The fourth in New Zealand’s lunar stamp series, 2000 Year of the Dragon - Spirits and Guardians, commemorated the Chinese Lunar Year. In Chinese folklore, dragons guard the earth’s jewels, govern the weather and watch over the rivers.
Māori understanding of the world began with a belief that all things were created by a supreme being. Io was the maker of Ranginui the Sky Father and Papatūānuku the Earth Mother who in turn gave birth to Gods of war, peace, food, forests, sea and wind. Tāne Mahuta the god of the forest, is said to be the father of mankind. This was a world of multiple dimensions where humans, spirits, gods and demigods co-existed, a world in which dramatic and some frightening tales were created. Handed down from generation to generation, these stories give insights into the Māori world.
Every New Zealand region has stories telling of encounters with supernatural beings such as taniwha, fairies (patupaiarehe) and giant reptiles. They are generally set in the distant past, but are still commonly told today and the themes running through the stories are universal.
One of the stores is about Araiteuru, a female taniwha said to have arrived from the homeland of Hawaiki before the original migrants. She had eleven sons and each went on a journey of exploration, digging a trench with his nose as he went. Together they created the many branches of the Hokianga Harbour.
Also featured is Kurangaituku, the giant bird-woman who imprisoned Hatupatu and then recaptured him after he escaped and stole her fine cloaks and her taiaha. Near Atiamuri, there is an extraordinary rock standing beside the road, said to be the one inside which Hatupatu hid from Kurangaituku. This rock is a tipua, a tapu entity with special powers. Offerings of twigs are still made to it.
One story tells of two sisters, Te Hoata and Te Pupu, who were considered the origin and personification of the supernatural fire that creates volcanoes and thermal activity.
Another story told is of the patupaiarehe, handsome beings who lived on hilltops and other remote places. Their houses were built from swirling mist, and the fairies themselves were usually glimpsed on misty, overcast days. Most of the time the spirit people were only visible to tohunga with visionary powers, though others could hear them.
A well told story tells how a giant reptile kidnaps a woman, makes her his wife, then is killed by her people. One of the names given to this monster is Te Ngarara-huarau (the reptile with many progeny). The name may relate to an episode in which a couple of the creature’s scales turned into ordinary-sized reptiles that became the parents of all reptiles.
Finally featured is the story of Tuhirangi, custodial taniwha and protector of Kupe, who travelled from the place known as Hawaiki to discover this Land of the Long White Cloud. In the late nineteenth century, Tuhirangi became associated with a dolphin that was famous at the time. For more than twenty years, from 1888, a white dolphin inhabited a stretch of water off Pelorus Sound, north of French Pass. While Pākehā called this dolphin Pelorus Jack, Māori people naturally recognised him as Tuhirangi.
Product Listing for 2000 Year of the Dragon - Spirits & Guardians
Click on image to enlarge.
|Date of issue:||9 February 2000|
|Number of stamps:||Six|
|Denominations and designs:||40c Araiteuru, North Island sea guardian; 80c Kurangaituku, Giant bird-woman; $1.10 Te Hoata and Te Pupu, Volcanic taniwha sisters; $1.20 Patupaiarehe, Mountain fairy tribe; $1.50 Te Ngārara-Huarau, Giant first lizard; $1.80 Tuhirangi, South Island sea guardian|
|All products designed by:||Manu Smith, Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand|
|Printer and process:||Southern Colour Print, New Zealand, by lithography|
|Number of colours:||Four process colours|
|Stamp size and format:||40mm x 30mm (vertical)|
|Miniature sheet size:||100mm x 135mm|
|Paper type:||103gsm gummed red phosphor coated stamp paper|
|Number of stamps per sheet:||100|
|Cost of unaddressed first day cover with stamps:||$7.30|
|Cost of unadressed first day cover with miniature sheet:||$3.80|
|Gutter pairs:||These could be obtained by purchasing at least two stamps of any denomination, with a gutter panel between them.|
|Special blocks:||Plate/imprint blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six sheet stamps. Barcode and value blocks could be obtained by purchasinf at least two sheet stamps. Barcode blocks were available in A and B formats for sheet stamps.|
|Period of sale:||These stamps remained on sale until 8 February 2001.|