With the burgeoning numbers of art-architectural coins appearing on the market these days, collectors are looking for one of two things to stand out from the crowd. First of all is the most obvious eye-catcher; top-class design. Tiffany has it, Crystal Arts ‘Secrets of Pena’ has it, and the Mineral Arts ‘Taj Mahal’ certainly has it. Secondly, a coin may jump out if it offers something a little different. To be honest, most of these coins follow a pretty set pattern. Antique finish, higher than average relief, and an inset window of agate, or another mineral.

This latest entrant into the field eschews the usual window, but the standout here is a level of ultra high relief (UHR) far greater than the norm. UHR takes an inordinate amount of skill to pull off effectively, and a four-layer technique has been used for this coin. They certainly appear to have succeeded with a depth and quality of relief previously unseen.

Depicting the ceiling of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, the up to 5mm deep concave reverse side has allowed a superb representation of the inside of the temple dome to be struck.

With only five years to go until the 600th anniversary of this beautiful building, it’s fair to say that the Peoples Bank of China will be commemorating its most iconic emblem with some style. Whether it manages to reach the heights attained here is another matter entirely.

The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven is a complex of religious buildings situated in the south-eastern part of central Beijing. 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. The Jiajing Emperor also built three other prominent temples in Beijing, the Temple of Sun (日壇) in the east, the Temple of Earth (地壇) in the north, and the Temple of Moon (月壇) in the west.

The Temple of Heaven was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and was described as “a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations…” as the “symbolic layout and design of the Temple of Heaven had a profound influence on architecture and planning in the Far East over many centuries.”

The Temple grounds cover 2.73 km² of parkland and comprises three main groups of constructions, all built according to strict philosophical requirements:

1. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿) is a magnificent triple-gabled circular building, 36 meters in diameter and 38 meters tall, built on three levels of marble stone base, where the Emperor prayed for good harvests.

The building is completely wooden, with no nails. The original building was burned down by a fire caused by lightning in 1889. The current building was re-built several years after the incident.

2. The Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇) is a single-gabled circular building, built on a single level of marble stone base. It is located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and resembles it, but is smaller. It is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, the Echo Wall, that can transmit sounds over large distances. The Imperial Vault is connected to the Hall of Prayer by the Vermilion Steps Bridge, a 360-metre-long (1,180 ft) raised walkway that slowly ascends from the Vault to the Hall of Prayer.

3. The Circular Mound Altar (圜丘坛) is the altar proper, located south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones, each decorated by lavishly carved dragons. The numbers of various elements of the Altar, including its balusters and steps, are either the sacred number nine or its nonuples. The center of the altar is a round slate called the Heart of Heaven(天心石) or the Supreme Yang(太阳石), where the Emperor prayed for favorable weather. Thanks to the design of the altar, the sound of the prayer will be reflected by the guardrail, creating significant resonance, which was supposed to help the prayer communicate with the Heaven. The Altar was built in 1530 by the Jiajing Emperor and rebuilt in 1740.

Source: Wikipedia

The coin comes packaged in what looks to be a very high quality custom wooden box, printed with representations of the Temple of Heaven on the outside in silver ink. The box is designed to make the coin easier to display than most. A colour gate-fold certificate is also included.

Like more and more of these coins lately, there’ll be quite a limited number of dealers selling these and we know of only 4 or 5 having these for sale. Cheapest seems to be US distributor of the coin, First Coin Company who have it for a very reasonable $299.90 with free worldwide shipping and a customs duty refund guarantee. While the coin doesn’t ship until mid-May, we’d expect pre-orders on this to run quite high, especially from Chinese coin collectors wanting something from the inside of the temple that adorns the obverse of every Panda coin.

WEIGHT 100 g
SIZE 55.0 mm