Chinese Writing and the Design of Postage Stamps in Taiwan and China

Vol. 40 No. 3   09/2010    


Chinese Writing and the Design of Postage Stamps in Taiwan and China


Huang, Yu-chin









Key words

postage stamp design, inscription of the national title, font, calligraphy, Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek, Republic of China, People's Republic of China   


    Since the British invented the first postage stamp and established the modern postal system in 1840, postage stamps have been seen as “the namecards of a nation," representing the political, historical, and cultural aspects of a country. The name of the country inscribed on the postage stamp is designed for postal workers worldwide to be able to identify the nation issuing the stamp. From 1949 on, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China (China) have simultaneously been releasing postage stamps as domestic and international propaganda to assert their position as the sole legitimate Chinese regime. Each regime has exploited the unique visual effects of Chinese characters and the tradition of calligraphy in its postage stamps, so as to create a political and cultural “Chineseness" of its own.

    This article examines the design of Chinese characters in the postage stamps of both countries since 1949. The visual and political connotations of Chinese characters will be discussed, and different ideologies regarding traditional Chinese culture will also be revealed by analyzing the use of political leaders' calligraphy in postage stamp designs. Four main topics are covered in this article: (1) the philatelic discussions and debates about fonts, especially the so-called “ artistic fonts" to be used to print the national title on postage stamps, (2) the cultural and political functions and meanings of Chinese characters, (3) the symbol of New China in Mao Zedong's calligraphy, and (4) the traditional Chinese elite culture embodied in Chiang Kaishek's calligraphy, ancient Chinese characters, and celebrated calligraphic works from different dynasties.



Author: Huang, Yu-chin
Genre: Article