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  • Chinese/Japanese: 両 (liǎng / ryou)[1]

The tael was a Chinese unit of weight, and a denomination of silver, equivalent to 1.3 ounces. Though not widely used within Japan, the tael was, for a time, widely exchanged and widely accepted amongst most major maritime powers in the world.

Taels were exchanged either as bank notes, in silver bars or ingots measured by weight, or in coin, often Mexican silver dollars, which were likewise widely traded in the early modern period.

The British East India Company pegged the tael at five shillings[2] and as equivalent to one Japanese ryô.[3]


  • "tael." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2011. Accessed 12 December 2011.
  1. Though the silver tael is known as a ryô in Japanese, using the same character for the Japanese gold ryô, the two are not the same.
  2. Four shillings equaling £1.
  3. Screech, Timon. "Owning Edo-Period Paintings." in Lillehoj, Elizabeth (ed.) Acquisition: Art and Ownership in Edo-Period Japan. Floating World Editions, 2007. p30.