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Auction: CSS41 - The Numismatic Collectors' Series sale
Lot: 1619

People's Bank of China, an unissued printer's model for 2 yuan, 4th series renminbi, dated 1975, obverse and reverse pair, the obverse: dark green and multicolour, soliders with rifles on horseback, mountains in the far distance, National Emblem at upper right, 'Er Yuan' below, bank title four different scripts at upper left, peony flower symbolising wealth beneath, the reverse of this side shows the progressive underprint of reverse design,

the reverse: dark green and multicolour, central vignette showing a large industrial truck carrying rocket engines. The design was originally chosen to show the technological advancement of China at the time. The reverse side of this note shows the progressive underprint of the obverse design.

The 'Three Seven Project': Currency of the Cultural Revolution

Witnessing the thoughts of the Cultural Revolution: A Printer's Model of an Unissued Two Yuan 'A United Front of Soldiers and Civilians Protecting the Borders'

To date The People's Bank of China has issued five series of renminbi notes and the memory of the first four issues are now slowly fading from our memories. When we look back on the banknote designs we can deeply feel the strong social, political and economical elements within. The design of a country' s currency will invariably incorporate these elements and the currency of the People's Republic of China is no exception.

The concept of issuing the fourth series of renminbi began in January 1967 during the beginning of the Cultural Revolution and was only approved in in May 1985 after 18 years. During this turbulent period in which leftist thoughts were pervading the country many designs went unapproved. The People's Bank submitted three different designs between February 1967 and May 1976 and extreme leftist elements in the designs were rejected by the Party and State Council.

In January 1967 the central office of the People's Bank of China reported to the State Council that students in the Hubei University of Technology were dissatisfied that the Tiananmen Gate on the obverse of the 1 yuan note (second series) did not have Mao's portrait, the national flag nor Mao's statements (regarding world peace and unification) and at the same time stated its design concepts for a new series of RMB. In February of that year Li Xian Nian (Minster of Finance) instructed: '…should prepare a new series of renminbi which incorporates more elements of (techonological) production so as to overcome to design flaws in the second series.'

On 16th July 1968, the People's Bank of China submitted its first series of designs for the new renminbi incorporating the 'Three Prominents' (Prominent use of Mao's portrait, Prominent promotion of Mao Zedong Thought and Prominent promotion of Mao's revolutionary ideas) and the 'Two Reflections' (Reflection on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and Reflection on the Marxist Revolution). This concept was strongly criticised and rejected by Zhou Enlai.

On 8th April 1969 The People's Bank of China submitted its second proposal for new RMB designs. These designs contain strong leftish elements and were not approved. The demise of Lin Biao shortly after stopped this idea for good.

On 8th March 1969 border skirmishes with Soviet troops in the Heilongjiang and Xinjiang Autonomous Regions became frequent. In view of this the civilians and soldiers in those regions formed a united front against the enemies to protect the borders of our Motherland. To promote this great and patriotic action a commemorative stamp named 'The United Front of Soldiers and Civilians Protecting the Borders' was issued on 1st October 1969.

According to 'Qian Bi Post' (numismatic magazine) because of prevailing leftist thoughts at the time, scenes from 'revolutionary operas' were used on the proposed banknote designs. This was kept a close secret and the codename 'Three Seven Project' was used. Eventually a 2 yuan note was designed with obverse being 'The United Front of Soldiers and Civilians in Tian Shan Protecting the Borders' and the reverse being a large sized military transport loaded with rocket engines. The model is a collage of engraved printing and an unissued design that was not approved by the State Council. The model incorporated beautiful engraving, detailed printing and fresh design elements. The peony design (reflecting wealth) shows the advanced matching recto-verso printing and anti counterfeiting technology that the PRC possessed by the mid 1970's.

On 18th November 1975 the Ministry of Finance (which included the People's Bank of China) submitted its third proposal for the new RMB design. The designs incorporated the following elements: the role of factory workers, farmers and soldiers in a socialist society, e.g. the role of intellectuals in the countryside, the masses attending university and industrial schools. On 29th December the same year Li Xiannian instructed: 'Let's leave this for now.' Shortly after the 'Wang Jin Xi' design for the 2 yuan was made and submitted on 10th May 1976. Li Xiannian finally decided to release the Wang Jin Xi 2 yuan in October 1976 but this did not take place because of Mao's death in September 1976 and the subsequent arrest of the Gang of Four.

At the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 the third series renminbi had been in circulation for 15 years. In the view of the state, regular replacement of circulating currency is good practice because of the need to update anti counterfeit features. The Ministry of Finance submitted its view that that the circulating notes need to replaced and this was finally accepted on 21st November 1977 by the Politburo. From its conception in 1967 to its issue in 1985 the designs of the fourth series differed greatly to that of the third series and corresponds with the huge changes in Chinese society during the same period.

'The United Front of Soldiers and Civilians in Tian Shan Protecting the Borders' 2 yuan printer's model designed by 'Three Seven' project is unique and is an important historical item showing the progression of renminbi banknotes as well as a relic from the Cultural Revolution showing leftist elements. Its place in the history of the renminbi series cannot be underrated.

The original text in Chinese was kindly provided by Mr. Su Jin and translated into English by Dr. Kelvin Cheung
(Pick not listed), the obverse graded PMG 53 (Previously Mounted) and the reverse graded PMG 62 (Previously Mounted, Minor Stains). A beautiful design, UNIQUE and a crowning piece to any collection of Chinese banknotes. A true gem that should not be missed!!

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