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National Palace Museum

Stories of Ancient Maps

  • Dates: 2021-04-23~2021-07-22
  • Gallery: (Northern Branch) Exhibition Area I 103,104

Beyond the Sea: Ancient Maps of Taiwan

The Kingdom of Tungning was founded in Taiwan in 1662 by Ming loyalist Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong, 1624–1662) after he defeated the Dutch East India Company. During this period, the Qing government knew very little about this far-away place. The Taiwan Luetu (Sketch Map of Taiwan Prefecture), produced around 1666 in both the Manchu and Chinese languages and on display in this exhibition, only covers a few parts of what is today Tainan, which included Luermen Channel, Chikan Tower and Chengtian Prefecture, and focuses on the Koxinga period's military garrisons.
But by the end of the 17th century (mid-Kangxi reign), the situation had changed dramatically. The Kangxi Taiwan Yutu (Kangxi Taiwan Map) in the National Taiwan Museum collection records the natural and cultural landscapes of western Taiwan at that time from north to south. The depiction of indigenous peoples and their customs also indicates a fair understanding of Taiwan's society, culture, and overall geography.
The Qianlong Emperor's loosening of restrictions on immigration to Taiwan led to an influx of Han Chinese settlers onto the island. The Qianlong Taiwan Ditu (Qianlong Map of Taiwan), produced in the mid-18th century, shows more than 600 Han Chinese settlements and over 300 aboriginal ones, suggesting rapid population growth. The descriptions "in the mountains" and "beyond the mountains" that accompany with the names of indigenous settlements suggest that the Han Chinese already had certain understanding of Taiwan's eastern coast.

World's End: Ancient Maps of Land and Water Transport

In 1368, envoys of the king of Hami (Kumul) traveled to the Ming capital (present-day Nanjing), bringing with them a tribute of a large number of horses. How did the delegation make their way from their faraway kingdom, lying outside the frontier fortress at the western end of the Ming dynasty's Great Wall, all the way to the Ming Empire's capital in the southeast?
One map on display here, Nanjing Zhi Gansu Yipu Tu (Map of the Relays from Nanjing to Gansu), traces just this route—extending from the Ming capital all the way to the northwest and ending in Shazhou (today's Dunhuang). Another map, Sichuansheng Silu Guanyi Tu (Map of the Passes and Relays of the Four Routes in Sichuan Province), produced in the Ming dynasty, depicts four routes starting from the regional military commission of Chengdu and extending north and south, thus constituting an extensive regional network of passes and relays.
In addition to land routes, natural waterways provided cheaper and more efficient transportation routes. The Yangtze River, China's longest river, has always been a transportation artery. The Changjiang Dili Tu (Geographical Map of the Yangtze River), on display in this exhibition, covers the middle and downstream stretches of the river. In addition to the riparian flood prevention works and military garrisons shown in the map, there are large number of boats attesting to the river's status as a major waterway. The Changjiang Tu (Map of the Yangtze River) details the cartographer's observation of river's mileage, water levels, sandbanks, and hidden rocks along the river from Wuchang to the estuary.

Publication: Map of Taiwan

Stories of Ancient MapsStories of Ancient MapsStories of Ancient Maps