n布达拉宫 (Bùdálā Gōng), Potala Palace, and 人民大会堂 (Rénmín Dà Huìtáng), The Great Hall of the People, are the two iconic structures that adorn the Chinese 50 and 100 yuán bills.
Potala Palace, located in Lāsà (Lhasa), the provincial capital of Tibet, is the highest-altitude palace in the world, at 12,100 ft (3,700m) above sea level. It was first built as a wedding present to a Tibetan leader’s wife in the 7th century, and since became a residence of the Dalai Lamas.
The Great Hall of the People is located just south of the Forbidden City in Beĭjīng, and houses the National People’s Congress. It’s also used for celebrations, conventions, and concerts of the highest order, and is in many ways the center of China’s political life.
Extra money-fact of the day: Chinese bills are pentalingual, with “People’s Bank of China” written in Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uighur, and Zhuàng.
We managed to fit them all in one week! Zhongguo Renmin Yinghang
桂林 (Guìlín) is the home of the distinctive “humpy” mountains that adorn China’s 20 yuán bill.
Guìlín is located in Southern China, and is one of the most popular tourism destinations, not least for its beautiful karst rock formations, which were made by gradual erosion of the soft rock type common in the area.
Many vacationers like to find the exact spot along the Lí River depicted on the 20 yuán bill and take a picture while holding the note up for comparison. Sort of how people like to take pictures where they pretend to be pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The Lí River area is also famous for its traditional cormorant fishing (see the boat in the picture!), its magnificent underground caves, and its many picturesque villages and rice terraces.
Extra money-fact of the day: Paper money was invented in China, dating back to the Táng dynasty (618-907).
Like an upside down egg tray, but so much better! Zhongguo Renmin Yinghang
三峡 (Sānxiá), The Three Gorges, are a series of imposing mountainous canyons that line the Yangtze River (the third longest in the world) in Central China. They are featured on the 10 yuán bill.
The Gorges are a popular cruise destination, and ships go both upstream and downstream between Chóngqìng and Húbeĭ Province. The majestic cliffs rise on both sides of the river, and the sights have stunned many a poet.
Along the way, you’ll find villages, temples, howling monkeys, rocky peaks, as well as the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, which last year generated more electricity than Greece and New Zealand combined.
Extra money-fact of the day: Though the lowest denomination on the most recent bills is just 1 yuán, smaller bills are still in circulation, This includes the 1 and 5 jiăo denominations, which don’t really get you anything these days (a jiăo is 1/10 of a yuán).
Rollin’ on the river. Zhongguo Renmin Yinghang
泰山 (Tài Shān), Mount Tài, is China’s most prominent sacred mountain, located in Shāndōng Province in the East. It’s featured on China’s 5-yuán bill.
Worshipped for thousands of years, Tài Shān is regarded as the greatest of the Five Sacred Mountains, and home to many spirits and deities of Chinese folk religion.
Countless emperors have made the pilgrimage here to make offerings to the gods, often as the first thing after they came to power. The mountain symbolizes the stability of China itself, and it is said that ”when Tài Shān is at peace, the world is at peace”.
The mountain has inspired many other sayings. For example, you might say that a person who fails to see the obvious “has eyes, yet can’t even recognize Tài Shān”.
Extra money-fact of the day: Informally, yuán are known as kuài (块) like one might call a dollar a “buck”.
Of mountainous importance. Zhongguo Renmin Yinghang
人民币 (Rénmínbì), “the people’s currency”, shortened RMB, measured in yuán (元), is the money used in China. This week Mingbai explores the bills and their motifs.
The most recently issued series of paper money comes in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 yuán. They have a picture of Máo Zédōng on one side, and a famous landmark on the other. We’ll start with the lowest denomination.
三潭印月 (Sān tán yìn yuè), “The Three Pools Mirroring the Moon”, adorn the green 1 yuan bill (about 16 US cents). They are three small stone pagodas in the middle of the West Lake of Hángzhōu, widely recognized as one of the most beautiful places in China.
They light up like little moons when candles are put inside them. They reflect on the serene waters of the lake and have inspired much music and poetry.
Hangzhou - a favorite of Marco Polo. Zhongguo Renmin Yinghang
汶川大地震 (Wènchuān Dà Dìzhèn), The Great Sìchuān Earthquake, happened on the 12th of May 2008 and killed more than 69,000 people.
On a normal Monday afternoon, a Richter scale 8.0 earthquake devastated Sìchuān Province. All of China remembers that day.
The earthquake destroyed thousands of buildings, including many schools. But amid the tragedy and anguish, images of children rescued from the rubble gave hope, and a number of heartwarming stories brought the country together.
One little boy was seen saluting the soldiers who had been deployed to help with emergency relief. Another, 9-year-old Lín Hào, who was trapped under the debris with his classmates, organized group singing to keep up their spirits and personally saved several of his fellow students.
Lín Hào became a national “little hero”, and walked in the Olympic procession later that year.
A day not soon forgotten. ifeng.com
清华大学 (Qīnghuá Dàxué), or Tsinghua University in English, is China’s most prestigious university – unless of course you ask someone at Beĭjīng (Peking) University, its eternal rival school!
Tsinghua ranks highly internationally, and was named by U.S. News in 2017 as the number one place in the world to study engineering and computer science.
The university was founded in 1911, the year the last emperor was deposed. It was paid for with funds redirected from the war indemnity China was forced to pay to the US after the Boxer Rebellion. It was created to strengthen international exchange, and indeed it has: Mingbai was founded at Tsinghua!
Tsinghua is also famous for its picturesque gardens, and is particularly beautiful in the spring and summer when the bright purple redbud leaves cover the campus.
Many of China’s most successful businesspeople, scientists, and politicians are Tsinghua graduates, including president Xí Jīnpíng.
Springtime on campus. Baidu Baike
李宁 (Lĭ Níng) is one of China’s most recognized people: An athlete-turned businessman, he once ruled the pommel horse – now he rules sportswear.
Honored with nicknames such as “The Prince of Gymnastics”, Lĭ Níng has won Olympic gold three times, and so many other competitions that he has moves named after him.
After 10 years he retired and founded China’s biggest sportswear brand – named after himself. The company has sponsored numerous national basketball teams (Argentina, Spain, Finland and more) and often works with the NBA. The brand is known for its colorful products, and is increasingly in direct competition with Nike and Adidas across the world.
Lĭ Níng lit the Olympic fire in 2008 – and even though he had to wear Adidas clothes (they were the official sponsor of the Games), he and his company attracted all the attention.
Why only have one successful career? Wikimedia Commons
美人鱼 (Meĭrényú), “The Mermaid” is a 2016 smash hit movie directed by Zhōu Xīngchí, and one of the highest-grossing Chinese films of all time.
The fantasy comedy is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, featuring a beautiful young mermaid who falls in love with a man – but with significant differences.
The lucky guy isn’t a sweet prince, but a selfish business tycoon with plans to destroy all the mermaids – and she isn’t just any other lass longing for legs – she’s sent by her downtrodden people to assassinate him! Of course they fall in love.
This is obviously complicated. Other highlights include a vengeful octopus ringleader, a crazy businessman with a jetpack, and an A+ funny scene where the businessman tries to explain to the incredulous police that he has seen a real mermaid.
We won’t tell you how it ends, but it’s exciting all the way.
Note how the fourth dot under the 魚 is actually a fish tail! Amazing! Baidu Baike
象棋 (Xiàngqí), Chinese chess, is quite similar to international chess, but with some very interesting differences.
Like in international chess, two armies face each other, hoping to take out each others’ kings - or here, generals. Instead of carved pieces, the Chinese version uses flat camembert-shaped pieces with beautiful characters on.
It also features a river across the middle of the board, beyond which some pieces move differently, and which cannot be crossed by the elephants – yes, elephants! The game is even named after them - look closely at the xiàng character (象). Hint: Is it facing you?
The perhaps coolest piece is the cannon, which moves as a rook/tower in international chess, but can attack only by jumping over another piece to get to its victim. Bang!
In parks you often hear loud, gleeful smacks when a player captures a piece by hammering his own piece down on top of it.
Horses and pawns, ok, but elephants and cannons?? Baidu Baike