General issues: Republic of China 1912-1915, Republic of China 1916-1949
Country name on general issues: China, China in Chinese characters
- Local issues: Foochow 1912, Nanking 1912
- Provincial issues:
- Manchuria – Kirin & Heilungkiang provinces 1927-1931
- Sinkiang 1915-1949
- Szechwan 1933-1934
- Yunnan 1926-1933
- Provincial issues 1940-1943: Anhwei, Chekiang, East Szechwan, Fukien, Honan, Hong Kong, Hunan, Hupeh, Kansu, Kiangsi, Kwangsi, Kwangtung, Kweichow, Shanghai, Shensi, West Szechwan, Yunnan
- Japanese occupation:
- Kwangtung 1942-1945
- General issues 1942-1945
- Canton 1945, Swatow 1945
- Mengkiang 1941-1945
- Nanking government 1941-1945
- North China
- General issues 1941-1945
- Provincial issues 1941-1945: Honan, Hopeh, Shansi, Shantung, Supeh
- Kwangtung 1942-1945
- Japanese administration: Formosa 1945
- Provincial issues: Formosa 1945-1949
- Provincial issues: Northeastern Provinces 1946-1948
- General issues
- Local issues
- Provincial issues 1949: East Szechwan, Fukien, Hunan, Hupeh, Kansu, Kiangsi, Kwangsi, Kwangtung, Shansi, Shensi, Sinkiang, Szechwan, Tsinghai, Tsingtao, Watlam, Yunnan
Currency: 1 Dollar/Yuan = 100 Cents 1912-1949
Population: 432 375 000 in 1912, 541 670 000 in 1949
Political history Republic of China
The establishment of the Republic of China
Over 2000 years of imperial China end with the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911. In 1912, the Republic of China is established under Sun Yat-sen – the leader of the Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang. The first years of the republic are highly unstable. Sun Yat-sen, shortly after the establishment of the republic, is forced to abstain. His successor – the army general Yuan – proclaims himself emperor in 1915. In 1916, the republic is restored. At that time, an internationally recognized government has its seat in Peking. Sun Yat-sen and the Nationalist Party set up an opposition government in Nanking. The control of these governments over large parts of the country is limited. Warlords rule in many parts of the country, fighting the central government and each other. Mongolia and the neighboring Tuva proclaim independence. An independence that for Mongolia is de facto gained in 1921, de jure recognition by China is achieved in 1945. Tuva becomes a Russian protectorate in 1914 and is annexed by the Soviet Union in 1944. Tibet, in 1913, proclaims its independence. An independence that will not be recognized by China, but it takes until 1950 before the Chinese manage to establish effective control over Tibet.
In 1925, Sun Yat-sen is succeeded by Chiang Kai-shek as leader of the Nationalist Party. Chiang Kai-shek manages, by 1928, to defeat the government seated in Peking and to restrain the power of the warlords. A few years of relative peace follow. The main challenges the republic now faces are the advent of the Communist Party and the Japanese expansion.
Nationalists and Communists
The Communist Party in China is formed in 1921. The first years the Communist Party operates from Kiangsi in southern China. The tension between the Nationalist and Communist parties gradually increases and, in 1927, escalates into an armed conflict. In 1934, the Nationalists force the Communists to leave their base in Kiangsi. After the ‘Long March’ the Communists settle in northern China, in Shensi. After the Japanese invade China in 1937, the Nationalists and Communists temporarily join forces to fight the Japanese. After the capitulation of Japan in 1945, the fights between the Nationalists and the Communists resume. In the end, the Communists gain the upper hand and, in 1949, the Peoples Republic of China is established. The Nationalists withdraw to Formosa – Taiwan – and on Taiwan retain independence as the Republic of China.
The fight against Japan
On top of the struggle between the Nationalist and Communist parties, the republic of China is confronted with increasing Japanese expansion. The Japanese have had an expansionist policy since the late 19th century. Already in 1895 China has had to cede Formosa – the current Taiwan – to Japan and relinquish its rights in Korea after the First Sino-Japanese war. After the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-1905, Manchuria becomes part of the Japanese sphere of influence. The Japanese invade Manchuria in 1931 and establish the state of Manchukuo. The heir to the Qing dynasty is appointed emperor of the nominally independent Manchukuo. In 1933, Japan extends the territory of Manchukuo by the annexation of the Chinese province of Rehe. In 1937, the Japanese turn their attention to other parts of China. Between 1937 and 1942, the Japanese occupy parts of Inner Mongolia, North, Central and South China. The government of the republic of China relocates from Nanking to Chungking. In occupied China, the Japanese set up nominally independent, local governments corresponding with the Japanese military command structure. Thus, governments are set up in MengkiangSometimes called Mengkukuo in analogy of the neighboring Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. with its capital in Kalgan, North China with its capital in Peking, Central China with its capital in Nanking and Kwangtung with its capital in Canton. In 1940, these are all subordinated to the National Government seated in Nanking, also known as the Nanking Government. The control of the Nanking Government, in reality, is limited to Central China, the other regions remaining largely self governing. The Japanese withdraw from China after capitulating in 1945. Formosa is returned by the Allies to the republic of China, however, as the republic does not immediately have the resources to administer the island, Formosa is administered by the Japanese for a few months after the capitulation. Japan formally cedes Taiwan in 1952.
Postal history Republic of China
In 1912, the stamps of imperial China are superseded by those of the Republic of China. The first stamps issued are overprints on the issues of imperial China. A local set was issued in Foochow with an overprint reading ‘provisional neutrality’ indicating that the post office had neutral position in the still not entirely subdued conflict between imperial and republican factions. Another local set was issued in Nanking with a further overprint reading ‘Republic of China’. Two more sets of provisionals were issued for general use, both with an overprint reading ‘Republic of China’. The first definitives were issued by the republic of China in December 1912. The republic of China issued stamps until 1949 when the issues of the republic were superseded on the mainland of China by those of the Peoples Republic of China and on Taiwan by those of the republic of China as it was established on Taiwan.
Provincial issues: different currencies
China, at the time of the republic of China, had a monetary system in which there was a national currency and, at the same time, several provincial currencies. The value of the national and the provincial currencies might be different, thus necessitating the issue of provincial stamps to ensure that the right postal rate would be paid also in the provincial currencies. The provincial issues are the regular issues of the republic of China overprinted with the names of the provinces. Though some of these overprints were issued locally, many were supplied by the central postal authorities. Such provincial issues have been issued for: Manchuria – the Kirin and Heilungkiang provinces, Sinkiang, Szechwan and Yunnan.
Provincial issues 1940-1943: changing postal rates
In the period from 1940 to 1943 – as the postal rates often changed – available stamps were, in a number of provinces, overprinted to meet the demand. Most often only with the new face values. The provinces having issued overprints between 1940 and 1943 are: Anhwei, Cheking, East Szechwan, Fukien, Honan, Hunan, Hupeh, Kansu, Kiangsi, Kwangsi, Kwangtung, Kweichow, Shensi, West Szechwan and Yunnan. Catalogs also list stamps issued in 1940 in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Japanese expansion in 1931 leads to the occupation of Manchuria to which, in 1933, the province of Rehe is added. The Japanese establish the state of Manchukuo that subsequently issues its own stamps from 1932 until 1945.
After Japan has conquered further parts of China from 1937 on, initially Chinese stamps without overprint remain in use. As the nominally independent governments are installed by the Japanese, they start to issue stamps as of 1941. When the National Government is installed in Nanking, the other governments retain, among other things, their own postal authorities and continue to issue stamps until the Japanese capitulation in 1945. Thus, the North China government issues stamps for general use in North China and on a provincial level, the provinces being Honan, Hopeh, Shansi, Shantung and Supeh – Supeh is the northern part of the Chinese province of Kiangsu. In the area of the Kwangtung government, local issues appear in 1945 for use in Canton and Swatow. The Nanking National Government issues stamps that are used in the provinces actually under its control, these being – parts of – Anhwei, Hunan, Hupeh, Chekiean, Kiangsi and Kiangsu.
The stamps issued are, for the better part, overprints on stamps of the republic. Mengkiang, North China and the Nanking Government have also issued definitives of their own design. The overprints would generally be the name of the region in which the stamps were to be used. Some overprints have a commemorative character, such as overprints for the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Manchukuo.
Japanese administration: Formosa
On Formosa, Japanese stamps have been used from 1895. After the capitulation, the continued Japanese administration, in 1945, issues a set of stamps specifically for use on Formosa.
Provincial issues: Formosa
When the republic of China takes over the administration of Formosa, stamps are issued for use on Formosa as of 1945. The first issue are overprints on the stamps issued by the Japanese administration, followed by overprints on Chinese stamps and definitives. Some of the definitives are of the same design as those issued for the Northeastern Provinces. When in 1949 the Nationalist government withdraws to Formosa, the provincial issues are superseded by the issues of the republic of China as it is established on Formosa.
Provincial issues: Northeastern provinces
After WWII, Manchuria – having been the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo – was returned to China. A separate currency was introduced to replace the Manchukuo currency and to isolate Manchuria from the hyperinflation in the rest of the country. This resulted in the issue of stamps for the Northeastern Provinces. They were used in the areas controlled by the Nationalist forces – the Communist forces in the region issued stamps of their own. Prior to these issues many local issues appeared. These were stamps of Manchukuo with different overprints such as ‘Republic of China’, ‘China postal service’ or ‘Temporary use for China’. The overprints were applied by the local post offices and many post offices are known to have issued these overprints.These stamps are referred to, but not listed in, the catalogs. A detailed study of the stamps is found on this site: Manchurian Local Overprints.
Provincial issues 1949: introduction of the Silver Yuan
In 1949, in an attempt to curb hyperinflation, the government introduced the Silver Yuan as a new currency, this resulting also in new postal rates. To meet the demand, several provincial postmasters decided to issue provisionals. The initiative lay with the provincial authorities, although condoned by the central postal authorities. Unlike the uniform overprints of the earlier provincial issues, the 1949 issues show many different overprints of local design.
A note on transliteration
As China opened up to the Western world in the 19th century, several different systems were developed for the transliteration of Chinese to the Latin alphabet. This resulted in different transliterations of the same words. For example 重庆 – a city in China – transliterated to English becomes Chungking and to French it becomes Tch’ong K’ing. The Chinese postal authorities recognized this as a problem and introduced, in the early 20th century, the Post Atlas as a standard for the transliteration of place names. The Post Atlas is largely based on the Wade-Giles system for transliteration, Wade-Giles being the most used system in the Anglo-Saxon world. In the second part of the 20th century the Peoples Republic of China developed a new system which aimed to replace all existing systems and become the worldwide standard for transliteration of the Chinese language. The system is called Hanyu Pinyin or Pinyin. In pinyin 重庆 transliterates to Chongqing. Pinyin has, by the end of the 20th century, largely succeeded in becoming the aimed at international standard. This being so, historians often use either Wade-Giles or pinyin depending on the period of their studies. They do so for the recognizability of names and place names in the historical context of the period of their studies. On this site I follow suit and use the Post Atlas for profiles of the Chinese Empire and the Republic of China and pinyin for the profile of the Peoples Republic of China.