16. Gold-Coin Leopard

The Chinese for “leopard” is 金钱豹 jin qian bao (“gold-coin leopard”) because its spots are thought to look like Chinese “cash”.

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金钱豹 Leopard (Panthera pardus) (Source: Baidu)

Gold-Coin Leopard is also a well-known character in the Chinese opera “Red Plum Mountain” (红梅山 Hongmei Shan). The story goes that the Gold-Coin Leopard has occupied Red Plum Mountain and wants to marry the daughter of the local squire. The heroes of the Journey to the West – Tang Seng the monk, Sun Wukong the Monkey King, Zhu Bajie (also known as Pigsy) come to the rescue, until soldiers from Heaven arrive to overpower it.

leopard - paul noll

Gold-Coin Leopard is recognizable by his mask – note the “cash” on each cheek (Source: Paul Noll)

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Gold-Coin Leopard in action – note the “cash” on his cheeks and his costume (Source: 白头老王的博客

By the way… a couple of English coins are also known as “leopards”: the gold half-florin of 1344 was known as a “leopard” because there was an image of a leopard in the design; and the gold florin of 1344 was known as a “double-leopard”  because the king is shown seated between two leopards. Strictly speaking, these were lions rather than leopards, and the term “leopard” was borrowed from medieval heraldry to distinguish between the lion rampant (which stands on its back legs, with its front legs raised) and the lion passant guardant (the walking lion, usually with its head turned to face you).


Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 2:10-11): The pard, a beast of many colors, is very swift, likes blood, and kills with a leap. The adulterous mating of the pard with a lion (leo) produces degenerate offspring, the leopard. (Source: The Medieval Bestiary)


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