Daks, couriers, and tallies: the ancient Chinese postal system

I just took a trip to China, and I had the opportunity to spend a few days exploring Shanghai and some surrounding towns.   In Zhujiajiao, a small water-town about an hour and half outside of Shanghai, there was an old post office that had been turned into a museum.

Letter box outside the Daqing Post Office Museum
Letter box outside the Daqing Post Office Museum.

Though I don’t have a strong interest in post offices or stamp collecting, I sat next to a philatelist in a writing class last year, and his enthusiasm was catching.  Through our small conversations and his writing, he told me a lot about the study of stamps – he even brought in some of his collection for me to look through. Furthermore, in an odd coincidence, I was reading a novel during my trip that centered around the Penny Black.  So to the museum I went.

The museum was tucked into a tiny street somewhat off the beaten path. While navigating our way there, we wandered past houses, tiny shops, and chirping birds in cages that hung from doorways. Near the end of the narrow pedestrian street stood an old brick building: The Daqing Post Office.  The post office was founded in the late 1800s under the reign of Emperor Tongzhi during the Qing Dynasty and was one of the 13 official post offices of the Shanghai region. Continue reading Daks, couriers, and tallies: the ancient Chinese postal system