Every Lunar New Year, several postal service companies around the world release stamps commemorating characters from the Chinese zodiac calendar. However, this year’s designs by the nearly-100-year-old artist Huang Yongyu for the China Post received especially harsh reviews online, with users hurling terms like “horrific,” “evil,” and “scary” at it.
The China Post printed two designs by Huang to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The one titled “The Rabbit Sending Blessings” depicts of a bright blue rabbit, with bright red glowing eyes and pale, human-like hands, holding a pen and a letter. The second, titled “Endless Cycle for Vitality,” depicts three rabbits running in a circle.
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A press release from the China Post said Huang produced his images “in a natural, witty and dynamic style,” with the image of the blue rabbit meant to convey “the meaning that Chinese people will work together to draw a grand ‘blueprint’ of China in the coming year.”
After a Weibo blogger posted the image of Huang’s blue rabbit in comparison to designs from Hong Kong and Macau, many responses said it wasn’t cute at all, inspiring fear more than good fortune for the year ahead.
“This blue rabbit is designed to be horrific, like a demon possessed,” one poster said. Another person said, “It is too evil to appreciate.”
Prior to this year’s stamp designs, Huang had a long and successful career as a contemporary artist and author. His work includes woodblock prints, ink-wash paintings, sculpture, poetry, autobiographical novels, and two other zodiac stamp designs, from 1980 and 2016.
Despite never attending art school or formally studying literature, Huang became a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, the leading art school in China, at the age of 28. He eventually became the head of the printmaking department.
Huang now lives and works in Beijing and his work is held in the collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
Even with the negative comments in response to this year’s design, Huang’s bright blue rabbit stamp was an instant hit, drawing long queues at post offices and selling out online. It could also be incredibly lucrative for collectors in the future. In 2017, one of the 1980 Year of the Monkey stamps designed by Huang was sold at auction for a record price of 2.01 million yuan (almost US$300,000), according to the South China Morning Post.