A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Big Blue goes to China and Hong Kong

In Downtown Guangzhou, a very busy store for China Philately
I had the fortune recently to spend two weeks in Guangzhou (mostly), and Hong Kong. Although this blog entry does not cover classical era philately specifically, some readers may be interested in my impressions of what is generally considered the "hottest" philatelic country at the moment.

The trip was for family reasons, not specifically philatelic. We have a wonderful new Daughter-in-law who is originally from Guangzhou ( Canton). We stayed with her parents in Guangzhou, and were given the "Royal Treatment", to say the least. We were far from the usual tourist Hotels, and the only foreigners we noted were two Russians on the subway.

The Cantonese love their fresh food, all sorts, and find ways to present almost everything into the cuisine. My Son told me I had to try one new "animal" a day. I must admit, the Diving Beetle tastes remarkably like salted sunflower seeds. ;-)

Guangzhou is perhaps the third most important city in China (after Beijing and Shanghai), and is impressive indeed. Because 99% of the population lives in high rise apartments (condos), the density is very high and the skyline is "Chicago" like. The infrastructure (highways, subways, recent buildings, parks) is first rate.

The only jarring problem in this very busy 24/7 city is the air: specifically the smog.

Guangzhou from the Canton Tower
I don't want to give an impression that the air caused difficulty in breathing; it did not. And there is clear evidence among the people and government of interest in recycling, "going green", and improving the air quality. There are thirteen million people in Guangzhou, and another thirteen million in Shenzhen, 50 miles south. That amount of humanity and economic activity is a challenge indeed on the environment.

Lovely green botanic gardens in Guangzhou
As a respite from city life, we spent time hiking the green semi-tropical foliaged hills around Guangzhou.

But back to the city..

Typical street scene in Guangzhou
Many people in the streets day and night. Shops line every street, and are open until 11 in the evening. Capitalism is definitely alive and well in China. We got around by foot, by bus, and most importantly by subway.

This is not during rush hour. ;-)
There are eight interlacing subways that connect the whole city. And each subway train comes every three-four minutes. Although life is hectic, it is also polite. We were offered a seat by a younger person more than once when we were left standing.

Although we preferred mass transit, we were also driven by car the first several days. Let's just say that driving is not for the faint of heart. Lanes are only suggestions, and the horn is used liberally. "Never give an inch" is the motto, and it reminded me more than once of an amusement park "bumper cars" ride. But we survived because Guangzhou drivers are actually very good.

At the end of the Gondola ride to Biyun Mountain a surprise..
A Post office with their own cancellation!
Now turning to philatelic impressions, I was surprised and pleased at how popular and pervasive "stamp collecting" is among the people I met. Clearly, the Chinese government also promotes the hobby. As an example, we happened to ride a gondola in Guangzhou up Biyun Mountain. There on top was a Post Office for mailing letters with their very own cancellation.

A very modern stamp store for PRC stamps.
In downtown Guangzhou, as mentioned, there was a stamp store: something literally not seen today in the U.S. I couldn't tell if it was government sponsored or private, but it was quite busy, and had a "land-rush" intensity about it. They seemed to deal exclusively with PRC stamps. When I asked about China stamps for the 1930's or earlier, they suggested E-Bay. :-) What was particularly popular were the theme stamp albums or yearly stamp albums produced by the China National Philatelic Corporation for Chinese stamps. There was a "sell list" for these stamp albums, with the 1980 album listing for thousands of dollars.

1980 Golden Monkey stamp
The "Golden Monkey" stamp for that year is quite valuable, listing in the four figures.

16th Asian Games Commemorative Stamps Album
Held in Guangzhou in 2010
I bought the Asian Games Stamp Album for $11 U.S., an absolutely lovely presentation.

Three dimensional view of the Asian Games - along with stamps- inside the album
Opening the album, some of the pages were cut-out three dimensional: what a delight! No wonder collecting these high quality albums for Chinese issues is popular!

2007 presentation stamp album
The most preferred way to collect among the folks I talked to were the yearly presentation stamp albums with all the issues and souvenir sheets. Beautifully presented, and, no doubt, bought with the idea that PRC stamp prices will only go up. ;-) Time will tell.

The presentation for the"Dancing Dragons and Lions" stamps in the 2007 album
An informative English translation is found on the opposite page
Now the folks I talked to about 'stamp collecting" are not what we would call "serious philatelists". But remember when many U.S. citizens casually put away stamps or sheets in anticipation of riches down the road? I think that is where many Chinese are today. With interest in PRC stamps by so many people, some should advance their interest and indeed become "serious philatelists".

Sun Yat-sen
Statue in Guangzhou
We couldn't leave Guangzhou before learning more about Sun Yat-sen, Guangzhou's favorite son, at the museum devoted to his life. He is considered the "Father of the Nation" in the Republic of China (1912-47), and the "forerunner of democratic revolution" by the PRC.

Some of the many Sun Yat-sen stamps issued by China
For a philatelist, the reason for being interested in  this fascinating revolutionary should be obvious. After all, he is reported to be listed on more catalogued numbered stamps than any other person in history!

Hong Kong
After China, we took a bullet train 70 miles to Hong Kong. Yes, Hong Kong is now part of China, but it didn't feel like it. :-) The border crossing was as arduous as any between two countries. And Hong Kong can keep their own institutions for 50 years. That means the Hong Kong Postal Service continues to issue their own stamps.

The main Post Office in Hong Kong
Although most everything about the Hong Kong mail service is the same: one thing is not. They had to change the color of their post office mailboxes from British red to China green, ;-)

Main philatelic store at the Hong Kong Post Office
The philatelic store at the main Post Office was also quite busy as one can observe from the picture. It was stocked with an ample supply of philatelic necessities such as stamp storage albums.

Old China Post Mail Box in Guangzhou
So what conclusion can one make about "stamp collecting" in China? As mentioned, I have the clear impression that many Chinese citizens do avidly collect PRC stamps, especially in an album format. Whether this is a "bubble", like tulip mania, baseball card collecting, or U.S. housing prices, or rather an entry to riches, I cannot say. One cannot disagree, though, that the stamps and the presentation albums themselves are very nice indeed.

Note regarding the Chinese Internet
I was unable to reach my blog site with the usual Chinese Internet. A VPN connection was successful.

Note" "Monkey Stamp" image appears to be in the public domain.

If the reader has additional experiences with China philately, please share in the comment section!

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