A two-stamp set featuring canine images at a cost of 2.4 yuan (37 US cents). (Ti Gong)
Shanghai Local stamp collectors were waiting overnight in the winter chill and rain yesterday to get their hands on the latest Chinese New Year stamps, which go on sale this morning at 87 local post offices.
The special stamps are available only at the weekend and doors were due to open from 6:30am. Also available will be related items, such as a stamp album and hongbao, the traditional holiday "red envelopes" for cash gift-giving.
Every year the New Year zodiac stamps' release is eagerly anticipated by collectors. Although China Post provides online sales, many local people, especially the elderly, queue up outside post offices with some even using items such as bricks or benches to save their place in the line.
Last week, several local post offices were found with a variety of labeled items "queuing" outside, ranging from bricks and cardboard boxes to buckets and vegetable baskets. Most belonged to enthusiastic stamp collectors, though some might have been placed by scalpers hoping to make a profit. Some stamp fans were even standing guard to ensure nobody moved anything.
Yesterday evening at a post office on Huangpi Road N. in Huangpu District several people were seen lining up outside under umbrellas. One woman told Shanghai Daily they started queuing on Saturday and would stay there overnight to be the first buyers of the dog stamps. At 8pm, there were about 20 people in the queue, mostly middle aged and elderly people.
A 62-year-old man surnamed Lan, who has been collecting stamps for 30 years, said the people in the queue were acquaintances so the order was kept well. "Every year we meet here to wait for the New Year stamps to be issued and we know each other very well," Lan said. "The social circle of local stamp lovers is not that large."
This year there will be 20 percent fewer Chinese New Year stamps than before, which made them more precious, Lan said.
"We never feel that waiting here for a long time for the new stamps is a tiring thing. We love collecting stamps and are pleased to do that," said Lan. "I kept doing so for more than a decade."
For Lan, queuing is more like a cultural event than just a chore.
"It's a very nice time for the collectors to get together and talk about their hobby and it's always crowded in front of this post office before the special edition of stamps is on sale. "We just finished a dinner at a nearby restaurant and had a good time," Lan said. "The most important thing connecting us is our common love towards stamps and stamp culture."
At another post office in the same district on Fuzhou Road, a man told Shanghai Daily that their queue formed on Sunday and so far they had some 25 people reserving their places in the queue. They had a shift system going to guard people's places and yesterday he and his two partners were on the "night shift."
The Year of the Dog begins on February 16. To commemorate the Spring Festival holiday, China Post is issuing a two-stamp set featuring canine images at a cost of 2.4 yuan (37 US cents).
The dog is the 11th year of the 12-year traditional Chinese zodiac cycle. It's commonly associated with loyalty and cleverness. The dog is also seen as a symbol of a thriving family or business since its bark resembles the sound of the Chinese word for "prosperity."
For the Chinese, it's customary to wear red or some zodiac-related item if a birthday falls in the prevailing animal year. That's supposed to bring good luck.
One of the new two-stamp set depicts a guard dog ready to take on enemies; the other shows a mother dog and puppy, symbolizing family harmony and love.
The two pictures as a whole express the wish for a happy home and a strong country.
The stamps were designed by 98-year-old Zhou Lingzhao, a master artist who participated in devising China's national emblem and the emblem of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Zhou also contributed to the design of the second, third and fourth editions of yuan notes.
In his long career, Zhou has created several sets of commemorative stamps.