From 1993 to 2004, the China Mint released a series of twelve lunar coins made of 99.9% pure silver and created in a flower, or scalloped, shape. Each of these coins features the Zodiac animal that corresponds to the year of mintage. The rendering of each animal is rendered from a famous painting by a Chinese artist. This coin, released in 1997, features the ox. It weighs 2/3 of an ounce, bears the face value of 10 yuan and is of proof quality. It measures 36 millimeters across at the widest portion of the coin. In all, 6800 of these coins were released in 1997.
“Picture of an Ox” by Ma Jin (1900-1970) graces the reverse face of this coin. Ma Jin was a follower of Lang Shining’s methods, an Italian Jesuit turned Chinese court painter who lived in the 18th century. This painting shows a bull standing in grass. One can tell from the detail that Ma employed that the bull is heavily muscled, strong, and perhaps immovable. This rendering represents the personality of the Year of the Ox quite effectively. The face value, 10 yuan, is shown directly below the ox.
The ox, due to its status as a working animal, is seen as an entrepreneurial, powerful and hardworking sign. This born in this year are seen as reliable, confident and sometimes stubborn. They may be shy, and at times overly conservative or traditional.
The architecture that graces the obverse face is the Ming Yuan Tower of the Jiangnan Examination School. Those Chinese citizens who aspired to be civil servants would take their examinations in this tower, which holds over 20,000 examination cells. The examinations were regulated by the Yongle Emperor during the Ming Dynasty. Though this school was built during the Song Dynasty, it was greatly expanded during Yongle’s reign. Below the Ming Yuan Tower is the year of issue, 1997. Above it is inscribed, “The People’s Republic of China.”
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