DCSIMG

Community: Lunar New Year Stamps

社区—中国农历新年邮票

The Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls in January or February, is the high point of the Chinese year. Families share a big dinner and enjoy holiday treats, lanterns, fireworks, and gifts presented in red envelopes. Long, colorful dragons enliven parades. The U.S. Postal Service has issued Chinese Lunar New Year stamps since 1992. The first series included all twelve traditional animal signs. The current, second series emphasizes holiday traditions.

8f Year of the Monkey single, China, 1980
8f Year of the Monkey single, China, 1980
8f Year of the Monkey single, China, 1980

The famous Chinese artist Huang Yongyu painted this monkey for China’s first Lunar New Year stamp. The stamp proved so popular as a good luck gift that many forgeries exist.

29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year
concept art, 1992

In 1992, the U.S. Postal Service issued its first Chinese Lunar New Year stamp—a rooster stamp for the Year of the Rooster. Clarence Lee of Honolulu, working with art director Richard Sheaff, used the ancient Chinese tradition of paper cutting to create the artwork for the series, which included all twelve traditional animal signs. See how the rooster stamp design evolved and stamps from this series from 1992 to 2005:

29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year
concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year
concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese
New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster Chinese
New Year concept art, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster single, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster single, 1992
29c Year of the Rooster single, 1992
29c Year of the Dog single, 1994
29c Year of the Dog single, 1994
29c Year of the Dog single, 1994
29c Year of the Boar single, 1994
29c Year of the Boar single, 1994
29c Year of the Boar single, 1994
32c Year of the Rat single, 1996
32c Year of the Rat single, 1996
32c Year of the Rat single, 1996
32c Year of the Ox single, 1997
32c Year of the Ox single, 1997
32c Year of the Ox single, 1997
32c Year of the Tiger single, 1998
32c Year of the Tiger single, 1998
32c Year of the Tiger single, 1998
37c Year of the Rabbit Chinese New Year approved artwork, 1999
37c Year of the Rabbit Chinese New Year approved artwork, 1999
Courtesy United States Postal Service, Postmaster General’s Collection
37c Year of the Rabbit Chinese New Year
approved artwork, 1999
Courtesy United States Postal Service,
Postmaster General’s Collection
33c Year of the Rabbit single, 1999
33c Year of the Rabbit single, 1999
33c Year of the Rabbit single, 1999
33c Year of the Dragon single, 2000
33c Year of the Dragon single, 2000
33c Year of the Dragon single, 2000
34c Year of the Snake single, 2001
34c Year of the Snake single, 2001
34c Year of the Snake single, 2001
34c Year of the Horse single, 2002
34c Year of the Horse single, 2002
34c Year of the Horse single, 2002
37c Year of the Ram single, 2003
37c Year of the Ram single, 2003
37c Year of the Ram single, 2003
37c Year of the Monkey single, 2004
37c Year of the Monkey single, 2004
37c Year of the Monkey single, 2004
37c Chinese New Year pane, 2005
37c Chinese New Year pane, 2005
37c Chinese New Year pane, 2005
39c Chinese New Year pane, 2006
39c Chinese New Year pane, 2006
39c Chinese New Year pane, 2006

Kam Mak Ethel Kessler
Kam Mak and Ethel Kessler

In 2008, the U.S. Postal Service began its second Lunar New Year stamp series. A New York artist who grew up in Chinatown, Kam Mak is creating the current series of Lunar New Year stamps with USPS art director Ethel Kessler. Mak's paintings for the stamps depict the holiday's traditions.

Kam Mak’s glass palette with dry paint used for Lunar New Year artwork, 2011
Kam Mak’s glass palette with dry paint used for Lunar New Year artwork, 2011
Kam Mak’s glass palette with dry paint used for Lunar New Year artwork, 2011

See the artwork and stamps from this series from 2008 to present, with additional design development images for the red lanterns and lion dance issues:

41c Year of the Rat red lanterns artwork, 2008
41c Year of the Rat red lanterns artwork, 2008
41c Year of the Rat red lanterns artwork, 2008
Courtesy United States Postal Service, Postmaster General’s Collection
Kam Mak's son with a red lantern
Kam Mak's son with a red lantern
Kam Mak's son with a red lantern

Art director Ethel Kessler first conceptualized the lantern stamp using a painting by Kam Mak from his book My Chinatown, published by Harper Collins. However, that painting depicts a 10 year old boy celebrating the moon festival, not Lunar New Year. Kam Mak then photographed his son with a red lantern to use as the source for his oil painting.

Lantern stamp design development scan, February 27, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, February 27, 2006
Lantern stamp design, February 27, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, February 27, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, February 27, 2006
Lantern stamp design, February 27, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, March 27, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, March 27, 2006
Lantern stamp design, March 27, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, October 2, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, October 2, 2006
Lantern stamp design, October 2, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, October 9, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, October 9, 2006
Lantern stamp design, October 9, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, May 1, 2007
Lantern stamp design development scan, May 1, 2007
Lantern stamp design, May 1, 2007
Lantern stamp design, June 12, 2007
Lantern stamp design, June 12, 2007
Lantern stamp design, June 12, 2007
42c Year of the Ox with Lion Dance artwork, 2009
42c Year of the Ox with Lion Dance artwork, 2009
42c Year of the Ox with Lion Dance artwork, 2009
Courtesy United States Postal Service, Postmaster General’s Collection

Artist Kam Mak photographed several lion dances. He chose the green lion from a performance by the Chinatown Community Young Lions Club as his source for the oil painting.

Lion stamp design, June 12, 2007
Lion stamp design, June 12, 2007
Lion stamp design, June 12, 2007
Lion performance by the Chinatown Community Young Lions Club, Washington, DC
Lion performances by the Chinatown Community Young Lions Club, Washington, DC
Lion performance by the
Chinatown Community Young Lions Club,
Washington, DC
Green lion performance by the Chinatown Community Young Lions Club, Washington, DC
Green lion performances by the Chinatown Community Young Lions Club, Washington, DC
Green lion performance by the
Chinatown Community Young Lions Club,
Washington, DC
Lantern stamp design development scan, February 27, 2006
Lantern stamp design development scan, February 27, 2006
Lion stamp design, February 27, 2006
Lion stamp design, February 27, 2006
Lion stamp design, February 27, 2006
Lion stamp design, February 27, 2006
Lion stamp design, October 11, 2006
Lion stamp design, October 11, 2006
Lion stamp design, October 11, 2006
Lion stamp design, October 12, 2006
Lion stamp design, October 12, 2006
Lion stamp design, October 12, 2006
44c Year of the Tiger narcissus artwork, 2010
44c Year of the Tiger narcissus artwork, 2010
44c Year of the Tiger narcissus artwork, 2010
Courtesy United States Postal Service, Postmaster General’s Collection
Forever: Year of the Dragon dragon artwork, 2012
Forever: Year of the Dragon dragon artwork, 2012
Forever: Year of the Dragon dragon artwork, 2012
Courtesy United States Postal Service, Postmaster General’s Collection
Forever: Year of the Snake firecrackers artwork, 2013
Forever: Year of the Snake firecrackers artwork, 2013
Forever: Year of the Snake firecrackers artwork, 2013
Courtesy United States Postal Service, Postmaster General’s Collection