A stunning, intricate, high-relief ‘Nine Dragons’ coin brings Art Mint’s visual talent to the Far East

Far East Asian history and culture has, despite the current unpopularity of the Chinese leadership, become a staple of the modern numismatic world. It’s easy to see why. A rich and ancient culture filled with striking imagery and imaginative stories, there’s a deep wellspring of subjects to choose from. Chief amongst those are the myriad fantastical tales surrounding dragons, something present in many cultures, but particularly prevalent in Asian ones.

One of the most striking is the story of the Nine Dragons, outlined further down. Like most of the ancient tales from the region, there are countless variations of the story, but for the purposes of the coin, its the plethora of mythical beasts we’re interested in. The reverse face of this new 2 oz silver coin from Art Mint is covered with the beasts. These are not simple depictions, but intricately detailed with a crisp high-relief strike giving them life. It’s a wonderful piece of coin art that is a testament to the scuptors ability.

You can’t have Chinese dragons without a pearl, and a half-sphere of mother of pearl sits prominently in the centre of the coin. It’s a neat focal point for the design, having the dragons swirling around it rather than in random directions. The obverse is a simple Niue one, with the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II (by Ian Rank Broadley) at its centre. The coins serial number is engraved on the edge.

Just 200 of these beautiful coins will be produced, each will be expertly presented, no doubt, and with a Certificate of Authenticity. Another fine example of just how far the modern numismatic art has progressed with the introduction of new technology. We couldn’t imagine coins like this, Mint XXI’s ‘Divine Comedy’, or CIT’s ‘Majestic Eagle’, to name just three, even being possible when AgAuNEWS kicked off just seven years ago. Available to order now, it will ship in December.

THE LEGEND OF THE NINE DRAGONS

The nine sons of the dragon are Chinese dragons who are the mythological sons of the Dragon King. There are many variations in the different descriptions of the nine sons, including in basic facts like their names, but all versions state that there are nine.

The oldest known attestation of the children of the dragon list is found in the Shuyuan zaji (菽園雜記, Miscellaneous records from the bean garden) by Lu Rong (1436–1494); however, he noted that the list enumerates mere synonyms of various antiques, not children of a dragon.

Several Ming Dynasty texts list what were claimed as the Nine Offspring of the Dragon, and subsequently these feature prominently in popular Chinese stories and writings. de Visser (1913), quoting Xie Zhaozhe (謝肇淛, 1567–1624) in his work Wu Za Zu (五雜俎, ca. 1592) gives the following listing in order of oldest to youngest:

A well-known work of the end of the sixteenth century, the Wuzazu 五雜俎, informs us about the nine different young of the dragon, whose shapes are used as ornaments according to their nature.

The qiú niú 囚牛, (Form of dragon) a creature that likes music, are used to adorn musical instruments.

The yá zì 睚眦, (Hybrid of wolf and dragon) a creature that likes to fight, is aggressive and is normally found on cross-guards on sword as ornaments.

The cháo fēng 嘲風, (Resemble a Phoenix and dragon) a creature that likes to adventure. They are typically placed on the four corners of roofs.

The pú láo 蒲牢, (Four leg small form dragon class) a creature that likes to scream, and are represented on the tops of bells, used as handles.

The suān ní 狻猊, (Hybrid of lion and dragon) a creature that likes to sit down, are represented upon the bases of Buddhist idols (under the Buddhas’ or Bodhisattvas’ feet).

The bì xì 贔屭, also known as bà xià 霸下 (Hybrid of turtle and dragon) a creature with a large shell able to carry heavy objects, and are normally found on under grave-monuments.

The bì àn 狴犴, (Hybrid of tiger and dragon) a creature that likes litigation, are placed over prison gates (in order to keep guard).

The bā xià 霸下, (Hybrid of reptilia animal and dragon) a creature that likes to drink water, and is typically used on bridge structures.

The chī wěn 蚩吻, (Hybrid of fish and dragon) a creature that likes swallowing, are placed on both ends of the ridgepoles of roofs (to swallow all evil influences).

Further, the same author enumerates nine other kinds of dragons, which used as ornamental decoration or as part of classical Chinese architecture. These examples can be found architecture throughout Asia used for adorning key-holes, on roofing, incense burners, door knockers, bridges, etc.

The number nine is special in China as it is the largest possible single digit, and Chinese dragons are frequently connected with it. For example, a Chinese dragon is normally described in terms of nine attributes and usually has 117 (9×13) scales – 81 (9×9) Yang and 36 (9×4) Yin. This is also why there are nine forms of the dragon and there are 9 sons of the dragon.

The Nine-Dragon Wall is a spirit wall with images of nine different dragons, and is found in imperial Chinese palaces and gardens. Because nine was considered the number of the emperor, only the most senior officials were allowed to wear nine dragons on their robes — and then only with the robe completely covered with surcoats. Lower-ranking officials had eight or five dragons on their robes, again covered with surcoats; even the emperor himself wore his dragon robe with one of its nine dragons hidden from view.

There are many places in China with the phrase “Nine Dragons” in their name, the most famous being Kowloon (in Cantonese) in Hong Kong. The part of the Mekong in Vietnam is known as Cửu Long, with the same meaning. (WIKIPEDIA)

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION $5 NZD (Niue)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 62.2 grams
DIMENSIONS 50.0 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS Mother of Pearl inlay, High-relief
MINTAGE 200
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes
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