In the late years of Emperor Hsien Feng (1851-1861) of the Ching dynasty, Foreign Representives took up their residence at Peking. By the treaties of Tientsin, full liberty was granted to them to send and receive their correspondence to and from any point on the sea coast that they might select, and by which they were permitted to employ special couriers for this purpose, who were to receive the same protection and facilities for traveling as the persons employed for carrying dispatches by the Imperial Government. To fulfil its obligation to protect these legation mails, the Government，through the Tsungli Yamen, took over their conveyance during winters. In the fall of 4th year of Emperor Tung Chih (1865), when the Inspectorate General of Customs was removed from Shanghai to Peking, it was entrusted with the duty of arranging for the collecting of the outgoing mailbags from the various legations for delivery to the Government couriers and of receiving the incoming legation mails and ditributing them to the addressees. Consequently, Postal Department was installed at Customs in Tientsin, Chinkiang and Shanghai as well as at the Inspectorate General of Customs in Peking.
In the 4th year of Emperor Kuang Hsu (1878), Inspector General of Customs Robert Hart authorized the Tientsin Customs Commissioner Gustav Detring to accept mails from general public in Peking, Tientsin, Chefoo, Newchwang, and Shanghai. On the 20th day, 2nd month, the same year (March 23, 1878), the Postal Department of the Tientsin Customs was, simultaneously with the Customs Postal Departments at Peking, Newchwang, Chefoo, and Shanghai, throwm open to the public, and a daily mounted courier service established between Tientsin and Peking. In the 7th month the same year (August 1878), the 1st Customs Dragonstamps were put on sale in Tientsin and other places.
At that time all business transactions were conducted on the basis of silveraccording to weight. The face value of stamps was in 1, 3, and 5 candarins of silver. Each stamp had in the center a dragon gamboling with a pearl. In the upper two corners were the characters〝大〞〝清〞with the word 〝China〞 in English printed between. In the right panel were the characters 〝郵政局〞(post office), in the left panel the characters showing the face value of the stamp, and in the lower two corners the Arabic figures 1, 3, or 5 with the word 〝Candarin 〞or〝Candarins〞in English printed between them.
The stamps were printed by the Customs Statistical Department at Shanghai. For each value, one master die was engraved, and from each master die typeswere reproduced. At the time of printing, types were pieced together to form a plate; consequently the different manner of their combination accounted for the different shapes of the plates, while the color varied to such an extent that green color sometimes turned into yellow green, red into brown red, and orange into yellow.
At first this way of printing produced sheets of 25 pieces of stamps(5×5) on thin semi-transparent paper and a space of 2 1/2 mm. between 2 stamps. These stamps are commonly known as 〝Thin Paper Stamps.〞
From the 4th to 8th year of Emperor Kuang Hsu, more prints had to be made to meet the business demand for more stamps, especially those of 3-candarin denomination. When the paper stock ran short in the Customs Statistical Department, a new plate was arranged to print 15 stamps on a sheet so as to utilize the remaining stock of paper. As the space between stamps was 4.5mm., they were given the name of 〝Wide Margin.〞 Later an arrangement was made for further printing of one-candarin stamps also with the wide margin, but the new plate contained 25 stamps. As soon as the original paper was exhausted, a French-made paper under the trade name of Pelure was used instead. The stamps printed on this paper were limited to 5-candarin denomination at 25 stamps to a sheet.
As a result of repeated printing in the 9th year of Emperor Kuang Hsu, the plate was so worn out that some types producing blurred impressions became unserviceable and were discarded. The space between the stamps was 2 1/2 mm., and the paper used for printing was white thicker paper. When compared with the earlier prints, the perforation was rather smooth. Those stamps are commonly known as 〝Thick Paper with Smooth Preforation Stamps.〞Finally the perforation needle became so worn that coarse fibers were often left behind in the perforation. These stamps are known as〝Thick Paper with Coarse Preforation Stamps.〞。