The picul – Asian and HK weight

Hugh Farmer: The measurement of weight – picul, occurs in the Indhhk article, the Choy Fung Ginger Factory. I thought it would be worthwhile looking into the meaning of this term, its equivalent in more familiar weights and the origin of the word.

A picul or tam is a traditional Asian unit of weight defined as a “shoulder-load” ie as much as man can carry on a shoulder pole.

shoulder pole image 2

The word pikul appeared as early as the mid 9th century in Javanese. The term picul became a convenient unit following Spanish, Portuguese, British and especially Dutch colonial maritime trade and a lingua franca that was widely understood and employed in Malaysia, the Philippines, India, China and certain Arabic countries

It remained a convenient reference unit for many commercial trade journals in the 19th century.  However as with any traditional measurement unit the exact definition of the picul varied both historically and regionally. In imperial China and later the unit was used for a measure equivalent to 100 catties.

In Hong Kong, one picul was defined in Ordinance No. 22 of 1844 as 133 and one third avoirdupois pounds. The modern definition is exactly 60.478982 kilograms. In Taiwan where apparently the measure is still used they perhaps more sensibly define it as 60 kg.

This article was first posted on 11th March 2014.

The Weights and Measures Ordinance, HK

Related Indhhk articles: Choy Fung Ginger Factory

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