February 19, 2008


In 1982, the then Macau Issuing Institute, now the Monetary Authority of Macau, invited me to design a set of coins to renew the coins design to a more mixed flavor.

The challenge was most welcomed as Chinese everyday habits and culture rely on
symbols and other good auspices.

Chinese coins from the past were already a good start. Cosmogonically speaking, the circle represented Heaven, Tien, while the square in the center represented Earth, Di, which was hollowed to allow a red string to pass through many coins.
Based in this geometrical design, I created a bridge in one side of the coin, linking Earth to Heaven, by extending the square until the coin's ridge. This would mean new interpretation, something that I knew the Chinese population would understand, while the non-Chinese would judge it by its own aesthetical right.

The next step was to interact with the
Cantonese language play with homophonous words. This had to do with the characters Fok that I used for the 10 cents coin. Fok means luck, and ten is homophonous of obtaining. Therefore the left coin meant obtaining luck.

I came to learn that the second character, Lu or Lok (Prosperity) was the most favoured by the local Chinese. When coupled with the number 2 of the 20 cents, it spelled easy prosperity.
The last one of the decimal coins was the last of the so called three stars. Longevity. Therefore the highest amount would have to be attributed: 50 cents.

As an end result, both Singapore Mint who worked intensily with me, praised the (then) innovative multi-layer design as a benefit for the visually impaired, while the commemorative silver editions were so much sought after that they had to make two more editions. The gold and platinum editions were also gone.
Later, banking authorities noticed an increased shortage of the 20 cents coins. People kept them home for luck.

As a consequence, I was incumbed of designing the 12 commemorative coins of the Lunar Years.

: : Ars Cives Art Director : :