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Talking Points, Lunar New Year Special Issue, Feb. 5 - 21, 2016

Our annual lunar new year edition of the USC U.S.-China Institute's newsletter looks at Year of the Monkey stamps from around the world and includes our calendar of China-focused events across North America.
February 5, 2016

Talking Points

February 5 - 21, 2015

skip to the calendar | skip to the stamps

Happy Year of the Monkey  祝猴年快乐!

We hope you're looking forward to a great year ahead and we wish you good health and happiness. We can't give everyone a red envelope 红包, so we offer our annual lunar new year stamp issue of Talking Points. Please take a moment to examine some of the year of the monkey stamps issued by 45 countries and territories. Let us know via Twitter (@usc_uschina) or on Facebook which stamps are your favorites.

Twelve years ago, the U.S. Postal Service welcomed the Year of the Monkey by printing 80 million special lunar new year stamps. Use of the mail and passion for collecting the stamps has faded a bit. This year, the USPO printed just 15 million of its Year of the Monkey stamps. Back in 2004, the USPO handled 206 billion pieces of mail. By 2014, however, volume dropped by a third to 155 billion items. It's still the world's busiest postal system, processing 40% of all the world's mail. China's system is growing, primarily through express mail services, and handled 41 billion pieces in 2015.

It was China's system, though, that issued what has become the most highly sought after lunar new year stamp. In 1980 it issued the People's Republic's first such stamp, the so-called "red monkey" stamp. About 5 million red monkeys were printed, but pristine copies are still quite valuable. An 80 stamp sheet of the "red monkey" was auctioned off in Hong Kong last year for US$163,654.

Huang Yongyu 黄永玉(b. 1924) designed that stamp as well as this year’s set. It has been reported that he was asked to have one stamp feature a mother and baby. His design, however, features two baby monkeys kissing mother. Huang says he was merely keeping up with the new family planning policy, which on Jan. 1 began permitting most couples to have two children rather than one.

Huang has had a remarkable career. Today his paintings are routinely auctioned for tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was a struggling artist, though, in 1947 when his distant relative Shen Congwen chose to have Huang create woodblock prints to illustrate his Border Town story collection. 

Huang was among the prominent artists who were targeted during the Cultural Revolution. He spent the first years of the period back in rural Hunan. One of the things held against him was a book, A Can of Worms 永玉三記, which Australian scholar Geremie Barmé calls Huang’s “animal crackers.” Huang produced the work in the early 1960s and their sometimes sarcastic tone upset some.  Those images were lost, but Huang recreated them for a 1983 collection. Number 15 of that work was “The Monkey.” “No matter how hard I try to be serious, people always think I’m monkeying around.”  不管我有时多麼严肃,人还是叫我猴子。

But that wasn't the end of Huang's troubles. A 1973 painting by Huang featuring a winking owl was

Huang's monkey from A Can of Worms (See Morning Sun) Huang Yongyu painting yet another winking owl.

among those including in the now famous 1974 “Black Painting Exhibition” in Beijing. The works in this exhibition were described as subversive. Eugene Wang translates the exhibition caption for Huang’s painting as, “The owl, with its one eye open and the other closed, is a self-portrait of the likes of Huang. It reveals their attitude: an animosity toward the Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the Socialist system.” Mao later mocked this analysis, saying that owls typically have one eye open and the other shut. When Mao and the Cultural Revolution passed, Huang returned to teaching and to painting. He was given important commissions, including designing a tapestry for the Mao Memorial Hall and, the 1980 lunar new year stamp. Not many artists are still getting national assignments in their 90s.

The 2004 U.S. stamp was created by Clarence Lee and his papercut design of a monkey is included on this year’s stamp. The peony painting that forms the bulk of the painting is by Kam Mak.

Last year, the Japanese postal service had fun with a postcard that played on the design from the previous year of the sheep. That continues this year.


Several National Basketball Association teams are sporting Chinese jerseys this month. This hasn't always worked out well here in the U.S. (e.g., Sacramento), but the NBA continues to be hugely popular in China. This season the league produced a short video featuring three of its biggest stars.MVP Steph Curry offers a toast, concluding with ganbei (干杯 "bottoms up").

The National Football League's Super Bowl, America's biggest television event, is this Sunday. As it happens, China's biggest television event comes that night. Perhaps 700 million people will tune in. Among the presenters at this  year's Spring Festival Gala 春晚 is Dong Qing 董卿. One of China's most recognized figures, this is Dong Qing's twelfth year as a presenter. She's also a USC visiting scholar and served as co-host of the 2015 USC Global Conference in Shanghai.

USC President C.L. Max Nikias and Conference Gala hosts Dong Qing and Bai Xuxu. Shanghai, October 31, 2015.

Dong Qing hosting the 2013 Spring Festival Gala and wearing her USC U.S.-China Institute glasses.

Now, on to our Year of the Monkey collection. Scroll to the end for links to our earlier new year collections. Please remember, we'd love to hear from you about which stamps are your favorites.

United States




China, 2004

China, 1992


United States, 2004


Hong Kong, 2016




Macau, 2016



Taiwan (Republic of China), 2016



And now for the rest of the world. Every continent is represented.

Antigua, 2016

Australia, Christmas Island, 2016


Azerbaijan, 2016


Canada, 2016


Cook Islands, 2016

Cuba, 2004

France, 2016


Ghana, 2004


Gilbrator, 2016

Guernsey , 2016

Hungary, 2016

Isle of Man, 2016


Japan, 2016




Jersey. 2016

Korea, North


Korea, South, 2016


Korea, South, 1980

Kyrgyzstan, 2004

Liechtenstein, 2016

Malaysia, 2016



Marshall Islands, 2016

Mongolia, 2004

In 1972, Mongolia issued a lunar new year series which celebrated Soviet and American space missions as well as the twelve animals of the lunar zodiac. In the series, a monkey was paired with Explorer 6, a U.S. satellite launched in 1959. The satellite ceased functioning after a couple months and it was then used as a target in a U.S. anti-satellite missile test (it wasn't hit).


New Zealand, 2016

Niuafo’ou, 2016

Philippines, 2016

Samoa, 2016

Serbia, 2016


Sierra Leone, 2004

Singapore, 2016


Slovenia, 2016

Solomon Islands. 2016

South Africa, 2004

Tajikistan, 2004

Thailand, 2016


Tonga, 2016


United Kingdom, 2016

United Nations
It is striking that while several member states and hundreds of millions of non-Chinese mark the lunar new year, the UN postal authority chooses to refer to the occasion as Chinese new year.

Uruguay, 2016

Vietnam, 2016

Previous USC U.S.-China Institute lunar new year collections:
2015 - Year of the Ram, Sheep or Goat
2014 - Year of the Horse
2013 - Year of the Snake
2012 - Year of the Dragon
2011 - Year of the Rabbit
2010 - Year of the Tiger 
2009 - Year of the Ox

In the meantime, please listen to the latest issue of the Bullet Train podcast which examines the "hot mom" (辣妈) phenomenon in China. And check out the range of interviews at US-China Today, from China's policies toward North Korea and trends in Chinese rock and roll, USCT explores what's up in contemporary China and in U.S.-China relations.  

Our calendar below covers events and exhibitions across North America. Please share Talking Points with friends. And please subscribe / like / follow us at our social media pages. The links are below. We are always delighted to hear from you at

Happy New Year!

Best wishes,

The USC U.S.-China Institute
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USC | California | North America | Exhibitions   

Click here to visit the full USC U.S.-China Institute calendar.
USC Events

One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment

February 4, 2016 - 4:00pm
Los Angeles, California
The USC U.S.-China Institute presents a book talk by Mei Fong, a Pulitzer winning author and former USC Annenberg professor. In One Child, Mei Fong examines the origins of China's one child policy and some of its unintended consequences. VIDEO AVAILABLE AT OUR WEBSITE NEXT WEEK.

Will Africa Feed China?

February 18, 2016 - 4:00pm
Los Angeles, California

The USC U.S.-China Institute presents a book talk by Deborah Brautigam, one of the world's leading experts on China and Africa. "Will Africa Feed China?" explores China's evolving global quest for food security and Africa's possibilities for structural transformation.

South China Sea: Troubled Waters -- March 4, 2016 -- 10 am to noon

China's Growing Pains -- April 22, 2016 -- major day-long conference looking at political, economic, and social trends 

California Events

Making Matsutake Worlds: A Transnational Commodity Chain from Southwest China

February 5, 2016 - 4:00pm
Berkeley, California
UC Berkeley Institute of East Asian Studies hosts a talk with Michael Hathaway.

Taste of Night Market 2016

February 5, 2016 - 6:00pm
Santa Monica, California
A preview tasting of 626 Night Market vendors to celebrate the New Year.



The Rise of China and Japan's New Security Strategy

February 8, 2016 - 4:00pm
Berkeley, California
UC Berkeley's Center for Chinese Studies hosts a talk with Narushige Michishita


USF Lunar New Year Celebration 2016

February 9, 2016 - 5:00pm
San Francisco, California
The University of San Francisco hosts a Lunar New Year Celebration.


Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders

February 10, 2016 - 12:00pm
Los Angeles, California
UCLA International Institute hosts a book talk with USC's Abraham Lowenthal.

Implementation of Exclusionary Rules in China: Challenges and Potential Solutions

February 10, 2016 - 4:00pm
Los Angeles, California
The UCLA Center for Chinese Studies presents a talk by Guo Zhiyuan on exclusion of illegally obtained evidence in China.


Foreign Echoes & Discerning the Soil: Translation, Chineseness, & World Literature in Chinese Poetry

February 10, 2016 - 4:00pm
Stanford, California
The Stanford University Center for East Asian Studies hosts a talk with Lucas Klein.

Knowledge of and Vulnerability to Climate Change among Pastoralists in Central Tibet

February 11, 2016 - 4:00pm
Los Angeles, California
The UCLA Asia Institute hosts a talk by Emily Yeh to discuss findings about Tibetan pastoralists' knowledge of climate change, as well as factors leading to vulnerability to climate change, based on an interdisciplinary project conducted in Nagchu, in the northern part of the Tibet Autonomous Region, PRC.

Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China

February 17, 2016 - 1:30pm
Los Angeles, California
The Chinese American Museum hosts a discussion with Paula Madison.


A City of Workers, A City for Workers? Beijing Urban Space in the 1950s

February 18, 2016 - 4:00pm
Los Angeles, California
UCLA Center for Chinese Studies hosts a talk with Fabio Lanza.

Soil and Society on the Loess Plateau, c. 1850s-1950s: A History from the Bottom Up

February 18, 2016 - 4:00pm
Berkeley, California
UC Berkeley hosts a talk with Micah Muscolino.

Conference: Soft Power in China-U.S. Relations

February 19, 2016 - 9:00am
Stanford, California
The Stanford Center for East Asian Studies presents a various panels on the topic of soft power in China-U.S. relations.

Pan-Asian Music Festival - Chinese New Year Concert

February 20, 2016 - 7:30pm
Stanford, California
The Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra from China, the Stanford Chinese Music Ensemble, and the California Youth Chinese Symphony join together in a joyful celebration of the Chinese New Year. You won't want to miss the beautiful decorations and gorgeous music!

Yundi in Recital

February 21, 2016 - 7:30pm
Los Angeles, California
Chinese mega-star pianist Yundi Li will perform with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra.


North America Events 

Modern Women in Local Tibetan History: The View from Biographical Sources

February 5, 2016 - 1:30pm
New York, New York
Columbia University's Weatherhead East Asian Institute hosts a talk by Sarah Jacoby on the representation of women in Tibetan history.

Lunarfest 2016

February 6, 2016 - 10:00am
New Haven, Connecticut
Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University hosts Lunar Fest, a New Year celebration

Screening - Qarangghu Tagh: The Villages Afar

February 9, 2016 - 6:00pm
New York, New York
Colombia University Weatherhead Institute hosts a screening of the film "Qarangghu Tagh: The Villages Afar."

Political Reform as National Pastime: Staging Peking Opera’s New Tragic Heroines

February 12, 2016 - 4:00pm
Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies presents a workshop by Associate Professor Catherine Yeh of Boston University on the impact of political reform on the Peking Opera.

Yale Lunar New Year Reception 2016

February 16, 2016 - 4:30pm
New Haven, Connecticut
Yale University hosts a Lunar New Year reception. RSVP by February 10th.

Gaodanzi 1949-50: G. William Skinner's First Fieldwork

February 17, 2016 - 12:15pm
New York, New York
The Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University will host Stevan Harrell, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington, for a talk on William Skinner's Gaodanzi.


Ji Yun-fei: Last Days of Village Wen

February 12 - July 31, 2016
Cleveland, Ohio
The Cleveland Museum of Art will host the exhibition, "Ji Yun-fei: Last Days of Village Wen" in the Chinese painting gallery. Village Wen depicts a fictional story addressing environmental issues and mass human migration in contemporary China. 


Benevolence and Wisdom: New Gifts from the Collection of Trammell and Margaret Crow

February 12-26, 2016
Dallas, Texas
The Crow Collection of Asian Art will host the exhibition, Benevolence and Wisdom: New Gifts from the Collection of Trammell and Margaret Crow.


Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth-Century China

February 26 - June 26, 2016
Pasadena, California
The USC Pacific Asia Museum presents "Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth-Century China." The exhibit features archaeological finds from three royal tombs, as well as imperially commissioned statues housed at Daoist temples on Mount Wudang, the birthplace of Tai Chi.

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