About 5 oz Silver Lunar Coins
From 1987 to 1999, the China Mint released a thirteen five ounce silver coin set honoring the Chinese Zodiac. Both 1987 and 1999 are the year of the rabbit and consequently, one can technically use either year to begin or complete the set, the one from 1999 being the scarcer of the two.
Each of the coins features the animal corresponding to the year of release on the reverse face of the coin. Each of these coins is of proof quality and 99.9% in fineness. The coins measure 70 millimeters in diameter. On the obverse face of each of these coins, one can see images of Chinese architectural accomplishments. The animals on the reverse face of each coins are taken from celebrated Chinese paintings.
As stated above, each of the coins features an architectural accomplishment or masterpiece. Each of the buildings or structures featured is important to Chinese history or culture. The series features images of three different sections of the Great Wall of China, five notable pavilions, Shanghai’s Garden of Happiness, the city Wall of Xi’an, the Yonghe Temple in Beijing and the Dacheng Hall of Confucius in Qufu. The oldest of the architectural achievements featured is the Great Wall. The Great Wall of China dates back to the early Qin Dynasty (221–207 BC), though much of the wall that one can visit today was built during the Ming Dynasty and commissioned by the Yongle Emperor. The most recent of the structures featured on these coins is the Yonghe Temple in Beijing, a beautifully constructed Buddhist temple.
Many of the paintings of the animals are taken from important Chinese artists of the 20th century, particularly those renowned for their combination of Western and Eastern painting styles. An artist unique to the group is Giuseppe Castiglione, or Li Shining, who lived and worked at the Imperial Palace in Beijing during the Qing Dynasty. Castiglione was an Italian missionary with a flair for painting and earned himself a place at the court of the Emperor Qianlong. Qi Baishi is one of the renowned 20th century artists who is featured on the coins. Qi also stands out as he is the only twentieth century artist of the series who never worked to incorporate a Western technique or styles into his work. Qi was largely self-taught and strongly favored Chinese techniques, such as woodblock printing and calligraphy.
The Chinese Zodiac has been important for centuries in China. The animals that correspond with each year are said to have different personalities, and all who are born in a certain year are believed to possess certain traits in common with that animal. For example, the horse is a majestic, wild, and free animal; because of this, those born in the Year of the Horse are thought to be independent and difficult to tame. Though the Zodiac is no longer used by the government as a method for decision making, it is still a valuable resource for many citizens who firmly believe in the associations between the Zodiac animals and people’s personalities.
The animals of the Zodiac are as follows: the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit or hare, the dragon (the only mythical beast of the set), the snake, the horse, the goat or sheep, the monkey, the rooster or cock, the dog, and the pig. Each Chinese lunar year is associated with one animal, and those born in that year are thought to have personality traits that link them to the animal of that year.