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Hey Mr. Postman Look at Me: I’m As Well-Designed As a Stamp Can Be

The entire process from design to production of new “miniature wonders,” as the Hongkong Post website aptly describes stamps, takes about 18 months. Besides issuing ordinary stamps (termed “definitives”), the Hongkong Post, like other postal authorities, issues special commemorative stamps annually. In the case of Hong Kong, it’s about 12 special design-topics per year. 

The Post Master General chairs a 10-member Stamp Advisory Committee, which reviews themes and designs submitted by artists and then makes recommendations to the Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs. SAC members include a professional design and graphics expert, a philatelic expert, and someone from “a local university with a fine arts background.” 

As Vice President of the Hong Kong Study Circle Ingo Nessel shared in the group’s May meeting, since 1967 a Chinese Zodiac set has always been one of the annual commemorative issues. The Tiger above is from 1998. Nessel notes that, in 2010 the Hongkong Post began issuing stamps featuring both the outgoing and incoming zodiac animals, like the gold and silver Rabbit and Dragon from 2012 above.  

Aspects of cultural heritage are also typically an annual Hongkong Post theme.  In 1988 stamps celebrated the 100th year anniversary of the iconic Peak Tram, which is loved by Hong Kong residents, artists, and tourists. The back of the 1988 cover (envelope) pictured above includes, in Chinese and English, history about the Peak Tram. “The Peak Tramway is Hong Kong’s oldest form of mechanised [sic] public transportation and its origins can be traced back well over a hundred years.” The cover’s history discussion includes sedan chairs, Mr. Alexander Findlay Smith, the “merchant” who proposed building the tram, and the role of the Peak Tram in the development of Hong Kong itself.  The cover concludes, “[t]oday the Peak Tram is one of Hong Kong’s most famous tourist attractions and in 1987 carried over 2.7 million passengers.”

Similarly, the Hongkong Post’s March 2024 commemorative issue was part of Hong Kong’s public celebration of the 100th birthday of the acclaimed author Jin Yong (Dr. Louis Cha). Dr. Cha is beloved in Hong Kong and throughout the world for the 15-enthralling wuxia (martial arts) novels he authored. These have been translated into many languages and adapted for other media, including movies and television. Dr. Cha was also the founder of Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper.

The world-famous sculptor Ren Zhe, whose sculpture Above the Clouds is a daily delight for passersby at the Forum in the Central district of Hong Kong, produced 22 works to honor Jin Yong. In March, these works went on display in Central at Edinburgh Place and also at the Heritage Museum, where the exhibit, A Path To Glory---Jin Yong’s Centennial Memorial Sculpted by Ren Zhe, continues through October. The Hongkong Post’s special issue, Characters in Jin Yong’s Novels II: A Path to Glory, includes images based on Ren Zhe’s Path to Glory sculptures.

The Hongkong Post’s May 2024 commemorative issue highlights the intangible cultural heritage of the Cheung Chau Jiao Festival aka the Bun Festival, which has been officially on the national list of intangible cultural heritage since 2011. The festival, which began in either the 18th or 19th centuries, commemorates the end of a plague. The festival features a parade reminiscent of the one in which, according to, “the image of Pak Tai, god of the North and patron of Fisherman, was paraded through the village and drove off the evil of a plague and problems with pirates.” The four-day festival also includes the famous race to climb up the very large tower of buns and grab as many buns, and in particular the high value ones, as possible. This year, according to the South China Morning Post, the tower was 46 feet high, was covered with 9,000 buns, and the winner of the women’s division actually had more points than the winner of the men’s. 

Dr. Andrew Cheung, vice chair of the Hong Kong Philatelic Society, noted at the group’s May meeting, that some stamp collectors went to the Cheung Chau branch post office during this year’s festival to get the first cancellation/chop of their commemorative stamp(s), since the postmark from the branch was relevant to the theme of the stamps themselves. 

According to the Hongkong Post website, future 2024 Hong Kong commemorative releases include Olympic stamps in July, to coincide with the start of the games, and Chinese Idioms for Children in September. Pre-orders are available, and the stamps can be previewed online or at a post office branch. 

Did you find the art of stamp design fascinating? Explore more about the captivating world of stamps and stamp collecting. Additionally, discover the unique and artistic side of letter boxes and mailboxes.


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'Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.' – Sylvia Plath

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