1997 saw the production of a series of seven coins commemorating the renowned work of classical Chinese literature, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, by Luo Guanzhong (c. 1330 – 1400). Each of the seven coins features the author on their obverse faces, while on the reverse faces are depictions of various scenes from the historical novel.
In the picture above is the 1997, 500 yuan, 5 oz gold coin from the series. It is a proof quality coin of 99.9% purity, 168 pieces of which were produced at the Shenyang Mint. The 60mm diameter coin features an intricate design on the reverse face depicting the Battle of Red Cliff – a historical battle which actually occurred in 208 AD.
The author Luo Guanzhong, whose face is featured on the obverse face of the coin, was a writer by trade originally called Luo Ben but preferring to be known by this pen name. He lived towards the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368) and during the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, his most famous work, is one of the Four Great Chinese Classics. He is also accredited with contributing to and editing another of the great classics, The Water Margin. Inscribed underneath his picture are the characters: “The People’s Republic of China”, and the year of issue, 1997. Above, struck around the top edge of the coin face, is the inscription: “Luo Guanzhong, Author of the Famous Classical Work of Chinese Literature, ‘The Romance of the Three Kingdoms’”.
Depicted on the reverse face is the Battle of Red Cliff (208 AD), a critical and decisive battle towards the end of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). During the hostilities the allied forces of Liu Bei and Sun Quan, despite being heavily outnumbered by the forces of Cao Cao, succeeded in hampering Cao Cao’s campaign to take control of the land to the south of the Yangtze River. While the numbers of casualties are unknown, they are thought to be significant. Pictured on the coin face are several war ships surrounded by smoke and fire. To the bottom right are traditional Chinese pictograms reading: “Battle of Red Cliff”, and the face value, 500 yuan.