A Greater Taichung man’s contention that the nation’s most common bills in circulation contain a printing error that has gone unnoticed for decades has sparked a heated debate.
Huang Pai-tsun (黃百村), a bedding merchant, said that the Chinese character for “one” (yi, 壹) on all NT$100 and NT$1,000 banknotes is incorrect.
The upper part of the character yi should be shi (士, scholar), with the top horizontal stroke longer than the bottom one, Huang said.
However, the banknotes in circulation have it wrong, he said, with the character written as tu (土, land or earth), which has a top horizontal stroke that is shorter than the bottom one.
Huang said he has double-checked with standard Chinese dictionaries and computer word processors and verified that the banknotes contain a misprint.
However, an official from the central bank’s currency issuance department denied that it was a misprint.
“There is no mistake in the Chinese character on the bills,” the official said.
Officials from the central bank’s Central Engraving and Printing Plant added that the printed characters on the currency bills were designed specifically for aesthetic purposes and to guard against counterfeiting, and, as such, differ from the regular written form.
“All printed characters on the bills were uniquely designed. If they were the same as those printed by a computer, then the bills would be easy to counterfeit,” an official said.
Yang Meng-chu (楊孟珠), a Chinese-language teacher at a senior-high school in Greater Taichung, is unconvinced, saying she thinks the central bank is wrong.
According to the Kangxi Dictionary (康熙字典), the root character for yi is shi; the central bank has therefore made a blunder by misprinting the root character as tu, Yang said.
A look at banknotes containing the character yi in China, Hong Kong and Macau show that they are printed with the root character shi.
“The Taiwanese government has always stressed that we are a country that uses the traditional Chinese system of writing. We should therefore be careful to follow the proper form,” Huang said.
“The central bank has made an error on the circulating bills. This has become an international joke. As China, Hong Kong and Macau all use the correct Han Chinese form, I want to see the central bank rectify the error at once. We should not allow this mistake to continue,” he added.
Money collector Yang Chuan-ming (楊川明) appeared to support Huang’s findings, saying he had made a careful study of all banknotes issued from the Japanese colonial era to the period right after World War II and found that all were written in the proper form.
“However, the [print] on the bills issued by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government starting from 1949 were all changed to tu,” he said.
In 1949, the KMT government had to deal with several crises, including soaring inflation and social unrest, and had to undertake a major fiscal restructuring, Yang Chuan-ming said.
“That was the time the KMT government mandated the conversion of one New Taiwan dollar for every 40,000 old Taiwan dollars. It was the start of the New Taiwan currency, with the issuance of NT$0.01, NT$0.10 and NT$100,” he said.
“From then on, the yi character on currency bills almost all had the wrong root on top. Very few bills got it right since then,” he said.