East Meets West
Britain and countries in the Far East have produced coins, in some form or another, for thousands of years. Traditionally, coins have been used in eastern and western cultures in celebrations and family events and while these customs are centuries-old, a new generation is embracing these ancient practices in a modern way.
In the United Kingdom coins are often given as a gift for special occasions. From the traditional sixpence in a bride’s shoe for good luck, to silver being given at births and christenings – inspired by the custom of giving silver coins to a baby for good luck – coins continue to play an important role in celebrations and significant points in life.
During Chinese New Year, nestled amongst scenes of fireworks lighting up the sky, vibrant decorations in streets and homes and feasts of traditional food, people share gifts of coins in red envelopes to wish each other luck, love and prosperity. While the origins of the red envelopes are not certain, the colour is considered lucky in the East, symbolising passion and energy.
These British and Chinese traditions were united in 2014 when The Royal Mint created the first official UK Lunar coins. The Shēngxiào Collection, named after the Chinese Zodiac, is based upon the 12 animals that inhabit the Lunar Calendar, with each one having their own unique characteristics and qualities. The traits of the animals are said to be evident in people who are born under a particular sign.
Combining centuries of Chinese tradition with British minting craftsmanship, the dog is the latest animal in the series. The coin’s artist, Wuon-Gean Ho, has depicted a terrier, a much-loved and popular breed of dog that’s been portrayed by artists for centuries. She explained how she came to select this popular breed:
“The dog depicted in this design is a mixed breed, looking like a West Highland White Terrier crossed with a Jack Russell. I wanted to show the energy and exuberance of a more compact dog. Bouncy, full of life and very playful, terriers have a quick intelligence, lots of loyalty and big personalities.”
Wuon-Gean has included a hidden story in her previous designs for The Shēngxiào Collection. From the 10 marsh daisies that appeared in 2017, symbolising the Rooster being the tenth sign of the zodiac, to the tree-like Chinese character for sheep that can be found in the background of the coin struck for the Year of the Sheep.
Look closely behind the image of the leaping terrier in this year’s coin design and you will see what appears to be a landscape. However, the background was, in fact, generated from the nose print of a greyhound belonging to a friend of the artist.
This is the fifth year Wuon-Gean Ho has created a design for the lunar series; her commissions for The Royal Mint draw upon her British Chinese heritage and time spent living and studying in Asia.
Are you a loyal companion?
Find out which animal represents the year of your birth, or the births of your friends and family. Have fun finding out about each animal’s qualities and characteristics, to see if they match what we think of each other and ourselves.
Were you born in the Lunar Year of the Dog?
1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
View the range and discover more about The Royal Mint’s Shēngxiào Collection, by visiting royalmint.com/lunar-dog