A picul or tam is a traditional Asian unit of weight, defined as 'as much as a man can carry on a shoulder-pole'. The word picul appeared as early as the mid 9th century in Javanese. Following Spanish, Portuguese, British and most especially the Dutch colonial maritime trade, the term picul was both a convenient unit, and a lingua franca unit that was widely understood and employed by other Austronesians (in modern Malaysia and the Philippines) and their centuries-old trading relations with Indians, Chinese and Arabs. It remained a convenient reference unit for many commercial trade journals in the 19th century. One example is Hunts Merchant Magazine of 1859 giving detailed tables of expected prices of various commodities, such as coffee, e. g. one picul of Javanese coffee could be expected to be bought from 8 to 8. 50 Spanish dollars in Batavia and Singapore. Definitions As for any traditional measurement unit, the exact definition of the picul varied historically and regionally. In imperial China and later, the unit was used for a measure equivalent to 100 catties. In 1831, the Dutch East Indies authorities acknowledged local variances in the definition of the pikul. In Hong Kong, one picul was defined in Ordinance No. 22 of 1844 as 133+13 avoirdupois pounds.
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