China 1994 12 oz Silver Unicorn
100 Yuan Proof Coin
About the China 1994 12 oz Silver Unicorn 100 Yuan Proof Coin
The above coin is a part of a series of Chinese unicorn coins produced by the People’s Republic of China in 1994. This particular coin is a 12 ounce, 99.9% pure, silver coin minted with the denomination of 100 yuan. In total, 2000 silver, 100 yuan unicorn coins were authorized for issue and release by the People’s Bank of China in 1994. Almost all of the coins in this series are of proof quality.
The Chinese unicorn coins minted in this year all show two unicorns, one on the obverse and one on the reverse. The Qilin, or Chinese unicorn, is shown on the obverse. Its features differ greatly from those of the traditional Western unicorn, perhaps because the Qilin was originally associated with the giraffe, rather than with the horse. The giraffe was imported to China by the great eunuch warrior Zhenge, in the early 1400s during the Ming Dynasty. Stylized drawings of the giraffe made their way around the country, fixing this real animal’s association with the mythical Qilin. The giraffe was even referred to as a “Qilin.” The Qilin, as pictured on the coin, is a much shorter creature than its namesake, and it features the head of a dragon, antlers of a dear, and scales of a reptile or fish. Still, one can see that the patterned fur of the giraffe may have inspired or been associated with scales, and that the antlers may have been associated with the giraffes own stubby antlers. The rarity of these two beings is certainly what bonded them together in the medieval Chinese imagination. On the coin itself, the Qilin is shown in its fiercest form, with its dragon’s maw open, as if to breath flame. A regal child in robes who is seen carrying flowers in each hand mounts the creature. This coin bears the same images as the other coins in the series, save the bimetallic coin and the one kilogram gold coin. Above the image is printed “The People’s Republic of China,” and below is the year it was minted, 1994.
The obverse shows the European unicorn, which differs greatly in appearance and slightly in meaning. The Qilin was thought to be a lucky omen, whereas the European unicorn came to symbolize majesty and chastity, which is why it appears in later medieval artwork. The horn of the unicorn was also believed to possess incredible healing properties, and it was thought that it could even counteract common poisons. Charlatans made quite a bit of money swindling hypochondriacs into buying “unicorn” chalices, which were said to cure many an ailment. On this coin, the unicorn’s head is turned towards its back, as if to show off its magical horn and flowing beard. He lifts one front leg over a bed of beautiful flowers, jauntily showing off his cloven hoof. To his left is printed the denomination of the coin, “100 Yuan.” The wording, “Sino-American Lucky Mascot” rests above this image, and the English word “UNICORN” appears in all capital letters in parenthesis next to the Chinese words.