Pictured above is a one half ounce, 99.9% pure, platinum Chinese unicorn coin. This is the only platinum coin in a series of twelve Chinese unicorn coins authorized for release by the China Mint in 1995. This platinum coin features the face value of 50 yuan. This coin, like the others in the series, features unicorns on either side as embellishments. The matte finish unicorns stand out against a mirror like surface, as the coin is of proof quality.
The coin features both the Western unicorn and the Chinese Qilin, a creature which has long been conflated with the mythology of the Western unicorn. In reality, these two beasts are very unique from one another, and this series of coins demonstrates those differences with their unique imagery. Both the Qilin and the Western unicorn are associated with royalty and longevity, and occasionally the Qilin is depicted with a single horn like the unicorn. The Qilin, however, is regularly depicted with an appearance similar to that of a dragon. It has two or more horns, green and blue scales, cloven hooves and the tail of a lion or bear. The Qilin was said to be one of the nine sons of the dragon, and in mythology, the animal is often associated with meaningful historical events or the reign of a just and prosperous ruler. In a household, the talisman of the Qilin is meant to bring its owners prosperity, long life, and a peaceful existence.
Conversely, the Western unicorn has been associated with purity of heart, body and soul. It is often depicted in religious art, as its association with virginity linked the unicorn to the Virgin Mary and her relationship with Christ. The unicorn was also believed to appear in the Bible, and translators frequently used “unicorn” as an interpretation of the mythical beast of the Bible, the “re-em” (in reality, thought to be an ox). The unicorn was thought to be a horse-like woodland beast with a goat’s beard and a lion’s tail. The substance of its horn, alicorn, was thought to cure illnesses and counteract poisons.
On the Chinese coins, one side features a Qilin and the other two unicorns, a mare and its foal. The obverse shows the Qilin balanced on its two back hooves and kicking up a cloud of smoke with its two front hooves. Directly below the Qilin is the year of mintage, 1995. Above the Qilin appear the Chinese characters for “The People’s Republic of China.” To the right of the Qilin’s back legs, the characters for “Qilin” appear.
The reverse shows two unicorns, a mare lowering its head to tend to her foal. These unicorns are shown in the traditional horse form common to medieval and Renaissance depictions. They both display their horns and beards. Above the unicorns are the Chinese characters, “Sino-American Unicorn Lucky Mascot,” followed by the English translation, “UNICORN.” Below the unicorns is a row of flowers. Directly above the foal, one can see the face value of the coin, 50 yuan.