This week I have the pleasure of presenting lot 32483 of the inaugural Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio Macau auction, a modern Chinese rarity, one of only 300 pieces struck in the 5-ounce size in honor of Bi Gan, the Chinese god of Literature and Wealth. This piece is graded Proof-69 Ultra Cameo by NGC and is among the finest graded for the type.
The obverse of the medal depicts Bi Gan, the god of literature and wealth, holding a scroll. On the scroll the five “personifications of treasure enter from five routes.” Bi Gan is then surrounded by the “Five Route Gods,” who, according to Chinese mythology, are symbols of “treasures promised to people” who traveled away from home for business or commercial reasons. In ancient China, Bi Gan was a famous minister and uncle to Zhou, the king of Shang, and also teacher of the crown prince. Known for being capable and honest, he made great contributions to the administration and helped provide stability to the country. Due to a difference between him and his nephew, King Zhou, who lived a decadent lifestyle, surrounding himself with pretty things while being “wallowed in wine and luxury,” had Bi Gan silenced, by having his heart torn out. Since then, Bi Gan has been a model for those who have worked as civil servants and administrators.
The reverse depicts, Liu Hai who is often shown playing with a toad. He is one of the immortals in ancient Chinese Taoism, and the reverse legend translates to “Recruiting Wealth and Treasure.” Liu Hai, like Bi Gan, was an ancient Chinese civil servant, who befriended a large, three-legged toad. He carried the toad wherever he went, and is depicted in many traditional Chinese objects d’art, often coaxing him with a gold coin, or a string of Chinese cash. Because of this he is considered one of the gods of prosperity in Taoism and is revered.
The representation of wealth creation and protection makes this an interesting piece. It is the first example we have had the pleasure of offering and a highlight of our Macau auction. If this large gold medal is of interest to you, be sure to review it during lot viewing, and prepare to participate in our sale. This lot and the rest of the auction can be viewed here. If you have any questions about this, or any other coin in our auctions do not hesitate to contact one of our numismatists, and if you have items like this medal, we are accepting consignments for our April 2015 Hong Kong auction. We look forward to hearing from and working with you. Best of luck.