The coin shown here is one of twelve 8g gold lunar coins issued from 1981 to 1992. These coins together form a series featuring the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. The reverse of the coins in the series feature renderings of paintings of the zodiac animals, each one bearing a painting of the animal associated with that individual coin’s year of issue. The obverse of the coins feature images of Chinese architecture of particular cultural value. Inscribed below the image is the year of issue.
This coin, struck in 1989, is the 150 yuan Year of the Snake coin. It was issued by the Shenyang mint in 1989. It is a proof coin with a purity of 91.6% and a diameter of 23mm. It has a mintage of 7,500.
The picture featured on the obverse face is one of Shanhai Pass, a pass in the Great Wall situated towards its very eastern end in the port city of Qinhuangdao. The pass historically had a high level of strategic importance as a frontier defence against Manchurian tribes. Above the image is the inscription in Chinese characters: “The People’s Republic of China”. Below the image is inscribed the year of production, 1989.
The reverse face features a rendering of a painting by the renowned and influential Chinese artist Qi Baishi (1864-1957). A skilled painter in watercolour, he was also highly skilled at seal carving. Unlike so many other 20th Century Chinese artists, his work shows no sign of western influence. The painting, called “Picture of Moving Snake”, depicts a snake moving by tall grass, its forked tongue emerging from its mouth. The denomination, 150 yuan, is inscribed below the painting.
The snake is the sixth animal in the Chinese zodiac. It symbolises wisdom and cunning, and is considered the wisest of all the zodiac animals. In Chinese culture, people born in the Year of the Snake are thought of as being wise, deep thinkers and having enigmatic personalities.