The coin pictured above is a one ounce, 99.9% pure, gold Chinese unicorn coin, with itís denomination of 100 yuan. It is one of thirteen unicorn coins released by the China Mint in 1994. The official mintage is 1100. Two unicorns appear on each coin, one on the obverse and one on the reverse. The unicorn coins are all proof coins with the exception of some fractional gold unicorns and brilliant uncirculated coins from years 1994, 1996 and 1997. Proof coins are struck multiple times to create a mirror-like background and a 3D-like frosted appearance of the imagery on each coin.
All of the coins display two types of unicorns, one on each side of the coin. The front of each coin displays the Chinese unicorn (Qilin), an omen of good luck and positive energy, and the reverse displays the Western unicorn. The Qilin differs in appearance from the Western unicorn; it has the head of a Chinese dragon, the antlers of a deer, the scales of a fish, the hooves of an ox, and the tail of a lion. The Qilin was originally associated with the giraffe during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when the animal had first been imported to China by the famous admiral, Zhenge (1371-1433). This side of the coin is inscribed with the Chinese characters that translate to The Peopleís Republic of China. Below this wording is the image of a small child riding the Qilin, and the year the coin was minted, 1994. The image shows the Qilin emerging from a cloud of smoke, and the child is shown wearing robes and carrying a bouquet of three flowers. With the exceptions of the silver and gold coin and the one kilogram gold coin, each coin shows this same image.
The European unicorn is pictured on the reverse. It features the flowing mane and tail of a horse, a tufted beard below its jawline, and an impressive spiraled horn. This horn symbolized majesty during the middle ages in Europe, owing perhaps to the fact that the unicorn was originally associated with Zeus, king of the Greek gods. In medieval times, the unicornís corn was valued as a healing tonic, but it was rumored that unicorns were impossible to catch without the assistance of a virgin maiden. This legend further emphasized the white beastís association with purity and virginity. The side of the coin featuring the Western unicorn shows the unicorn itself with its horse-like head turned proudly toward the viewer, as if to emphasize its rare and beautiful horn. The unicorn has its right front hoof raised, and he stands delicately on a row of blooming flowers. He also bears a garland of flowers on his elegant neck. Above the unicorn are printed the chinese characters, ìSino-American Lucky Mascot,î next to which is the English translation in parentheses: ìUNICORN.î To the left of the unicorn is the nominal value of the coin, 100 yuan.