China 1995 12 oz Silver Unicorn
100 Yuan Proof Coin
About the China 1995 12 oz Silver Unicorn 100 Yuan Proof Coin
Pictured above is a twelve ounce silver Chinese unicorn of 99.9% fineness released by the China Mint in 1995. The coin bears the face value of 100 yuan. In all, 1500 twelve ounce silver unicorn coins were authorized for production, each displaying raised unicorns on the obverse and reverse. The coins in this series are almost all of proof quality. In 1995, twelve different unicorn coins were issued for export to the United States and Europe.
This twelve ounce silver coin represents both the Chinese unicorn and the European unicorn, which have similar bodies and some similar meanings. The coins frankly show the contrast between the two beasts’ appearances, and allude to the differences in their meanings with the symbolism on each coin. All of the coins in this series have the same decorations and phrases, save for the bimetallic coin.
The Qilin, shown on the obverse, is a dragon-like creature that was believed to be one of the sons of the dragon. It has a mane that is set aflame, textured skin, the gaping maw of a dragon, the hooves of an ox and the tail of a lion. This appearance may have derived from Ming Dynasty drawings of the giraffe, also referred to as a “Qilin.” The Qilin was believed to be a part of the spirit realm, only appearing as a herald of a specific message or event. Appearances of the beast were often thought to symbolize the coming of a great ruler, or the birth of a sage. Because of its association with fertility, the Qilin is often seen with a child or baby on its back (as in the 1994 series of coins), and is thought to bring fertility to couples longing for the conception of a baby. On the coin, the Qilin appears to be rearing back and raising its front hooves above two puffs of smoke. Its mane appears to be blown back from its dragon’s head, and it’s mouth is smiling fiercely. Below the Qilin is the year it was authorized for production, 1995. On its right are the characters signifying “Qilin,” and above its head and back is written “The People’s Republic of China” in characters.
The Western unicorns are displayed on the reverse. The embellishment displays a mare leaning her head down towards her foal. The foal rests at her front hooves. Both display their spiraled horns, curling goat’s beards and flowing manes. Their peacefulness is a stark contrast to the Qilin’s fiery display on the obverse. Below the unicorns is a bed of flowers. Directly above the unicorns are the Chinese characters, “Sino-American Lucky Mascot,” followed by the English translation in all capital letters, “unicorn.” Above the foal, one can see the denomination printed, 100 yuan. The unicorn was thought to possess magical powers, and was “hunted” in the middle ages for its precious horn. The horn itself was thought to have healing properties, especially for those who had ingested some form of poison. Those looking to earn money often preyed upon rich hypochondriacs, selling them “unicorn horn” chalices or potions, most certainly derived from goat or narwhal horn. The unicorn was said to be nearly impossible to catch, unless a virgin maiden was present. A maiden was so attractive to unicorns that they would become tame and lay their heads listlessly upon the maiden’s lap, thus becoming an easy target for a hunter. Since unicorns came to be associated with purity and virginity, the beasts often appear in religious literature and art made during that time.