TITLE: The Sian-or-Southern Sung Maps: the Hua I T'u
DATE: 1137 A.D.
DESCRIPTION: Although these two maps were made about 1,000 years after
the date in the 3rd century B.C., at which the physical record, both literary
and cartographic, documents the earliest mapmaking activity in China to
have survived, they each illustrate the clear links that continued to exist
with the very earliest traditions and themes of both Chinese geography and
cartography. The two maps, the Hua I T'u [Map of China and the Barbarian
Countries] and the Yü-Chi T'u [Map of the Tracks of Yü
(the Great)], were engraved on stone tablets, each about three feet square,
and within six months of one another by an unknown artist in 1137 A.D. during
the Sung Dynasty, 960-1280 A.D. They are now housed among a very large collection
of engraved stones in the Pei Lin [the Forest of Steles or Tablets]
in the Shensi Provincial Museum at Sian.
A brief history of the Chinese cartographic tradition will serve to reference
the sources upon which these two maps have drawn, and demonstrate the remarkable
antiquity and show the continuity that prevailed in Chinese cartography.
According to Leo Bagrow, Chinese tradition places the earliest reference
to a cartographic display at about 2,000 B.C., when nine copper or bronze
vases on tripods are said to have been made, bearing representations of
nine provinces of the then current Hsia Dynasty and showing mountains, rivers
and local products. These vases are thought to have lasted until the end
of the Chou Dynasty (ca. 300 B.C.) and were destroyed. Most of the other
authorities associated with this subject, however, hesitate to go beyond
references to maps of the Chou Dynasty (1122-256 B.C.), specifically those
of the third century.
Referring again to Mr. Bagrow, by 1125 B.C. the Chinese had produced a map
of their entire kingdom, which must have been the result of many years'
work. It seems to have been compiled by Wen-Wang and was certainly based
upon geographical material in the official description of China, the Yü-Kung.
Highly significant as a primary source for any cartographic effort during
this and subsequent periods, was the famous Yü-Kung [Tribute
of Yü] which also can only be dated with certainty at least as early
as the Chou Dynasty. A copy is presently found as a chapter of the Shu
Ching [Historic Classic], one possibly prepared by an early disciple
of Confucius and ascribed to the 5th century B.C., making it nearly contemporaneous
with the earliest Greek map making endeavors of Anaximander (Slide #106).
This text of the Yü Kung recounts the labors of the culture-hero,
the Great Yü, as he mastered the primeval flood and laid down the mountains
and rivers of the ancient Chinese landscape. Shorn of its mythical context,
it may be seen simply as a primitive economic geography of the nine natural
regions into which China could be divided. Yü himself became the patron
of hydraulic engineers, and of all those concerned with irrigation and water
conservation. The Yü Kung became and has remained a source of
challenge and inspiration to all later generations of geographers and cartographers.
It can be assumed that maps, charts and plans accompanied even very early
examples of these geographical works. Besides the example sited above, another
specific reference in Chinese literature alludes to a map painted on silk
in the 3rd century B.C., the weft and woof of the material may, in fact,
have suggested a map grid. We also learn of various rulers, generals and
scholars during the Han Dynasty (207 B.C.-220 A.D.) having a high regard
for maps and using them for administrative and military purposes. The many
maps that are recorded from this dynasty were executed on a variety of different
materials - wood, silk, stone and paper, the latter of which was an invention
by Ts'ai Lun in 105 A.D. In fact the oldest extant maps from China, dated
ca.168 B.C. were a group painted on silk and unearthed in 1973 at Mawangtui,
near Changsha in Hunan province in a Han Dynasty tomb.
Apparently the rectangular grid (a coordinate system consisting of lines
intersecting at equal intervals to form squares which were intended to facilitate
the measurement of distance, in li), which was basic to much scientific
cartography in China, was formally introduced in the first century A.D.
by the astronomer Chang Hêng (78-139 A.D., a contemporary of Claudius
Ptolemy). The grid subdivided a plane or flat surface; this figure was assumed
for purposes of mapmaking but it must not be supposed that all scholars
in China believed that this was the shape of the earth. Indeed, we know
that the Chinese used the gnomon and were aware of the continual variation
in the length of its shadow in the long north-south extent of their own
country, knowledge that presumably suggested to them a curving surface,
if not a globe.
During the Chin Dynasty, P'ei Hsiu (224-271 A.D.), who was Minister of Works
in an empire only just reunited after the divisions of the Three Kingdoms
period, found that the maps available to assist him in his work were incomplete
and inaccurate. Considering that his office was concerned with the land
and the earth; and finding that the names of mountains, rivers and places,
as given in the Yü Kung, had suffered numerous changes since ancient
times, so that those who discussed their identifications had often proposed
rather forced ideas, with the result that obscurity had gradually prevailed.
Therefore P'ei Hsiu undertook a rigorous reconstruction in the light of
knowledge then available, he rejected what was dubious, and classified whenever
he could, the ancient names which had disappeared; finally composing, among
other items, a geographical map of the Tribute of Yü in 18 sheets,
with the title Yü Kung Ti Yü T'u. He presented it to the
emperor, Wu Ti, who kept it in the secret archives. It is reported to be
a map of China on a scale of 500 li to an inch. While the map has not survived,
his text is now preserved in the Chin Dynasty history. In his preface, P'ei,
now known as the 'father of scientific cartography in China', clearly outlined
the principles of official mapmaking which included: the rectangular grid
for scale and locational reference; orientation; triangulation; and altitude
measurement (a complete translation of this preface is attached at the end
of the monograph).
P'ei's methods are comparable to the contributions made in this regard by
Ptolemy in the west (Slide #119); but whereas Ptolemy's
methods passed to the Arabs and were not known again in Europe until the
Renaissance, China's tradition of scientific cartography, and in particular
that of the use of the rectangular grid, is unbroken from P'ei Hsiu's time
to the present.
THE HUA I T'U
As the Imperial territories of China increased through the intervening centuries,
maps of various scales were made of part or all of the expanding realm.
P'ei was followed by a number of cartographers, whose work is recorded in
the dynastic histories, but of of which no example survives. The best known
of his successors is undoubtedly Chia Tan, 730-805 A.D., of the T'ang Dynasty;
and it is here that we return to the first of the Sian maps in the 'Forest
of the Tablets'.
Under the T'angs China had attained a high degree of civilization, perhaps
the highest it has ever reached, and cartography then made remarkable progress.
It was in 785 A.D. that Chia Tan was entrusted by the emperor, Te Tsung,
with the preparation of a map of the whole empire. This commission resulted
in the famous Hei-nei Hua I T'u [Map of China and the Barbarian Countries
within the (Four) Seas] which was finished and presented to the emperor
in 801 A.D. This very large map was meticulously exact and detailed, measuring
33 feet high and 30 feet wide, it was constructed on a grid scale of one
tsoun (a Chinese inch), to 100 li (a Chinese league); that is,
a scale of about 1:1,500,000, taking a li as 300 pou (a Chinese pace,
roughly one-third of a mile) and a pou as five tchih (a Chinese
foot) according to Nakamura, or, by Herrmann's calculations, a scale of
about 1:1,000,000. Using either scale-estimate, Chia Tan's map must have
covered an oikoumene [known world] of 30,000 li from east
to west, and 33,000 li from north to south, probably a map representing
all of Asia. Ancient place-names were inserted in black, and those of Chia
Tan's own time in red. Unfortunately this great work also has not survived.
However, during the succeeding Sung Dynasty, the author of the stele map
Hua I T'u [Map of China and the Barbarian Countries] states that
he consulted Chia Tan's map, remarking that it contained many hundred kingdoms.
Carved in stone in 1137 A.D., it is fairly clear from the internal evidence
that the Hua I T'u at Sian is modelled very closely on Chia Tan's
work of 801 A.D. As a probable adaptation of the older work, the Hua
I T'u is oriented to the North and concentrates primarily on the portion
which covers China proper, but also includes part of Korea in the north
and part of the Pamir plateau in the west - more than just a map of China,
though by no means a world map. The 'barabarian countries' are not located
graphically as on the map by Chia Tan, but are simply described in notes
around the periphery of the map. As the latest date mentioned in this textual
material is 1043 A.D., this date may be taken as evidence for the very probable
date for the map's first composition (prior to engraving). One scholar,
Soothill, actually argues that the Hua I T'u was Chia Tan's map,
from which the sheets for the barbarian lands had been lost, and that the
text was later substituted for them. Sung bibliographies do show, however,
that versions of Chia Tan's map were still extant at this time, though kept
secret at the imperial court and not easily accessible.
Curiously, the Hua I T'u lacks the distinctive rectangular grid system
that superimposes most of the other Chinese maps. The coastline seems to
be reduced to a sketchy outline, the Shantung peninsula being virtually
non-existent. While some of the river systems are, imperfect, the course
of the major rivers, as well as the line of the Great Wall, are shown with
considerable accuracy. Mountains and cities within China are included, substantiating
the claim that this map was intended for administrative and possibly military
Adding to the modern appearance of both of the Sian maps is the lack of
the fabulous creatures or adornment of superfluous material so common to
many of the European maps of the same period. Also their orientation to
the North (true of all Sung Dynasty maps that have survived) contributes
to the allusion. Needham and Ling, writing in their excellent multi-volume
Science and Civilisation in China, assert, with ample justification, that
this latter map is "the most remarkable cartographic work of its age
in any culture".
P'ei Hsiu's Preface:
The origin of maps and geographical treatises goes far back into former
ages. Under the three dynasties (Hsia, Shang and Chou) there were special
officials for this (Kuo Shih). Then, when the Han people sacked Hsien-yang,
Hsiao Ho collected all the maps and documents of the Chhin. Now it is no
longer possible to find the old maps in the secret archives, and even those
which Hsiao Ho found are missing; we only have maps, both general and local,
from the (Later) Han time. None of these employs a graduated scale and none
of them is arranged on a rectangular grid. Moreover, none of them gives
anything like a complete representation of the celebrated mountains and
the great rivers; their arrangement is very rough and imperfect, and one
cannot rely on them. Indeed some of them contain absurdities, irrelevancies,
and exaggerations, which are not in accord with reality, and which should
be banished by good sense.
The assumption of power by the great Chin dynasty has unified space in all
the six directions. To purify its territory, it began with Yung and Shu
[Hupei and Szechuan], and penetrated deeply into their regions, though full
of obstacles. The emperor Wen then ordered the appropriate officials to
draw up maps of Wu and Shu. After Shu had been conquered and the maps were
examined, with regard to the distances from one another of mountains, rivers
and places, the positions of plains and declivities, and the lines of the
roads, whether straight or curved, which the six armies had followed; it
was found that there was not the slightest error. Now, referring back to
antiquity, I have examined according to the Yü Kung the mountains and
lakes, the courses of the rivers, the plateaus and plains, the slopes and
marshes, the limits of the nine ancient provinces and the sixteen modern
ones, taking account of commanderies and fiefs, prefectures and cities,
and not forgetting the names of places where the ancient kingdoms concluded
treaties or held meetings; and lastly, inserting the roads, paths, and navigable
waters, I have made this map in eighteen sheets.
In making a map there are six principles observable:
(I) The graduated divisions, which are the means of determining the scale
to which the map is
to be drawn.
(2) The rectangular grid (of parallel lines in two dimensions), which is
the way of depicting the
correct relations between the various parts of the map.
(3) Pacing out the sides of right-angled triangles (tao li), which is the
way of fixing the lengths
of derived distances (i.e., the third side of the triangle which cannot
be walked over).
(4) (Measuring) the high and the low.
(5) (Measuring) right angles and acute angles.
(6) (Measuring) curves and straight lines.
These three principles are used according to the nature of the terrain,
and are the means by which one reduces what are really plains and hills
(literally cliffs) to distances on a plane surface.
If one draws a map without having graduated divisions, there is no means
of distinguishing between what is near and what is far. If one has graduated
divisions, but no rectangular grid or network of lines, then while one may
attain accuracy in one corner of the map, one will certainly lose it elsewhere
(i.e., in the middle, far from guiding marks). If one has a rectangular
grid, but has not worked upon the tao li principle, then when it is a case
of places in difficult country, among mountains, lakes or seas (which cannot
be traversed directly by the surveyor), one cannot ascertain how they are
related to one another. If one has adopted the tao li principle, but has
not taken account of the high and the low the right angles and acute angles,
and the curves and straight lines, then the figures for distances indicated
on the paths and roads will be far from the truth, and one will lose the
accuracy of the rectangular grid.
But if we examine a map which has been prepared by the combination of all
these principles, we find that a true scale representation of the distances
is fixed by the graduated divisions. So also the reality of the relative
positions is attained by the use of paced sides of right-angled triangles;
and the true scale of degrees and figures is reproduced by the determinations
of high and low, angular dimensions,and curved or straight lines. Thus even
if there are great obstacles in the shape of high mountains or vast lakes,
huge distances or strange places, necessitating climbs and descents, retracing
of steps or detours-everything can be taken into account and determined.
When the principle of the rectangular grid is properly applied, then the
straight and the curved, the near and the far, can conceal nothing of their
form from us.
LOCATION: Pei Lin - Shensi Provincial Museum at Sian
*Bagrow, L., The History of Cartography, pp. 197-200.
*Chang, Kuei-sheng, "Africa and the Indian Ocean . . .", Imago
Mundi, p. 28, Fig 5.
*Hapgood, C., Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, pp. 118 - 123, Table 10.
*Harvey, P.D.A., Medieval Maps, p. 17, Plate 12.
*Herrmann, A., Die Westlander in d. chinesischen Kartographie, . . ., volume
3, pp. 91-406.
*Nakamura, H., "Old Chinese Maps Preserved by Koreans", Imago
Mundi, vol. IV, pp. 3-22.
*Needham, J., Science and Civilisation in China, volume 3, pp. 543-549,
Figures 225, 226.
*Nelson, H., "Maps from Old Cathay", Geographical Magazine, pp.
702 - 704.
*Soothill, W.E., "Two Oldest Maps of China Extant", R.G.S. Journal,