Chinese Medals Commemorate Imperial Palaces on World Heritage List
February 12, 2015 - Medallic art is flourishing in China. There are several magazines devoted to new issues and price increases after medals have sold out are not unusual. Two new issues, commemorating the Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in the Forbidden City (Beijing) and Shenyang, illustrate the appeal of medallic art in China—impressive designs struck in ultra-high relief. Designed by Long Hu and sculpted by Lin Feng (Beijing Palace) and Li Jin (Shenyang Palace), these are being struck in editions limited to 1,000 of each at the Shanghai Mint where, among other things, China’s popular Panda coins are produced.
The Forbidden City in Beijing, containing nearly 10,000 rooms plus magnificent landscaped gardens, was the seat of power for over five centuries (1416-1911), witnessing the enthronement of 14 Ming and 10 Qing emperors. On the medal, in the foreground, a lion overlooks the courtyard of the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Statues of guardian lions have traditionally stood in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, Imperial tombs, government offices, temples, and the homes of government officials and the wealthy, from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), and were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits. The lions are always presented in pairs, a manifestation of yin and yang. The male lion, as depicted on the medal, has its right front paw on an embroidered ball, which is carved with a geometric pattern. The male lion protects the structure, while the female with a cub under her left paw (not shown), protects those dwelling inside.
The Shenyang Palace medal features the earliest building in the royal enclave, Dazheng Hall (Mukden Palace), and its interior throne-room. The Imperial Palace of the Qing Dynasty in Shenyang consists of 114 buildings constructed beginning in 1625 by command of Emperor Taizu Nuerhachi who ruled the North East of modern China - an area known to history as Manchuria. When the Manchu people eventually conquered Ming dynasty China to form the Qing dynasty, and moved their capital to Beijing, they maintained the Palace in Shenyang as a second capital. The Qing Emperors would frequently visit Shenyang and stay in the Palace there while paying homage to their ancestors whose tombs lie nearby.
The Imperial Palaces of Beijing and Shenyang were placed on the United Nations’ World Heritage List in 1987 and 2004, respectively.
The designer of both Imperial Palace medals, Long Hu, is an architect, who has designed over 50 medals; he is a collector as well – owning almost 1,000 art medals. Lin Feng, who was originally a ceramist, has sculpted over 100 art medals. Li Jin is a young sculptor, who previously modeled a Great Wall medal.
Each Imperial Palace medal is 2 5/8” in diameter, up to ½” thick, and weighs over 11 oz. They come in presentation boxes with numbered certificates of authenticity and informative booklets (in Chinese). The editions of 1,000 each will be sold on a first come-first served basis. The official issue price is $125 each, or $225 for the pair, plus $25 per order for shipping and insurance.