Lunar

Lunar

East Meets West

Discover more about why coins have featured in British and Chinese customs for centuries.

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Celebrating the Year of the Dog

The dog is the fifth sign to be celebrated in The Shengxiào Collection. Find out more here.

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A Growing Relationship

Find out how British craftsmanship and Chinese traditions are uniting for this collection.

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Meet Series Artist Wuon-Gean Ho

Find out more about Wuon-Gean Ho and the hidden elements behind this year’s design.

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East Meets West

If you were to search for ‘Shēngxiào’ on the internet you would find The Royal Mint’s range of lunar coins.

Coins have been produced in the Far East in some form or another for thousands of years, just like they have in Britain. Both cultures have traditionally used coins in celebrations and family events, and while these customs date back over centuries, a new generation are embracing the ancient practices in a modern way.

In the United Kingdom coins are often the gift of choice for a special occasion. Brides traditionally tuck a sixpence into their shoe for good luck, and silver gifts are given to newborns and at christenings – inspired by the centuries-old custom of giving silver coins to a baby for good luck.

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a silver sixpence in her shoe.”

During Chinese New Year, against a backdrop of fireworks, vibrant decorations and feasting, people share gifts of coins in red envelopes to wish each other luck, love and prosperity. While the exact origins of the red envelopes are up for debate, the colour is considered lucky in the East, symbolising passion and energy.

In 2014 The Royal Mint united these British and Chinese traditions to create the first official UK Lunar coins. The Shēngxiào Collection, named after the Chinese zodiac, is based upon 12 animals that have their own unique characteristics and qualities.

When we launched The Shēnxgiao Collection it offered a new option for those celebrating Chinese New Year or their own important family birthday or event. Traditionally, red and gold envelopes containing money are given by parents and grandparents to the younger generation. However, talking with our customers has revealed that the younger generation are bucking the trend and are also buying lunar coins from The Royal Mint for their relatives, young and old.

Whether we know an inquisitive monkey-type, a creative sheep or a dependable dog, the collection is a unique way to recognise the many facets of our personalities. Once we know which animal represents the year of our birth, it’s great fun finding out about their traits and characteristics, to see if they match what we think of ourselves.

 
 

Celebrating the Year of the Dog

The Royal Mint’s Shengxiào Collection celebrates the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, or Shengxiào, and their distinctive characteristics and qualities. The fifth release in the collection celebrates the sign of the dog.

Just as a dog is seen as a faithful companion, people born in the Year of Dog are believed to be true friends. Typically, they are honest, kind and dependable.

Due to their loyal personality, those born in the Year of the Dog often work in jobs that involve helping others. They are popular in the workplace as they are easy-going and happy to lighten the load of those around them. While they can jump to conclusions, they tend to be intuitive and caring.

If you were born under this sign, you’re in good company. The British actors Dame Maggie Smith and the late Alan Rickman were both born in years that fall under the sign of the dog, as was famous director Steven Spielberg. Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were both born in 1982, making them perhaps the world’s most famous couple to be born under this sign.

 
 

A Growing Relationship

The Royal Mint’s Shēngxiào Collection combines British minting craftsmanship with centuries-old Chinese traditions. Over the last five years Wuon-Gean Ho has worked with The Royal Mint’s Coin Design team to ensure this unique fusion is captured to full effect on the small-scale surface of a coin.

Although Wuon-Gean works in several mediums and has a wealth of design experience, working within the confines of a coin was a new challenge but one she enjoyed:

“It was a new concept for me to work to this circle and work around lettering that was curved, the natural movement, I loved it! It’s a huge eye opener to see the complex stages a design will go through in order to become a finished coin."

The artist has worked with several members of the Coin Design team but for the last two coins, celebrating the Year of the Rooster and Year of the Dog, she has worked closely with Kerry Davies who joined The Royal Mint in 2002.

Kerry has advised Wuon-Gean on the design considerations that are unique to coins, sometimes spending whole days with her to perfect a design.

“Wuon-Gean’s work, like her lino prints, is normally two-dimensional. Working with coins as a canvas, you have to consider three dimensions and the relief and round shape of the coin. She has a unique style and adds elements to tell a hidden story, like the Marsh Daisies on the Rooster coin. We talked about simplifying these details – making them as clean and clear as possible to make sure they translate well but are still true to the original design when they are finally struck." - Kerry Davies

Wuon-Gean has valued the advice she has received throughout the series, and recognises the skill that goes into creating every coin The Royal Mint produces.

“It’s been wonderful working with the craftsmen at The Royal Mint. I’m incredibly impressed and humbled at the amount of technical mastery and knowledge that they have.”

Wuon-Gean Ho

 
 

Meet Series Artist Wuon-Gean Ho

Wuon-Gean Ho is an artist who works in print, books and animation. Based in London, she was a visiting professor in Changsha, China and was awarded the Atelier Presse Papier residency in Québec, Canada in 2017. Her commissions for The Royal Mint draw upon her British Chinese heritage and time spent living and studying in Asia. This is the fifth year she has created a design for the lunar series, The Shengxiào Collection.

The dog Wuon-Gean chose to incorporate into her coin design for 2018 is a terrier. She explained how she came to select this popular breed of dog:

"The dog depicted in this design is a mixed breed, looking like a West Highland White Terrier crossed with a Jack Russell. I wanted to show the energy and exuberance of a more compact dog. Bouncy, full of life and very playful, terriers have a quick intelligence, lots of loyalty and big personalities."

Each year Wuon-Gean includes a hidden story in her designs for The Shengxiào Collection. From the 10 marsh daisies that appeared in 2017, symbolising the Rooster being the tenth sign of the zodiac, to the tree-like Chinese character for sheep that can be found in the background of the coin struck for the Year of the Sheep.

If you look closely, the image behind the leaping terrier in this year’s coin design appears to be a landscape but the background was in fact generated from the nose print of a greyhound belonging to a friend. Wuon-Gean wanted to make a hidden reference to another animal in the coin without adding another figure and this ‘portrait' of a second dog was created using biometric data, as Wuon-Gean explains:

"Nose printing has been a legal form of dog identification in Canada since 1975. In a similar way to fingerprints in people, dogs each have their own unique nose prints."

 
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