Peacock Coins

Guiseppe Castiglione's "Two Peacocks"

1993 Chinese Peacock Gold & Silver Coin Series


In 1993, eight coins were issued that form the Ancient Chinese Paintings series featuring peacocks and commemorating the artist Lang Shining (1688-1766), also known as Guiseppe Castiglione. The set is made up of five gold coins and three silver. One lesser known pattern coin, a bi-metallic was not officially released but is known to exist. All coins in the series are proof coins with a purity of 99.9%.

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 Hall of Supreme Harmony of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The hall was the ceremonial centre of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasty governments where wedding and coronation ceremonies would be held. The Forbidden City (or Imperial Palace) itself was built between 1406 and 1420. Below the image is inscribed the year of issue, 1993.

The reverse face of all the coins feature the painting “Picture of Peacock Displaying Tail Feathers” by Guiseppe Castiglione. The painting shows two peacocks in a garden of peonies, magnolia, and roses. One impressively shows its tail plumes while the other looks on at the display. The original painting is one of the largest in the world and was painted in 1758. Castiglione was an Italian Jesuit missionary born in Milan who came to China in 1715. He painted extensively at the Qing court, his work being particularly admired by the Qianlong Emperor (reigned 1735-1796). Castiglione's work is characterised by a blend of Western techniques and Chinese style. This creative style was copied by other European artists forming a new artistic school. On the bottom edge of the reverse face is an inscription detailing the specifications of the coin.

When the coins were originally sold in the United States they were distributed in two sets. One was a two coin set comprising the 1 oz gold and 1 oz silver coins of the series, the other was a three coin set which included the 1 oz gold coin and the 1 oz silver coin of the two coin set with the addition of the 5 oz silver coin.

The largest two coins of the series, the 20 oz gold and 20 oz silver coins, like other large silver and gold coins, have a unique serial number struck onto the rim.

The elusive and lesser known 10 yuan bi-metallic coin does not feature in the official catalogues of modern Chinese precious metal coins and has never been seen for sale. It is a pattern proof coin of 99.9% purity comprising 1/10 oz of gold and 1/28 oz of silver. The coin is 27mm in diameter with an inner circle of 18mm. The top of the outer edge of the reverse face bears an inscription pertaining to the specifications of the coin. It reads: “1/10 oz Au .999 + 1/28 oz Ag .999”.