The launch of The Royal Mint’s lunar coin collection has become an eagerly anticipated event, with the ‘rooster’ the latest animal to join the 1,100 year-old organization’s popular lunar calendar line-up. It is the fourth coin to be issued in The Royal Mint’s lunar series, which started with the 2014 Year of the Horse, followed by lunar sheep and monkey years in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
British-Chinese artist and printmaker Wuon-Gean Ho, designer of The Royal Mint’s lunar collection, has incorporated clever wordplay into her 2017 design – a British breed Marsh Daisy rooster is pictured alongside 10 blooms of the plant of the same name, which is often known by the familiar name of Sea-thrift. The word ‘thrift’ can also refer to wise use of money.
“Sea-thrift is common to the areas where these birds live. Ten is a number that stands for perfection in Chinese culture so the 10 blossoms represent this, as well as fortune, wealth and prosperity.” said Wuon-Gean.
The Royal Mint’s Lunar Shēngxiào Collection, named to honor the Chinese zodiac, is a celebration of the UK’s diverse multi-cultural society, and lends a unique British angle to this ancient custom. Each lunar year is linked to one of 12 animals, whose traits are attributed to those born during that year. Celebrated annually – the Year of the Rooster starts on 28 January 2017 – it is traditionally a time for exchanging tokens and gifts of money in red envelopes, symbolizing good wishes for the recipient’s health, wealth and prosperity.
The rooster is the tenth sign in the Chinese zodiac, so it may be no coincidence that the number 10 represents perfection in Chinese culture – people born in the Year of the Rooster are believed to be confident characters who love to stand out from the crowd. Said to spend a great deal of time perfecting their appearance, they like to be thought of as attractive and beautiful, and are often very fashion conscious, relishing any opportunity to show off their style and charm. They are loyal and devoted friends and natural leaders in the workplace.
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.
During her research process Wuon-Gean made detailed observations of roosters and hens to capture a real sense of their personality and movement.
“The breed I have depicted on the coin is a Marsh Daisy from the Lancashire/Liverpool area of the UK – I wanted to root the design firmly in a real place. The Marsh Daisy is a gentle and friendly breed, well-adapted to sandy marshland. They are beautiful birds with a very flat, pillow-like comb called a rose-comb.”
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.”
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