A recent Chinese newspaper article published pictures of a very rare Chinese silver coin which is believed to have been minted to commemorate the birthday of one of imperial China’s last rulers. The coin is owned by a Mr. He who lives in Anqing City in Anhui Province.
The Empress Dowager Cixi (慈禧太后 1835-1908) was a concubine of the Xianfeng Emperor. She gave birth to a son who became the Tongzhi Emperor upon the death of the Xianfeng Emperor.
She became the regent for her young son, who was only 5 years old, and essentially established absolute rule for herself. The Tongzhi Emperor died of smallpox at the age of 18.
She then established her nephew, the Guangxu Emperor, as the new ruler in 1875 but she remained the real power behind the throne until her death in 1908.
The beautiful silver coin shown here is believed to have been minted in 1905 to commemorate the 70th birthday of the Empress Dowager Cixi.
In the middle of the coin is a large and very stylized version of the Chinese character shou (壽) which means “longevity”.
You will notice that the exquisite robe the Empress Dowager is wearing in the photograph is decorated with the same Chinese character. The photograph was taken by the official court photographer in the same year of 1905.
The other side of the coin has the inscription guang xu yuan bao (光緒元寶) indicating that it was produced during the reign of Emperor Guangxu. This silver coin was struck at the mint in Guangdong Province and the denomination is the “treasury standard one tael” (庫平重壹兩).
These coins are considered very rare with estimates of only ten or more authentic specimens known to exist.