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Lunar Series Gold 1,000 Yuan Pieces

By Chris Chatigny, Cataloger

Author: Chris Chatigny / Monday, March 25, 2013 / Categories: World Coin of the Week
The Stack’s Bowers and PonterioApril 2013 Hong Kong Auction contains a staggering amount of Modern Chinese coinage, over 400 lots! These include the always desirable Panda Series, the unique Unicorn Series, and various other commemorative sets. The iconic Lunar Series, complete with majestic animal imagery and impressive architectural motifs, always draws a crowd when offered at auction. The Chinese Lunar Zodiac assigns each year in a 12 year cycle a representative animal and various attributes to said animal. Everyone born in that year is said to display traits and behaviors similar to that animal. The wise Snake and independent Horse are the features for this week, and these exciting Lunar Series pieces are sure to inspire.

The current Lunar year is the Year of the Snake. Two Lunar Cycles ago, 1989, the Year of the Snake was commemorated with a series of coinage depicting the wise Snake. The reverse side of the various Lunar Series coins depicts an artistic representation of the specified lunar animal, usually from a famous Chinese painting or illustration. The piece of art used to depict this snake is a famous watercolor called “Snake Draft” by Qi Baishi. The snake is depicted slithering past a tuft of grass, with symbols referring to the painting and artist. The celebrated Chinese artist Qi Baishi (1864-1957) is defined by his playful brushstrokes in watercolor, and his work is further immortalized through the medium of numismatics. The outer design shows the denomination of 1,000 Yuan with an artistic rosette at either side. The border depicts a small image of a snake coiling around a turtle, repeated nine times. The upper legend states “The People’s Republic of China”, and the lower legend expresses the date, 1989. Between these legends is an architectural depiction -- one of the major passes through The Great Wall of China is shown, the gate to the Shanhai Pass. The gate is located at the easternmost end of the Great Wall, where it meets the Pacific Ocean and was of very high strategic importance. The Snake represents wisdom and awareness in the Lunar Series, and this coin with a mintage of only 200 pieces is surely a wise choice for any collector to pursue.

The second coin featured is a similar 1,000 Yuan 12-ounce Gold piece, but this coin features the Year of theHorse. The reverse of this piece also depicts a famous Chinese painting. Xu Beihong (1895-1953) is famous for his paintings of horses and birds, and the painting that this design is based off of shows two horses running side by side at full gallop. The image evokes a sense of freedom and energy, key traits for the patron animal and those born in the Year of the Horse. Xu Beihong was an expert in the use of oils and Chinese ink, and for combining traditional Chinese styles and Western techniques with bold brushstrokes. Symbols referring to the artist and painting appear in the right field above tufts of grass. The denomination of 1,000 Yuan appears below the galloping horses. The obverse follows suit as well, with an image of iconic Chinese architecture. The Dacheng Hall (Hall of Great Achievement) is pictured, with the upper inscription reading “The People’s Republic of China” and the lower legend stating the year of issue, 1990. The Dacheng Hall is the central building of the Temple of Confucius complex. The temple is located in Confucius’s hometown of Qufu, and offerings can be made here to honor Confucius’s memory.

Each of these magnificent 12-ounce Gold 1,000 Yuan pieces displays a remarkable level of detail and artistic prowess. Make sure to look for these and other Asian numismatic rarities in our upcoming April Hong Kong Sale. For details please refer to the Auction Schedule/Details link under Current Auctions at www.StacksBowers.com.