The 1996 Inventions and Discoveries of Ancient China series was the last such series to be produced. Although the Shenyang mint had planned to produce a 1997 series, the 1997 Asian financial crisis meant that the series was not issued. The ten coins of the 1996 series comprise one set of five gold coins and one set of five silver coins.
Shown above are the five 1/2 oz 50 yuan gold coins which celebrate five inventions and discoveries of ancient China. These are depicted on the reverse faces of the coins. They are: the horse cart, invented in the 21st Century BC; the suspension bridge, invented in the 10th Century AD; musical instruments, developed in the 11th Century BC; the ship’s rudder, invented in the 1st Century BC; and the astronomical clock, invented in the 11th Century AD. Alongside these depictions are inscriptions of the approximate dates of the inventions or discoveries, and the face value of the coins.
These gold coins are all proof coins of 99.9% fineness and have a mintage of 1,200 each. They measure 27mm in diameter.
The importance of these inventions should not be underestimated as they have a significant influence on today’s society and technology. What is particularly remarkable is how far ahead of the western world the Chinese were in terms of such technology. Some of these inventions did not appear in the west until many centuries later.
The development of musical instruments was chosen as the focus for this set. The sets were originally distributed with a miniature working music box in a wooden case.