Understanding the numbers thing better now

In a previous entry I had wondered why “301600 is written 叄拾零萬壹仟陸佰 when the form has preprinted units, but is written 叄拾萬零壹仟陸佰 when you have to write the whole thing yourself?” The issue is where you put in the character for zero, 零. In Chinese it the character for zero is inserted explicitly to make it more clear that there is a break in the units. It’s useful in spoken Chinese because it’s easy to lose track of the units, but this is less of a problem when writing Chinese.

However, the explicit zero is only used once per break, and the units for any zero are also omitted, so that something like 3005 would only be 叄仟零五, though in regular speech you could say 三〇〇五, leaving out the units (and using the normal characters since it’s not a formal dollar amount on a check/form). What wasn’t clear to me is where to put the zero character when it occurs above 10,000 (萬). I had assumed that it’d be written the same way as it is on a preprinted form. (Interesting note is that akibare tells me that putting in an explicit zero character is not usually done in Japanese.)

I think I understand it a bit better now after seeing a new type of preprinted form than I had before. There are two forms I’d seen previously where the units were preprinted on the form. The first type would have the units with spaces in between them to write the numbers, e.g. “ 仟 佰 拾 萬 仟 佰 拾 元”. In that one you’d fill in the blanks with the numbers so that 301600 would look like “ 仟 佰叄拾零萬壹仟陸佰 拾 元”. You must put in a zero character for each place in between other characters, but before and after you can just run a line through it as a shortcut. Normally a “-” would be confused with the character for one, but since we have to use the special numeric characters, it is not ambiguous in this case.

The other type of form I’ve seen has a grid of boxes with “仟佰拾萬仟佰拾元” and you would fill in the numbers in the box below the unit, e.g.:


But yesterday I saw a new form that suddenly made it make sense where to put the zero in writing out the number without a form. This form looked like this:

仟 佰 拾 萬 仟 佰 拾 元
萬   萬   萬            

(The units in this case are read vertically.) So in our 301600 example, it would look like:

  仟   佰 叄 拾 零 萬 陸 仟 陸 佰   拾   元
萬   萬   萬            

This format makes it all make sense on where to put the zeros when writing the number without a form, because the 3 goes in the 100,000s unit (拾萬), and not the 10s unit (拾) above the 10,000s unit (萬). So in the 301600 example you are writing (three 100,000s) (zero) (one 1000s) (six l00s).

Well at least it makes more sense to me now.

(It was a pain in the ass to get those vertical units to line up right.)

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