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British Royal Mint Celebrates Lunar Year of the Monkey


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

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 (Macaca mulatta) 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.”

The Royal Mint
The Royal Mint
The Royal Mint has an unbroken history of minting British coinage dating back over 1,100 years. Based in the Tower of London for over 500 years, by 1812 the Mint had moved out of the Tower to premises on Tower Hill in London. In 1967, the building of a new Royal Mint began on its current site in South Wales, UK, to accommodate the minting of UK decimal coinage. Today, the Mint is the world’s largest export mint, supplying coins to the UK and overseas countries.

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