Stamp Museum Provides Glimpse into China's History
    2009-03-31 14:49:40      Web Editor: Sun Yang

The first stamps issued in China in 1878. Nowadays these dragon stamps are extremely rare and worth a million times more than their original face value. This photo was taken on Saturday 21st March. [Photo:]

By Julianne Page

Stamps can provide us with a glimpse into the history and culture of a country and so naturally a country with such a long and rich cultural heritage as China should be able to produce some interesting and historic stamps. I recently went along to the 'China National Post and Postage Stamp Museum' to find out.

From the outset I should declare my hand. I am keenly interested in stamps. I love collecting them, looking at them and discovering the history behind them. I have done so ever since I can remember. Having the opportunity to visit such a museum was something I was eagerly anticipating and it didn't disappoint.

The stamp museum was first opened in 1985 and in 2007 it was expanded to include a postal museum. It now covers four floors and contains over 1,000,000 stamps. Over the past few years it has welcomed thousands of visitors.

The first floor provides an introduction to what lies within but it's on the second floor where the stamps really come alive. Many of the stamp's original artwork is presented here and it's interesting to see how it is then transposed to appear as a stamp. Of course the scale is totally different but interestingly the stamps maintain the original splendour and vitality of the artwork.

The first stamps issued in China appeared in 1878. They came in three colours and featured a dragon. The green issue was worth 1 fen, the red worth 3 and the yellow worth 5. These are symbolic colours in China; green was the colour used by high ranking officials, red is the long standing symbolic colour of China and yellow was the colour reserved for the emperor. Nowadays these stamps are extremely rare and worth a million times more than their original face value.

China's rich culture and history has long been able to provide inspiration for a multitude of stamps on subjects as varied as wildlife, scenery, fairytales, architecture, antiques, frontier scenes, dragons, historical events, Beijing opera, Olympics, sports, Chinese medicine, jade, Chinese porcelain, cartoons - in fact as many themes and topics as you can think of you can probably find a stamp here to match.

The Postal museum on the third and fourth floors displays the history of the Chinese postal service. The earliest ways to relay messages in China can be traced back almost 3,000 years and incorporated methods such as drum beats and smoke signals. It wasn't until 1896 that China's modern postal service was established. This interesting museum has a comprehensive array of objects which track the development of communication in this country from very early times to the present day.

The other thing worth noting about stamps in China is the beautiful and varied way they are presented, particularly the more modern examples. Some come in different shapes and sizes, some are set within pictures and others are joined together by perforation to form mural scenes. Many stamps are presented as part of a book in which they serve to illustrate a wider story. Combining stamps and books, now that really is the best of both worlds.

What: China National Post and Postage Stamp Museum

Where: Building D, No 6 Gongyuan Xijie, Dongcheng District, Beijing

Nearest subway station: Jianguomen subway station. (Exit A)

When: Tuesday-Sunday 9.00am - 3.30pm. Closed every Monday.

Cost: 10 yuan

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