Shown is a set of five panda coins, released by the China Mint in 1987. The coins vary in weight, diameter and face value; however, all coins bear the same designs on the obverse and the reverse face. All of the coins are proof in quality, giving the background of the coin a mirrored finish and the raised embellishments a feathered, three-dimensional quality. The coins are all 99.9% pure gold, and all bear a “P” mark to denote the proof quality of the coins. In all, 10,000 of each of these coins were produced.
The largest of the coins is a 100 yuan, one ounce coin, with a diameter of 32 millimeters. Like the rest of the coins in the series of 1987 ‘P’ mark panda coins, this coin shows a stylized portrait of a panda on the reverse and one of the main buildings of the Temple of Heaven on the obverse. The second coin in the series weighs one half of one ounce, measures 27 millimeters across, and bears the denomination of 50 yuan. The third coin, yet smaller in diameter at 22 millimeters, bears the denomination of 25 yuan and weighs one quarter of one ounce. The fourth, at 18 millimeters across, bears the face value of 10 yuan and weighs one tenth of an ounce. The fifth and final in the series bears the denomination of 5 yuan, measures 14 millimeters in diameter, and weighs one twentieth of an ounce.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, located inside the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, appears on the obverse face of each coin. Above the Hall of Prayer are the characters signifying “The People’s Republic of China.” Below the Hall of Prayer is the year of mintage, 1987. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests was constructed, along with the rest of the Temple of Heaven, from the years of 1406 to 1420. This site was commissioned by the Yongle Emperor and was in use until the end of dynastic rule in China in 1911. The emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties used this temple during the winter solstice each year to pray for a strong and plentiful crop. This was an important ritual for the emperor, because a poor crop would put his connection with heaven in doubt, whereas a strong crop would solidify his connection to heaven and his place as ruler.
The reverse of the coin shows an image of a panda, the national animal of China. The panda is pictured here drinking from a stream, its head bent so that its mouth just touches the surface of the water. Behind the panda, one can see several stalks of bamboo, a symbol of tranquility and peace throughout the Far East. The mirror-like background of the coin is used to represent the areas of black fur on the panda, while the matte finish appears as the white fur. Above the panda on the 100 yuan coin, one can read the specifications of the coin, “contains one ounce of pure silver, .999 1OZ Au.” The specifications on each of the other coins in the set read the same way, save for the weight of the coin. Below the panda, one can see the face value of each coin: 100 yuan, 50 yuan, 25 yuan, 10 yuan and 5 yuan, respectively.