The coin pictured is a one ounce, 99.9% pure, silver Chinese zodiac coin. This is one of twelve coins created between 1988 and 1999. Each of the coins represents one animal of the Chinese zodiac. On the reverse of this coin is pictured the tiger, the animal of the year 1998, and on the obverse is the National Emblem of China, adopted in 1950. This coin has the legal tender face value of ten yuan. In all, 8,000 of these coins were minted in the year of 1998.
The National Emblem of China, shown on the obverse of the coin, shows the Tiananmen Gate, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace, surrounded by a sheaf of rice and a sheaf of wheat. These agricultural products provided the necessary fuel for the Chinese revolution, which culminated in 1949. Above the Tiananmen Gate are five stars, representing the Party and its constituents. The largest star, pictured at the top in the very middle of the coin, represents the Chinese Communist Party. The remaining four stars represent the four classes as theorized by Mao Zedong. These classes include the bourgeousie, the proletariat, the peasants and the capitalists. Alongside the emblem appears beautiful scrollwork. Below the scrollwork and emblem, one can see the characters that symbolize, “The People’s Republic of China.” Below this wording is the year of release, 1998.
The opposite side of the coin features a replica of the painting, “Picture of a Tiger Roaring,” by Zhang Shanzai. Zhang was known for his paintings of tigers. As one can see, the artist responsible for the replica on the reverse of the coin has captured Zhang’s propensity for emotion and detail. The tiger looks as if he is about to chuff in the direction of the viewer. He is poised on a cliff, and to his right is a cloud of flowers. Below the flowers, one can see the denomination of the coin, ten yuan. At the top of the coin, one can see the description of the coin’s metallic properties — “one ounce pure silver, .999 Ag.”
The tiger is often revered as the king of beasts in Chinese folklore. It is often pictured among the four great creatures of China: the dragon, the phoenix, the tortoise and the tiger (or the Qilin). The people born in the Year of the Tiger are reputed to be impulsive and unpredictable. Like tigers themselves, those born in these years can appear calm but be ready to leap at any time. The tiger is said to be the guardian of the West.