China 1995 1/20 oz Gold Unicorn

5 Yuan Proof Coin

About the China 1995 1/20 oz Gold Unicorn 5 Yuan Proof Coin

This coin is a 1/20 ounce, 99.9% pure, gold unicorn coin with a legal tender face value of 5 yuan. It is one of twelve coins produced in 1995 by the Bank of China. In all, 20,000 of these 5 yuan coins were authorized for release. These unicorn coins were mostly distributed in the United States in four and five coin proof sets; in Europe, it is more common to come across individual unicorn coins.


Save for the bimetallic coin in this series, each coin features the same set of images. On the obverse, a Chinese unicorn, or Qilin, rearing up on its hind legs over two clouds of smoke. The Qilin, pronounced “chee-lin,” is conflated with the Western unicorn because of its magical powers, and because of the deer-like antlers that appear on its head. In Chinese myth, the Qilin differs drastically in appearance and meaning from the Western unicorn. The Qilin was thought to appear only rarely, signifying the birth of a great or especially sage ruler. The Qilin resembles a dragon rather than a horse. On the coin, one can see that the mane of the Qilin appears to be created of flame. Its coat is composed of scales rather than of fur. Because of its association with royalty, it has the tail of a lion. Though the beast appears to be fierce, it is said to be gentle and noble. To the right of the Qilin are inscribed the Chinese characters that translate to “Qilin.” Above the Qilin, the characters signifying “The People’s Republic of China,” appear, and below the image of the Qilin is the year it was minted, 1995.


On the reverse of the coin appear two Western unicorns. As mentioned above, the appearance of the Western unicorn differs greatly from the Qilin. On the coin, one can see that the unicorn is a noble horse-like animal with a spiraled horn and small beard. The meaning of the Western unicorn is tied to royalty, like that of the Qilin, but the Western unicorn also symbolizes the noble virtues of purity, honesty, and temperance. In the middle ages in Europe, the unicorn was highly sought after, as its horn was believed to cure the effects of certain poisons. The unicorns on this coin appear to be a mare and her foal. The mare bows her head gracefully towards her foal, and the foal lies peacefully at her front feet. Below the serene unicorns rests a bed of flowers, an embellishment which further emphasizes the unicorn’s association with all things pure. Just above the foal, one can see the inscription of the coin’s denomination, 5 yuan. Above the mare is inscribed, “Sino-American Unicorn Lucky Mascot,” followed by the English translation, “UNICORN.”

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