chapter  2
Mapping China’s world: cultural cartography in late imperial China
Pages 41

For encapsulating a worldview there is nothing quite like a world map. As with other forms of cartography, mappaemundi-whether medieval or modern, Asian or Western-tell us about values and attitudes, aims and aspirations, hopes and fears; but they express them on a particularly grand, indeed global, scale.1 To the extent that such productions in any given society share affinities across space and time, they reveal significant features of that culture’s self-image (and, of course, its conceptions of the “other”); and to the degree that they do not, they suggest changes, ruptures, tensions, and conflicts within the larger cultural system. With these considerations in mind, I would like to look at the evolution of Chinese maps of the world during late imperial times-from the twelfth to the twentieth centuriesfocusing on two basic questions: How did changing conceptions of “the world” shape the contours of Chinese cartography?, and how did changing (as well as enduring) cartographic practices affect Chinese conceptions of the world?