1949 onwards


The People's Republic of China was set up in 1949, after the success of the Communist forces in the war against the Chinese Nationalist Government. Initially it used a paper currency even for small denominations, but coins began to be minted from 1955 onwards, dated using the western system. These consisted, initially, of three aluminum coins, 1 fen, 2 fen and 5 fen, production of which continued until 1990-1992 (though they may now have ceased).

Two fen coin of aluminium. The same design was used on 1 fen and 5 fen coins

No other coins were thought necessary until 1980, when 1 jiao, 2 jiao and 5 jiao copper-zinc coins were introduced, together with a cupro-nickel one yuan. The yuan was worth 10 jiao or 100 fen.

One yuan coin, introduced in 1980

After the cessation of the aluminium fen coinage, the metal of the one jiao coin was changed in 1991 to aluminium, utilising a new and larger design.

New one jiao aluminium coin introduced in 1991

At the same time the 5 jiao coin became a smaller brass coin.


Redesigned 5 jiao coin in brass, also introduced in 1991

All these coins carried similar designs, the obverse with a wreath surrounding five stars, the middle one being larger, and reverse giving the denomination above a flower branch.

In a marked change, as China began to move away from its former closed economy and opened up to international trade, a large number of commemorative coins began to be produced, as a way of making use of its vast mineral wealth in precious metals to earn foreign exchange. A series of silver, gold, platinum and palladium commemorative coins have been produced in great profusion, the most famous being the so-called "Panda" coinage, mostly in gold.

The first commemoratives as well as a few later ones, celebrating, for example, the Olympics in 1980 and 6th National Games in 1987, were produced in base metals and may have been used for general circulation. There is no evidence that the coinage in precious metal ever circulated as currency and therefore they may be considered more as medals and are therefore beyond the scope of this work.