Chinese Coins: The Panda’s Path

Posted on 12/11/2018

The 2019 Panda coin designed by Tong Fang features a mother panda and her cub.

It rained lightly as I angled upward along a trail through the Sichuan Province hills. Beyond the bamboo forested slopes lay great mountain ranges like the Qionglai Shan that rise up to Tibet, China. This region, the home territory of the Giant Panda, has inspired imaginations for centuries — and continues to.

The young Chinese artist Tong Fang had this area in mind when she designed the beautiful new 2019 Panda coins. Minted in gold and silver, these are the first Panda coin designs that highlight the alpine part of the panda's heritage. Ms. Tong explains that in March of 1869, it was from here that the Western world first learned of the panda's existence. Until then, hidden by forests, mountains and mists, outsiders knew nothing of it.

“The far mountains in the coin design are not specific mountains. The natural range of pandas is all through the mountains of Sichuan Province. In this environment its traces are elusive. During the creation of the 2019 version of the Panda coin, I studied how, 150 years ago in Baoxing County, a French missionary found the first evidence of the giant panda, an extraordinary new species.”

“Baoxing County is a beautiful area where the Sichuan Basin, or Pendi, transitions to the middle of the Qionglai Mountains. The core habitat of the giant panda is sandwiched between these mountains and the southern foothills of Jinshan. The Qingyi River rushes down from here and the streams from the snowy mountains murmur through the slopes and the forests that the panda calls home.”

With this setting in mind, Ms. Tong presents us with the 36th installment in the Panda coin story. The coins feature an image of maternal love, a mother panda and her cub, cuddling below a view of towering mountains. What comes next? We must wait for 2020 to see. For the first time ever, China Gold Coin has a multi-year story planned for Panda coins.

While this is Ms. Tong’s first Panda coin design, it is not her first Panda. Last year, in 2017, she was the artist for the panda side of the 35th Anniversary bimetallic medal released by China Gold Coin Inc. It elegantly recapped the entire series and quickly became sought after by coin collectors around China.

Pandas—and Panda coins—are so popular today that it is hard to imagine that just 150 years ago, barely anyone knew of their existence. Within their home range, though, only the hill people would occasionally see one. Their Western discoverer, the botanist Father Armand David, never saw a living animal. After coming across a pelt in a Baoxing County home, he commissioned local farmers to get another one for him. It took 12 days, but they brought one back. He called it a “Black-white Bear” and wrote, “I have not seen this species before. Compared to other animals in the museums of the whole of Europe, I think it must be the most beautiful animal…”

Beautiful they are. As I sauntered from enclosure to enclosure at the Dujiangyan Base near Chengdu, China, white and black shapes would sometimes stand out against the green hillsides. Each panda in this preserve has about half an acre to enjoy, climb trees and roam about in. I thought about how lucky we are to be able to see these magnificent yet adorable creatures alive and healthy.

Tai Shan, born in the USA, placidly munches on bamboo shoots before me. I am the only visitor watching, quite a contrast from his life as a celebrity at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. He seems quite unfazed by the change and his keepers say that he is a particularly smart and cooperative panda.

The preserves of the People’s Republic of China work to give pandas a future through care and breeding, but sometimes it is literally necessary to rescue them. One of the adult pandas here has only three legs, having lost a limb in a fight in the wild with an unknown animal. The wounded panda was discovered and brought to Dujiangyan to recover and live out its life in safety.

Ms. Tong concluded, ”I wanted to show that pandas come from Nature, but also eventually return to Nature.” Here are the newest members of the Panda coin family for 2019 with her design:

Coin Denomination Mintage
1 kg gold 10,000 Yuan 500
150 gm gold 2,000 Yuan 5,000
100 gm gold 1,500 Yuan 10,000
50 gm gold 800 Yuan 20,000
30 gm gold 500 Yuan 1,000,000
15 gm gold 200 Yuan 600,000
8 gm gold 500 Yuan 600,000
3 gm gold 50 Yuan 800,000
1 gm gold 20 Yuan 1,000,000
1 kg silver 300 Yuan 20,000
150 gm silver 50 Yuan 60,000
30 gm silver 10 Yuan 10,000,000

To panda lovers everywhere, happy collecting!

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.

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