Sima Guang ‘Breaking the Vat’ on Chinese stamps

Chinese postage stamps

Here’s a great example of why it’s nice to get international snail-mail now and again! My writer friend Adam Williams sent me some documents from China a couple of years ago in a large envelope covered with commemorative stamps. The large block of twenty stamps on the right depicts an anecdote about the early life of Sima Guang (1019 – 1086 AD), a Chinese politician and writer of the classical chronicle Historical Events Retold as a Mirror for Government (Zi Zhi Tong Jian), which is used to illustrate his great intelligence and ingenuity even as a child. The stamps show a baby falling into a vat of water and Sima Guang smashing the vat with a stone, causing the water to spill out and thus saving the child.

The 80 Fen stamp shows Sima Breaking the Vat, and is the second episode in the tale with another 80 Fen stamp showing the Baby’s Fall into Water, with the Rescue appearing on the 2 Yuan stamp. The set was designed by Li Wei and first issued on 1st June 2004, several months before this letter was posted in August 2004.

Interestingly, the bird stamp on the left, had been issued as a regular, rather than commemorative stamp, on 1st February, 2002 as part of a set of three depicting Chinese birds.