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A Look Through the Past, Present and Future of Lunar New Year Stamps

February 8, 2024

Lunar New Year Jersey Stamps

The History of Lunar New Year 

Chinese New Year has evidence of existing all the way back to the Shang Dynasty, though due to limited records, the exact date is still a mystery. It wasn’t until the Han Dynasty, that the festival’s date was officially fixed as the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar. 

In 1912, the Chinese government decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar instead and made January 1st the official start of the New Year. Later in 1949 Chinese New Year was renamed the Spring Festival and listed as a nationwide public holiday. 

The Chinese Zodiac Calendar  

Consisting of twelve animals, the Chinese zodiac calendar has been in use for over 2000 years. Based on Chinese astrology, the calendar consists of two main factors, which are the Celestial Stem and the Terrestrial Branch. The twelve animals featured within the zodiac calendar stand for a year in a 12-year cycle, a day in a 12-day cycle, and for every two hours in a 24-hour day. 

The Tale of the Jade Emperor 

A common tale about the origins of the Chinese zodiac animals comes from the story of a Jade Emperor who wanted to decide on a way to measure time. He sent out word to the animals that there would be a race, which could only have 12 winners. 

To win this race the animals would have to cross a treacherous river, the first 12 to make it over would then receive a reward. Originally, a cat was included and should have been one of the first animals to make it across, as it traveled alongside the rat on top of the Ox that was using its strength to easily swim across the river. But the rat pushed the cat off the Ox. 

Due to the rat jumping in front of the Ox, once they’d made it ashore, it gained the first position in the Chinese zodiac, followed by the Ox. The tiger, being a strong swimmer secured third place, while the rabbit hopped itself across via the stones, having a lucky chance encounter with a log, which prevented it from falling into the river. The dragon came fifth due to making a few stops along the way to help out some animals and people in need, and sixth place was secured by the snake, which managed to spook the horse that was originally in front of it. After the horse that landed seventh, the sheep, monkey, and rooster made it ashore, having worked together on building a raft to make it across. 

Finally, eleventh and twelfth place went to the dog and the pig. Dogs are typically good swimmers, but the one from the tale wanted to take an extra bath, so it took a little longer than expected to fully cross the river, while the pig had felt hungry in the middle of the race so it took a rest stop, leading it to come in at twelfth place. 

The order of the lunar calendar follows the outcome of the race, where the rat is the first animal to start the sequence, and the pig is the last. After the pig, the sequence starts over again. This year’s Lunar New Year is the Year of the Dragon and will take place on Saturday 10th February.  

Zodiac Animals Years 

Check the list below to find out what zodiac sign you are. To find out more about the personality traits of each one, click here

Rat: 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032

Ox: 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033

Tiger: 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034

Rabbit: 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023, 2035

Dragon: 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036

Snake: 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025, 2037

Horse: 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026, 2038

Sheep: 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027, 2039

Monkey: 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028, 2040

Rooster:  1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029, 2041

Dog: 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030, 2042

Pig: 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031, 2043

A Look Through Jersey Stamps Lunar New Year Issues 

For the last nine years, Jersey Post has been issuing Lunar New Year stamps to commemorate the celebration. The Lunar New Year zodiac animals issued by Jersey Stamps include Monkey (2016), Rooster (2017), Dog (2018), Pig (2019), Rat (2020), Ox (2021), Tiger (2022), Rabbit (2023) and the Dragon (2024). 

Working with the Chief Art Consultant at China Post, Wang Huming, has ensured that the issues maintain a cohesive style throughout. Careful consideration is taken into the artwork, such as the use of red, which is a vivid colour often applied throughout the Lunar New Year as a show of celebration and prosperity. 

In 2016, Jersey Post issued the Year of the Monkey stamp and miniature sheet. Within the stamp and miniature sheet, the monkey can be seen picking peaches. In Chinese culture, peaches are seen as a sign of long life, while the monkey can signify flexibility and intelligence. 

For the Year of the Rooster (2017), Wang illustrated the stamp to feature a rooster standing alongside a cockscomb celosia cristata, named due to its similarity with the shape of the crest of a rooster. Instead of a flower, the miniature sheet includes a hen with chicks, with the rooster featured in the background, symbolising family union. 

2018 saw the Year of the Dog stamp’s artwork take inspiration from a pug, while the miniature sheet demonstrates a pack of puppies playing with their mother. Wang designed the miniature sheet in this way to resemble a typical house dog in China. 

During 2019, Wang created the Year of the Pig’s miniature sheet showing a pig with her piglets, while the stamp featured a single pig. In Chinese culture, the pig represents good luck and fortune, while a a vibrant red is used to celebrate the stamp and miniature sheet characters and brings a joyous feel to the artwork. 

For the Year of the Rat 2020 stamp issue, the stamp depicted a rat taken from a Chinese fable Rat Biting Started the World (鼠咬天开 shǔ yǎo tiān kāi)The story goes that a rat took a bite out of the sky, which led to the creation of the universe separating Yin from Yang. Wang Huming’s miniature sheet was inspired by the story about a rat marrying off his daughter. The sheet shows a female rat being carried to her wedding ceremony. 

Year of the Ox was the subject of Jersey Post’s 2021 Lunar New Year issue. Symbolising prosperity, the stamp’s golden bull has its head raised upwards, signifying a longing for a wealthy future while its hoof, remains solidly on the ground, indicating a down-to-earth attitude. The miniature sheet depicts ‘the old cow licking her calf’ embodying parental love and representing a warm and happy family atmosphere.

Two years ago (2022), Jersey Stamps issued the Year of the Tiger stamp. In China, tigers are seen as the creatures who rule the mountains, the king of all animals, and embody courage and strength. Wang Huming uses gold metallic ink to signify power, wealth, longevity, and happiness. Lunar New Year is a key event for families, the miniature sheet reflects that by having a mother playing with her cubs.

Last year’s (2023) Year of the Rabbit issue was the first stamp to feature the royal cypher of His Majesty King Charles III. In China, there is a well-known tale called ‘The Legend of the Jade Rabbit’. The tale recounts a rabbit that lives in a moon palace with Lady Chang’e, where he keeps her company and grinds magical immortality medicine, this story is why rabbits are often used as a sign of health and longevity in China.

For 2024’s Year of the Dragon issue, Wang Huming has created a wonderful stamp and miniature sheet, featuring the Chinese dragon, which is the only mythical creature to appear in the zodiac calendar. Wang Fu, a Chinese philosopher and historian during the Eastern Han Dynasty suggested that the dragon’s appearance could be the result of a combination of animals, such as the ears of a bull, the antlers of a stag, the talons of an eagle, as well as many other animal features. This theory has led scholars to suggest that the combination could signify the unification of different tribes in China. 

Jersey Stamps has three more Lunar Years to complete before the full zodiac sequence is completed. These are the Year of the snake, horse, and sheep.

Order our Lunar New Year – Year of the Dragon Stamps 

Order your ‘Lunar New Year – Year of the Dragon stamp issue online, at either Rue Des Pres Post Office or Broad Street Post Office. 

In order to purchase the last available years, which include the Year of the Rabbit and Year of the Dragon, please click here

Further Reading 

Lunar New Year story references: