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Lunar New Year: The inspiration behind this year’s Australia Post stamps

Year of the Rat 2020 stamp minisheet, designed by Yan Lin. Source: Yan Lin

SBS Mandarin speaks to the visual designer behind this year's Australia Post Lunar New Year stamps which infuse tradition with a popular Chinese cultural pastime.

To mark Lunar New Year, Australia Post has released special Christmas Island Year of the Rat 2020 stamps, designed by Sydneysider Yan Lin.

Ms Lin is a designer who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Design in Visual Communication from the University Of Technology Sydney (UTS).

In working with Australia Post, she said her designs infused the image of a Rat with a well known Chinese musical institution. 

“The elements from Peking opera were picked as the foundation of the design because I think most Australians know a little bit about that,” Ms Yan said.

Yan Lin the designer of  Year of the Rat 2020 stamp
Yan Lin, the designer of Australia Post's Year of the Rat 2020 stamp collection.
Yan Lin

The Peking opera, or Beijing opera, is the most dominant and well known Chinese opera, dating back to the mid-Qing dynasty (1636–1912), which blends music, mime, dance and acrobatics. 

It features five main character types: sheng (gentlemen), dan (women), jing (rough men), Mo (old men) and chou (clowns).

For the Year of the Rat stamp designs, Ms Yan decided to feature three of the five characters - sheng, chou and dan.

“I’m also hoping that both the young and the elders will love it, therefore I chose the three characters which are most visually-striking.”

 Year of the Rat 2020 stamp minisheet
The Year of the Rat 2020 stamp minisheet.
Yan Lin

As illustrated by the stamps above, Sheng is represented wearing blue, with a traditional two-winged hat and a Chinese fan in hand - representing prosperity.

Chou holds a gold ingot in hand, with coin patterns on the forehead and the robe - representing wealth.

Dan wears red, which represents happiness. Dan also wears jewellery on the head and lily flower patterns on the fan and robe. 

“I prefered to try new ideas in my design. This time I adopted the traditional Chinese cultural elements, shapes and symbols, and represented them with a modern approach,” Ms Yan said. 

“There will be an emotional connection looking at [the rats] that are drawn in a cartoonish and human-like way.”

 Year of the Rat 2020 stamp sheetlet
The Year of the Rat 2020 stamp sheetlet, also including stamps from the 11 other Zodiac animals.
Yan Lin

 Year of the Rat 2020 stamp minisheet
The Year of the Rat 2020 stamp minisheet.
Yan Lin

Ms Lin was born in the Fujian province of China and came to Australia with her family when she was aged eight. Despite her years in Australia, she still holds fond memories of the Lunar New Year celebrations in her homeland.

In her understanding of the Chinese culture, the family plays the most important part.

“Especially during the Lunar New Year, we’ll do our best to reunite with all the family members.

“I remember that I lived in a siheyuan (a historical Chinese type of residence with wooden doors and traditional carving designs) with everyone in my family when I was little.

"When Lunar New Year approached, we would decorate the doors and windows with red lanterns and red couplets. We would also set up large round tables in the centre of the courtyard for the big annual family reunion dinner.

Lunar New Year Lantern
A traditional Lunar New Year lantern

“After dinner, the whole family would gather outside the siheyuan to set off firecrackers. As little children, we were also given small firecrackers and sparklers to light and run around the courtyard."

She said designing the stamps for Australia Post was a huge honour, and hoped that it would attract more Australians towards the Chinese culture.

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