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China under the Ch'ing (or Manchu) dynasty (1644-1912) followed an expansionist policy westward in Asia while discouraging European interference. By 1720 the Chinese Empire comprised China proper, Jehol, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria, while vassal states owing suzerainty extended from Trans-Amur and Outer Mongolia in the north to Tibet, Burma and Indo-China in the south. Foreign missionaries were expelled in the 18th century. Trade with European powers was confined to Canton and a foothold at Macao held by the Portuguese since1557.

The 'Opium War' of 1840-2 forced trading concessions from the Chinese and the opening to foreign residents of five 'treaty' ports: Canton, Amoy, Foochow, Ningpo, and Shanghai. The uninhabited island of Hong Kong, taken by a naval force in 1841, was ceded to Britain. Kowloon was taken by Britain in 1861 and China recognized the principle of 'extraterritorial' settlements virtually ruled by foreign consuls.

At the same time the Russians were beginning to encroach on all the northern and western borders of Mongolia and Turkestan. In 1861 they moved into Vladivostok. Non-Chinese areas which had previously paid allegiance to China were lost: Annam to France, Burma to Britain.

War in 1894-5 between Japan and China for possession of Korea weakened the Chinese. Formosa passed to Japan and as a result of European intervention in the treaty of peace, Russia acquired a foothold at Port Arthur. In 1898 Kiaochao was leased to Germany, the 'New Territories' (adjacent to Kowloon) and Wei-Hai-Wei to Britain (the latter handed back to China in 1930), both for 99 years, and Port Arthur to Russia for 25 (though it passed to Japan after seven).

The Boxer Rebellion in 1900, during which foreign nationals were besieged in the legations of Peking, occasioned an international relief force and further occupations of key places.

Revolution broke out in 1911. The deposition of the Empress broke the only unifying bond between provinces. Rival republics in Peking and Canton gave Japan the opportunity in 1915 to enforce its 'Twenty-one Demands', the most fateful of which gave the Japanese freedom of residence in Manchuria and extended their control of the South Manchurian Railway. Soviet Russia's designs focused on Outer Mongolia and on the Chinese Eastern Railway, which passed through Northern Manchuria to Vladivostok. Communist influence spread rapidly through China.

Following the death of Sun-Yat-Sen in 1925, Chiang Kai-Shek, his successor as president, defeated the northern war lords in 1928.

After the outlawing of the Communist Party by Chiang Kai-Shek in 1927, Mao Tse-tung and Chu Teh fought the Nationalists from the Ching Kang mountains, setting up a 'Chinese Soviet Republic' in south-eastern Kiangsi in November 1931. After five campaigns in 1930-4, the Communists were forced to make the Long March to north-west China, the survivors setting up HQ at Yenan in Shensi.

The seizure of Manchuria in 1931-2 by Japan was condemned by the League of Nations, from which organization Japan then withdrew. On 7 July 1937 the Japanese launched an invasion into China proper. The Communists and Nationalists made common cause against the enemy, but after the surrender of Japan to the Allies in 1945 resumed fighting each other until the defeat of the Nationalists in 1949. A People's Republic was set up in October 1949, while the old regime continued on Formosa. Communist China was admitted to the United Nations in 1971, and the USA was the last country to transfer recognition from the Nationalists to the Communists.

Postal History
The ancient Chinese had a postal system from the Chou Dynasty (1122-255 BC) onwards. Although the government service (1-Chan) had by the 13th century AD, according to Marco Polo, some 10,000 post stages, the Mm Hsin Chu, comprised of letter guilds, or hongs, carried unofficial mails. The Treaty of Kyakhta (1727) provided for the first regular exchanges of mails between China and Russia (see Mongolia). Diplomatic couriers were permitted to foreigners by treaty in 1858. An internal service of the Imperial Maritime Customs, developed by an Englishman, Robert Hart, in the 1860s, grew into an Imperial Postal Service by 1896, which put the Mm Hsin Chu out of business and absorbed an earlier Shanghai local service. Until China joined the UPU in 1914 all mail for foreign destinations had to pass through one or other foreign PO; for this purpose supplies of appropriate foreign stamps were held for sale at Imperial Chinese POs and used in combination with Chinese stamps (or with a Chinese handstamp where the internal postage was paid in cash). The foreign stamps were not date-cancelled until the letter reached the national PO, but (perhaps to obviate pilfering) they were usually tied to the envelope at source by an official IPO in rectangle (1899- 1904).

The great powers maintained their own systems for sending mail abroad until 1922.

British POs in China

FIRST STAMPS Hong Kong 1862-1917.

FIRST (OVERPRINTED) STAMPS ISSUED 1917 (after 1922 these were valid only at Wei-Hei-Wei; withdrawn 1930).


1917, 100 cents = 1 dollar (Hong Kong).

Consular POs were opened in treaty ports from 1844. Handstamps were in use before the issue of stamps.

From 1862 until obliterators were issued, all mail was bagged for cancelling B62 at Hong Kong; even after their issue only 'loose letters' were cancelled at source. Later the treaty ports had their own named datestamps.

The POs were:

  Opened Oblit. In use from
Amoy 1844 A1 1866
    D27 1876
Canton 1844 C1 1866
Foochow 1844 F1 1866


N1 1866
Shanghai 1844 S1 1866
Swatow 1861 S2 1866
Hankow 1872 D29 1879
Kiungchow 1873 D28 1876
Tientsin 1882    
Chefoo 1903    

All the above were closed on 30 November 1922.

Other offices using a similar system were placed in the colony of Wei- Hei-Wei which was handed back to China in 1930 (Liu Kung Tau 1 September 1899 - 1 October 1930 and Port Edward 1904 - 1 October 1930); in Portuguese Macao 1838- 84 and in Japan 1859-79 (see Japan).

French POs in China



1894, 100 centimes = 1 franc.
1907, 100 cents = 1 piastre.

These comprised Shanghai (November 1862); Tientsin (16 March 1889); Chefoo (November 1898); Hankow (agency, November 1898; PO, October 1902); Peking (December 1900); Amoy (January 1902); Foochow (1902); Ningpo (1902). All were closed on 31 December 1922.

Used stamps of France 1862-94.

Kwang Chow



1906, as France.
1919, 100 cents = 1 piastre.

Territory leased by China to France as a naval base and coaling station in April 1898 and placed under the Governor-General of French Indo- China in January 1900. Returned to China in February 1943 and immediately occupied by the Japanese until returned to China 18 August 1945.

Russian POs in China

FIRST STAMPS Russia from 1870.



1899, Russian.
1917, Chinese.

These comprised *Peking, Kalgan,*Tientsin, Urga (see Mongolia), opened 1870; *Shanghai, *Chefoo, before 1897; *Hankow, agency 1897, PO 1904; Port Arthur, Dairen (Talienwan, later Dalny) in 1899-1904. Closed 1920.

First stamps issued (1899) surcharged in Cyrillic KHTAH were supplied only to main offices (*above), but were valid in the remainder, as were Russian stamps without overprint in the main offices. They were all inscribed in Russian currency, but Russian POs accepted Chinese currency in payment for them at par (1 Chinese cent = 1 Russian kopek).

Japanese POs in China



1900, as Japan.

Comprising Shanghai (15 April 1876), and agencies at Chefoo, Chinkiang, Foochow, Hangchow, Kiukiang, Newchwang (now Yingkow), Mingoo, and Tientsin. From 1896 Hangchow, Shansi, and Soochow.

Used stamps of Japan 15 April 1876 31 December 1899.

Kiaochow (Kiautschou)

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 26 January 1898.


1900, German.
1905, Chinese.

Tsingtao on the Kiaochow Bay was occupied by the German navy after the murder of two German missionaries. The surrounding territory was leased to Germany for 99 years on 6 March 1898. It surrendered on 7 November 1914 to Japanese forces after a three months' siege.

PO was opened at Tsingtao 26 January 1898 and various others on the Shantung Railway (Schantungbahn) from 1900, including a TPO (1901).

Also used stamps of Germany 26 January 1898 - 31 December 1901.

Indo-Chinese POs in China


1903, 100 centimes = 1 franc.
1919, 100 cents = 1 piastre.

Mongtze (now Mengtsze)

Opened 25 January 1900; closed 31 December 1922.

Yunnanfu (now Kunming)


First issue was inscribed YUNNANSEN.


FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 1901 (overprinted HOI HAU).

Opened 15 May 1900; closed 31 December 1922.



Opened 15 June 1901; closed 31 December 1922.



Opened 7 February 1902; closed 31 December 1922.



Opened 1 February 1902; closed 31 December 1922.

Italian POs in China


1917, 100 centesimi = 1 lira.
100 cents = 1 dollar.

Two POs were opened from September 1917 to 31 December 1922 for diplomatic staff and troops.





United States PA in Shanghai



1919, as China.

Opened 3 August 1867; closed 31 December 1922.

Stamps (in Chinese currency) were used only on mail to USA. Sea connection was made at Yokohama with the Pacific Mail Steamship Company.




1865, 10 casn = 1 candareen : 100 candareen = 1 tael.
1890, 100 cents 1 dollar (Chinese).

Although part of Imperial China, Shanghai was locally governed by an international Municipal Council. As the national services were inefficient and charges high, in 1864 the municipality organized a postal service with agencies in 16 cities. This was merged in the Imperial service in 1898.

China (modern)

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED (Large Dragons) 1878.


1878, 100 candarins = 1 tael.
1897, 100 cents = 1 dollar.
Chinese Peoples Republic 1955, 100 feu = 1 yuan.

Postal History
More generally, see above. From 1865 foreign consular mails were entrusted to the Maritime Customs postal service, which for the first time accepted also private mails. These were pouched weekly between Shanghai, Peking and Tientsin. The service was given a postmaster and opened to the public on 1 May 1878. Until 1882 all outward Chinese mail for foreign destinations was routed via Shanghai (see also Foreign POs, above). In 1882 there were 12 POs (Chefoo, Chinkiang, Hankow, Ichang, Kiukiang, Ningpo, Newchwang, Peking, Shanghai, Tientsin, Wenchow and Wuhu). By 1896 the system had become the Imperial Postal Service.

Various stamp issues had only local validity owing to problems of distribution, divided rule, and foreign invasion. The general pattern is illustrated by maps; precise details for individual stamps must be sought in specialized works.

Alterations in postal rates in 1940-3 made necessary the surcharging of stocks held.

This was done by provincial authorities. The stamps of each province are identifiable by different typefaces. In the 'Border Areas' the Communists issued their own stamps area by area.

The years 1945-9 were characterized in both Nationalist and Communist areas by inflation provisionals. In January-October 1949 'Regional Issues' were made for each 'Liberation Area' until the first general issue for the Chinese People's Republic (8 October 1949). In north-east China, where the currency had a lower value, separate issues continued until May 1951.


withdrawn 31 October 1936 (necessitated by local currency devaluation).


withdrawn 31 July 1935 (necessitated by local currency devaluation).

Japanese Occupation of China



Special stamps issued 13 June 1942-c.9 September 1945.

Mengkiang (Inner Mongolia)

Special stamps issued 1 July 1941-1945.

North China

Special stamps issued 5 June 1941 -1945.

Nanking and Shanghai

Special stamps issued 23 December 1941-1945.


FIRST STAMPS China and Russia in their respective POs (until 1920).

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 18 March 1927 (overprints on stamps of China, necessitated by currency depreciation in Kirin and Heilungkiang provinces). These issues are sometimes so designated, though they were also used elsewhere in Manchuria.


1946, as China.

The huge domain from which the Manchu conquered the Ming dynasty (1643 -51) soon became a mere province of China proper. The northern half was ceded to Russia in 1858-60; the southern half became more Chinese through mass immigration from the south. Russian support against Japanese aggression in 1895 earned Russia the right to build the Chinese Eastern Railway. Provocation by the Boxers led to Russian occupation in 1900 to protect the unfinished railway (opened 1901). Manchuria fell to Japan in 1905, but Chinese rule was restored in 1907.

In the closing years of World War I, when a huge number of White Russian refugees arrived from the west.

In 1931 the Japanese took the whole country and set up Pu Yi as Emperor Kang-teh of Manchukuo. This was overrun after 8 August 1945 by Soviet troops, who withdrew in April-May 1946 leaving Communist forces opposing Nationalist troops.

Postal History
The town of Newchwang may have had a Japanese PA 1876-81 dependent upon Shanghai. An Imperial Chinese PO operated from 1897. Russian POs operated from 1900 throughout Manchuria (probably earlier in Kharbin and Newchwang), also along the Chinese Eastern Railway; including TPOs they form the largest single group of Russian POs abroad.

Manchuria used stamps of China (Chinese People's Republic) from May 1951.


FIRST STAMPS 26 July 1932.


1932, 100 fen = 1 yuan.

The name was changed from Manchuria by the Japanese invaders. Jehol was annexed in 1933.

North Eastern Provinces (Nationalist)

Stamps issued February 1946-October 1948.

North Eastern Provinces (Communist)

Stamps issued February 1946-May 1951.


FIRST STAMPS Russia 1895-1905. Japan 1905-45.

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED (stamps of Japan overprinted) 15 March 1946 (until 1950) (these are listed in some catalogues as China- Provinces-Manchuria-Port Arthur and Dairen).

An eastern maritime province, leased to Russia by China 1895-1905, in which Port Arthur became a base for the Russian fleet. It was surrendered to Japan in 1905 and, after reversion to China in 1945, again leased to Russia until 1955 when (26 May) all Russian forces were withdrawn.

The main POs were Port Arthur (Jap. Ryojun; Chin. Lyu-Shun) and Dalny (Jap. Dairen; Chin. Te Lien).

Used stamps of Chinese People's Republic from 1950 (though in 1950-5 cancellers were inscribed bilingually in Chinese and Russian).


FIRST STAMPS China, March 1911.



1911, as India.
1912, 62/3 trangka = 1 sang.

Buddhist state ruled by the Dalai Lama. Chinese influence, intermittent in the 18th century, was dormant in the 19th when Russian ambitions were in the ascendant. The Chinese gradually re-occupied Tibet in 1950 -9, and the land is now ruled as an autonomous region of China.

Postal History
The Tibetan Frontier Commission set up temporary POs in 1903 using Indian stamps from Khamba long and elsewhere, and passing mail over their supply lines via Gangtok (in Sikkim). The Younghusband Expedition set up FPOs on its 1904 mission to Lhasa, passing their mail over a 16,000 ft pass via Gyantse to Siliguri, their Indian base. Indian PAs were later set up in Gantok, Gyantse, Pharijong (reputedly the highest permanent PO in the world) and Yatung. These have functioned until recent times. Various special cachets have been used on mail from Mount Everest expeditions (1924, 1933, etc). Some Chinese POs were opened in 1909.

Used stamps of China overprinted in Chinese and Tibetan with value in annas and rupees, March 1911.

Has used stamps of China since 1951-60.


FIRST STAMPS Russia 1882-1920; China c. 1900.

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 1915- 49 (Chinese stamps bearing surcharged values because of currency difficulties).


1915, as China.

A region somewhat larger in area than Spain and Portugal. Through it passed the western 'Tea Road' to Russia and the 'Silk Road' to the west, the main caravan highways of Central Asia until the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway. It was annexed in 1759 to form, once again, the north-west province of the Chinese Empire. The province was virtually independent after the Chinese revolution of 1912. The Soviet Russians never gained a foothold.

Postal History
Russian consulate POs, opened in Kuldja and elsewhere by 1881, were the only postal system until c. 1900 when the first Chinese PO opened. The Chinese system only became efficient c. 1909, but the Russian PO in Kashgar remained important. Russian POs were closed in October 1920.

Stamps of Russia were used in Russian POs 1882-1920 (Kuldia, Chuguchak, Kashgar, and Urumchi are known from cancellations); also (at Urumchi) stamps of Russian POs in China.

Stamps of China were in use in Chinese POs from c. 1900.

Has used stamps of China (Chinese People's Republic) since 20 October 1949.

Ili Republic

A short-lived Uighur republic in the Ili valley (north-west Sinkiang) declared independent in 1945, and which rejoined China in 1949.

Separate stamps issued August 1945-1949.

China: Treaty Ports & Foreign POs
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China & Japan to 1942
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China: Provinces 1900-45
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