Language quiz

Here’s a scan of a banknote from a mystery country. How many languages and writing systems appear on it and which ones? Can you also work out where it’s from, and its denomination and date?

Mystery banknote

This entry was posted in Language, Quiz questions.

19 Responses to Language quiz

  1. MM says:

    People’s Republic of China, a 1953 two-fen note. I don’t know about the other languages: one of the Turkic languages of the minorities, and the other is presumably an Asian minority language, and some Roman figures, and even “1953”.

  2. AR says:

    Chinese (of course), Uyghur (in the Arabic script), Tibetan, and Mongol or Manchu (in its adaptation of the original Uyghur script).

  3. AR says:

    Its Mongol, and there is also Zhuang (written in its adaptation of Han characters).
    BTW, its a nice looking bank note.

  4. It is indeed a 1953 two fen note. The alphabets are Chinese, Arabic, Mongolian and Tibetan.

    Mongolian’s vertical writing is so beautiful… Tibetan is really beautiful also…

  5. d.m.falk says:

    It is indeed the PRC, and the languages shown on this note (I have seen more on more recent PRC notes!) are indeed Chinese, Uyghur, Tibetan and Mongolian.


  6. BG says:

    (Without looking) There are Chinese characters, Arabic, and Mongolian, I think (also the plane is a DC-3). I would guess it is somewhere in Central Asia, and the date is 19X3, I would probably around around mid-century.

  7. TJ says:

    BG: I think 1973 🙂

  8. TJ says:

    The title on the top of the paper looks like the characters used for “China” … zhong guo! [中國]
    Thus I would say it is indeed chinese, and not from the mid-asian origin!

  9. d.m.falk says:

    TJ/BG: 1953. The obverse shows the year in Chinese characters (followed by the character for “year”), and the reverse (lower scan) shows the commonly-iused Arabic numerals we’re all used to.

    TJ: The third character after 中國 is the character for “person/people”, so this should be the first of two very obvious clues it’s the People’s Republic of China (and not Taiwan, aka the Republic of China); the other is the emblem of the PRC, the four stars (one large, three smaller) over the Imperial Palace at the Forbidden City, symbolising the Communist rule over the former Empire of China.


  10. TJ says:

    Thanks for correcting me! 🙂

    The Arabic numeral doesn’t seem quite obvious in the lower pic. It’s fuzzy.

  11. dmh says:

    The Chinese says:
    中國人民銀行 – China’s People Bank
    貮分 – 2 Fen
    一九五三年 – 1953 (year)

  12. Simon says:

    Here are the answers:

    The note is a two fen note from China and dates from 1953, and I got it during my first and, so far, only visit to China in 1991.

    The writing systems are the Chinese script (in traditional characters), and the Latin, Arabic, Mongolian and Tibetan alphabets.

    The languages are Chinese, Uyghur, Mongolian and Tibetan.

    Note that the two of two fen is the complex form of the numeral, while the simple numerals are used to write the date.

  13. renato figueiredo says:

    The numbers writen in Latin, and in red collor got everybody unprepared. Nobody noticed that. Incredible, as the simplest thing can’t be noticed.

  14. MM says:

    Renato, I said Roman figures – does that not count?

  15. BG says:

    I didn’t notice the “1953” and the 五 was too hard to distinguish, so I couldn’t get the complete date. I recognized the fen and had a feeling the character before it was a complex numeral, but I thought 分 was used to mean minute. I didn’t know that it is also a unit of currency.

  16. Weili says:

    Chinese units of money

    元 Yuan / 快 Kuai
    角 Jiao / 毛 Mao
    分 Fen

    1 Yuan = 10 Jiao, 1 Jiao = 10 Fen

    元 Yuan and 角 Jiao are used “officially” on the currency but the latter 快 Kuai and 毛 Mao are generally often more used when spoken.

    I’m not sure why there are two names for 元 Yuan and 角 Jiao. Anyone have any clues?

  17. d.m.falk says:

    Weili: Slang terms for certain currencies are common in many cultures– Here in the US, we would often say a “buck” for a dollar, and a “penny” for a cent, for example- Nevermind a “nickel” for 5 cents, ‘dime” for 10 cents and so forth. Then in the UK, you have “quid” for poumnds, etc…. I think you get where I’m going, here. 🙂


  18. Weili says:

    Yes, valid point. I was more thinking about the details like when these slangs were first used and in which region. Perhaps it started in a specific dialect. So on and so forth 🙂

  19. Lawrence says:


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