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 ngữ Nôm/Chinese name[9][10] Traditional value Traditional conversion Modern value Modern conversion
trượng 4 m 2 ngũ = 10 thước
ngũ 2 m 5 thước
thước or xích 𡱩/尺 40 cm 10 tấc 1 m 10 tấc
tấc 𡬷 4 cm 10 phân 10 cm 10 phân
phân 4 mm 10 ly 1 cm 10 ly
ly or li 0.4 mm 10 hào 1 mm
hào 0.04 mm 10 ti
ti 4 µm 10 hốt
hốt 0.4 µm 10 vi
vi 0.04 µm


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 ngữ Chinese/Nôm name[9] Traditional value Traditional conversion Dimensions Annamite value
mẫu 3600 m2 10 sào 4970 m2
sào 360 m2 10 miếng 497 m2
miếng 36 m2 3 ngũ × 3 ngũ
xích or thước 尺/𡱩 24 m2 10 tấc 33 m2
than 4 m2 1 ngũ × 1 ngũ
tấc or thốn 𡬷/寸 2.4 m2 10 phân 3.3135 m2
phân 0.24 m2
ô or ghế 0.16 m2 10 khấu 1 thước × 1 thước
khấu 0.016 m2


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 ngữ Chinese/Nôm name[9] Traditional value Traditional conversion Dimensions Notes
hộc 16 m3 10 lẻ 10 ngũ × 1 ngũ × 1 thước 1 hộc of unhusked rice ≈ 60 L
miếng 14.4 m3 3 ngũ × 3 ngũ × 1 thước For buying and selling land
lẻ or than 1.6 m3 1 ngũ × 1 ngũ × 1 thước 1 lẻ of husked rice ≈ 0.1 L
thưng or thăng 2 L 1000 sao
đấu 1 L 2 bát = 5 cáp
bát 0.5 L
cáp 0.2 L 100 sao
sao or (colloquially) nhắm[17] 2 mL 10 toát Grain
toát or (colloquially) nhón[17] 0.2 mL Grain


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

Units of volume in Cochinchina
Name in quốc ngữ Traditional conversion Traditional value Usage Weight
hộc 26 thăng 71.905 L unhusked rice 1 tạ of unhusked rice = 68 kg[20]
vuông 13 thăng 35.953 L, later 40 L husked rice
thăng 2.766 L
hiệp 0.1 thăng 0.276 L
thược 0.01 thăng 0.0276 L


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 ngữ Chinese/Nôm name[9][10] Traditional value Traditional conversion Modern value Modern conversion
tấn 604.5 kg 10 tạ 1000 kg 10 tạ
quân[17] 302.25 kg 5 tạ 500 kg obsolete
tạ 60.45 kg 10 yến 100 kg 10 yến
bình[17] 30.225 kg 5 yến 50 kg obsolete
yến 6.045 kg 10 cân 10 kg 10 cân
cân 604.5 g 16 lạng 1 kg 10 lạng
nén 378 g 10 lạng
lạng 37.8 g 10 đồng 100 g
đồng or tiền 3.78 g 10 phân
phân 0.38 g 10 ly
ly or li 37.8 mg 10 hào
hào 3.8 mg 10 ti
ti 0.4 mg 10 hốt
hốt 0.04 mg 10 vi
vi 0.004 mg


Units for measuring precious metals:

Miscellaneous units:



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.

Under French colonial rule, Vietnam used the units hào, xu, chinh, and cắc. After independence, Vietnam used đồng, hào, và 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.
  6. Dương Kinh Quốc (1999). Việt Nam: những sự kiện lịch sử [Vietnam: historic events] (in Vietnamese). Hanoi: Education Publishing House. p. 236.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "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. 1 2 3 4 5 Thiều Chửu (2002). Hán-Việt tự điển (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh Publishing House.
  10. 1 2 Vũ Văn Kính (1999). Đại Tự Điển Chữ Nôm (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh City Letters and Arts Publishing House.
  11. Hoàng Phê 1988, p. 1093.
  12. 1 2 "túc". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2001-10-17.
  13. "chai vai". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2001-07-18.
  14. Hoàng Phê 1988, p. 264.
  15. 1 2 Vĩnh Cao; Nguyễn Phố (2001). Từ lâm Hán Việt từ điển. Huế: Thuan Hoa Publishing House. p. 1368.
  16. "cao". Sizes. Sizes, Inc. 2005-12-28.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 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. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 Hồ Ngọc Đức. Free Vietnamese Dictionary Project.
  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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