The Stamps of China (1908) (Part II).

Postmarked Copies
With the help of postmarked copies much may be accomplished in the direction of solving some of the problems referred to. We may for instance decide the question of the wide and narrow spacing–which came first.

With the view of including everything that will complete the history of the postal system and the postal issues of this most interesting country, I quote in extenso the following translation from der Ostasiatische Lloyd in the American Journal of Philately :-

“In view of the approaching establishment of an Imperial postal service in China on the European pattern, a birds-eye view of the existing postal service, as well as its past history, ought be of general interest. The service itself was always in the care of the Ministry of War. It was during the supremacy of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that the transmission of passengers and mails acquired considerable importance, and began to be well handled.


However, in the 17th century, this system fell from its high plane, because the Government officials began to exploit it for personal advantage. It was only on the accession of the second Mantschu Emperor that the service again achieved its previous success, and in fact became greatly extended. The conquest of new territories made good and regular connection more necessary than ever. For the management and general control of this service a special class of officials were appointed, who were under the supervision of the Minister of War. At the stations, the majority of which were located on the principal roads, all the necessaries for expedition, such as horses, camels, wagons, boats, &c., were held in readiness.

“The service was divided into two classes. By the means of the first Imperial despatches and by the second passengers and baggage, as well as war material, were Forwarded. This Imperid Post is at present administered by the Postmaster-General, whose office is in Peking. The branches are restricted to the provincial capitals, and Vice-Post.masters are in charge. These officials are selected exclusively out of the upper military class. The Imperial post was to forward only imperial edicts, regulations, and similar official writings, however, in reality, the messengers also carry the private correspondence of the upper classes. The carriers are especially selected and enjoy a number of privileges, as, for instance, the right to live at hotels and obtain food for their horses free of charge.

“The second division is known as ‘General Postal Service (Yuting); it extends over all of China. The main office is in Peking, and in every Chinese city that is walled in there is a branch. The Taotais, or District Governors, are generally the Postmasters of their respective districts. They name their subordinates who act as local postmasters. The latter again control and are responsible for the carriers and messengers. Each one of these must forward the mail from his station to those points which are nearest to his centre. The average distance between these does not exceed 100 li. (about 40 English miles). At every station there is a man who keeps accounts of all letters received and forwarded. All post office buildings are the property of the government.

“Almost all official documents, which are to be forwarded, bear a superscription which states how quickly they are to be carried. Ordinary documents are marked 200 li. (about 80 miles) per day; those which are to be especially expedited are expected to travel 400 li., and those which are in great haste, as much as 800 li per day. The messengermust traverse this distance, no matter what the state of the weather may be, otherwise he is subject to punishment. The best time which has ever been made in China is 280 German miles (nearly 1,400 miles) in four days, or almost 14 miles per hour. This occurred in the year 1851 in the Taiping Rebellion. The expense of this postal service is borne by the provincial authorities.

“As perfect as the Imperial postal system of China may have been, even in former centuries, it was never used to any extent by the commercial or private interests. Even had they been permitted to send letters or packets by the means of this service, it is still doubtful if they would have availed themselves of the privilege, as the officials would have been suspected of tampering with private letters. In consequence, independent postal agencies were established in the cities and market towns for the convenience of bankers, merchants, and private individuals, which undertook the forwarding of letters and packets. In the large cities there are generally several of these private enterprises, and these produce considerable competition. As a result, it occurs more frequently than anywhere in the world, that postal officials collect mail matter from the houses of customers instead of the latter sending sending letters and packets to the office itself.

“These private postal enterprises entrust the mail matter either to native boats which travel regularly between the different cities, or to letter carriers, the majority of whom travel on foot, although occasionally they go on horseback. Every one of the postal boats referred to has a special man on board, who is entrusted with the reception and delivery, as well as the care, of the letters in the mail. All letters are registered at the office of receipt, the contents are insured up to their full value, and great liberality is shown in the matter of weight. The postage need not necessarily be paid in advance, but as a wile the writer pays about 30 per cent. of it, the remainder being paid by the recipient. These postal agencies frequently carry running accounts with their customers, which are settled monthly. If the writer is particular to have a letter delivered rapidly and safely. he writes on the envelope a promise of payment of a liberal siim in copper coin on the delivery of the letter.

“The transmission of mail matter through letter carriers is also rapid and safe. On the average, these men traverse a geographical mile (four and three fifths English miles) per hour. As soon as they reach their destination, that is the next station to which their letters are addressed, they immediately hand the mail to another man, who, without regard to the condition of the weather, must immediately start on his way, and having arrived at the next station, hand it over to a third messenger, which process is repeated until the final destination is reached. As the country, through which the carriers walk, is frequently a mere waste and but thinly inhabited, they are exposed to the attacks of robbers. For protection against these attacks they are always armed.

“In regard to the rates, they are not fixed, although, in general, fixed rates are made to regular customer’s, while occasional correspondents must pay considerably more. For short distances. the rates are lower than in Germany; for longer distance, say beyond a radius of 50 miles, they are naturally high, as the dispatches must be transferred so many times.

“This private postal system answers the requirements pretty well. Letters and packets are delivered just as safely, even if a little less rapidly, than they are with us. Large sums of money are also sent by this means. The money, in case it is sent by boat, is weighed by the captain of the vessel, who makes out a receipt and, for a small percentage, he guarantees to pay the money to the party addressed. Thefts are of rare occurrence.

“In the Spring of 1893, Sir Robert Hart, the chief inspector of Chinese maritime customs, addressed a letter to the Foreign Office in Peking in regard to the institution of a postal system in China after the pattern of similar institutions existing in Europe. This memorial was also sanctioned by the throne. In accordance with the proposed scheme, every capital or province was to be endowed with a nonresident Director of Posts, and every capital of a province with a non-resident subaltern postal official. Their assistants were to be chosen from the Chinese population, but it was to be required that they be familiar with the English language. In the country towns, as well as in the cities of the second and third rank, the post office was to be administered by Chinese. This scheme referred only to the nontreaty ports and the interior of the country. In the treaty ports the postal administration was to be administered in connection with the custom house. It was intended to retain the existing carrier service, but the private postal agencies were to be abolished, while retaining, so far as possible, in the new administration, the people employed in these private agencies.

“After three years, this project has finally ripened. Sir Robert Hart has been appointed General Postal Director, and, according to all appearances, the new service should be in operation in a few weeks. The Chinese newspaper Schenpao publishes the rules and regulations promulgated by Sir Robert Hart for the new Imperial post. It is stated therein that these regulations are intended only to cover the general outlines of the postal service, and that more minute regulations will follow later on.

“The customs post offices in the different treaty ports shall in future be designated as Imperial Post Offices. The places at which such post offices exist shall be considered as belonging to the Universal Postal Union. The remainder are not as yet included therein.

“The management of the Imperial Post Offices in the sea-ports shall be under the charge of the customs commissioners, who shall co-operate with the Chinese customs superintendents.

“The existing postal service in Peking, which is under the General Customs Inspection, shall be raised to the dignity of the Chief Imperial Post Office It shall have control over the different Imperial Post Offices inthe sea-ports, and receives its authority from the Tsungli Yamen” (Council of State).

“As the post office in Shanghai will be the most important office of transit, special officials shall be appointed for it, but they shall also be subject to the authority of the customs commissary and customs superintendent.

“The director of the Bureau of Statistics in Shanghai shall have general supervision over the postal service. All reports of postmasters, to the general inspector of customs, shall pass through his hands.

“Later on, branch postal establishments, with special employees, shall be established in places adjacent to the treaty ports, like Taku, and Tongku near Tientsin, also at railroad and telegraph stations, in Wysung near Shanghai, Tschenhai near Ningpo, Pagoda Anchorage near Futschau, Whangpo near Canton, Wuhsüeh near Kiukiang, Aking and Tatung near Wuhu, Nanking near Tschingkiang, &c.

Method of Transmission.
“The post office transmits letters, postal cards, samples and printed matter. The transmission of single articles will be either in large mail bags or separately. In shipments in transit, the mail bags will not be opened, and mail matter for the immediate neighbourhood will be unpacked and distributed either piece by piece or placed into a new bag for further transmission.

“Each mail sack will be accompanied by an exact description of its contents. The receiving post office, in the first instance, shall make out a receipt for the matter to be forwarded, after it has convinced itself that the mail matter on the waybill has actually been delivered to it.

“From one seaport to another transmission of the mail will be by steamer, and in the inland by the means of Chinese private offices, with which special arrangements will have to be made, and notice of which is to be given to the public.

china d-red1

If you liked this article, subscribe to the feed by clickingthe image below to keep informed about new contents of the blog:

Next Post »
Cuba, birds, stamps, animals Croatia, birds, stamps, animals Cook Islands, birds, stamps, animals Cocos Islands, stamps, birds, animals Congo, Africa, stamps, birds, animals China, stamps, birds, animals Chile, stamps, birds, animals Cayman Islands, birds, stamps, animals Cayes of Belize, birds, animals, stamps Caribbean Netherlands, birds, stamps, animals

Random Posts