Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read a message from our director, and check our website and social media for updates.

The Abacus and the Numeral Frame -- The Chinese Abacus

The Chinese Abacus

The counters used by European merchants moved along lines drawn on a surface. In the Chinese, Japanese, or Russian abacus, counters move along rods or wires held in a rectangular frame. Scholars disagree about how long such instruments have been made and about whether the Asian abacus was influenced by the counters of the Greeks. Both Chinese and Japanese abaci have a crossbar.Counters above the crossbar have a value of five, while those below represent one. In the Chinese abacus (suan-pan), there are two beads above the crossbar and five below.


Switch to List View Switch to Grid View