Mon, Apr 12, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Rare `Taiwan Republic' postage stamps found

RELICS The seldom-seen stamps, bearing a tiger motif, date from the 1895 republic, declared in opposition to the Japanese takeover

CNA , ROME

Two rare historical postage stamps carrying the name "The Taiwan Republic" in Chinese issued in the late Qing Dynasty were recently unearthed in Italy and have been obtained by a Taiwanese official posted in Rome, philatelic sources said yesterday.

The "Sole Tiger, Taiwan Republic" stamps, believed to have been issued in 1895 by a then-nascent republic government in Taiwan led by self-styled militia leader Liu Yung-fu (劉永福) in Tainan, are said to have appeared in a stamp-collecting exchange market in Rome several weeks ago.

The stamps are almost legendary, so seldom are they seen.

The pair of stamps, each bearing a picture of a tiger and the name of the Taiwan Republic in blue-green and light pink, respectively, lay in the Rome market for weeks without arousing attention from collectors as none of them knew Chinese, until a Taiwanese official came across the stamps and snapped them up on the spot.

According to the Taiwanese, surnamed Lin, the two stamps have greater value to the people of Taiwan in terms of the nation's contemporary history than the stamps' market value.

The two stamps can serve as a mirror on history through which the people can look back at what happened on the island more than 100 years ago and how the Han people, Hakka, Japanese and other foreigners fought among themselves for Taiwan.

According to historical archives, Liu Yung-fu (1837 to 1917) , originally an opium trader between the highlands on the border of Vietnam and Canton, molded his followers into a well-disciplined band skilled in martial arts and ruled an effectively independent fiefdom on the Sino-French border in the 1860s and beyond.

Although initially regarded as a rebel leader by the Qing court, Liu parlayed his way into favor by fighting for the tribute kingdom of Vietnam against the assertive French from 1873 and 1884. After returning to Canton in 1885, Liu and his Black Flag militia proved a problem for the Qing Court, which welcomed the opportunity to dispatch Liu to Taiwan in 1895 with the lure of creating his own tribute state there.

Liu and his famed Black Flag troops arrived in southern Taiwan in early 1895, only months before the Qing Court was forced to cede Taiwan to Japan upon the signing of the Shimonoseki Treaty April 17, 1895, which ended the Sino-Japanese War.

Liu established the Taiwan Republic in Tainan on July 31, 1895, shortly before the Japanese invasion. The Taiwan Post Office was also established during that period, although it lasted for only 80 days.

The "Sole Tiger" stamps are believed to have been issued during that time.

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