Asia Stamp History and Information

Asia is one of the most popular collecting interest areas in philately today.There is tremendous interest in the stamps and philately of China - especially Imperial China and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan stamps are not far behind in interest. Japanese and Korean stamps are also extremely popular because of their exquisite designs and highly artistic subjects. Many early asian stamps evoke strong memories of historical events and circumstances and are valued highly.

Japan stamps

On April 20, 1871, the modern postal service system run by the State replaced the courier system operated by private  individuals and the first postage stamps of four denominations were issued. These are known as the Dragon Series with the design consisting  of two dragons facing each other. In 1872, they were replaced by a chrysanthemum and paulowina design and were referred to as the Cherry Blossom Series, because cherry blossoms appeared in all four corners. These two series were also called the Hand-engraved Stamps as they were all printed by an intaglio process involving hand-engraving on copper-plate. After that came the Koban Series, the Crysanthemum Series, Tazawa Series and the Showa Series.

 Starting in 1992,  Nature in Japan was chosen as the  common theme for "Ordinary" or regular or definitive stamps.

Commemorative stamps publicize important events memorable to the nation and people.

Japan's first commemorative stamp was issued on March 9, 1894, to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of Emperor Meiji.

Just as Christmas cards are exchanged in many countries, it is a custom in Japan to exchange New Year cards. Postage stamps with special designs have been issued for New Year cards since 1935.

Most of the designs involve traditional toys in the shape of the zodiac and are very popular in Japan.  In 1989, Japan started to issue lottery-style postage stamps to convey a "New Year presents dream" to people who receive New Year letters instead of New Year cards.

With the object of popularizing philately and obtaining wider recognition of the cultural value of postage stamps, Philately Week is held on a nationwide basis, and a postage stamp to mark the week has been issued every year. For the design, ukiyoe pictures have mainly been used, but in recent years , works by distinguished modern  painters and pictures on folding screens have also been featured.

Special postage stamps have been issued since 1958 for International Letter Writing Week.

Letter-Writing Day is an annual occasion encouraging people to write more letters, to discover the happiness of communicating, and to enjoy the pleasure of receiving mail.

Letter-Writing Day was established in 1979. Since then, under the slogan of  the " twenty-third of each month is Letter-Writing Day" special stamps are issued each July. July is called Fumizuki, which means "month of letters" in ancient Japanese.

Illustrations depicting warm feelings that accompany letters have been adopted for the designs of Letter-Writing Day  stamps and have gained much popularity among young people.

To commemorate the centennial of the first commemorative stamp in 1894, Japan issued a History of Postage Stamps Series. The designs are borrowed from early stamps. Included are the "Mikaeribijin" or beautiful woman looking back issued on November 1, 1948 for Philately Week and "Tsuki-ni-kari" or moon and wild geese issued on November 1, 1949 for Postal Week. The new versions employ the latest in printing technology in monochrome reminiscent of days of old, coupled with multicolor for contrast.

Regional or Prefecture or Furusato stamps have been in circulation in Japan since April 1989. This is an example of the flower sheet that was issued in 1990 with one stamp for each of 47 prefectures

Airmail stamps were first issued in 1919. My favorite is the souvenir sheet issued on April 20, 1934 for Communications Commemoration Day. This sheet was sold only at the Philatelic Exhibition Post Office in Tokyo from April 20 to 27, 1934.

Semi-postal stamps are issued with a surtax to benefit various needy causes. My two favoritesare the  issue for the International Garden & Greenery Exposition in Osaka on June 1, 1989 and the 1995 Kobe Earthquake issue for Philately Week in 1995.

Click here to view a mini-sheet of 10 early Japanese Revenue Stamps.

China Stamps

While Imperial China issues are full of history and extraordinary circumstances and are highly desirable, the favorites are in issues of the People's Republic of China and also Taiwan.  Some favorites are shown, and let their images speak for themselves.

People's Republic of China Stamps

November 10, 1959: 10th Anniversary of the Young Pioneers

June 1, 1960: Goldfish

Varius dates 1960 & 1961: Chrysanthemums in Natural Colors

November 10, 1961: Statuettes from Tang Dynasty

June 10, 1962: "The Sacred Crane"  from paintings by Chen Chi-fo

Various dates1962: Stage art of Mei Lan-fang, actor

August 5, 196: Giant Pandas

October 15, 1963: Hwang Shan Landscapes (Yellow Mountains)

October 1, 1964: 15th Anniversary of the People's Republic

August 5, 1964: Peonies

Republic of China (Taiwan) Stamps

March 20, 1951: Self - Government in Taiwan - Commemorative Issue

October 31, 1953: 67th Birthday of President Chiang Kai-shek

January 28, 1954: Opening of Silo Bridge - 1st Anniversary

October 31, 1955: 69th Birthday of President Chiang Kai-shek

August 4, 1960: 7th - 11th Century  Paintings from Palace Museum

May 20, 1961: 1st Anniversary of Chiang Kai-shek's Inauguration


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Susan  &  Swamy Iyer


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I am  a 35+ year member of the American Philatelic Society.

We  have been dealing in stamps since 1977.

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