The coin pictured above is one of thirteen 1994 unicorn coins. Of the thirteen coins issued in this year, seven are gold, five are silver, and one is bi-metallic. The reverse of the coins in this series show images of the various unicorns of two types: the traditional Chinese unicorn or Qilin, and the traditional western unicorn. The obverse of the coins all bear the inscription: “The People’s Republic of China”. With the exception of the bi-metallic coin and the 1kg gold coin of the series, below this inscription on all coins in the group is an image of a child riding a Qilin, below which is the year of issue, 1994. The child is dressed in robes and carrying flowers, and the Qilin rides on a plume of smoke. The Chinese characters for “Qilin” are inscribed to the right of the image.
In traditional Chinese culture the Qilin is a magical creature of good omen and a bringer of prosperity. It has the head of a dragon with the antlers of a deer, the scales of a fish, the hooves of an ox, and the tail of a lion. Originally during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) the Qilin was associated with the giraffe. This was at the time when giraffes had first been brought back from Africa by the famous eunuch admiral Zhenghe (1371-1433).This is the 500 yuan, 5 oz gold coin of the series issued in 1994. It is a proof coin of 99.9% purity with a diameter of 60mm. While it had a planned mintage of 99, it has an actual mintage of 64. The reverse of the coin shows an image of a traditional western unicorn standing with one hoof raised above a band of flowers. The unicorn turns its head over its shoulder showing its prominent horn. The western unicorn is depicted as a white horse with a single spiralled horn and the beard of a goat. It is a sign of purity and gracefulness, and it was believed that the horn possessed healing powers. The denomination is inscribed to the left of the image. The top edge of the reverse face bears the inscription in Chinese characters: “Sino-American Unicorn Lucky Mascot”, followed by the inscription in English: “(UNICORN)”.The unicorn coins were issued between 1994 and 1997. During this time, the 5 oz gold unicorn coins were only issued for the first 3 years and as a result are very collectable.