The history of Chinese stamps parallels the country’s great shifts in its ruling powers. China’s first stamps were printed by the British colonial postal system in Shanghai in 1865. British colonists wishing to send letters home were the target audience for these stamps, and their adoption spurred other Chinese municipalities with large international communities to quickly follow suit.

The country’s first national stamps, the “Haiguan Dalong” or “Large Dragons” series, were created in 1878 for the Chinese Imperial Customs service, run by an Englishman named Robert Hart, who organized the Chinese Imperial Post in 1897. His service ended with a stamp celebrating the first anniversary of Emperor Hsuan T’ung’s ascension to the throne in 1909. Early issues of Chinese stamps were frequently overprinted to mark special events, like the jubilee of international settlement in 1893, or to adapt local postage prices to regional fluctuations in the yuan’s value.

During the Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s, complex underground postal systems developed among networks of Chinese communists, who printed many small runs of crudely designed stamps. After the Japanese were defeated in 1945, China’s postal service was still not centrally organized, so most stamps were designed only for specific regions. These stamps generally featured portraits of Mao Zedong or patriotic military emblems. The first official stamps for the National Republic of China were also printed in 1945, some featuring Sun Yat-sen, the rebel leader who helped depose the Manchu dynasty.

During the 1950s and '60s, Chinese stamps most commonly portrayed communist heroes and symbols, like the popular series inscribed with quotes from Mao’s “Little Red Book.” Some of the most interesting communist-era stamps are from a 40-part series depicting poses for a radio gymnastics program that all citizens were expected to practice.

Another popular set among collectors is the 1964 series of traditional tree peonies, long cultivated for the Chinese aristocracy. Stamps printed after the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s showcased historic Chinese emperors, artwork, landscapes, or, most recently, symbols of China’s financial and material successes. The first Chinese Zodiac stamp, which celebrated the Year of the Monkey, debuted in 1980.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

Alphabetilately

Alphabetilately

First shown in 2008 to celebrate the Smithsonian National Postal Museum's 15th anniversary, Alphabetilately is esse… [read review or visit site]

Gotheborg.com

Gotheborg.com

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

China Prc 1968 Instruction Of Mao Unfold Strip W10 Mnh PerfectChina Prc 1967 Thoughts Of Mao Unfold Strip 938 / 948 Mnh Complet SetPr China 1960 S38 Goldfish Imp Mnh Sc#506-517China Prc 1980 Monkey T46 1586 Mnh PerfectChina Prc 1962 C94 Mei Lan-fang Stage Art UnusedChina Prc 1967 Mao Long Live Chairman 949 / 956 Mnh Complet SetChina Cover 1950 To New Zealand With Prc $2000,$3000, Nw Peoples Post Imperf China Prc 1967 Poems Of Mao W7 Complet Set 14 Stamps Mnh PerfectChina Prc 1968 Mao Revolutionary 982 / 990 Mnh Complet SetChina Prc 1967 Literature Art Yanan Forum Mnh Complet SetChina Cover 1950 To New Zealand With Prc Flag Stamps, Postal ConferenceChina - Huge Collection Of Mint Part Sheets 1930s To Late 1940sChina Inflation Cover 1951 To New Zealand China Old Registered Mail Cover Peking !!China , Scarce Classic Large Dragon ( Red Cancel !! ) And Four Small Dragons !China , 1932 , Very Scarce Set . Sven Hedin Expedition , Mh Noblespirit~no Reserve~1537/14~ Colossal High Cv China Specialized Minkus Album!China Prc 1971 Centenary Comune Paris Complet Set 1054 / 1057 Mnh PerfectChina Prc 1967 Picture Of Mao Tse Tung 960 / 964 Mnh Complet SetChina Prc 1968 Mao Goes To An Yuan 998 Mnh China Manchukuo To Usa 1939 Used Stamps On Registered First Day Cover......a2736Pr China 1963 S57 Hwang Shan Complete Set Blk4 Cto Sc#716-731China Prc 1968 Mao Anti American Declaration 991 Mnh China Prc 1979 Souvenir Sheet Study Science 1518 Mnh PerfectChina Inflation Cover 1949 Lanchow To New Zealand China Prc 1977-81 Rare Presentation Book With Mnh Stamps & The Red MonkeyNoblespirit~no Reserve~1537/32~colossal Cv China Prc Mint Stamp Album!China Prc 1978 Souvenir Sheet T28 Horses Mnh PerfectChina , 1965 , Very Nice Airmail Cover To Germany, Look ! Prc China - 1960th, Mixed Lot Of Stamps Used/used Cto China Manchukuo 1942 Used Stamps On Registered First Day Cover.............a2735China To French Indochine 1901 Used Stamps On Postcard.....................a2830China Manchukuo To Estonia 1935 Used Stamps On Cover.......................a2723China Prc 1971 50th Anniv Of Communist Party Complet Set 1065/1075 Mnh PerfectChina Prc 1967 Anniversary Of Prc 965 / 966 Mnh Complet SetPr China 1967 W3-3 Yanan Forum Literature & Art Blk4 Imp Mnh Sc957China Old Postcard Prisoners Post Bando Japan To Canton 1919 !!China Prc 1968 Mao Latest Instruction By Mao 999 Mnh 1920s Christian Missionary In China Archive Letters Booklets Writings DocumentsChina 1960 - Stamp Set Sg#1911/1922 - Unused Mnh...........................a2778China 1973 - Stamp Set Sg#2498/2503 - Unused Mnh...........................a2781China Manchukuo To Usa 1940 Used Stamps On First Day Cover.................a2733China , 1897 , Three Better Classic Stamps ; Mh Small Collection Of China Chinese Vintage Postally Used StampsChina Manchukuo 1940 Used Stamps On Registered First Day Cover.............a2737China 1963 - Stamp Set Sg#2124/2139 - Unused Mnh...........................a2771China 1967 1968 Mao Tse - Toung Collection Revolutionary Theater MnhChina Manchukuo To Germany 1935 Used Stamps On Registered Cover............a2726Chungking China Treaty Port, Vf, Unused, One / 2 Candarin Postal CardChina Manchukuo To Germany 1941 Censored War Cover.........................a2722China 1885-88 Small Dragon Perf 12 Set Of 3 Hinged MintChina Prc 1980 Souvenir Sheet Lotus 1617 Mnh PerfectChina Old Postcard Tsinanfu Chinese Gouverneur Choufu Tsingtau To Germany 1904!!China Prc 1970 Taking Tiger Mountain Complet Set 1047 / 1052 Mnh PerfectChina Stamp:#prc China #n53 54 55 56 1973 Set MnhChina To France 1907 Used Stamp On Postcard................................a2857China To France 1948 By Air Mail Registered Infa Cover.....................a2837China Prc 1965’ S73 Jinggangshan Mountain Complete Set Mnh OgChina Old Double Postcard International Troops Peking Boxer War To Italy 1901 !!China , 1950 , Scarce Overprint Stamp , Used , Look !