The Peking Opera was first featured on a Chinese coin in the 1995 Chinese Traditional Culture Set.
The Peking opera was started in 1790. A troupe of actors and singers from Anhui Province was invited to Beijing to entertain the imperial court on the emperor’s birthday. The Sanqing Troupe specialized in complex stories and was an immediate hit. In short order it was followed by three other Anhui Province troupes. The four troupes soon merged and adapted elements from other regional operas into their own style. From this came what we now recognize as Peking Opera.
The Operas distinctively piercing singing style came into being for practical rather than artistic reasons. It was a means for the entire audience to be able to hear, as the troupes would perform in outdoor venues. Similarly, the bright and elaborate costumes that later became the Opera’s signature were originally a necessity as the stages were dimly lit by oil lamps and the audience would not be able to see the performers otherwise.
During the Cultural Revolution the Peking Opera was transformed into a political theater. With China’s reemergence on the world stage it was reinstated as a national treasure and is once again performed throughout all of China.
The Peking Opera emerged on the modern Chinese numismatic scene in 1995 as part of the first Chinese Traditional Culture set. The full set includes 10 gold and six silver coins. There are five designs, one of which represents the Peking Opera. The authorized mintage was 1,000 of the 100 Yuan one ounce .999 fine gold coin . and 25,000 of the 10 Yuan 1/10 ounce .999 fine gold coin. The silver coins have 5 Yuan denominations, are made of .900 fine silver, weigh 22 grams apiece, and have an authorized mintage of 20,000 each. The entire set is quite beautiful and would be a highlight of any collection. Only a handful of the 100 Yuan gold coins have to date been graded by NGC.
Peter Anthony is an expert on Chinese modern coins with a particular focus on Panda coins. He is an analyst for the NGC Chinese Modern Coin Price Guide as well as a consultant on Chinese modern coins.