most respected of the Five Sacred Mountains

This is the 10 yuan, or ¥10 banknote. Once again, the obverse side shows an image of Mao Zedong. Besides his image, there is also a rose flower motif at the centre of the banknote.

On the other hand, the reverse side shows a picture of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River, which is also known as Chang Jiang. The name “Chang Jiang” literally means “the long river” in Mandarin Chinese. Since I’ve written a description on the Three Gorges in the preceding part of this article, do I have to describe it once again? Anyway, I’ll just add in a little bit of information which I did not mention in the preceding part of this article.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Three Gorges is the home to one of the most splendid and picturesque natural sceneries found in the entire land of China. Running along the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) for 120 km in Hubei Province, the Three Gorges comprises of, well, three gorges, namely the Qutang Gorge (瞿塘峡, qùtáng xiá), Wu Gorge and Xiling Gorge (西陵峡, xīlíng xiá). Each of these three gorges runs for a distance of 8 km, 45 km and 66 km respectively. They differ from each other, with the Qutang Gorge described as straight and rocky, the Wu Gorge tranquil and serene, and the Xiling Gorge perilous due to its rapid currents and dangerous shoals.

This is the 20 yuan, or ¥20 banknote. Needless to mention, Mao Zedong is displayed on the obverse side of the banknote, alongside the motif of a lotus flower at the centre.

The picture on the reverse side of the banknote is that of a fisherman on a bamboo raft drifting slowly down the Li River (漓江, líjiāng), with the magnificent scenery of the Guilin mountains decorating the background of the image. Guilin (桂林, guìlín), which literally means “the forest of sweet osmanthus”, is a city in Guangxi Autonomous Region which promises yet another spectacular panorama to all its visitors.

As one floats along the Li River in a boat, one can admire the crystal-clear waters and lush bamboo plants marvelously adorning a picturesque backdrop of unique verdant hills and mountains. It is undoubtedly true to state that the panoramic view of the Li River in Guilin, as portrayed in the 20 yuan banknote, perfectly reflects China’s best natural landscapes. One source actually likens the Li River to a winding green silk ribbon, with the lush hills as jade hairpins beautifully ornamenting it. In fact, former US President Bill Clinton once stated that “no place in China is more evocative of the beauty of your country than Guilin.”

A breathtaking panoramic view of the Li River in Guilin

This is the 50 yuan banknote, equivalent in value to ¥50. As all of you would expect once again, Mao Zedong appears on the obverse side of the banknote, in addition to a chrysanthemum flower motif at the centre.

The image on the reverse side of the banknote is that of the Potala Palace in Lhasa (拉萨, lāsà), Tibet Autonomous Region. The Potala Palace (布达拉宫, bùdálā gōng) was initially constructed in the year 637 by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in order to welcome his bride, Princess Wencheng (文成公主, wénchéng gōngzhŭ) of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. The palace gained its name of “Potala” later in the 11th century, whereby this name was derived from Mount Potala in southern India, which was believed to be the sacred residence of the Buddhist bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. (A bodhisattva, in Buddhism, is a person who has great compassion and consequently wishes to attain perfect enlightenment for the benefit of all living things.)

While the original Potala Palace was smaller compared to the present-day palace and was at one point destroyed in a war, the palace was later reconstructed and restored in 1645 by the fifth Dalai Lama, Lozang Gyatso. Subsequently, the Potala Palace became the official residence of the Dalai Lamas, as well as the seat of the Tibetan government, until the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, fled to India following a failed uprising against Chinese invasion into Tibet. Since then, the Chinese central government has converted the Potala Palace into a museum for tourism purposes.

Lastly, this is the 100 yuan banknote, corresponding to a value of ¥100. Once again, needless to say, the image of Mao Zedong appears on the obverse side of the banknote. Besides Mao Zedong, a design of the plum blossom flower (梅子, méizi) is observable at the centre of the obverse side.

Looking at the reverse side now, we can see a picture of the Great Hall of the People, located at the western side of Tiananmen Square (天安门广场, tiān’ānmén guăngchăng) in the Chinese capital of Beijing (北京, bĕijīng). The Great Hall of the People (人民大会堂, rénmín dàhuìtáng), which was built in 1959, houses the parliament of China and serves as the legislative centre for the entire nation. It is the home to the National People’s Congress of China (全国人民代表大会, quánguó rénmín dàibiăo dàhuì), which is the sole legislative house of the People’s Republic of China.

Numerous national conventions, political conferences, international events and diplomatic activities are held annually in the Great Hall. The Great Hall is also one of the official venues for Chinese leaders to meet and discuss issues with foreign leaders and dignitaries. However, the Hall is open to the general public and tourists only when there are no ongoing conferences or international activities being held there.

The grand and majestic Great Hall of the People is principally divided into three sections, namely the auditorium, the banquet hall and the offices of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. The Great Auditorium is capable of seating 10,000 representatives simultaneously, thus enabling extremely large conferences to be held there. The State Banquet Hall is capable of accommodating 5,000 dining guests at any one time. Smaller gatherings and conferences, on the other hand, are held in the Main Auditorium or in one of the smaller conference halls that are named and decorated after the various provinces and regions in China.

The Great Auditorium of the Great Hall of the People, having a seating capacity of 10,000 people at any one time

Indeed, the best of China’s tourist attractions have been well-captured on the nation’s colourful banknotes. So, the next time you want to decide on a nice place to spend your holiday in China but do not know where to go to, just go to your nearest local money changer, exchange for some Chinese renminbi banknotes, turn to the reverse side of those banknotes (and do a little online research if you need to), book your tickets, pack your bags, board the plane and off you go to the glorious land of the Middle Kingdom!!! Happy holidays in advance!!!

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