Zodiac stamps for Year of Tiger spark controversy for lacking vigor, strength
Published: Jan 08, 2022 03:36 PM
Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

A set of special zodiac stamps for the Year of the Tiger featuring a majestic tiger peering into the distance and a gentle mother tiger accompanying her two babies have sparked heated discussions online over whether the portraits failed to fully demonstrate tigers' strength and energy of exorcising evil, which bear Chinese people's good wishes for a year of braveness, peace and prosperity under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The two stamps were issued by the China Post on Wednesday, marking the 42nd consecutive year since it issued the first set of zodiac stamps in 1980. 

The first one is named "Guoyun Changlong," referring to national fortune and prosperity in English. The stamp depicts a majestic tiger standing straight in front, peering into the distance. While the second one, named "Huyun Jixiang" (tigers carry good lucks), shows a heartwarming picture wherein a gentle mother tiger is tending two cubs. 

However, many netizens pointed out that the tiger on the first stamp "looks sad" as it frowns and seems sick, not as powerful as a wild tiger - the so-called "king of all beasts". Some said the two baby tigers also look unhappy and lacking enthusiasm.

Facing skeptics, stamp designer artist Feng Dazhong responded in a media interview that the first stamp originally featured a tiger holding its head back, but the head would look too small on the stamp. In the second stamp, the two tiger cubs are relatively close to each other at the beginning, but it would cause structural imbalance on the stamp.

Media reports said Feng has been drawing tigers since he was young. At that time, due to lack of publications, he often took bus to a zoo for observation and had narrowly escaped from tigers several times. He is a national first-class painter, an expert enjoying the special allowance of the State Council and also the president of the Artists Association in Liaoning Province. 

"Animals also have happiness and sorrow, so the painting of the tiger needs to break the code, break through its animal nature to convey a spiritual emotion," Feng said. "Paying attention to portraying the spirits of the tiger also coincides with the cultural connotation of the zodiac tiger."

Zhang Jinfeng, a renowned painter from North China's Shanxi Province who has been drawing Buddha statues which had been looted overseas from the province, told the Global Times on Saturday that Chinese paintings emphasize more on the spirit, and feelings that the painter tries to convey and blend with current social circumstances. 

"The portraits of the Tiger shall represent the Chinese people's resolution to be competitive and courageous in the coming new year with the best wishes for family harmony and reunion," Zhang said. 

"The zodiac tiger, as a symbol of exorcising evil, carries our great expectations to a good start of a new year, when we will finally be free from the plague of the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

The Chinese Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival is celebrated at the second new moon following the Winter Solstice. This festival marks the end of winter and the beginning of a long-awaited spring. 

According to the Chinese Zodiac, which is represented by 12 animals to record the lunar years and reflects people's attributes, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. The zodiac sign Tiger is a symbol of exorcising evils and braveness and many Chinese kids wear hats or shoes with a tiger image of for good luck.

The Chinese Zodiac dates back to the Qin Dynasty over 2,000 years ago and is rooted in a system of animal worship. The story says the Jade Emperor challenged all the animals in the Qin Kingdom to a great race. Whoever arrived at his palace first would win his favor. The "Tiger" was sure that he had the race in the bag, but ended up in the third spot after the cunning "Rat" and the "Ox." 

Each zodiac has a rich legend, which forms the main philosophy in Chinese folk culture, such as the zodiac sign on marriage, temple fair prayer and so on. In modern times, more and more people take the zodiac as the mascot of the Spring Festival.

People born in a year of the Tiger are usually described as brave, competitive, unpredictable, and confident. They are ambitious, generous with a drive to help others, always seeking justice, but sometimes they are also likely to be impetuous and irritable.

Famous figures born in Tiger years in the world include Queen Elizabeth II, Christopher Lloyd, Jon Bon Jovi, Penelope Cruz and Shawn Mendes.

In addition to China, many countries and regions around the world also issue zodiac stamps to express their best wishes for the Chinese Lunar New Year.