Suzhou numerals

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The Suzhou numerals or huama is a numeral system used in China before the introduction of Arabic numerals.


The Suzhou numeral system is the only surviving variation of the rod numeral system. The rod numeral system is a positional numeral system used by the Chinese in mathematics. Suzhou numerals are a variation of the Southern Song rod numerals.

Suzhou numerals were used as shorthand in number-intensive areas of commerce such as accounting and bookkeeping. At the same time, standard Chinese numerals were used in formal writing, akin to spelling out the numbers in English. Suzhou numerals were once popular in Chinese marketplaces, such as those in Hong Kong before the 1990s, but they have gradually been supplanted by Arabic numerals. This is similar to what had happened in Europe with Roman numerals used in ancient and medieval Europe for mathematics and commerce. Nowadays, the Suzhou numeral system is only used for displaying prices in Chinese markets or on traditional handwritten invoices.


In the Suzhou numeral system, special symbols are used for digits instead of the Chinese characters. The digits of the Suzhou numerals are defined between U+3021 and U+3029 in Unicode.

The numbers one, two, and three are all represented by vertical bars. This can cause confusion when they appear next to each other. Standard Chinese ideographs are often used in this situation to avoid ambiguity. For example, "21" is written as "" instead of...
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