12 June 2019
We don’t see much in the way of precious metal commemorative coins from Korea, so the appearance in 2016 of a new silver bullion medal called the Chiwoo Cheonwang Series created quite a bit of interest. Depicting a God of War from the regions ancient mythology, this pretty coin from the Korean Mint (KOMSCO) was a surprise hit, attracting some impressive appreciation, helped along by a tight mintage of just 30,000 pieces. As with any hit, sequels are a given, and new issues have appeared annually ever since, which you can see further down the page.
The fourth coin is now available for purchase and it’s another very cool design. A nice change from the more action-orientated imagery of the earlier coins, it has allowed us a better look at this mythical warrior in full armour standing on a barren mountain in contemplation of his next great battle. The giant sword like something from a Japanese videogame, and the shield adorned with a Dokkaebi instantly tie the character to the region – there’s no mistaking him for an ancient European or North African deity, for example.
The obverse, one common to the series, also carries a Dokkaebi. These are mischievous spirits often hung at both ends of the roof of a building to protect the occupants from evil spirits. There are some parallels in Western culture with the hob-goblin, but the important thing for us is – it looks great. The issuer, composition and faux denomination are inscribed around the edge, and there’s an intriguing lenticular security-privy that displays either 999 (fineness), or Ag (metal) depending on how you hold the coin. KOMSCO are developing this further and they’re looking to incorporate the lenticular technique into the background field of future coins, so that it will show different imagery as the coin is rotated.
At present, there’s to be a 1oz silver bullion variant with a mintage of 33,300 pieces, and we’d expect to see a proof version soon. In the past we’ve seen gold versions, 10oz silver, 2oz incuse silver and even ½ silver coins, but no news on these yet and it’s likely that KOMSCO and the series distributor, Coins Today will watch the market to see where it goes. We don’t normally cover non-denominated medallions like these, but some releases like these, and the Germania, generate so much interest it seems logical to include them. We’ll be taking a better look at the Chiwoo range with a full guide soon, and we’ll cover over issues like the upcoming Scrofa Elipse (teaser video below), that may employ the full background lenticular effect. Looks intriguing.
CHIWOO CHEONWANG: THE LEGEND
In Korea today, Chiwoo, said to be a tribal leader of the nine Li tribe in ancient China, is worshipped as the God of War and is considered one of the three legendary founding fathers of China. In Chinese mythology, he is best known as a king who lost against the future Yellow Emperor during the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors era in Chinese mythology, way back in 2600 BCE.
Like all mythological figures from cultures and times throughout the world, there are numerous incarnations of the figure. According to one legend, Chiwoo had a bronze head with a metal forehead. He had 4 eyes and 6 arms, wielding terrible sharp weapons in every hand. In other sources, Chiwoo had certain features associated with various mythological bovines: his head was that of a bull with two horns, although the body was that of a human. He is said to have been unbelievably fierce, and to have had 81 brothers. Historical sources often described him as ‘cruel and greedy’, as well as ‘tyrannical’. Chiwoo knows the constellations and the ancients spells for calling upon the weather. He is said to have called upon a fog to surround Huangdi and his soldiers during the Battle of Zhuolu against the Yellow Emperor.
One of the earliest historians in China, Sima Qian, wrote that even the Qin Emperor Qin Shi Huang (the first historical emperor of China) worshipped Chiwoo as the god of war. The founder of the Han Dynasty, Liu Bang, is said to have sacrificed to Chiwoo. There are many competing myths as to which tribe Chiwoo led, but supporters of the South Korean national football team claim it was the Dongyi, who lived close to the Korean peninsula around the 26th century BCE and as a result, Chiwoo is the mascot of the Red Devils supporters club.