Shown here is a set of five gold coins, .999 in fineness and proof in quality. This set was produced in 1991. The coins all show feature the same picture of a panda on the reverse face, and the same image from the Temple of Heaven in Beijing on the obverse face. The “P” mark on the reverse face of the coin denotes the proof quality of the coins, meaning that the coins were each struck multiple times. In all, 3500 such sets of panda coins were minted in 1991.
Though the coins show the same duo of images, each of the coins are different in diameter, denomination and weight. The smallest coin weighs 1/20 of an ounce, measures 14 millimeters in diameter and bears the face value of 5 yuan. The next coin in the series weighs 1/10 of an ounce, measures 18 millimeters in diameter and bears the face value of 10 yuan. The third coin in the series weighs one quarter of an ounce, measures 22 millimeters in diameter and shows the denomination of 25 yuan. The next coin weighs one half of an ounce, measures 27 millimeters in diameter, and shows the denomination of 50 yuan. The largest coin in the series weighs one ounce, measures 32 millimeters in diameter and bears the face value of 100 yuan.
On the obverse face of each coin appears the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which was built, along with the rest of the Temple of Heaven, from 1406 to 1420. The Yongle Emperor commissioned this temple as a place to pray for plentiful harvest each winter. When the crop returned bountiful and healthy, the emperor’s connection to heaven was yearly renewed. If the crop was unhealthy, it threw the emperor’s divinity into question. This was a locus of power renewal for the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The Hall of Prayer played an important part in the ceremony each winter, as this is the location where the emperor would go to supplicate for a healthy crop. Above the Hall of Prayer one can read, “The People’s Republic of China.” Below it is the year of release, 1991.
The reverse face shows a stylized picture of a panda, happily munching on a stalk of bamboo. Though the panda is a bear and is technically a carnivore, its diet is composed of 99% bamboo. Bamboo is featured on many Chinese panda coins, not only to represent the diet of the panda, but also to represent tranquility. The panda itself is the national animal of China. It is still an endangered species, although it is protected by the Chinese government. On this side of the coin, one can read the face value of each coin to the left of the panda’s hind legs. Above the panda, one can read the specifications of the coin’s metallurgic properties: “contains pure gold, .999 in fineness.” On each of the coins is also the weight of the coin: 1oz Au, 1/2oz Au, 1/4oz Au, 1/10oz Au or 1/20oz Au.