15 February 2010

Cambodia 1999 Year of the Rabbit S/S Error

Today is the 7th day of Chinese New Year. The Chinese tradition says this is the birthday of all mankind, so wish you happy birthday, good health and good luck in Year of the Tiger.

Cambodia does have something interesting on Chinese New Year stamps, it is an error which most collectors are unaware of.

A set of 6v and a S/S featuring different rabbits and hares was put into circulation in January 1999 to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese zodiac.

The S/S looks absolutely alright if you do not read Chinese.

Under the red and yellow stylized bunny are 3 Chinese characters, they are the Chinese year name. Chinese has a distinctive year naming system, called "Gan Zhi", which is in fact a combination of 2 anicent naming systems, "Gan" and "Zhi".

The "Gan" system is for ordering, it consists of 10 Chinese characters. The "Zhi" calendar system is based on the obital period of Jupiter, it has 12 Chinese characters for counting years, months and hours. In Chinese zodiac, the 12 "Zhi" characters are matched with 12 animals, rabbit is assigned the 4th.

For the ease of understanding "Gan Zhi", the "Gan" characters can be substituted with numerals 1 to 10 while the "Zhi" characters substituted with letters A to L:

When the 2 systems combine in recurrent order, it gives 60 different combinations, and therefore a 60 year cycle:

1A, 2B, 3C, 4D, 5E, 6F, 7G, 8H, 9I, 10J,
1K, 2L, 3A, 4B, 5C, 6D, 7E 8F, 9G, 10H,
1I, 2J, 3K, 4L, 5A, 6B, 7C, 8D, 9E, 10F and so on.

A new cycle started in 1984, so 1999 should be 6D, or in Chinese characters:

The very last character means "year".

What printed on the S/S, 4D, is actually 1987:

Apparently no one in COPREFIL (the stamp production company) read Chinese, nor in Cambodia Post, otherwise the error would have been found.

Cambodia has 3 other Chinese New Year sets, 1998 Year of the Tiger, 2000 Year of the Dragon and 2001 Year of the Snake. They do not bear the "Gan Zhi" year name.

The Chinese New Year stamp series did not survive a 12 year full cycle, it halted when the COPREFIL contract with Cambodia ended.

Below shows the 6v of the 1999 Rabbit set:

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