Above is a coin from the series of 15 gram silver coins honoring the Chinese Zodiac on one face and culturally or historically significant works of Chinese architecture on the opposing face. These coins range in fineness from .85 to .90, and all are of proof quality. These coins were released for a full lunar cycle, from 1981 to 1992. Each coin in the set was originally issued in a blue box, featuring information about the coin inside.
This coin is the coin honoring the Year of the Snake, 1989. It features a snake on the reverse face of the coin and the Shanhai pass on the opposing face. This coin is 85% in purity, and bears the denomination of 10 yuan. In all, 15,000 of these coins were released in 1989.
The Shanghai pass was one of the strategic military points built into the Great Wall of China. It is located at the far eastern end of the Wall built during the Ming Dynasty. This is in the city of Qinhuangdao, near the North China Sea. Its location was particularly important in defending Northeastern China against the Manchurian and Mongolian tribes. “The People’s Republic of China” is printed above the imaged of the Pass, and below is the year of release, 1989.
Qi Baishi’s painting, “Picture of a Moving Snake,” is rendered on the reverse face, paying homage to the Year of the Snake. Qi was a skilled painter, most well known for his use of watercolor and calligraphy. Qi was mostly self-taught and displayed incredible talent in many different media. Qi Baishi focused on traditional Chinese technique and shied away from Western technique, unlike many of his contemporaries who combined the two. In the depiction of the painting, one sees a snake slithering by a patch of grass. It tests the air with its tongue curiously. Below the snake is the face value of the coin, 10 yuan.
The snake is a very cunning and intelligent sign. This is considered to be the wisest animal of the Chinese Zodiac; as such, those born in this year are said to be deep thinkers or strongly philosophical leaders. Snakes are known for their ability to influence others and inspire them to follow.