Purple Clouds from the East – Xu Beihong

2015 is a big anniversary in the artistic community in China, as it marks 120 years since the birth of the revolutionary Chinese master painter, Xu Beihong 徐悲鸿 (1895 – 1953). For MCC collectors and enthusiasts, with the release of the four-coin set earlier this year to commemorate the occasion (more details can be found here), attention has returned to other coins featuring the esteemed artist himself as well as his works.

At this time it should not be surprising to find rare coins featuring Xu Beihong and his work cropping up in auction houses over the next year. Potential sellers will no doubt have felt the hype and interest surrounding these coins increasing, and as such will have deemed their investment ripe for releasing to the market. A good example of this is the 1995 Centenary of the Birth of Xu Beihong 5 oz gold coin which is coming up for auction on the 19th May 2015. The auctioneer presiding over the sale will be China Guardian Auctions, and this rare piece is expected to attract bids in the region of 650,000 – 800,000 RMB.

Only 100 of this coin type were struck, making it a true rarity and the standout piece of the set. This remarkable gold coin has a face value of 500 yuan, weighs 5 oz, and measures an impressive 60 mm in diameter. It was struck at the Shanghai Mint with a fineness of 99.9% and is of proof quality.


The feature image of the obverse face is a bust of Xu Beihong, dressed in a suit. His likeness is accurately captured in this stunning rendering, particularly the detail of the eyes, which almost brings the image to life. To the left of the central image is the date of his birth, 1985, while to the right is the year of his centenary, 1995. Struck above the image are the Chinese characters: “纪念徐悲鸿诞辰一百周年” (Commemoration of the Centenary of the Birth of Xu Beihong), while below is the inscription of the PRC: “中华人民共和国”, and the year of issue, 1995.

arrival of laozi

The reverse face features part of Xu Beihong’s work, Purple Clouds from the East, a piece of art belonging to the post-impressionism genre. Completed in 1943, the original measures 109 x 113 cm, and Xu Beihong used the medium of ink and colour on paper to convey the story of Laozi – the sage and founder of Taosim – arriving at a military outpost in Hanguguan riding an ox. The legend goes that he was greeted by the commander who had foreseen the great philosopher’s arrival by the appearance of purple clouds in the East. Upon his arrival the general asked Laozi to write down his famous core work, the Daodejing. The original work symbolically uses a lot of purple, and it is a shame that such vivid colours were not be conveyed on the coin face. The rendering on the coin features the left side of the original, showing Laozi on his ox as well as the watchtower of the settlement wall. The face value, 500 yuan, is struck to the right of the image (where the kneeling general would have been), along with Xu Beihong’s signature.

The coin coming up for auction in May is number 55, and is presented ungraded with the matching certificate of authenticity and original packaging.

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