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Introduction

Maps are the crystallization of human wisdom, and have been applied in practical life since their appearance. While we have no way of knowing from existing historical literature when maps first emerged, some scholars believe that mapmaking in China dates back to the time of the Shih-ching (Book of Odes). Yet, the theory has not been confirmed. Several works from the pre-Ch'in era, though, do specifically mention mapmaking, such as the "Lo-kao" chapter in the Shang-shu (The Book of History) and the "Ti-t'u" chapter in the Kuan-tzu (The Book of Master Kuan). The Kuan-tzu chapter, in particular, addresses the practicality of maps, proving that the development of cartography in China had reached the maturity stage at the time. As yet another example, what was clearly defined in the "Wu-tu" chapter of Han-fei-tzu (The Book of Master Han-fei) was the connection of maps to the power of a state.

The National Palace Museum is home to over one thousand sets of historical maps, in both scroll and sheet formats, and in different sizes. This collection, however, does not include the cartographical works found in various map albums, nor does it include the maps serving as attachments to the Ch'ing palace memorials. With these cartographical materials counted in, the collection would then become very sizable, consisting of thousands of different works. In this exhibition, only a number of selected pieces are on view in an effort to demonstrate the practical use of maps and their aesthetic aspects. In some cases, the original Ch'ing palace memorials are shown to put their map attachments in proper historical context.