Zhongshan Rd. West Post Office, Shanghai (上海 中山西路邮政所)

Well well well, to duly follow up on my earlier post introducing some of Shanghai’s more idiosyncratic postal facilities, today I went to one that is decidedly commonplace — a postal station (albeit titled still as a “post office”) on the section of Changning Rd between Zhongshan Rd. West and Kaixun Rd., which is entirely spelled out phonetically in pinyin as Zhongshanxi Rd Post Office, with xi meaning West. China’s troubled relationship with its place name translation schemes is a story for another time, but suffice to say that it is not of the utmost assistance to a foreign traveler.

A very wordy facade indeed

This branch is, without a doubt, small, but as the saying goes it is like a sparrow that nevertheless has all its internal organs in place. It doubles as a postal savings bank with almost all the banking functions you would expect at, say, Wells Fargo, and deals with social security, deposit insurance and some other miscellaneous public services. For all these functionalities its staff is positively lean — two tables with one clerk behind each, an extra counter where you may speak to another clerk (mostly for banking purposes) across a plasticky/glassy panel. A security guard sits lazily in the corner and nods at those who for one reason or another find themselves in this microcosm.

“Happy New Year” hanging from the ceiling despite it being almost July

The clerk stands guard against all who dare take pictures without her most authoritative permission

Without much else to do I approached the clerk to my right, and to her great amusement (and my equally great embarrassment) asked for samples of the stamps on sale — but without any pressing mailing need. She then handed me a clipboard of single stamps, some of which have, well, less-than-immaculate edges. By international standards it would take quite the stretch of imagination to take them as “mint, never used”. More interesting still are the marks stamped onto their backsides, which in various fonts of a uniform shade of blue spell “Tianshan Postal Branch Office (天山邮政支局),” which I suspect is one rung above the station in Shanghai’s postal hierarchy and where postage stamps are processed in large quantities before being distributed to those lesser stations within its postal jurisdiction.

The stamps themselves, on the other hand, are not much to write home about. Themed “Beautiful China (美丽中国),” they portray four of China’s many natural wonders: Mt. Tianzi (lit. “Child of Heavens”) at Zhangjiajie (张家界天子山), ¥0.80; Forest of Ten Thousand Summits at Xingyi (兴义万峰林), ¥1.00; Qilian Yu (lit. “Seven Connected Reefs”) in the South China Sea (三沙七连屿), ¥1.20; and the Terraced Fields at Longsheng (龙胜梯田), ¥1.50. They had a stand-alone stamp for sale that features a songbird of some sort, but I just didn’t bother — Perhaps I will the next time I visit another of Shanghai’s many post offices, which I’m sure would happen very soon, if not tomorrow.