|The stamps tell the Monkey King's story through their design as well as their imagery.
Impossible to reproduce here, there is an applied clear holographic foil to the monkey's image, because the shifting colour represents so well the monkey's transforming character." Being the attention-seeker he is, Monkey also appears in the foreground of both images, embossed to ensure he stands out.
On the collectible press sheet, Monkey's eventual enlightenment is suggested by a background sunburst design in pearlescent ink. And while images of all 12 zodiac animals appear along the press sheet's border, only Monkey's image is outlined in gold metallic foil, representing enlightenment achieved.
Gold foil was also applied to the stamps to highlight typographic elements and Chinese characters, attracting the eye in a way that gold ink would not. In total, nine colours were used in printing the stamps, including custom shades of red and green to add intensity, and a special shade of beige that matches the background colour of the original watercolour paintings.
The stamps are based on two richly detailed watercolour illustrations by Anita Kunz, which appear in their entirety on the souvenir sheet.
On the domestic rate stamp, Monkey is shown in confrontation with the Jade Emperor, whose throne he has tried to usurp. According to the tale, Monkey was king of an Earthly land, but was determined to join the immortals in heaven. He mastered some supernatural tricks, such as shape-changing and cloud-leaping, before arriving in heaven, where he was made the Jade Emperor's stable-keeper.
When he discovered this post was a dubious honour, he destroyed the royal banquet in a rage, eating all the immortal peaches, one of which he still clutches in the stamp image. He then battled the Emperor's soldiers to a draw, and we see him on the stamp in his moment of defiance, declaring himself ruler of the universe. Shortly afterwards, he is chastened by Buddha, who pins him under a mountain for 500 years.
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See all 9 Lunar New Year stamps here.