China 1994 1/2 oz Gold Unicorn

50 Yuan Proof Coin

About the China 1994 1/2 oz Gold Unicorn 50 Yuan Proof Coin

The coin pictured is a half ounce gold unicorn coin minted in 1994 which is .999 in fineness. It has a face value of 50 yuan. The People’s Republic of China produced thirteen unicorn coins of various specifications in this year. The official mintage for the 50 yuan 1/2 oz gold unicorn coin is 1100. Like the other gold coins in this series, the 50 yuan coin features unicorns on either side. Since the coin is of proof quality, the background is mirror-like, it is on this background that the scenes of the unicorns really stand out.

Each coin displays both a Chinese unicorn, or Qilin, and a Western or European style unicorn. The obverse shoes the Chinese unicorn, which looks quite different from the traditional Western notion of the same beast. It is commonly pictured with the fierce head and maw of a dragon, antlers in lieu of a spiraled horn, scales instead of fur, and a tail similar to a lion’s. Myths of the Qilin gained strength during the Ming Dynasty in China, the period of time when the famous admiral Zhenge brought the giraffe from Africa to China. Because of the exotic and graceful nature of the giraffe, it was often associated with the Qilin. During that time, the Qilin came to represent royalty, prosperity and good fortune. The side of the coin featuring the Qilin shows it in its common form of a hybrid animal. From the black background of the coin, a golden Qilin emerges, hovering above a curving cloud of smoke. A stately young boy in robes, carrying a bouquet of flowers in his raised right hand, is riding the Qilin. Above this image are printed the chinese characters that symbolize “The People’s Republic of China.” Below the cloud of smoke, the year the coin was produced, 1994, is printed in gold.

On the reverse, one can see the Western unicorn, whose roots lie in Greek mythology. At the top of the coin are printed the Chinese characters that mean “Sino-American Lucky Mascot.” In parentheses next to these characters is printed the word, “UNICORN,” in English. On the left side of the coin appears the denomination of the coin, 50 yuan. The Western unicorn itself is shown with one side of its head turned toward the viewer. He displays his spiraled horn, which was thought to be a symbol of bounty and a provider of magical healing properties, during the middle ages in Europe. The unicorn has one hoof raised and stands among a bed of flowers. A band of flowers also appears across the neck of the the unicorn, further demonstrating its symbolism as a pure and stately animal. The image on the Chinese coin appropriately displays what the unicorn symbolized to the West: a proud and magical creature believed to be the king of the animals during the middle ages.

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