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Dragons, horses and tigers: An impressive arsenal ready for the Spink China sale
A stunning example of the Horse and Dragon issue. Estimate: HK$5,000,000 - 6,000,000

HONG KONG.- Spink’s Hong Kong office will be presenting the Gems of Chinese Imperial Post in Taiwan sale on 16th May 2015. The sale is comprised of a wide variety of philatelic items and postal history, with some very beautiful designs and extremely rare issues. And amidst the impressiveness of the collection, is a subtle story of loyalty and Chinese cultural resistance on the island of Taiwan.

Taiwan was officially adopted into the territory of the Chinese Imperial Ching Dynasty as a Prefecture under Fukien Province in 1684. In 1884, Liu Ming Chuan was appointed the first Governor of Taiwan. He proposed upgrading Taiwan from a Prefecture to a Province, which was approved in 1885 and effective by 1887. Governor Liu continued to work industriously for Taiwan and started a massive modernization programme that included setting up defenses, developing transportation, taxation, farming, public security, commercial enterprises, financial affairs, education, and was instrumental in creating the postal service of Taiwan.

The first “Official Postage Stamp” of Taiwan was issued in 1886 and came into use with the “Commercial Postage Stamp” for the general public in 1888. Soon afterwards, Governor Liu introduced a series of postal reforms, and remarkably the establishment of “Courier Station” post, in March that year. Lot 851 from the sale is an exceptionally rare Die III issue used on a piece (1891) that shows a clear postal route from Nan Tu Side Station to Pei Sze Street, Tainan City. The cover also shows transit markings from Mao Kiang Wei Stations and Kan See Sub Station. This lot is a stunning piece of postal history as this particular type of “Courier Station” means of conveyance ceased in 1895 as Taiwan was ceded to Japan upon the signing of the “Treaty of Shimonoseki” on 17 April 1895, the result of the defeat of Imperial China in the Sino-Japanese War. Lot 851, estimated: HK$300,000-400,000

The importance of Governor Liu’s postal reforms is truly represented within this sale, for example, there are a large amount of Horse and Dragon issues. These beautiful stamps were printed by Bradbury Wilkinson & Co. in London via P.W. Wastnace, a stationery merchant there, following an initial request by Governor Liu. It arrived in Taiwan in mid-1888 and was intended for use as postage stamps but was never used as such. Instead, the issue was used as railway tickets. The reason for this is largely unknown, although there are a few theories that are generally accepted by the philatelists, including:

• The use of Official and Commercial Postage Stamps was already well recognized by the officials and general public in Taiwan. Therefore adding another would only complicate matters.

• The official railway tickets were not expected to be ready in time for the railway’s inaugural launch in December 1888.

In the end the Horse and Dragon design was abandoned by Governor Liu. Lot 879 is a stunning example of the Horse and Dragon issue, and is almost unheard of as an unfolded complete sheet of twenty five showing the ‘Bradbury Wilkinson & Co. London” imprint at the foot of the sheet. It is absolutely pristine, with unmounted mint and a very fine and fresh appearance. Lot 879, estimated: HK$5,000,000-6,000,000

The sale also contains a large amount of Small Dragon Taiwan Overprints, which could be regarded as the pioneer in Chinese provincial issues. It was printed following the request by Sir Robert Hart, the Inspector General of the Imperial Maritime Customs, who tried to control the Postal Service for the imperial regime in Peking. However, he was unsuccessful in enforcing its distribution as the official postage stamps and the issue was never used in Taiwan. Lot 861 is a beautiful example of a Small Dragon issue, horizontal pairs with sheet margins at right on unwatermarked paper, “Taiwan Postage Stamp” in four Chinese characters overprinted in red, and “Formosa” (the previous name of Taiwan) also overprinted in red, very fresh and fine specimen. Lot 861, estimated: HK$300,000-350,000

After 1886, the Japanese government discontinued the Taiwanese postal service. During this time Taiwan’s postage become a subtle means of propaganda while the Black Flag Troops based at Tainan continued the fight with Japan on the Island. Postal services were re-instated at the same time and began to issue the Tiger stamps, whose beautiful design made reference to the Republic of China’s flag, depicting a yellow tiger on navy blue background. A risky motif for the official postage of Japanese-governed Taiwan. Lot 919 from the collection is a beautiful and complete sheet of 63 of the Tiger issue, showing the watermark of the papermaker “Dorling & Co. London” in full. It is a very fine and scarce example of a cultural message of resistance. Lot 919, estimated: HK$70,000-80,000

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