Mint of Poland Week: Imperial Art series moves from the Middle to the Far East

Of all the art-architectural coin series available in recent years, the Mint of Poland’s Imperial Art series has managed to distinguish itself by looking at things differently. Instead of taking a style of architecture, or a look at a single building, Imperial Art showcases a selection of the incredible structures of some of the worlds foremost ancient civilisations. Meant to comprise eight coins released one per annum, this latest coin is the third to debut.

The first coin, one that drew much favourable comment, showcased one of the oldest areas of human civilisation, Mesopotamia, home of the Babylonians. The following year the series headed off to Egypt, a civilisation with a much higher representation in modern numismatics. Also well received despite the increased competition, the third coin has been eagerly awaited. A little later than you’d expect for a 2016 dated coin, it’s here now.

Moving out of the Middle East for the first time, the 2016 coin features many of the architectural highlights of old Imperial China. The reverse face is adorned with representations of the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Great Wall. Each is layered with great skill so that all remain distinct, but form a cohesive whole. A window of agate is integrated very well to sit under the centre arch of the foremost temple. The obverse is highly customised as well, despite the requirement of all Niue Island issues to include the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. The window is obviously visible on this face as well, but the artwork is tightly focused on a single structure with only a small statue being superimposed upon it. All the inscriptions necessary on a modern coin are on this face, just the title ‘CHINA’ being sited on the reverse face.

Like most of this new wave of Mint of Poland commissioned specials, we currently only have the art renders. Fortunately, this mint has a track record of the highest possible quality and with the design being clearly laid out in these previews, we see no reason that China won’t maintain the high standards of the Imperial Art coins to date. The mintage is limited to just 500 coins, each numbered on the rim and presented in a wooden coin box. Available from a small range of dealers including sponsors PowerCoin, First Coin Company, World Ancient Coins and Pela-Coins. The coin should ship in March for around the €200-250 mark.



There were certain architectural features that were reserved solely for buildings built for the Emperor of China. One example is the use of yellow roof tiles, yellow having been the Imperial colour; yellow roof tiles still adorn most of the buildings within the Forbidden City. The Temple of Heaven, however, uses blue roof tiles to symbolize the sky. The roofs are almost invariably supported by brackets (“dougong”), a feature shared only with the largest of religious buildings. The wooden columns of the buildings, as well as the surfaces of the walls, tend to be red in color. Black is also a famous color often used in pagodas. It was believed that the gods are inspired by the black color to descend to the earth.

The Chinese 5-clawed dragon, adopted by the first Ming emperor for his personal use, was used as decoration on the beams, pillars, and on the doors on Imperial architecture. Curiously, the dragon was never used on roofs of imperial buildings. Only the buildings used by the imperial family were allowed to have nine jian (space between two columns); only the gates used by the Emperor could have five arches, with the centre one, of course, being reserved for the Emperor himself. The ancient Chinese favoured the colour red. The buildings faced south because the north had a cold wind.

Numerology heavily influenced Imperial Architecture, hence the use of nine in much of construction (nine being the greatest single digit number) and the reason why the Forbidden City in Beijing is said to have 9,999.9 rooms—just short of the mythical 10,000 rooms in heaven. The importance of the East (the direction of the rising sun) in orienting and siting Imperial buildings is a form of solar worship found in many ancient cultures, where there is the notion of Ruler being affiliated with the Sun.



The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty—the years 1420 to 1912. It is located in the centre of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. It served as the home of emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government for almost 500 years. Constructed from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 ha (over 180 acres). The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere.

The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe. Several walls were being built as early as the 7th century BC; these, later joined together and made bigger and stronger, are now collectively referred to as the Great Wall. Especially famous is the wall built 220–206 BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Little of that wall remains. Since then, the Great Wall has on and off been rebuilt, maintained, and enhanced; the majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).

The Temple of Heaven is an imperial complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. It has been regarded as a Taoist temple, although Chinese heaven worship, especially by the reigning monarch of the day, predates Taoism. The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The complex was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century.




COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 62.2 grams
DIAMETER 50.0 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS Mineral inset window
BOX / COA Yes / Yes