Administrative and Topographical Maps

Maps are images, and they are a form of space representation, the portrayal of the parts of the real world. Maps depict the past and the future, and they may be taken as an expression of power, as well as a vision of imagined space. Maps have therefore been regarded as symbols of national territory and sovereignty. For this very reason many Chinese emperors had been very committed to map-making. Not only had they established institutes responsible for the task, but had also erected agencies to safeguard maps. In addition, on account of technological limitations maps were not reproduced. It was next to impossible to reproduce the very same map exactly the way it had been produced. Each historical cartographical work is like a painting, and only the original has been preserved to this day.

Several territorial and topographical maps from the Ming and Ch'ing dynasties are on view in this exhibition. The territorial maps could be used to resolve border disputes between China and foreign countries, and they were referred to when resolving issues on China's changing border lines. Therefore, territorial maps were highly valued and strictly protected in historical China. It was during the mid-Ch'ing when territorial studies became popular among the educated, which triggered the improvement of quality and quantity in the production of territorial maps.

Ching-hang yün-ho-t'u (Map of the Grand Canal between Peking and Hang-chow)
Drawn between the 37th year of the K'ang-hsi reign (1698) and the 1st year of the Yung-cheng
reign (1723), Ch'ing dynasty, Ink and color on silk, 78.6×2,050 cm
K'u-lun-ch'a-k'o-t'u yi-tai hsing-shih-t'u (New window)
  • Enlargement I (New window)
  • Enlargement II (New window)
  • Enlargement III (New window)

K'u-lun-ch'a-k'o-t'u yi-tai hsing-shih-t'u
(Map of K'u-lun and Ch'a-ko-t'u Area and Its Neighboring Land)

T'ung-chih reign (1862-1875), Ch'ing dynasty, 64×112.5 cm Wu-li-ya-su-t'ai ch'ou-fang-t'u (New window)

Wu-li-ya-su-t'ai ch'ou-fang-t'u (Map of the Defense of Wu-li-ya-su-t'ai)
T'ung-chih reign (1862-1875), Ch'ing dynasty, Ink and color on paperChing-hang yün-ho-t'u (New window)