News Article

Jianghong Chen: How do French stamps reflect traditional Chinese zodiac art?
China Minutes
/ Categories: News

Jianghong Chen: How do French stamps reflect traditional Chinese zodiac art?

In January 2023, France released Year of the Rabbit stamps designed by renowned French-Chinese painter Jianghong Chen, which received much attention from the world, with many people queuing up in Paris on the first day to buy this set of French Chinese Zodiac stamps. The Chinese Ambassador to France, Shano Lu, and the President of France Post, Philippe Val, attended the launch ceremony to congratulate Jianghong Chen on the successful design and release of the Year of the Rabbit stamps. Why is there so much interest in these zodiac stamps? How do French stamps reflect traditional Chinese zodiac art? Recently, Jianghong Chen was interviewed by China News Agency’s East Meets West.

France Post welcomed the Chinese New Year with a ceremony in Paris to launch the stamps for the Year of the Rabbit. Jianghong Chen signed the stamps for French visitors on the spot. Credit: Yang Li

Jianghong Chen, a well-known French-Chinese painter, graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts and enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1988, after which he worked and lived in France for many years. His representative works include Chinese paintings such as Zhong Kui, Young Eagle and Prince of Tigers. Some of his award-winning artworks have been published and distributed in several countries. His latest collection of traditional Chinese paintings for picture books, including Catching the Fair, is also being published in China. Since 2019, he has been designing Chinese zodiac stamps for the French Post.


Please tell us about your thinking behind the Year of the Rabbit stamp designs. How long did it take you to design the Year of the Rabbit stamp collection? What is new about it compared to stamps you have designed for other Chinese zodiac years?

The French Year of the Rabbit stamp collection has a special meaning for me, as the Year of the Rabbit is my birth year. I began to come up with ideas for stamps for the Year of the Rabbit in the summer of 2022 to better represent the unique attributes of the rabbit in the Chinese zodiac, such as its obedience, kindness, wisdom, and vitality. Designing this Year of the Rabbit stamp took me about two to three months.

I started designing stamps for the French postal service in 2019, aiming to create a concept for each year. As the format of the Zodiac stamps is fixed each year, with two stamps and two vertical souvenir sheets, there is a need for a unified style for artistic integrity. I generally use the traditional Chinese painting technique. Still, I want to vary the design of each year’s Zodiac stamp, from the coloring of the stamps to the plot of the image, to reflect a different story and interests.

Jianghong Chen displays the original draft of the stamp design at the launch ceremony of the Year of the Rabbit stamps. Credit: Yang Li

For the Year of the Rabbit stamps, the two stamp sheetlets feature rabbits looking away from each other on the border paper in a symmetrical design; the €1.16 stamp is for French postage, and the €1.85 stamp is international postage, making it easy for users to send letters to different regions of the world. I have used magnolia flowers as the background for the stamp sheetlet to symbolise the auspiciousness and beauty of Chinese New Year festivities. It is also worth mentioning that I have designed the official release paper for the Year of the Rabbit stamp collection, which, in addition to the stamp imprint and technical information, also features Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit in the background, thus better reflecting the image of the rabbit in traditional Chinese culture.

Chinese New Year is the most important traditional festival in China and I design the stamps every year with great care and attention, hoping that my work will bring a yearning for the happiness and peace for the Chinese New Year festivities.

Jianghong Chen displays the Year of the Rabbit stamps. Credit: Yang Li


Can you tell us about the printing process of the Zodiac stamps? Do Zodiac stamps fit into the general design style of French stamps?

I not only design the stamps of the Chinese zodiac but also help to supervise the printing process. The French postal service carefully prints the stamps, and the technical process, including punching and overprinting, is rigorous. Before printing, I have to check the stamp printing samples against the original artwork I have designed to fit the standard of artistry, such as the accuracy of the overprinting of the stamps. The initial draft of the stamps I drew was very detailed and layered. The final printed stamps differed slightly from the original artwork but were still beautiful overall. For the Year of the Rabbit stamp, I designed a gold moon background, which I had hoped to print in gold powder to reflect the moon’s texture better, but the printing process was too complex. 2024 will be the Year of the Dragon when France hosts the Paris Olympics, and I look forward to designing and printing an unusual Year of the Dragon stamp.

Exterior view of the flagship shop for the official licensed merchandise of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Credit: Yang Li

Having lived in France for many years, I naturally used French culture as an element in my stamp designs so that the stamps incorporate French art and show some ‘East meets West’ art. For example, for the Year of the Rabbit stamp designs, I was inspired by the French dessert Ladurée and used the colors of that dessert. I believe the French public will accept and enjoy my designed stamps. The French postal service has also commented positively on the design of the stamps and will take on board all of my suggestions for the design and printing of the stamps, hoping that I will have the space to work with my art.


In your opinion, what is the significance of issuing French stamps of the Chinese zodiac for cultural exchanges between France and China?

Culture and art have no borders, and human emotions are all connected. Combining Chinese zodiac art and French stamps will undoubtedly facilitate cultural exchanges between China and France. In my opinion, the French postal service places great importance on promoting Chinese culture. As the art of the Chinese zodiac embodies the characteristics of traditional Chinese culture, the French postal service hopes that through zodiac stamps, the French public will gain a better understanding of traditional Chinese culture. In recent years, the postal service has held zodiac stamp release ceremonies, despite the pandemic in the last two years. The French public has participated very well in launching the Chinese Zodiac stamps, and now more people are attending these events, further enhancing the people-to-people contact between France and China.

Chinese language enthusiasts in France perform traditional Chinese operas in Chinese at the "2022 Paris - International Chinese Day" event. Credit: Yang Li


The French postal service has expressed interest in commissioning you to design a complete set of stamps for the Chinese zodiac. Do you have any initial artistic ideas for future stamps? Are you planning to create a cohesive and unified design for zodiac stamps?

The French Post has a sincere desire to create a complete set of twelve stamps, each reflecting the unique characteristics of its respective zodiac sign. To ensure a consistent viewing and collecting experience, the twelve stamps should be designed in a complete and uniform style to form a cohesive series. For example, each year’s stamp could feature the Chinese characters for “Chinese New Year” and the corresponding zodiac sign.

Jianghong Chen displays the Year of the Tiger stamps. Credit: Yang Li

The first Zodiac stamp that I designed was the 2019 Year of the Pig stamp, but I was not involved in the layout design for this stamp. I noticed that the Chinese characters for “Chinese New Year” on the Year of the Pig stamp did not use the red spring couplet design, which is present in all other years of the Chinese zodiac stamps. The red spring couplets create a strong Chinese New Year festive atmosphere and better reflect the theme of the stamps. Therefore, I may consider redesigning another set of stamps for the Year of the Pig that includes the red spring couplet background design to ensure consistency in style across all the zodiac stamps.

Since the Year of the Pig is the final zodiac sign in the twelve-year cycle, the Year of the Pig stamps should be the last set of the twelve stamps.

Part of the Zodiac stamps designed by Jianghong Chen. Credit: Yang Li


China MinutesChina Minutes

Other posts by China Minutes
Contact author
blog comments powered by Disqus

Contact author