Stampless Covers
(Chinese Stampless in Case of International Mails)


During the inauguration of Imperial Post Office, due to newly adopted silver dollar currency system and printing / overprinting of postage stamps with silver dollar denomination could not be finished in time for use, the bilingual POSTAGE PAID marks were used to strike on mails as an evidence of receipt of postage. When this mark was struck on mails, there was no need to frank Chinese stamps. This mark was ceased to use from January 1, 1898 by the order of I.P.O. authority. Most post offices stopped to use the PAID mark even earlier when they received silver dollar postage stamps.


The Customs Mail Matter seals were marks to be struck on customs mails not only for official but also for private correspondence to replace the use of postage stamps. This practice was started from 1883, the Customs Postal Service period. Mail bearing this seal was exempt from paying domestic postage, but for international mail leaving China, regular foreign rate was required to pay by stamps of U.P.U. members. This seal was ceased to use from January 1, 1898 by the order of I.P.O. authority.

"Cash Cover" / Prepaid Cover

For many years, people believed the story that cash was paid at post office windows for the full postage, the postal worker then struck a postal dater to denote that postage was paid without franking Chinese stamps. The cover was then transferred to Shanghai Chinese office where foreign stamps were franked for international rate and passed to an alien post office for the overseas journey. However, when the I.P.O. began in February 1897, all mails were required to be prepaid. This is clearly described in The First Postal Regulations (Volume II of The Revenue Surcharges, 1897 page 768), "All mail matter deposited for transmission at the Imperial Post Office must be prepaid by Chinese Imperial postage stamps duly affixed". Therefore, story of "cash cover" should not be true in the I.P.O. period except in the case the dire necessity of no stamps being available. Letters prestamped by senders with foreign postage were also honored without charge (What Is A Cash Cover - A Fantasy! by Steve Gates, Journal of Postal History Society of China). "Initially, the public was not allowed officially to use foreign stamps on mail abroad only. But according Maus this was connived from the very beginning, i.e. from 1897, and was expressly admitted by a regulation later on" (China Philately Vol II). This kind of covers was relatively rare but existed until early years of 1900. This kind of covers was relatively rare but existed until early years of 1900.

Shanghai Local Post Office "PAID"

Shanghai Local Post Office was the oldest Treaty Port Post Office and run by Shanghai Municipal Council since July 1863. When the Imperial Post Office established, all Treaty Port Post Offices were ordered to cease their operation. Only Shanghai Local Post Office was absorbed by the I.P.O. on November 1, 1897. The Shanghai L.P.O. continued to operated in Shanghai and some of its postal marks were used throughout the Imperial Chinese period. The "PAID" mark is one of the marks used by L.P.O., and recorded by Mr. Sun, Junyi’s The Postal Cancellation of Qing Dynasty and Mr. Chang, Ke-Shing’s A Concise Catalogue of Postal Cancellation of China (1872 - 1949)

"Statistical Department POSTAGE PAID"

Post Office official mail matter with this “SERVICE DES POSTES"(in Chinese and French) was sent free of charge. Recorded usage was between 1907 and 1911.

According to Mr. Sun, Junyi’s The Postal Cancellation of Qing Dynasty: Inspectorate General Statistical Department (in Shanghai) used a Paid marking, all in English, handstamped in dark green or red. This mark was also printed on official envelopes, used between 1907 and 1913. Although it said Postage Paid, actuarially was a kind of No Charge marking.