Much like dragons, bats have contrasting significance in Eastern and Western cultures. While people of European descent generally associate bats with evil, darkness and demonic creatures, the Chinese view them as auspicious.
For centuries, images of bats have been used to decorate Oriental art and daily wares, from furniture, paintings and embroideries, to vases and eating utensils. Bats are also depicted in architectural decorations on doors, windows and roofs.
An explanation lies in Chinese ‘homonyms’ – written or printed characters which differ in appearance and meaning but share the same pronunciation. In this case, the Chinese for bat (fu 蝠) sounds identical to the word for good fortune (fu 福). Thus the bat became synonymous with luck and happiness.
A very popular design found in many traditional Chinese houses consists of five bats surrounding the Chinese character for longevity (shou 壽). In this portrayal, the bats are said to represent the ‘five blessings’ – long life, wealth, health, love of virtue and a peaceful death.
Honouring the five blessings, this new 1oz silver coin features symbolic imagery comprising five bats surrounding the Chinese character for fú, together with a mix of peach motifs, symbolising immortality, and peonies, symbolising royalty and virtue.
Aimed at the large Chinese community in Australia, the 2016-dated coin is issued as Australian legal tender with a maximum mintage of just 10,000.