Chinese Remainder Theorem


The Chinese Remainder Theorem (will be referred to as CRT in the rest of this article), is formulated as follows:

Let $p = p_1 \cdot p_2 \cdot ... \cdot p_k$, where $p_i$ are pairwise relatively prime.

In addition to $p_i$, we are also given a set of congruence equation:

$a \equiv a_1 \; (mod \, p_1)$

$a \equiv a_2 \; (mod \, p_2)$


$a \equiv a_k \; (mod \, p_k)$

where $a_i$ are some given constants.

The original form of CRT, proven by Chinese mathematician Sun Tzu, stated that:

The given set of congruence equation always have one and exactly one solution in module $p$.


A consequence of CRT is that, the equation:

$x \equiv a \; (mod \, p)$

is equivalent to the system of equations:

$x \equiv a \; (mod \, p_1)$


$x \equiv a \; (mod \, p_k)$

(As above, assume that $p = p_1 \cdot p_2 \cdot ... \cdot p_k$ and $p_i$ are pairwise relatively prime).

Garner Algorithm

Another consequence of CRT is that we can represent big numbers by an array of small integers. For example, let $p$ be the product of the first $1000$ primes. By calculation, we can see that $p$ has around $3000$ digits. For any number $a$ which is less than $p$, we can represent it as an array $a_1, ..., a_k$ where $a_i \equiv a \; (mod \, p_i)$. But to do this, we obviously need to know how to get back the number $a$ from its representation. In this section, we discuss Garner Algorithm, which can be used for this purpose.

We will find a solution in the form:

$a = x_1 + x_2 \cdot p_1 + x_3 \cdot p_1 \cdot p_2 + ... + x_k \cdot p_1 \cdot ... \cdot p_{k-1}$

(This is called the mixed radix equation).

We denote by $r_{ij}$ the inverse of $p_i$ in module $p_j$, which can be found using the algorithm described in this article.

$r_{ij} = (p_i)^{-1} \; (mod \, p_j)$.

Substituting $a$ in the mixed radix equation, we obtain:

$a_1 \equiv x_1 \; (mod \, p_1)$.

Now substitute $x_1$ in the same equation yield:

$a_2 \equiv x_1 + x_2 \cdot p_1 \; (mod \, p_2)$.

Taking away $x_1$ from both side, and divide by $p_1$:

$a_2 - x_1 \equiv x_2 \cdot p_1 \; (mod \, p_2)$

$(a_2 - x_1) \cdot r_{12} \equiv x_2 \; (mod \, p_2)$

$x_2 \equiv (a_2 - x_1) \cdot r_{12} \; (mod \, p_2)$


$x_3 \equiv ((a_3 - x_1) \cdot r_{13} - x_2) \cdot r_{23} \; (mod \, p_3)$

Now, we can clearly see an emerging pattern, which can be expressed by the following code:

for (int i=0; i<k; ++i) {
    x[i] = a[i];
    for (int j=0; j<i; ++j) {
        x[i] = r[j][i] * (x[i] - x[j]);

        x[i] = x[i] % p[i];
        if (x[i] < 0)  x[i] += p[i];

So we learned how to calculate the coefficient $x_i$ in time $O(k^2)$. The number $a$ can be calculated using the mentioned formula:

$a = x_1 + x_2 \cdot p_1 + x_3 \cdot p_1 \cdot p_2 + ... + x_k \cdot p_1 \cdot ... \cdot p_{k-1}$

It is worth noting that in practice, we almost always need to compute the answer using Big Integers, but the coefficients $x_i$ can usually be calculated using builtin types, and therefore Garner algorithm is very effective.


It is most convenient to implement this algorithm using Java, because it has BigInteger class.

Below is an implementation of Garner algorithm, which supports addition, subtraction and multiplication. In this code, we took 100 prime numbers greater than $10^9$, which allows the numbers to be as large as $10^{900}$.

final int SZ = 100;
int pr[] = new int[SZ];
int r[][] = new int[SZ][SZ];

void init() {
    for (int x=1000*1000*1000, i=0; i<SZ; ++x)
        if (BigInteger.valueOf(x).isProbablePrime(100))
            pr[i++] = x;

    for (int i=0; i<SZ; ++i)
        for (int j=i+1; j<SZ; ++j)
            r[i][j] = BigInteger.valueOf( pr[i] ).modInverse(
                    BigInteger.valueOf( pr[j] ) ).intValue();

class Number {

    int a[] = new int[SZ];

    public Number() {

    public Number (int n) {
        for (int i=0; i<SZ; ++i)
            a[i] = n % pr[i];

    public Number (BigInteger n) {
        for (int i=0; i<SZ; ++i)
            a[i] = n.mod( BigInteger.valueOf( pr[i] ) ).intValue();

    public Number add (Number n) {
        Number result = new Number();
        for (int i=0; i<SZ; ++i)
            result.a[i] = (a[i] + n.a[i]) % pr[i];
        return result;

    public Number subtract (Number n) {
        Number result = new Number();
        for (int i=0; i<SZ; ++i)
            result.a[i] = (a[i] - n.a[i] + pr[i]) % pr[i];
        return result;

    public Number multiply (Number n) {
        Number result = new Number();
        for (int i=0; i<SZ; ++i)
            result.a[i] = (int)( (a[i] * 1l * n.a[i]) % pr[i] );
        return result;

    public BigInteger bigIntegerValue (boolean can_be_negative) {
        BigInteger result = BigInteger.ZERO,
            mult = BigInteger.ONE;
        int x[] = new int[SZ];
        for (int i=0; i<SZ; ++i) {
            x[i] = a[i];
            for (int j=0; j<i; ++j) {
                long cur = (x[i] - x[j]) * 1l * r[j][i];
                x[i] = (int)( (cur % pr[i] + pr[i]) % pr[i] );                  
            result = result.add( mult.multiply( BigInteger.valueOf( x[i] ) ) );
            mult = mult.multiply( BigInteger.valueOf( pr[i] ) );

        if (can_be_negative)
            if (result.compareTo( mult.shiftRight(1) ) >= 0)
                result = result.subtract( mult );

        return result;

Note on negative numbers:

Practice Problem: