First Issues - China

page 1

While writing the China entry in the main Display, the complexity of the subject suggested that it needs a separate display, rather in the same way as the Occupation and Offices Abroad issues are being approached. Sutton [10] expresses it well,

'Civil and world wars, and Japanese inflitration, resulted in a complex medley of local, sectional, inflation, and occupation issues most difficult to entangle, but making it a fascinating country for the specialist collector. Various "Treaty Port" and other issues made by the Western powers and America and Japan add to the complexity and interest, while issues for territories over which China claims suzerainty must also be noted, e.g. Tibet, Mongolia, Kirin and Heilungchang, East Turkestan. Currency difficulties have also resulted in separate issues for Szechwan and Yunnan and financial crises have resulted in stamps of fantastic values, many of doubtful origin and status.'
[Sutton, 1959, p.64].

Wood [4] provides good summaries of the various periods and categories and these will be used when they are explored in detail.

There are numerous categories to consider:

Shanghai SG1 facsimile
Shanghai facsimile

Before stamps, there was the Min Chu, private Chinese postal agencies. Foreign traders set up their own system to save costs, starting in Shanghai in 1865 and expanding from there along the coast, including nearby Japan (thought no specific stamps seem to have been issued for use there, only distinctive cancellations).

The turn of the century saw numerous foreign post offices. As noted, Offices Abroad are dealt with in a separate display, but details of Foreign Offices in China will be recycled here. In addition, Germany occupied the port of Tsingtao in 1897 and later leased the surrounding area of Kiaochow until surrendered to the Japanese in 1914. France leased Kwangchow in 1898: it was governed from Indo-China. China itself had offices in Korea and Tibet. Indian forces operated field post offices as part of the China Expeditionary Force to oppose the Boxer Rising in 1900.

from 1988 m/s

In 1887 stamps were issued by the Imperial Customs Post and in 1897, the Chinese Imperial Post was introduced which, by decree, put the treaty ports' municipal posts out of business. These are the stamps of the initial entry in Display 10. The Boxer Rebellion in 1900 reflected growing dissent and the Empire increasingly destabilised , leading to a revolution led by Sun Yat-sen and the establishment of the Chinese Republic in 1912. Wood [4] states "The first half of the 20th century was largely one of war against an increasingly aggressive Japan. Korea and Formosa were given up and Manchuria was seized by Japan." Internal unrest was caused by growing communist factions that eventually took power after WW2 but in the meantime give rise to fragmented and localised postal services.

Japan occupied parts of China during WW2. Before that, in 1905, following the Russo-Japanese war, Japan gained a foothold on the Chinese mainland and in the 1930s established what Wikipedia describes as the'puppet kingdom' of Manchukuo which created 'many interesting cultural chimeras, including stamps'. It reverted to China after WW2.

After WW2, the stamp catalogues' treatment reflects national and international politics. As Wood [4] describes it,

'The Nationalist forces ... were driven from the mainland in 1949 to seek refuge on Formosa (Taiwan) as the Republic of China.
In the same year, the Communists under Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the People's Republic of China with the capital at Peking (Beijing).
Britain and France [and Stanley Gibbons] recognised the Communist state, but the US [and the Scott catalogues] continued to recognise the Republic of China on Taiwan.'

Gibbon thus follows on the pre-war Chinese catalogue numbers into the 1949 mainland communist People's Republic of China (PRC), while Scott continues that listing into the island of Taiwan (aka Formosa), previously a Chinese province. Scott restarts PRC at #1.

Hong Kong SG8a Sc8
1865 Hong Kong

Britain gained Hong Kong from China's defeat in the Opium War of the 1840s. The first issue as a British colony was in 1862, (see Display 6). HK reverted to Chinese control in 1997.

This gives rise to the following entries:


page started March 2014