The coin pictured is one of twelve which make up a complete set of 500 yuan 5 oz gold lunar coins issued between 1988 and 1999. They are proof coins with a purity of 99.9% and have a diameter of 60mm. The reverse face of the coins in this set feature the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac while the obverse shows various famous Chinese buildings.
This is the 1989 Year of the Snake coin from the set. The obverse features the inscription “The People’s Republic of China”, below which is an image of the gate to the Shanhai Pass, situated in the town marking the eastern end of the Great Wall where it meets the Pacific Ocean. Below this is the year of production, 1989.
The reverse features a painting of a snake by the celebrated Chinese artist Qi Baishi (1864-1957). His work is characterised by playful brush strokes in watercolour. The painting featured is called “Snake Draft” and shows a snake winding its way below a tuft of grass. The image is surrounded by a ring of flowers. The denomination, 500 yuan, is inscribed below the rendering of the painting. This coin has a mintage of 500.
The snake is traditionally seen as wise, enigmatic, and deep thinking – the wisest of all the zodiac animals. Those born in the Year of the Snake are considered good communicators. This is reflected in the artist’s work by the snake’s forked tongue playfully emerging from its mouth.