The Royal Mint has revealed its design for the Lunar Year of the Monkey – an eagerly anticipated annual event in The Royal Mint’s launch calendar following the release of coins for the 2015 Year of the Sheep and the 2014 Year of the Horse.
Known as the Chinese Zodiac or Shēngxiào Collection, The Royal Mint’s lunar coins are produced specifically for the United Kingdom, and blend Chinese tradition with British craftsmanship. This year sees the introduction of a UK kilo coin to The Shēngxiào for the first time.
Each lunar year is linked to one of 12 animals, whose traits are attributed to those born during that year. Celebrated annually – Year of the Monkey starts on 8 February in 2016 – it is a traditional time for exchanging tokens and gifts of money in red envelopes, symbolising good wishes for the recipient’s health, wealth and prosperity.
British-Chinese artist and printmaker Wuon-Gean Ho, designer of The Royal Mint’s lunar horse and sheep coins, continues the series with the Monkey – a prominent and popular figure in Chinese culture, believed to symbolise luck, honour and wealth. For centuries, it has featured in the blessing of babies, and is displayed at ports to wish sailors a safe journey. In ancient towns, monkeys were carved into the posts where horses would be tethered, thought to protect them from disease.
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.
Shane Bissett, Director of Commemorative Coin at The Royal Mint said:
“The Royal Mint’s Year of the Horse and Year of the Sheep coin ranges have proved extremely popular. With the Year of the Monkey, we will be seeing a whole new dimension of characteristics reflected in Wuon-Gean’s stunning coin design, fusing 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. All coins in the range are limited, with mintages featuring the number ‘8’ thought to be lucky in Chinese culture.
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.”
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 descent, and her experiences both as an artist and fully-qualified veterinary surgeon.
“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.”