1 oz Gold Lunar Coins
Between 1988 and 1999 a series of 100 yuan 1 oz gold lunar coins was issued, making a complete set comprising twelve lunar coins, one from each year, with those specifications. All coins in the series are proof coins with a purity of 99.9% and have a diameter of 32mm. Their mintages range from 1,600 to 10,000, the earlier coins tending to have higher mintages than the later ones.
The obverse of all coins in the series all bear the inscription “The People's Republic of China”. For eleven of the coins a rendering of the National Emblem of China is shown above this inscription. Below the inscription is the year of production. However, for the Year of the Dragon coin issued in 1988, an image of the Temple of Heaven is featured below the inscription, below which is the year of issue.
The Temple of Heaven was the site of offerings and sacrifices made by the emperors of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties, praying to Heaven for good harvests, until sacrifices were banned by the government of the Republic of China in 1911.
The National Emblem of China was adopted on 20th September 1950, shortly after the establishment of the government of the People's Republic of China, following the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950). The emblem features one large star (standing for the Communist Party of China) surrounded by four small stars (representing the four social classes as described by Maoist philosophy), below which is an image of Tiananmen Gate, the entrance to the Forbidden City of Beijing. All this is surrounded by an outer ring of sheaves of wheat and an inner ring of sheaves of rice. These crops symbolise the rural and agricultural roots of Mao's Communist revolution.
The reverse face of the coins features paintings of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. The coins feature an image of the zodiac animal corresponding to that coin's year of production, starting with the 1988 Year of the Dragon coin and ending with the 1999 Year of the Rabbit coin. The reverse faces of all the coins bears an inscription pertaining to the properties of the coin. It reads “Contains 1 oz pure gold purity .999 1 oz Au”. The denomination, 100 yuan, is also inscribed on the reverse face.
The Chinese zodiac is made up of twelve animals: the dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger, and the rabbit. In Chinese astrology each creature symbolises and embodies certain values and traits. The animals all correspond to certain years, one animal per year based on the lunar calendar on a twelve year cycle. People born in a particular year are said to possess the traits and personalities of the zodiac animal associated with that year. These beliefs and superstitions still hold a significant place in contemporary Chinese culture.
The paintings featured are by famous and influential Chinese artists, many of them dating from the 20th Century (although one or two date from earlier), showcasing the skill and ability of several of them, such as Xu Beihong (1895-1953), who have developed styles combining traditional Chinese methods with western techniques, such as perspective and form. Qi Baishi (1864-1957) perhaps stands out from this group of 20th Century artists in that his work is free from western influences.