China 1996 5 oz Silver Rat

50 Yuan Proof Coin

About the China 1996 5 oz Silver Rat 50 Yuan Proof Coin

Above is the 1996 Year of the Rat coin from a series of twelve 5 ounce, 99.9% pure, silver coins released by the China Mint. One coin per year was released between the years of 1987 and 1998, making a complete lunar cycle of zodiac animals. Each of the coins honors a famous work of art as well as the animal corresponding to the year on the reverse face of the coin and a famous work of architecture on the obverse face of the coin. All of the coins in this series weigh exactly 5 ounces, measure 70 millimeters in diameter, and are proof in quality. In all, the China Mint authorized 1000 pieces of this coin for release in 1996.


On the reverse face of the coin, one can see the animal of the year of production, 1996. This rendering is taken from a painting by Qi Baishi, an important Chinese artist of the 20th century. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Qi focused on traditional Chinese techniques. As Qi was a self-taught artist, he learned from his surroundings. In the early twentieth century, his inspiration stemmed from the traditions he saw, such as calligraphy and woodblock printing. Likely because of his background, he stuck with these methods and perfected them with his own unique style. This painting is entitled “Picture of a Rat Eating.” The rat shown here is holding and eating a small berry. A branch full of ripe berries hangs to the left of the rat. Right above this scene, one can see the denomination of the coin, 50 yuan.


On the obverse face of the coin is one of the great towers of China. This is the River View Tower in Chengdu. The River View Tower was created to honor the extraordinary female poet, Xue Tao of the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Although women were not encouraged as intellectuals in medieval China, Xue’s talents shown, and she became a widely known and respected poet. Xue was known for her cunning use of language and her sharp sense of humor. The River View Tower was built near her home in Chengdu to honor her life. Surrounding the Tower are gardens of bamboo, a favorite tree of Xue.


The rat, often loathed in Western culture, is seen as a leader and entrepreneur in China. Those born in this year are thought to be charismatic, charming, cunning and business-focused. Rats are looked up to and followed because of their intelligence and their skills with people. Because of their ambition, rats may tend towards the controlling or manipulative. At times, they can kick others out of their way due to their desire for success. Qi’s painting shows the rat’s literal hunger, which can be interpreted as a spiritual hunger for success and dominance.

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