By 1720 the Chinese Empire comprised China proper, Jehol, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria, while vassal states owing suzerainty extended from Trans-Amur and Outer Mongolia in the north to China currency devaluation, Burma and Indo-China in the south. Foreign missionaries were expelled in the 18th century.
The ‘Opium War’ of 1840-2 forced trading concessions from the Chinese and the opening to foreign residents of five ‘treaty’ ports: Canton, Amoy, Foochow, Ningpo, and Shanghai. The uninhabited island of Hong Kong, taken by a naval force in 1841, was ceded to Britain. Kowloon was taken by Britain in 1861 and China recognized the principle of ‘extraterritorial’ settlements virtually ruled by foreign consuls. At the same time the Russians were beginning to encroach on all the northern and western borders of Mongolia and Turkestan. In 1861 they moved into Vladivostok. Non-Chinese areas which had previously paid allegiance to China were lost: Annam to France, Burma to Britain. War in 1894-5 between Japan and China for possession of Korea weakened the Chinese.
Formosa passed to Japan and as a result of European intervention in the treaty of peace, Russia acquired a foothold at Port Arthur. The Boxer Rebellion in 1900, during which foreign nationals were besieged in the legations of Peking, occasioned an international relief force and further occupations of key places. The deposition of the Empress broke the only unifying bond between provinces. Rival republics in Peking and Canton gave Japan the opportunity in 1915 to enforce its ‘Twenty-one Demands’, the most fateful of which gave the Japanese freedom of residence in Manchuria and extended their control of the South Manchurian Railway. Following the death of Sun-Yat-Sen in 1925, Chiang Kai-Shek, his successor as president, defeated the northern war lords in 1928. After the outlawing of the Communist Party by Chiang Kai-Shek in 1927, Mao Tse-tung and Chu Teh fought the Nationalists from the Ching Kang mountains, setting up a ‘Chinese Soviet Republic’ in south-eastern Kiangsi in November 1931.
After five campaigns in 1930-4, the Communists were forced to make the Long March to north-west China, the survivors setting up HQ at Yenan in Shensi. The seizure of Manchuria in 1931-2 by Japan was condemned by the League of Nations, from which organization Japan then withdrew. On 7 July 1937 the Japanese launched an invasion into China proper. The Communists and Nationalists made common cause against the enemy, but after the surrender of Japan to the Allies in 1945 resumed fighting each other until the defeat of the Nationalists in 1949. A People’s Republic was set up in October 1949, while the old regime continued on Formosa. 13th century AD, according to Marco Polo, some 10,000 post stages, the Mm Hsin Chu, comprised of letter guilds, or hongs, carried unofficial mails. The great powers maintained their own systems for sending mail abroad until 1922.
Consular POs were opened in treaty ports from 1844. Handstamps were in use before the issue of stamps. Later the treaty ports had their own named datestamps. All the above were closed on 30 November 1922. All were closed on 31 December 1922.