Dragon and Phoenix Coins

Divine creatures in traditional Chinese culture

Dragon & Phoenix Gold and Silver Chinese Coins


There have been seven coins issued by the People's Bank of China to make up a series issued to promote Chinese culture featuring dragons and phoenixes. Six of the coins were issued in 1990, of which three are gold and three are silver. One bi-metallic coin was issued four years later in 1994. All are proof coins with a purity of 99.9%. When originally sold in the USA, the 2 oz coins were distributed as part of a two coin set.

The obverse of all coins in the series all bear the inscription “The People's Republic of China”, below which is an image of the Great Wall winding its way up a mountainside. Originally built during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) to keep the northern barbarians at bay, the Great Wall represents one of China's greatest architectural achievements. It has been rebuilt and extended many times throughout Chinese history, most notably during the extensive construction works commissioned during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The year of issue is inscribed below the image.

The reverse of the coins features a picture of a dragon and a phoenix flying around each other. The specifications of the coin are inscribed around the bottom edge of the reverse face, with the exception of the bi-metallic coin which bears an inscription around the top edge of both the reverse and obverse faces pertaining to the coin's specifications. The denomination is inscribed between the dragon and the phoenix, to the right and below the centre of the coin face.

The dragon and phoenix are the two most important of all the creatures in Chinese culture. They are mythical and heavenly beings, and are highly revered along with the Qilin and lion. A traditional symbol of power, ambition, and success, the dragon is often seen as having a powerful masculine character. The phoenix meanwhile, because of its ability to be reborn from its ashes, is a symbol of prosperity, longevity, and immortality. It is often seen as having an elegant feminine character. The dragon and the phoenix therefore complement each other not only visually on the coin face, but also symbolically.

When distributed, the coins were sold with a different color certificate of authenticity - a yellow certificate for the gold coins, and a blue one for the silver coins. The 20 oz silver coin comes with a green protective ring around it. This is also the case for other 20 oz silver commemorative coins such as those featuring the unicorn and the peacock. The 20 oz gold coin of the dragon and phoenix series comes presented in a red outer box, while the silver one is presented in a green outer box.

The largest coins of the series - the 20 oz gold and silver coins - have a unique serial number struck onto the rim. There are, however, also several varieties of the 20 oz silver coin, some of which have no serial number. Another variation relates to the form of the serrations on the rim. .

The coins were originally going to be issued in 1989, but due to the political instability surrounding the notorious Tiananmen Square student protests it was decided to issue the coins in 1990 instead. Almost all the coins bearing the 1989 date on the obverse face were destroyed making these coins dated 1989 extremely rare. 1989 versions of almost all the coins in the 1990 dragon and phoenix series can be found, with perhaps the exception of the 20 oz gold coin. It is thought that there are only around ten 20 oz silver dragon and phoenix coins which bear the 1989 date.