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]



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

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, 1912 London Ovpt On Coiling Dragons, Mn Set, Beautiful.China Pre-paid Double Size Postcard 1c Green Imperial Chinese Post Shanghai - 01China Prc 1960 S38 Chinese Goldfishi Block Of 4 Cto UsedChina,1898 Coiling Dragon, Mh Set, $5 Unused1980 China Airmail Cover To Usa With T46 Monkey & T43 Stamps Etc,pin Holes, RareChina 1878-83 1ca Large Dragon Unused. Mnh China Prc Stamp W1 Mao's Instruction Set Of 11 Og Excellent Gold!China Pre-paid Postcard 1c Green Imperial Chinese Post Unused - 04China,1912 Shanghai Overprint On Coiling Dragons, Mn Set, $5 A Little Gum LossPr China 1967 W2 Mao And Lin Biao, Mint Mh, OriginalChina Pre-paid Postcard 1c Green Imperial Chinese Post Dragon Shanghai 1909 - 06Pr China 1967 W2 Mao And Lin Biao, Mint Mh, OriginalChina,1912 Republic Set, MhChina, 1888 Taiwan Horse&dragon Issue, 20c In Red, Mh, Guaranteed GenuineImperial To R.o.china Collection C,large Dragon,red Revenue Stamps,etc,nice LotChina,1912 Revolution Set, $2 Unused, Others MhChina Pre-paid Envelope Letter Card 3c Green Used Lingpao & Shanghai C.d.s. - 121941 China Cover To Denmark,last Flight China Clipper,detained+released 1946,rrrChina, 1888 Small Dragon Set, 3c Unused, 1c & 5c MhChina,1912 London Overprint On Coiling Dragons, Mn Set To $1China Stamp Imperial Post Curling Dragon 3 Candarins Used Useful China Pre-paid Double Postcard 1c Red Chinese Imperial Post Dragon C.d.s. - 101967 China Stamps,cultural Revolution 5 Stamps, Fine Used, NiceChina,1968 Love Live Chairman Mao, Mnh Set, W5, 35c With Black Offset At Back1978 China Stamp,galloping Horses,miniature Sheet,og,wrinkles,mnhChina,1902-03, Coiling Dragon, Mh Set To $1China,1898, Coiling Dragon, Used SetImperf Panda Pair! Mnh Prc China S59b Imperf Set Of 3 China,1897 Lithographic Coiling Dragon,$5 Goose,mh,one Missing Perf1897 China Stamp,red Revenue 1c On 3c, Unused,vf,variety, Very Nice1883 China Stamps,large Dragon Thick Paper,full Set 1,3,5 Candarins,faulty,usedChina, 1897 Red Revenue 1c On 3c, Mh1912 China Stamps,the Revolution,1c,block Of 70,mnh,og,imprint,very Very NiceNystamps China Stamp # 269 Used $175Imperial To Republic China Stamps Collection A, Coiling Dragons & Etc, Nice LotChina, 1897 Lithographic Coiling Dragon, $1 Goose, MhChina Old Postcard Yamamoto Chienmen Peking To Germany 1908 !!China , 1964 Peonies Set Mnh Original Gum , Superb Fresh High Cv China, 1897, 1c On 3c Revenue Stamp Sg88 Mint (space-filler)China Junks Cover - England 1922 Lanchow Cancel From Central Salt AdministrationChina Stamp 1878 3candarins Red Used (dragon)China- Small Dragons- Mint- Pair- Very FineChina , 1980 , Original Top Stamp , Year Of The Monkey ( But Tooth Error ) , MnhChina- Large Dragon- 5cds- Used- VvfChina, 1878-83, Large Dragon, 1 Ca, UnusedChina, 1894 Dowager 24c UsedChina _ 1967 'mao Tse-tung Poems' 3 ____(461)China- Yunnan- 1-2-5$- Corner Luxe- Mnh1878-1883 China Stamp,large Dragon 3 Candarins,very Nice Varieties,f UsedChina Stamps1885 Small Imperial Dragon 1 Candarin Used Useful China, Early Stamps SelectionImperial To Ro.china Stamps Collection B, Local, Coiling Dragons & Etc, Nice LotMnh Prc China S57 Sc744-59 Yellow Mountain Set Of 16 Og1962 China Taiwan Stamps,ancient Paintings Emperors,mnh,og,perfectNystamps China Red Revenue Stamp # 80 Mint With Gum H $550China 1882 Large Dragon Stamp Vf Used 3 Candarin Wide Margins 質量中國郵票Momen: Hong Kong Stamps #18-28 China 1922-27 Mint Og H £475 Lot #70191964 China 15th Anniversary Of Prc Strip Of 3 Cover Sent Shanghai To BelgiumChina,1913 London Print Junk Set, Mh Set To $1Mint Prc China S38 Gold Fish Set Of 12 Og White Gum