Chinese Gold Unicorn Coins were minted in 5 oz, 1 oz, 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz and 1/20 oz weights between 1994-1997. With extremely low mintage, these coins were made to order and have since become very rare. The same design is featured on each coin in that particular year's series, however, the design changes from year to year.
The coins feature a Chinese unicorn on the obverse, and European unicorn on the reverse. While the two mythological beings resemble each other in physical characteristics, their symbolism could not be more opposed. The Chinese unicorn, or Qilin, is believed to be one of the four great beasts, or Guardians of Heaven. It has the head of a dragon, the torso and antlers of a deer, the tail of a bull and the scales of a snake. The beast is said to be linked to Chinese royalty and important events throughout history. It resides in the heavens, and only appears under notable circumstances.
While the Qilin is a symbol of fertility, luck and fortune, the Western unicorn symbolizes purity and virginity. It is said to be a live animal, in opposition to the Qilin, which does not reside on earth. The Western unicorn was said to have been hunted for its magical horn, which was believed to have healing properties.
The first series of Chinese Unicorn Coins was released in 1994, and included coins of gold, silver and a bi-metallic gold and silver version. The platinum coin was introduced in 1995. In 1996, three different designs were available, whereas previously only one design appeared on every coin in the series. The next year's series returned to a single design.