chapter  2
24 Pages

Frank Kingdon-Ward’s Deep Map

Charting Southwest China
WithJeffrey Mather

This chapter focuses on the Land of the Blue Poppy (1913), a work of travel writing by the British botanist and explorer Frank Kingdon-Ward. While discussing Kingdon-Ward’s travels in relation to the history of plant collecting and empire, this chapter argues that his works played an important and formative role in mediating knowledge of China to Western audiences. As Kingdon-Ward’s texts appear to inscribe key geographical and ethnographic distinctions, they also suggest a sense of sublime escape from Western modernity, one that is constructed in relation to primitivist discourses, but which also addresses an environmental sensibility and a concern for landscape that extends beyond human conception and timescales. Through a process of ‘deep mapping’ that involves a layering of autobiographical, natural scientific, ethnographic, and sociocultural discourses, his works reveal an engagement with the landscape that foregrounds the ways in which forms of writing and mapping are mediated cultural practices.