The Royal Mint continues The Shēngxiào Collection with coins celebrating the Lunar Year of the Monkey

05 Feb 2016

The Royal Mint has released a range of  commemorative coins featuring the playful figure of a monkey to celebrate the  forthcoming Chinese New Year on 8th February.

Produced specifically for the UK, The Royal Mint’s commemorative  lunar coins blend ancient Chinese tradition with British  craftsmanship, and form part of The Royal Mint’s Shēngxiào (or Chinese zodiac) Collection. It is traditional to  exchange tokens and gifts of money in red  envelopes at Lunar New Year as a symbol of  good wishes for the recipient’s health, wealth and prosperity.

The Lunar Year of the Monkey coins have been  designed by British-Chinese  artist and printmaker Wuon-Gean  Ho, who also designed coins for the 2015 Year of the Sheep and the 2014 Year of the Horse. The 2016 Shēngxiào collection sees the addition of a UK kilo coin for the  first time – the UK’s largest commemorative coin, measuring 10cm in diameter. A  limited run of only eight kilo coins will be minted, as a reference to the fact  that in Chinese culture, the number eight brings good fortune.
  Each lunar year is linked to one of 12 zodiac animals,  whose traits are attributed to those born during that year. Those born  in the Year of the Monkey are thought to be energetic, quick-witted and  sociable, who enjoy applying their appetite for knowledge to creativity and  problem solving. A prominent and popular figure in  Chinese culture, the monkey is believed to symbolise luck, honour and wealth. One  of the most enduring Chinese literary characters, Sun Wukong, is also known as  the Monkey King, who is born from a stone and acquires  supernatural powers - the main character in the Chinese classical  novel Journey to the West.

Anne Jessopp, Director of Commemorative Coin at The Royal Mint  said: “Designer Wuon-Gean’s ‘Year of the Monkey’ coin design reflects the  characteristics of the lunar sign beautifully, and fuses centuries of The Royal  Mint’s craftsmanship and artistic skills with the centuries-old Chinese tradition  of giving coins at the Lunar New Year.”

The coins are supplied in bold red packaging, together with  a booklet that reveals the customs that inspired the artist. The  range will comprise a limited run of coins all featuring the number eight,  bringing extra good luck to the Chinese New Year.

About the artist   Wuon-Gean Ho is an artist printmaker living  and working in London. Her commissions for The Royal Mint draw upon her British  Chinese heritage, and her experiences both as an artist and fully qualified  veterinary surgeon.

The Design   Wuon-Gean has depicted two rhesus monkeys in  her composition, part of the ‘Old World’ family of monkeys originating in  Europe, Africa and Asia. Wuon-Gean explains: “Rhesus monkeys and humans shared a common  ancestor about 25 million years ago. They are extremely intelligent, sociable  and family oriented, and are equally good at climbing and swimming.”

Wuon-Gean Ho, the artist who designed the  coin, commented: “Working with and observing animals definitely helped me with  my understanding of how to draw them, and how to convey their movement. It was  a new concept for me to work within the coin’s circle, and also work around  lettering that was curved. It has 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

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