Journeying: Stamps from China

As the Lunar New Year begins, here is a visual treat for you.

Journey to the West is a 16th century Chinese novel written by Wu Cheng’en, which describes Buddhist monk Xuan Zhang’s travel to Central Asia and India in search of scriptures. He journeys with the pilgrims Monkey King Sun Wukong, Pigsy, Monk Sha, and the dragon horse. They encounter several obstacles in their quest to bring the scriptures to China. China Post has issued several stamps to commemorate this classic, and the one above is from the 2017 collection. I think that is Pigsy with the Monkey King waging one of their several battles.

See some more of the gorgeous stamps here, with some commentary. The Monkey King seems quite popular and has been featured on stamps from different countries, including Poland, Canada, and Nevis. I think I have a new goal for my collection!

The next stamp features the founder of Taoism, Laozi, as he is immortalised in the Song dynasty (10th century — 13th century) statue at the foot of Mount Qingyuan in Fujian Province. This is a good photograph of the statue in its lush green home, which makes me rather hungry for travel; looking at stamps from different countries is really not helping.

The two stamps above are incidentally linked by two themes — travel and the Tang Dynasty. While Laozi was claimed by the emperors as the founder of their lineage, Xuan Zang (or Hiuen Tsang) belonged to the period of the Tang dynasty. He is a rare pre-British traveller whose name finds mention in Indian school history textbooks, perhaps because he left behind written records. He is believed to have travelled as far as Kanchipuram, not far from where I live, and that was quite a distance to traverse in the 7th century, with means of transport being quite different from the ones we are accustomed to now. That said, I have no hopes of making it to Mount Qingyuan in the near future, thanks to certain phenomena, and stamps might be the best way to see the world for now.

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