The currency in China is called the yuan or renminbi (RMB), which translates to “people’s money”. When speaking Mandarin, each unit is referred to as ‘kuai’ – the usage is similar to how American dollars are called ‘bucks’.
In daily conversational Mandarin, the term ‘kuai’ is used more than ‘yuan’ when talking about prices of goods, as is the colloquial ‘mao’ intead of ‘jiao’ when talking about sub units of the yuan. The paper and coin ‘fen’ are practically out of use in China.
“The yuan (sign: ¥) is the basic unit of the renminbi. One yuan is subdivided into 10 jiao, and a jiao is subdivided into 10 fen.”
The 1960 edition of the RMB (no longer in circulation) features communist themes such as a farmer girl on a tractor, a metal worker with a hot poker, a millworker in the factory. Today these are collector’s items and are sold in curio markets around China and on eBay.
The 1980 edition of the RMB had portraits of common people in China, building upon the Communist inspired theme of every day folks participating in the ongoing fight for equality and justice according to the party line.
The current edition of RMB bank notes all carry the same portrait of Chairman Mao while the coins are decorated with a flower and the numeric symbol of the coin’s value.
The China Guide has an interesting set of photos and audio of the pronunciation of each note.