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HOME: China Stamps 1996: 1996-1
1996-1, Scott 2641-42 1996 Year of Rat
A brightly lit noght, a bright future
(2-1), A brightly lit noght, a bright future, 50 fen, 26*31mm
Large Picture
A national celebration of the Bing-Zi Year
(2-2), A national celebration of the Bing-Zi Year, 50 fen, 26*31mm
Large Picture
Technical details
Scott No: 2641-42
Serial number: 1996-1
Values in set: 2
Date of issue: January 5, 1996
Designers: Lu Zhengzhong
Size: 26*31mm
Perforation: 11.5
Sheet composition: 32
Printing process: gravure-engraving combined
Themes: Culture, New year,
Background
The way of designating years by the heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches has been very poplar among the Chinese people even up till now.

There are ten Heavenly Stems: Jia, the first of the ten Heavenly Stems; Yi, the second of the ten Heavenly Stems; Bing, the third of the ten Heavenly Stems; Ding, the fourth of the ten Heavenly Stems; Wu, the fifth of the ten Heavenly Stems; Ji, the sixth of the ten Heavenly Stems; Geng, the seventh of the ten Heavenly Stems; Xi, the eighth of the ten Heavenly Stems; Ren, the ninth of the ten Heavenly Stems and Gui, the last of the ten Heavenly Stems; and the twelve Earthly Branches include the Zi (first), Chou (second), Yin (third), Mao (fourth), Chen (fifth), Si (sixth), Wu (seventh), Wei (eighth), Shen (ninth), You (tenth), Xu (eleventh) and Hai, the last of the twelve Earthly Branches. The ten Heavenly Stems, used as serial numbers and also in combination with the twelve Earthly Branches, form 60 groups to designate years, months and days, going around and beginning again repeatedly. Today's Chinese lunar year is designated by using the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches.

Shengxiao means the 12 symbolic animals associated with 12-year cycle ( the 12 Earthly Branches), which are often used to denote the year of a person's birth. The 12 animals are: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog and hog. For example, a person born in the first of the 12 Earthly Branches is said to be born in the year of the rat; the second of the 12 Earthly Branches, the year of the ox. The customs have been very poplar among Chinese in China and Southeast Asia.

In nature world the rat is an animal which does harm to human beings. But in ancient legends, such as "A rat jumping on a lamp stand", "Rats marrying a daughter", rats are happy and auspicious animals. Among the 12 symbolic animals, the rat stands the first, giving the shengxiao a special significance.
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