Taiwanese Postal History

Chunghwa Post Today (中華郵政股份有限公司)

Chunghwa Post, also known as Taiwan Post, delivers letters, parcels, and express mail throughout Taiwan. The company's network includes about six mail processing centers, more than twenty large branches that serve as supervisory post offices, and more than 1,300 post office branches. In addition to its postal operations, Chunghwa Post provides financial services such as  banking and life insurance. In 2009 the company inked an agreement with its Chinese counterpart, China Post Group, to launch joint online shopping services. Although formally established as a state-owned entity in 2003, Chunghwa Post traces its roots back to the founding of the first modern Chinese postal system in 1896.

Origins of Chunghwa Post

The direct ancestor of Chunghwa Post is the Customs Post Office of the Qing Empire, established in 1878 by Li Hongzhang at the suggestion of the foreign powers, with branch offices in five major trading cities. On 20 March 1896, the Customs Post Office became the Great Qing Post, which in 1911 became independent of the customs service.
On 1 January 1912, the Republic of China was established, replacing the Qing Dynasty. The Great Qing Post changed its name to the Chunghwa Post. "Chunghwa" (中華) is a transliteration of one of the names of China, which connotes the cultural or ethnic nation of "China". Alternatively spelled "Zhonghua" (in pinyin transliteration), this term is part of the Chinese language name of both the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China.

Sir Robert Hart

Sir Robert Hart, (20 February 1835 – 20 September 1911), was a British consular official in China, who served as the second Inspector General of China's Imperial Maritime Custom Service from 1863 to 1911. As Inspector General of the Imperial Customs, Peking, 1863-1908, Hart was a key figure in China’s 19th century history and its foreign relations with the West. He was the only Westerner in the latter half of the nineteenth century to occupy an official post in the metropolitan bureaucracy, a position which gave him daily access to China’s highest officials. He built the first modern institution in China, the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs. Sir Robert played a crucial role in China’s imperial politics, and significantly influenced its internal reform and diplomatic policy. No Westerner has ever achieved Robert Hart’s status and level of power in China. 

In 1985, Chunghwa Post issued a postage stamp commemorating Sir Robert's 150th birthday.

- Year: 1985, February, 15
- Catalogue: SCOTT
- Number(s): # 2449
- Catalog value: US$ 0.30

Inspector General of Chinese Customs, from 1863 to 1908, and founder of the Chinese Postal Service.

Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs (CIMC)*

Before 1842 the only port of China open to foreign trade was Canton. The Nanking treaty of 1842, ending the Opium War, resulted in the opening of four additional ports to foreign trade. Shanghai quickly outstripped Canton as the principal centre of foreign trade. In 1853 during the Taiping Rebellion, Shanghai was taken by a rebel organization called the Hsiao-tao hui. The Taotai (Collector of Customs) fled and there was a breakdown in the collection of duty for the Peking government. 
Foreign Staff, CIMC, Tientsin, 1877 or 1878

Foreign powers were bound by treaty to pay duties on imported goods. In 1854 the Shanghai customs house reopened with three foreign employees engaged to assist the Chinese government in the collection of duties. This was the beginning of a unique arrangement where foreigners were appointed in an official capacity by the Chinese government. Government revenue collected from foreign traders increased dramatically, a major source of income for the Ch'ing Dynasty.
In 1863 an Irishman, Robert Hart, was appointed Inspector General of the Customs Bureau in Peking. Hart expanded the Customs Bureau into a Department of the Chinese Government, which by 1895 employed 3,500 Chinese and 700 Westerners from as many as twenty-three countries. It became a nineteenth-century international civil service, demonstrating that men of all nationalities, of diverse cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds can work together co-operatively and harmoniously with great success.
The Bund, Shanghai, 1890s
The Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs under Hart not only collected tariffs but also charted the Chinese coast, managed government port facilities, supervised the discharging of cargo in coastal and inland waterways and established a postal service. At that time the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs provided about half the revenue of the Ch'ing Dynasty. It's efforts can be regarded as the constructive side of the unequal treaty system. It helped to mitigate the disasters of imperialism. The Boxer uprising of 1900 that attempted to drive foreigners from China was another facet of the colourful history of this period.

Following the collapse of the Manchu (Ch'ing) Dynasty in 1911, succeeding regimes in China, Republican and Nationalist, continued to appoint foreign staff to the Customs Service. The last foreign Inspector-General of Customs, Lester Knox Little, an American, accompanied the Nationalist government to Taiwan following the Communist victory in 1949.

In January 1950 the last foreign Inspector-General, American Lester Knox Little (Chinese name 李度), resigned and the responsibilities of the Service were divided between what eventually became the Customs General Administration of the People's Republic of China, and the Republic of China Directorate General of Customs on Taiwan. It was the only bureaucratic agency of the Chinese government to operate continuously as an integrated entity from 1842 to 1950.

Map of Taiwan, 1896

Kaohsiung Customs Office

Kaohsiung Post Office

Kaohsiung Post Office, 1915

Tainan Post Office

Tainan Post Office

Hsinchu Post Office, 1915

Keelung Wharf Post Office, 1915

Keelung Post Office, 1915

Keelung Post Office

Keelung Post Office

Keelung Post Office

Keelung Post Office

Keelung Post Office

Keelung Post Office

Keelung Post Office

Keelung Post Office (Bombed in 1945)

Keelung Customs House