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.”