The coin pictured above is one of six 1999 Beijing Opera coins. Of those issued in this year, one is gold and five are silver. The reverse of the coins in this series show two images. One image is in colour and depicts traditional opera characters, some of which are historical figures. The other image is of a celebrated Beijing Opera performer and is bounded by a circle set to one side of the colour image.
The obverse of the coins all bear the inscription: “The People’s Republic of China”. Below this inscription on all coins in the group is an image of the Grand Opera Tower in the Summer Palace. Below this is the year of production, 1999.
The Grand Opera Tower was built in celebration of the 60th birthday of the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908). She was the unofficial but de facto ruler of China for 47 years, holding the position of Regent. The tower was specially constructed with the performance of opera in mind, with roof patios, wells with and without water allowing for the flooding of the stage and for heavenly creatures to descend from the sky.
This is the 50 yuan, 1/2 oz gold coin of the series issued in 1999. It is a proof coin of 99.9% purity with a diameter of 27mm. It has a mintage of 8,000.
The reverse of this coin shows a vivid colour image of the opera character and historical figure, Yang Guifei. Above and to the left of this image is a picture of Mei Lanfang (1894-1961), one of the most famous Beijing Opera artists in recent history, known for his portrayal of female characters. Yang Guifei (719-756), or Imperial Consort Yang, was the highest ranking consort of Emperor Xuanzong (685-762) of the Tang Dynasty. She was tragically strangled under orders from the Emperor as they fled the court during the An Lushan Rebellion. Below the image on the reverse face in Chinese characters is inscribed: “Guifei Intoxicated”, the name of the opera in which Yang Guifei is a principal character. The denomination is inscribed to the right of the image.