Vietnamese units of measurement

Vietnamese units of measurement (Vietnamese: hệ đo lường Việt Nam) are the largely decimal units of measurement traditionally used in Vietnam until metrication. The base unit of length is the thước (chữ Nôm: 𡱩; lit. "ruler") or xích (Chinese: ; pinyin: chǐ). Some of the traditional unit names have been repurposed for metric units, such as thước for the metre, while other traditional names remain in translations of imperial units, such as dặm Anh for the English mile.


Originally, many thước of varying lengths were in use in Vietnam, each used for different purposes. According to Hoàng Phê (1988),[1] the traditional system of units had at least two thước of different lengths before 1890,[2] the thước ta (lit. "our ruler") or thước mộc ("wooden ruler"), equal to 0.425 metres (1 ft 4.7 in), and the thước đo vải ("ruler for measuring cloth"), equal to 0.645 metres (2 ft 1.4 in). According to historian Nguyễn Đình Đầu,[3][4] the trường xích and điền xích were both equal to 0.4664 metres (1 ft 6.36 in), while according to Phan Thanh Hải,[5] there were three main thước: the thước đo vải, from 0.6 to 0.65 metres (2 ft 0 in to 2 ft 2 in); the thước đo đất ("ruler for measuring land"), at 0.47 metres (1 ft 7 in); and the thước mộc, from 0.28 to 0.5 metres (11 in to 1 ft 8 in).

With French colonization, Cochinchina converted to the metric system, the French standard, while Annam and Tonkin continued to use a thước đo đất or điền xích equal to 0.47 metres (1 ft 7 in). On June 2, 1897, Indochinese Governor-General Paul Doumer decreed that all the variations of thước (such as thước ta, thước mộc, and điền xích) would be unified at one thước ta to 0.40 metres (1 ft 4 in), effective January 1, 1898, in Tonkin. Annam retained the old standard for measuring land, so distance and area (such as sào) in Annam were 4.7/4 and (4.7/4)2 times the equivalent units in Tonkin, respectively.[6]


The following table lists common units of length in Vietnam in the early 20th century, according to a United Nations Statistical Commission handbook:[7][8]

Early 20th-century units of length
Name in quốc ngữNôm/Chinese name[9][10]Traditional valueTraditional conversionModern valueModern conversion
trượng4 m2 ngũ = 10 thước
ngũ2 m5 thước
thước or xích𡱩/尺40 cm10 tấc1 m10 tấc
tấc𡬷4 cm10 phân10 cm10 phân
phân4 mm10 ly1 cm10 ly
ly or li0.4 mm10 hào1 mm
hào0.04 mm10 ti
ti4 µm10 hốt
hốt0.4 µm10 vi
vi0.04 µm


  • The thước is also called thước ta to distinguish it from the metre (thước tây, lit. "Western ruler"). Other than for measuring length, the thước is also used for measuring land area (see below).
  • According to the UN handbook,[7] some areas unofficially use 1 trượng = 4.7 metres (15 ft). According to Hoàng Phê (1988),[11] the trượng has two definitions: 10 Chinese chi (about 3.33 m) or 4 thước mộc (about 1.70 m).
  • The tấc is also given as túc.[12] According to the UN handbook,[7] some areas unofficially use 1 tấc = 4.7 centimetres (1.9 in).

Miscellaneous units:

chai vai
1 chai vai = 14.63 metres (48.0 ft)[13]
According to Hoàng Phê (1988),[14] 1 dặm = 444.44 metres (1,458.1 ft). According to Vĩnh Cao and Nguyễn Phố (2001),[15] 1 dặm = 1800 xích (Chinese chi) = 576 metres (1,890 ft)
According to Vĩnh Cao and Nguyễn Phố (2001),[15] there are two kinds of : 1 công lý = 1 km = 3125 xích, while thị lý is a traditional unit equal to 1562.55 xích.


The following table lists common units of area in Vietnam in the early 20th century, according to the UN handbook:[7]

Early 20th-century units of area
Name in quốc ngữChinese/Nôm name[9]Traditional valueTraditional conversionDimensionsAnnamite value
mẫu3600 m210 sào4970 m2
sào360 m210 miếng497 m2
miếng36 m23 ngũ × 3 ngũ
xích or thước尺/𡱩24 m210 tấc33 m2
than4 m21 ngũ × 1 ngũ
tấc or thốn𡬷/寸2.4 m210 phân3.3135 m2
phân0.24 m2
ô or ghế0.16 m210 khấu1 thước × 1 thước
khấu0.016 m2


  • Annamite units of area were (4.7/4)2 times those of other areas, due to units of length (trượng, tấc, etc.) being 4.7/4 times those of other areas, as explained above.
  • According to the UN handbook,[7] the phân is also written phấn.
  • The sào is also given as cao.[16] Tonkin and Annam had different definitions of the sào.

Miscellaneous units:

công or công đất
The công, used for surveying forested areas, typically in southwestern Vietnam, was equivalent to 1,000 square metres (11,000 sq ft).
dặm vuông
The dặm vuông measures 1 dặm × 1 dặm.


The following table lists common units of volume in Vietnam in the early 20th century, according to the UN handbook[7] and Thiều Chửu:[9]

Early 20th-century units of volume
Name in quốc ngữChinese/Nôm name[9]Traditional valueTraditional conversionDimensionsNotes
hộc16 m310 lẻ10 ngũ × 1 ngũ × 1 thước1 hộc of unhusked rice ≈ 60 L
miếng14.4 m33 ngũ × 3 ngũ × 1 thướcFor buying and selling land
lẻ or than1.6 m31 ngũ × 1 ngũ × 1 thước1 lẻ of husked rice ≈ 0.1 L
thưng or thăng2 L1000 sao
đấu1 L2 bát = 5 cáp
bát0.5 L
cáp0.2 L100 sao
sao or (colloquially) nhắm[17]2 mL10 toátGrain
toát or (colloquially) nhón[17]0.2 mLGrain


  • 1 phương of husked rice = 13 thăng or 30 bát (bowls) in 1804[18]
  • 1 vuông of husked rice = 604 gr 50[19]
  • 1 phương or vuông or commonly giạ = 38.5 litres (8.5 imp gal; 10.2 US gal), though it is sometimes given as 1 phương = ½ hộc or about 30 L
  • During French administration, 1 giạ was defined as 40 litres (8.8 imp gal; 11 US gal) for husked rice but only 20 litres (4.4 imp gal; 5.3 US gal) for some other goods.[20] It was commonly used for measuring rice and salt.
  • 1 túc = 3 13 microlitres (0.00020 cu in)[12]
  • 1 uyên = 1 litre (0.22 imp gal; 0.26 US gal)[21]

The following table lists units of volume in use during French administration in Cochinchina:[22]

Units of volume in Cochinchina
Name in quốc ngữTraditional conversionTraditional valueUsageWeight
hộc26 thăng71.905 Lunhusked rice1 tạ of unhusked rice = 68 kg[20]
vuông13 thăng35.953 L, later 40 Lhusked rice
thăng2.766 L
hiệp0.1 thăng0.276 L
thược0.01 thăng0.0276 L


  • Unhusked rice was measured in hộc while husked rice was measured in vuông because a hộc of unhusked rice becomes 1 vuông after husking.
  • 1 hộc of unhusked rice weighs 1 tạ.

Miscellaneous units:

In Cochinchina and Cambodia, 1 thùng (lit. "bucket") = 20 litres (4.4 imp gal; 5.3 US gal). The thùng is also given as tau.[23]


The following table lists common units of weight in Vietnam in the early 20th century:[24]

Early 20th-century units of weight
Name in quốc ngữChinese/Nôm name[9][10]Traditional valueTraditional conversionModern valueModern conversion
tấn604.5 kg10 tạ1000 kg10 tạ
quân[17]302.25 kg5 tạ500 kgobsolete
tạ60.45 kg10 yến100 kg10 yến
bình[17]30.225 kg5 yến50 kgobsolete
yến6.045 kg10 cân10 kg10 cân
cân604.5 g16 lạng1 kg10 lạng
nén378 g10 lạng
lạng37.8 g10 đồng100 g
đồng or tiền3.78 g10 phân
phân0.38 g10 ly
ly or li37.8 mg10 hào
hào3.8 mg10 ti
ti0.4 mg10 hốt
hốt0.04 mg10 vi
vi0.004 mg


  • The tấn in the context of ship capacity is equal to 2.8317 or 1.1327 cubic metres (100.00 or 40.00 cu ft).[25]
  • The cân (lit. "scale") is also called cân ta ("our scale") to distinguish it from the kilogram (cân tây, "Western scale").
  • The nén is also given in one source as 375 grams (13.2 oz),[25] but this value conflicts with the lạng from the same source at 37.8 grams (1.33 oz). The 375-gram value is consistent with the system of units for measuring precious metals.
  • The đồng is also called đồng cân, to distinguish it from monetary uses.[25]
  • The French colonial administration defined some additional units for use in trade: nén = 2 thoi = 10 đính = 10 lượng[17]

Units for measuring precious metals:

  • The lạng, also called cây or lượng, is equal to 10 chỉ. 1 cây = 37.50 grams (1.323 oz)
  • 1 chỉ = 3.75 grams (0.132 oz)

Miscellaneous units:

  • The binh was equivalent to 69 pounds (31 kg) in Annam.[26]


canh (更)
The canh or trống canh is equal to 2 hours (7,200 s).
The giờ, giờ đồng hồ, or tiếng đồng hồ is equal to 1 hour (3,600 s).


Traditionally, the basic units of Vietnamese currency were quan (貫, quán), tiền, and đồng. One quan was 10 tiền, and one tiền was between 50 and 100 đồng, depending on the time period.

  • From the reign of Emperor Trần Thái Tông onward, 1 tiền was 69 đồng in ordinary commercial transactions but 1 tiền was 70 đồng for official transactions.
  • From the reign of Emperor Lê Lợi, 1 tiền was decreed to be 50 đồng.
  • During the Southern and Northern Dynasties of Vietnam period, beginning in 1528, coins were reduced from 24 millimetres (0.94 in) to 23 millimetres (0.91 in) in diameter and diluted with zinc and iron. The smaller coinage was called tiền gián or sử tiền, in contrast to the larger tiền quý (literally, "valuable cash") or cổ tiền. One quan tiền quý was equivalent to 600 đồng, while 1 quan tiền gián was only 360 đồng.[27]
  • During the Later Lê Dynasty, 1 tiền was 60 đồng; therefore, 600 đồng was 1 quan.
  • During the Yuan Dynasty, Vietnamese traders at the border with China used the rate 1 tiền to 67 đồng.
  • Zinc coins began to appear in Dai Viet during the 18th century. One copper (đồng) coin was worth 3 zinc (kẽm) coins.
  • Beginning with the reign of Emperor Gia Long, both copper and zinc coins were in use. Originally the two coins had equal value, but eventually a copper coin rose to double the worth of a zinc coin, then triple, then sixfold, until the reign of Emperor Thành Thái, it was worth ten times a zinc coin.

Under French colonial rule, Vietnam used the units hào, xu, chinh, and cắc. After independence, Vietnam used đồng, hào, and xu, with 1 đồng equaling 10 hào or 100 xu. After the Vietnam War, chronic inflation caused both subdivisions to fall out of use, leaving đồng as the only unit of currency. However, Overseas Vietnamese communities continue to use hào and xu to refer to the tenth and hundredth denominations, respectively, of a foreign currency, such as xu for the American cent.

See also


  1. Hoàng Phê, ed. (1988). Từ điển tiếng Việt (in Vietnamese). Sociology Publishing House.
  2. Lê Thành Khôi (2000). "Tìm hiểu một số đơn vị đo lường ngày trước" [Understanding some of the units of measurements from the past]. Kỷ yếu Hội thảo phục hồi điện Cần Chánh (in Vietnamese). Huế and Tokyo: Hue Monuments Conservation Center and Waseda University.
  3. Nguyễn Đình Đầu (1997). Nghiên cứu địa bạ triều Nguyễn – Thừa Thiên (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh City Publishing House.
  4. Nguyễn Đình Đầu (1994). Nghiên cứu địa bạ triều Nguyễn – Biên Hòa (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh City Publishing House.
  5. "Hệ thống thước đo thời Nguyễn" [Systems of length measurement during the Nguyễn dynasty] (in Vietnamese). NetCoDo. 2009-06-03. Archived from the original on 2013-01-14.
  6. Dương Kinh Quốc (1999). Việt Nam: những sự kiện lịch sử [Vietnam: historic events] (in Vietnamese). Hanoi: Education Publishing House. p. 236.
  7. "World Weights and Measures". Handbook for Statisticians. Statistical Papers. M (1 ed.). New York: Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistical Office of the United Nations. 1966. ST/STAT/SER.M/21/rev.1.
  8. "Vietnam, pre-metric units of length". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2005-12-28.
  9. Thiều Chửu (2002). Hán-Việt tự điển (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh Publishing House. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. Vũ Văn Kính (1999). Đại Tự Điển Chữ Nôm (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh City Letters and Arts Publishing House. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. Hoàng Phê 1988, p. 1093.
  12. "túc". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2001-10-17.
  13. "chai vai". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2001-07-18.
  14. Hoàng Phê 1988, p. 264.
  15. Vĩnh Cao; Nguyễn Phố (2001). Từ lâm Hán Việt từ điển. Huế: Thuan Hoa Publishing House. p. 1368. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. "cao". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2005-12-28.
  17. Manuel de conversation française-annamite [French-Annamite conversation manual] (in French). Saigon: Imprimerie de la Mission. 1911. pp. 175–178.
  18. Thực Lục, III, 241 - Đại Nam Điển Lệ, p. 223.
  19. Nguyễn Văn Trình; Ưng Trình (1917). BAVH.
  20. Savani, A. M. (1955). Visage et Images du Sud Viet-Nam (in French). Saigon: Imprimerie Française d'Outre-mer. p. 245.
  21. "uyên". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2001-01-21.
  22. Sơn Nam. "Chương 1.4". Lịch sử Khẩn hoang miền Nam [History of Development in the South].
  23. "tau". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2004-08-02.
  24. "Vietnam, units of mass". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2005-12-28.
  25. Hồ Ngọc Đức. Free Vietnamese Dictionary Project. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. "binh". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2004-01-23.
  27. Tạ Chí Đại Trường (2004). "Tiền bạc, văn chương và lịch sử". Sử Việt, đọc vài quyển (in Vietnamese). Văn Mới Publishing House.
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