The coin pictured is one of twelve which make up a set of 100 yuan 1 oz gold lunar coins produced between 1988 and 1999. The reverse face of the coins in this set feature the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. The obverse of the coins bear the inscription in Chinese characters: “The People’s Republic of China”. Above the inscription on all coins in the set (with the exception of the 1988 Year of the Dragon coin which features an image of the Temple of Heaven below the inscription) is an image of the National Emblem of China. The year of issue is inscribed on all coins at the bottom of the obverse face.
The above coin is the 1989 Year of the Snake coin of the set. It is a proof coin of 99.9% purity with a diameter of 32mm. It has a mintage of 3,000 and was struck at the Shanghai mint.
The obverse features an image of the National Emblem of China which shows an image of Tiananmen Gate above which sit five stars. The five stars stand for the Communist Party of China and the four social classes defined in Maoist philosophy. The image is surrounded by an outer ring of sheaves of wheat and an inner ring of rice, representing the agricultural nature of Mao’s revolution.
The reverse features a painting of a snake by Ma Jin (1900-1970). The artist adopted Lang Shining’s style of a combination of traditional Chinese and western artistic techniques. The painting depicts a slithering snake, partly coiled, sliding through grass. The denomination, 100 yuan, is inscribed below the image. The top edge of the reverse bears an inscription pertaining to the specifications of the coin. It reads: “Contains 1 oz pure gold purity .999 1 oz Au”.
The snake is a respected animal in Chinese culture, often seen as divine. An enigmatic animal, it is a symbol of intelligence, quick-wittedness, cunning, and alertness. People born in the Year of the Snake are thought of as excellent communicators and deep thinkers, but tend to be somewhat isolated and distrusting.