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Belfast artist PJ Lynch designs Chinese New Year coin

Gold coin for Year of the Rat Image copyright The Royal Mint
Image caption One of the new coins designed by Belfast-born artist and illustrator PJ Lynch

An award-winning illustrator from Northern Ireland is behind a new coin to mark the Chinese Year of the Rat.

PJ Lynch who was born in Belfast and lives in Dublin designed the coin featuring a rat with a set of long twitchy whiskers.

Lynch is famous for his children’s books and has served as Laureate na nÓg – or all-Ireland children’s laureate.

He has won Kate Greenaway medals, the Mother Goose Award and the Christopher Medal.

Image copyright PJ Lynch
Image caption Illustrator PJ Lynch at work in his studio

PJ Lynch said he felt “very honoured” and “very lucky” to have been asked to design what is the latest coin in the Royal Mint’s Shēngxiào Collection.

“When I was invited to submit a design, I thought I’m not mad about rats and rodents generally scare the life out of me,” he said.

“But I did a lot of research and met a lot of people who are mad about rats and learned about how intelligent they are and the qualities they have.

“It made me look afresh and I made lots of drawings.”

Image copyright PJ Lynch
Image caption PJ Lynch posted his sketch of a rat for World Rat Day

The design was tricky at times and took a lot of work, he said, but he enjoyed it very much.

“As an illustrator, variety is the spice of life,” he said.

“This made a lovely change and I was really thrilled to see the coin coming out.”

The Royal Mint said in a statement: “The series is a celebration of the UK’s diverse multicultural society, lending a unique British angle to this ancient custom.

“During Chinese New Year it is common to exchange tokens and gifts of money in red envelopes symbolising good wishes for the recipient’s health, wealth and prosperity.

“If you were born in the Year of the Rat, you are in good company.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Scorn ye not: William Shakespeare was born in the Year of the Rat

“William Shakespeare, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Gwyneth Paltrow and Bono all share this sign, which is associated with intelligence and optimism.

“The rat is thought of as a godly creature in Chinese culture, and people born in the Year of the Rat are considered to be optimistic and great at building relationships.

“Known to be generous and resourceful, the curiosity and intelligence of people born in the Year of the Rat leads them to seek out knowledge.”

A spokesperson said: “PJ Lynch’s design showcases the qualities of this fascinating animal. A rat, bristling with agility and inquisitiveness, is set against a backdrop of peonies – a symbolic flower in Chinese culture.”

Image caption PJ Lynch pictured on a visit to BBC Broadcasting House in Belfast

PJ Lynch has created everything from posters for Opera Ireland and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin to several sets of Irish stamps.

He also designed a giant mosaic for the Catholic Marian Shrine in Knock, County Mayo.

He lives in Dublin with his wife and three children.

The Year of the Rat starts on 25 January and is the first sign of the Chinese Zodiac.

While intelligence and optimism are said to be traits of those who share the sign, they may also have deep pockets.

The five ounce gold version of the coin is now fully reserved, despite costing £9,995.

But there are other coins available ranging from about £2,000 to just £13.


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