Digital Exhibitions at Special Collections & Archives, Queen's University Belfast


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Piry Collection MS19

Alphonse Théophile Piry (1851-1918), a Frenchman and keen photographer, served as a government official under Sir Robert Hart (1835-1911) in the Imperial Customs Service of China. He occupied a number of official positions under Hart including Commissioner of Customs, Lappa, c 1898. He went on to become the first Postmaster General of the Imperial Chinese Post Office when this was formed as a separate entity from the Customs Service in 1911. He held this position until his retirement from office in 1915.

This collection of private papers, comprises a range of material bearing
on Piry’s later career in the Chinese administration including drafts, notes, copies of correspondence, memoranda and reports relating to customs affairs
in Lappa and Macao and, later, the establishment of the modern postal service in China from 1911 until Piry’s retirement in 1915. Of particular interest are the papers concerning the development of the Imperial Postal Service, particularly in relation to arrangements with foreign countries (the so-called ‘Guest Post’ system) and the formalisation of relations with these countries both individually and through membership of the Universal Postal Union, copies of postal agreements between China and France (1900), Germany (1905), Russia (1909) and Japan (1910), correspondence relating to China’s entry to the Universal Postal Union, 1913-1915 and two historical notes and analyses concerning the development of the postal service (U-Tchau) in China are included. The Papers provide an important commentary on the emergence of Imperial China as a modern state, particularly in terms of the development of its postal system. The collection is also important for students interested in the career of Sir Robert Hart (1835-1911). Piry was one of Hart’s protégé’s in China in the Customs Service and the collection includes a number of official documents concerning Piry’s official dealings with him.

Wright Collection MS16

Stanley Fowler Wright (1873-1953) was born in 1873, educated at Queen’s University Belfast, and later appointed Commissioner of Customs and Personal Secretary to the Inspector General of the Chinese Maritime Customs. Wright was responsible for various publications building on and reflecting his experiences in the employ of the Chinese Maritime Customs. His publications include: Kiangsi native trade and its taxation (Shanghai, 1920); China’s customs revenue since the revolution of 1911 (Shanghai, 1935); China’s struggle for tariff autonomy, 1843-1938 (Shanghai, 1938); The origin and development of the Chinese Customs Service, 1843-1911: An historical outline (Shanghai, 1939); Hart and the Chinese customs (Belfast, 1950); The collection and disposal of the maritime and native customs revenue since the Revolution of 1911: with an account of the loan services administered by the Inspector General of Customs (1965).

In addition to manuscripts, there are books and pamphlets on China and the Chinese Customs, many official printed papers, reports, etc., and copies of Customs publications, some with manuscript annotations by Wright. Among the manuscripts in the Collection are Wright’s notes and papers for his various published works, including, ‘Hart and the Chinese Customs’ (Belfast, 1950), some letters from Sir Robert Hart, some of Wright’s own official papers and later correspondence, relating mainly to his published works. This collection is a valuable resource relating to the Far East and China, in particular the historical development of the Chinese Customs Services during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Associated Collections