The Coastwise Lights of China - An Illustrated Account of the Chinese Maritime Customs Lights Service - T. Roger Banister 1932 - Inspectorate General of Customs, Shanghai - First Edition A detailed history of the Chinese Maritime Customs Lights Service, and the light houses and light ships they constructed from the 1860’s until 1932, illustrated with over 100 full page photographic plates and seven maps outlined in colour.   The Coastwise Lights of China ‘celebrates the benefits to world trade that the Customs Service’s lighthouses provided. It contains nearly a hundred images of lighthouses. It gives you a good idea of the types and locations where they were built. Just over a decade after this book was published, towards the end of the Pacific war, many of these structures were bombed by the US Air Force, and destroyed or very badly damaged; so this book became an invaluable document preserving images of these lighthouses as they stood in 1932

The Customs Service prided itself on its work in constructing this network of lights, which facilitated China’s incorporation into global networks of shipping communications. Lighthouses played important symbolic roles too, they were sites of modernity, and of ‘civilisation’, in the sense that they were public goods designed to prevent loss of life at sea, that were not paid for by those who benefited from them. It was as important to display your lights at international expositions as it was for their lamps to shine out over Chinese coastal waters and along its major rivers. Banister’s book was commissioned by the then Inspector-General of the Maritime Customs, Sir Frederick Maze, partly to showcase the achievement of the Service, but quite clearly – as his private correspondence shows – as part of a campaign to secure personal recognition and honour in the UK.

Setting that aside, the lighthouses constructed from the late 1860s onwards by the Customs, with their equipment coming from Birmingham or Paris, form a notable and lasting achievement – most of these sites still house lights. The images in Banister’s book form a haunting record of this programme.’

- Alejandro Acin, posted 13th May 2013 on Robert Bickers blog - ‘
Visualising China’.


Thomas Roger Banister (1890-1950) born in Preston, Lancashire, and was educated at Trent College and at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated with Honours in the Economic Tripos. He joined the Customs Service in December 1913 and, after for months at Canton, was appointed to Peking to study the language. During 1916 and 1917 he was stationed at Chefoo and after that at Shanghai, where the greater part of his Service career has been spent. He was promoted Deputy Commissioner in 1930 and Commissioner in April 1935. In 1912 he was promoted Acting Commissioner at Kiungchow for six months. He held the post of Audit secretary from October 1934 to April 1938 and was then transferred as Commissioner to Lappa. During 1931 and 1932 he was on special duty at the Inspectorate writing his survey of China's trade during 100 years, entitled “A History of the External Trade of China, 1834-81,” and “Synopsis of the External Trade of China, 1882-1931,” both of which appeared as an introduction to the Decennial Reports, 1922-31. During those two years Mr. Banister also wrote his well-known and interesting account of China's Lights Service under the title “The Coastwise Lights of China,” a beautifully illustrated work which tells in vivid language with a wealth of detail the romantic story of the lighting of China's coast and rivers. He continued serving until June 1946 when he retired with the rank of Commissioner.

This title was the Inspectorate General of Customs publication number 43, from their series III ‘
Miscellaneous’.

Reference: University of Cambridge / University of Bristol Bibliography of Inspectorate of Customs Publications [1940], Miscellaneous Series III, no. 43. Documents Illustrative of the Origin, Development, and Activities of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service (Shanghai, 1937 - 1940).

pp. [2] xviii 243 [1]. Publisher’s presentation binding of quarter green morocco over wavy patterned cloth. Other variant bindings include, quarter green morocco over simple grain patterned cloth or smooth cloth, lettered in gilt, and full wavy patterned cloth lettered in light grey. There was also a Chinese translation produced circa 1934.
  In publisher’s presentation binding, of quarter smooth green morocco, over patterned cloth boards, spine and front board lettered in gilt, heavy green textured card coated endpapers   Condition: Near fine, some foxing to and offsetting from the map plates, offsetting from plates opposite pages 113 and 145, in very good binding, minor wear to the delicate leather spine, some light straight line scratches to rear board.   Ref: 108430   Price: HK$ 7,000