In 1995 a one-off series of six coins was issued by the People’s Bank of China to commemorate Ancient China’s rich maritime history and culture. The series features three different designs: dragon boats, junks, and sailing ships. The coin above is the 5 oz Gold Dragon Boat coin of the series and has a face value of 500 yuan. It is a proof coin with a purity of 99.9%, and a diameter of 60 mm. 99 pieces of this coin type were struck at the Shenyang Mint. Of the other coins in the 1995 Maritime Ancient China series, the four smaller coins (the two 1/2 oz gold coins and two 27 g silver coins) have actual mintages of less than a quarter of those originally planned, estimated at 206 and 2,006 pieces respectively, making this a particularly interesting series for collectors.
Like many modern Chinese coins, the obverse face features of the 5 oz Gold Dragon Boat coin features a picture of the Great Wall of China. First constructed during the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC), its original purpose was to protect the extensive northern border of the newly-united Chinese Empire from barbarian invasions, as well as to monitor and control trade. Popular among tourists, today the Wall has become an internationally recognised symbol of China’s culture and history. Appearing around the top edge of the coin face are the Chinese characters: “The People’s Republic of China”. Underneath the picture is the year of issue, 1995.
Pictured on the reverse face is a very attractive and detailed image of a traditional dragon boat. In traditional Chinese culture the use of dragon boats in rituals and ceremonies in central and southern China dates back some 2,500 years. Historically the primary purpose of racing the dragon boats was to celebrate the planting of the summer rice crop, as well as to commemorate the dragon in Chinese culture – a creature which is often seen as a water deity. Dragon boat racing still plays an important role in China today, mainly as part of the Duanwu festival (known in the West as the Dragon Boat Festival), a celebration of the summer solstice and, just like in ancient times, the planting of the summer rice crop. The dragon is not only associated with the water of rice paddies, but also the potency of the sun at this time of year. It therefore has strong ties with agrarian tradition. To the right of the depiction of the boat is are the characters: “Dragon Boat Picture”. Below is the face value, 500 yuan.